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4 Days in Dubai on a Budget with Kids

The one and only reason we decided to head to Dubai on our way to Asia was to fulfill one of the items on our family bucket list. You can read about our dreams in this post. Ava asked if she could stand at the top of the tallest building in the world, so we had no choice but to add Dubai to our list.

It turns our Dubai is an expensive place to be, this is why we decided on just four days here. We crammed in as much as we could afford in terms of time and money. This is what we got up to in Dubai, the city of dreams.

How we got there:

We flew from the UK with Emirates Air. Our flights were a bargain (read this post to see how we book our flights cheaply).

We chose a night flight in the hopes that the girls would sleep for the majority of the six and a half hours. How very wrong we were. They slept for a grand total of 1 hour – which meant by the time we landed in Dubai we had been awake for close to 26 hours. This does not make for a stress free start to our travels. I blame the awesome entertainment on board. The girls had a ton of movies, music, TV shows and games to choose from – they spent the whole flight flicking between them all.

Apart from the sleep deprivation our flight with Emirates Air was perfect. The food was good – as far as airline food goes – the entertainment was, if anything, too good. The staff were attentive and made a fuss over the girls, plus kids get special kids meals and an activity pack. They especially loved their flight socks with the Burj Khalifa embroidered on the side. Bonnie was obsessed with the ‘fancy posh’ toilets.

So if you’re planning to head to the United Arab Emirates the we cannot recommend Emirates Air highly enough for a stress free, comfortable flight.

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Where we stayed:

We stayed across the creek in the suburb of Deira, this was purely to save us a ton of money on accommodation. The hotel we stayed in was Carlton Palace Hotel. You can tell from it’s retro decor and the photo’s of 90’s Hollywood stars, such as Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, that this hotel was the place to be in Dubai back in the day. We booked our hotel through Hotels Combined as they search through all of the hotel booking sites to find you the best deals.

The added bonus was the pool on the roof that the girls enjoyed playing in. From the pool you could see the airport and it was quite noisy from the planes taking off and landing.

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How we got around:

As our hotel wasn’t in the centre of Dubai we needed cheap and convenient ways to get around. We mainly used the Dubai Metro to travel around, it was cheap and easy to use.  We also noted how the Dubai metro was the cleanest and most efficient metro system we have ever used.

From our hotel it was a short walk to the nearest metro station. It was also a very short walk to Dubai Creek where we were able to get a water taxi across the creek into Old Dubai. From there it was just a case of walking to where we needed to be.

We did use taxis a couple of times but found these to be quite expensive. If you’re not a fan of public transport then using Uber is much cheaper.

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What we did:

Day 1: Dubai Mall & Dubai Fountain Show

By the time we arrived at the hotel we were incredibly tired and needed to rest for a little to get over the jet lag, we bought some snacks from the supermarket next to our hotel and headed up to the rooftop pool. After some time in the pool we went for an afternoon nap as we were all really struggling with the jet lag.

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Once we were fully refreshed we headed to Dubai Mall. We went there via the metro, a word of warning if you plan to do the same. The Dubai Mall metro station is a very long walk from the actual mall, down a fancy corridor and over a sky bridge. But it’s a cheaper way of getting there and the views from the windows are pretty awesome.

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We’re not fans of shopping malls but Dubai mall itself is a bit of a marvel. The architecture is stunning, there is art work everywhere and you can just spend hours wandering around. We looked in shops that we’d never be able to afford to shop in and saw sculptures and musicians.

In the centre of the mall is Dubai aquarium. We didn’t pay to go in, but you don’t need to as you can see the huge shark tank from the outside. This raised a long conversation about animal welfare. The girls deduced that they don’t agree with aquariums as all the sharks were doing was swimming around in circles, they should be free to swim where they please.

After a treat dinner in the Rainforest Cafe we took Ava to see the Dubai dinosaur. Being an avid dinosaur fan, Ava was in her element staring up at the famous Whiptailed Diplodocus.

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Another highlight was the Waterfall sculpture which is made to look like men diving down the cascading falls, it is just stunning.

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From the waterfall you can head out of the back doors towards the Dubai Fountain & the Burj Khalifa. All I can say is WOW! This is an absolute must do if you are going to Dubai. Our particular favourite was Michael Jackson’s Thriller, where the fountains and lights dance along to the beats of the song. What a way to end the first day of our adventure.

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Day 2: Old Dubai & a Desert Safari

After an early morning swim we took the water taxi across the creek and had a gander around Old Dubai. The first thing we stumbled across was Dubai Museum, the oldest building in Dubai. It’s free to look around the outside, and fairly cheap to enter. We didn’t fancy going inside so just enjoyed the view from the perimeter.

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We then strolled around the various Souks in the area. You need to be prepared to be hounded as a tourist in the Souks. They will try and sell you anything and everything, they even wrap scarves around you as you walk, or put hats on your head to force you to stop.

Our favourite moment was the men who stopped William to tell him about their cure for male pattern baldness. It’s a magic cream apparently it works for Arab men. They would show Will a picture of themselves on their phones with a shaved head, and say “That was me last year”. They would then rub their heads and say “Look now I have a full head of hair because I used this cream”. It was pretty funny trying to explain to them that if they really had found the cure they would be billionaires!

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After a quick freshen up back at the hotel we were picked up by a jeep to go on a Desert Safari. You can read all about our amazing Arabian Adventures here.

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Day 3: Downtown, Jumeirah Mosque & La Mer

After another super early morning swim in the rooftop pool we took the metro to the World Trade Centre and just wandered around the city for a couple of hours. This is our favourite thing to do as you get to see so much culture just by being there walking along the bustling streets.

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We found some fountains for the girls to play in and had a picnic lunch on the street.

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We then hopped in a cheap taxi to Jumeirah Mosque. The Mosque wasn’t open in the afternoons when we visited so we looked around the outside and spoke to a Muslim man who happily talked us through some of their practices and the history of the mosque. If you do wish to visit the Visitor Centre is open from 10am on all days of the week except Friday.

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From the mosque we walked to La Mer. A recently built area on the coast. It has a small beach where we played in the sea for a little while before the Jellyfish arrived.

The highlight of La Mer is the chilled out vibe and the rows of lovely shops and restaurants adorned with Festoon Lights and amazing street art. It was just a really cool place to be.

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There is also a really nice play area for the kids, and they spent a long time playing pirates here, and opening the various treasure chests dotted around. We stayed until after dark and had a delicious meal whilst listening to the street performers. If you want a relaxing place to hang out with the kids on the coast of Dubai then we really recommend La Mer.

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Day 4: Legoland & At the Top Burj Khalifa

We spent our last day in Dubai at Legoland water park. We were kindly purchased tickets to visit here for Christmas from family members so it was a real treat for the girls that they’ve been looking forward to for a while.

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As with all theme parks the entrance fee is a little pricey. It is also way, way out of Dubai so you need a costly taxi to get there.

Ava is basically a mermaid so loved every single second of her day here. Bonnie didn’t enjoy it as much and preferred laying on a lounger reading and going for a few paddles in the wave pool.

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The slides here are mainly aimed at the under 12 market so there are no crazy big, crazy fast ones. So if you have older kids or are just a bit of an adrenaline junkie then this is not the water park for you.

The best bit was the lazy river full of giant lego bricks. Daddy got way more into this than the girls and was stealing bricks from other people to build his tower higher.

Overall it was a fun day, but I’d say the price-tag lets it down massively.

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To save cash on taxi fares we showered and changed at Legoland then headed straight to Dubai Mall where we ate a super healthy dinner of french fries followed by the worlds most expensive ice creams.

We decided to do the At the Top Burj Khalifa experience on our final night in Dubai, as that was the pinnacle reason for our visit to this amazing city.

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You have to book your tickets in advance to do this experience. You can book them here. The entrance to At the Top is inside Dubai Mall near the food court.

Before you enter the lift there is small exhibit with information about the Burj Khalifa. It also has a model of Kingdom Tower, which when it is finished will be the new tallest building in the world. If ever there was a reason to come back to Dubai this will be it.

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Ava’s dream of standing at the top of the tallest building in the world was fulfilled, but I have to say it was a pretty special moment for all of us. Seeing the city lit up at night and the incredible architecture was well worth the visit. We also enjoyed re-watching the fountain show from above.

The lift ride up is the fastest lift in the world, and William loved the exhibit on the way back down that showed all of the stages of the creation and building of this feat of engineering.

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Dubai is the city of dreams where, if you had unlimited cash, you could pretty much do anything your heart desires. We don’t have unlimited cash, but we still managed to have a short stay here on a small budget. Our tiny budget didn’t stop us from experiencing all the best that Dubai has to offer, the kids really enjoyed there time here and we would definitely visit again in the future.

You can watch our Vlog from Dubai here to see what we got up to.

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