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Visiting or living in Dubai as a baby?

I'm a British expat baby in Dubai and have some ideas on where to go, what to do and how to deal with the climate. Take a look...

Getting around by bus in Dubai with a baby

Dubai bus stopThere are few stops within a 10 minute walk of our home so we sometimes have a few trips out on the bus instead of taking the car to make it a bit more interesting.

The buses in Dubai are actually very good. They’re new, clean, pretty frequent and best of all most of the bus stops are fully enclosed with air conditioning, which makes the bus system usable in the hot summer months.

Here are a few handy tips for other babies travelling on buses here in Dubai:

  • Buy your ticket before you get on the bus. They are called ‘Nol’ cards and are similar to the ‘Oyster’ card system in London or the ‘Octopus’ card in Hong Kong. You pre-pay to load it up with credit and swipe the card when you get on the bus. You can also use these cards on the metro and water taxis. See more info about the Nol card here.
  • Make sure you watch for the bus coming and signal for the driver to stop otherwise they will just sail straight past.
  • If you’re with your stroller use the second door from the front to get on (only ladies and children are supposed to get on the bus from any other door than the front, but in practise anyone gets on at any door).  Only this door has a little ramp that can drop down to allow access for strollers and wheelchairs if you’re unable to haul the buggy up from the kerb.
  • Touch your ticket on the pad on one of the red boxes by the doors (all the doors have these, not just the ones near the front) when you enter AND exit! If you forget to do this when you exit you’ll be charged the maximum fare. (Sneakily there are no signs to tell you this)
  • There is a ladies and family section near the front of the bus – but don’t think you’ll be able to get your stroller there – the aisles are too narrow (unless you have a very skinny stroller) .
  • The air conditioned bus stops have real-time electronic screens to tell you to the nearest minute when the next bus is going to arrive
  • Make sure you press the button when you want to get off. They do not automatically stop at every bus stop. The bells don’t seem to make an audible noise so it’s difficult to know if the driver has noted the ‘ding’
  • A single trip will cost between around AED 2 and AED 6 depending on how far you travel. Cheap as chips!

Check out another post I’ve previously on transport in Dubai with a baby.

Red card swipe Dubai Bus

Don’t forget to swipe on entry and exit

ladies and family area on bus

Ladies & family section at front of bus

ladies and children sign on bus

Ladies and family sign on Dubai Bus

Brushing baby teeth

Baby toothbrush

Did you realise that a baby’s teeth should be brushed as soon as they start poking through the gums? My Mum didn’t, so I’d had two teeth for a few weeks before I  experienced my first tooth brushing.

Dad thought it was pretty funny the way I tried to suck the brush but normally when I have plastic shoved in my mouth it’s a dummy so I think I can be forgiven for getting a bit confused.

As Mum eventually worked out, a baby’s teeth should be brushed twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. There’s no particular need for a special ‘baby’ toothpaste (although they are of course fine) but you should check that  the one you use has less than 1000 parts per million of fluoride.   Use a very soft toothbrush, ideally one especially for a baby (Spinneys stocks them with the other toothbrushes and also in the baby food section). In the earlier days of toothbrushing you may prefer to rub a piece of gauze or one of these silicon finger brushes with a little toothpaste over the teeth instead. These can also help relieve teething pain – a little massage for my gums.

We’ve found to start with the best toothbrushing position is for Mum or Dad to sit me on their lap facing away from them. Brushing my teeth whilst dangling me over the sink was never going to work really, was it? As I’ve got more toward toddlerhood it’s best to let me have a good chew of it first before Mum swiftly grabs it and does a proper brush of all the teeth – and gums where the teeth haven’t come through yet- for as long as I will let her.

Despite Mum’s best efforts to demonstrate toothbrushing to me on her own teeth she hasn’t quite worked out how to get me to spit out the toothpaste when we’re finished. All that dramatic exaggerated spitting she’s started recently to try and encourage me to copy her does make me giggle.  I do quite like the silly song she sings every time we brush my teeth to make it fun so I know that song means something good, not something to have a tantrum about! Now, if only I could work that video camera…

Palm Monorail and Lost Chambers Aquarium Day Out

Palm monorail

It’s still too hot to be outdoors during the day and I needed to come up with an idea for a day out based indoors that didn’t involve a mall so I decided on a trip on the Palm Monorail followed by a visit to Lost Chambers aquarium in the Atlantis hotel and a spot of lunch.

We could have just driven direct to Atlantis and valet parked the car, but that would have been really boring so Mum drove into the ginormous Palm Gateway car park (free to park here) at the base of the Palm pretty much next to The One and Only Royal Mirage. We then got a return ticket (well, Mum did – I was free because I’m below the height limit of 90cm) for AED 25 and hopped on the monorail.

View of Marina and palm from monorail  Atlantis from the monorail

The monorail was great fun for me. It was very like the Dubai Metro (which one day it will join up with) or the London DLR (which it probably won’t join up with) but the outlook was very different. Great views of the Burj Al Arab, Marina and of course the whole Palm.  The train was driverless which meant I could sit right at the front and pretend to drive it, although there was a security guard or two on board to check I didn’t run off the rails.

There’s only one destination – Atlantis  - but there are two further stops in between that you can’t actually get out at as they were planned in the middle of developments (Trump Hotel and Village Mall) that never got built further than their basements. Anyway, I didn’t mind – it spun out the 5 minute ride a bit longer.

At the Atlantis stop (aka Aquaventure – the water park at Atlantis) we took the lifts down to ground level so we didn’t have to negotiate the escalators with my buggy and fortunately the main entrance to Atlantis was just a few short steps away.

lost chambers atlantis dubai

Lost Chambers aquarium was free for me because I’m under 3. The regular adult price is AED 100 but show your resident ID (Emirates ID card, passport or driving licence) and adults can get in for AED 75. The staff told Mum we could spend as long as we wanted there but usually people do it within 20 -30 mins. However, I don’t do anything quickly and I wanted to toddle around practising my newly acquired toddling skills so we took almost an hour. There were plenty of weird and wonderful fish and sea creatures to look at, it was well laid out with interesting lighting and great photo opportunities.

There’s a fair choice of places to have lunch in Atlantis and we were tempted by Kaleidoscope – a reasonably priced family buffet style restaurant- but as Mum didn’t fancy trailing around a buffet to fill our plates with me running away from her, we decided to slum it in Starbucks which was at least quick and cheap. There was also a fast food burger place (TBJ) and an asian food quick stop type restaurant – Asia Republic- in a semi food court area. As well as this there are of course the posher restaurants such as Seafire, Rostang, and Saffron to name but a few.

If you’re looking for something else to do on the Palm, have a look at my post on Al Ittihad Park. I also recommend this website on the Palm Monorail for more information. If you’re driving to the Palm Monorail station car park it’s easy to see (a huge huge brown building on the mainland close to the road onto the Palm) but it’s very easy to miss the entrance to it! When driving on the Al Sufouh Road towards the Marina, drive as if you were going to take the Palm turning (just after the Nakheel offices entrances) but go straight ahead and immediately after the turning for the road onto the Palm is the turning for the car park on your right – very easy to drive straight past it so slow down! Drive into the car park and go up to level 3.

Flying with a baby

Flying with a baby

If you live in or visit Dubai with a baby there’s a very high chance you will , at some point, travel by plane with a baby or toddler.

Mum was very daunted with the prospect of our first flight when I was 4 months old, especially as Dad wasn’t flying with us to help out. Since that first flight Mum and I have had plenty of practice (a total of 10 different flights, 4 airlines, 4 countries, and 7 airports in my 13 months) and we consider ourselves qualified to offer some handy tips we picked up along the way.

Travelling with me as a 4 month old was, according to Mum, a lot easier than when I got older. The key to travelling with a baby is being prepared, more so if there’s only one adult.

Research the airline you’ll be using in terms of luggage and seating . You will need to find out your total luggage allowance for the adult (s) and if any extra is allowed for the infant. Are you restricted by the number of pieces as well as the total kg? (Fly with Emirates and you can check in several bags up to your total allowance, fly with BA and it’s one bag per person). Are you allowed to take a stroller AND a car seat as additional items to your checked in luggage allowance or do these have to be checked in as part of the weight allowance? Or do you need to choose either a car seat OR a stroller if you’ve used your full luggage allowance (as we found out with Emirates). Find out if you can get a bassinet seat and if your baby is too old or heavy to use it. Even if they are, it’s worth having a bassinet seat if you can for the extra leg room which you’ll certainly need with a baby on your lap, unless of course you pay for an additional seat for them. In my opinion,  up until the age of at least one, this is not worth doing as if your baby is anything like me, they will just wriggle out of it anyway. You can buy an extra seat  and bring a car seat that fits the airline’s specification (which is normally very strict and often does not include rear facing seats – which most infant seats are) but this seems a lot of hassle (remember you will have to carry baby plus car seat to baggage carousel at the other end) and I have never ever seen anyone actually do this.

If there’s just one adult travelling then it’s a good idea to think through some of the ‘crunch points’ which we find are:

- arriving at the airport. That is finding a trolley, loading all your luggage onto it (including stroller and car seat), taking it to check in, all while holding the baby (at Dubai airport you can simply find one of the numerous porters in red to assist you for AED 25 – definitely worth it if you are struggling)

- going to the toilet (for yourself and to change the baby)

- getting through security (ie. getting all your liquids, laptops out, folding up your buggy and putting on the belt and / or taking the baby out the carrier to walk through the sensor. Tip – don’t wear shoes that are any more difficult to get off than kicking off with your feet in case security insist on getting you to remove them.

- carrying /pushing the baby (plus hand luggage and any shopping including food and water for the flight you intend to buy) around the airport until you board

- dealing with food / milk consumption on the flight. Bear in mind you are unlikely to get a proper meal for your baby / toddler and may find it difficult to manage to eat a tray of food yourself while holding your baby so bring snacks your baby will eat and don’t forget something for you – a cereal bar or something at least. Flying is another occasion where it’s brilliant if you’re still breastfeeding and therefore not needing to carry bottles, milk etc. If you’re self conscious of feeding in close proximity of others on the plane just take a breastfeeding cover and easily accessible nursing clothes (eg. a vest underneath a loose or easily pulled down top).

- dealing with crying on the flight

- carrying the baby (plus hand luggage/ shopping) from the plane at the other end

- getting a trolley and hauling your luggage / stroller / car seat off the carousel onto it (whilst holding a baby) and pushing through customs

- onward trip

We have found that if dad isn’t travelling with us then the only way we could manage is with a baby carrier. Our Ergo carrier is particularly great as even at 13 months I can comfortably fit in it (and will for a long time still), Mum can easily carry me in it for an hour or longer and it folds up fairly small and light.

Although many airlines will allow you to take your stroller pretty much to the plane door – and indeed Emirates do have complimentary strollers you can borrow in Dubai airport only (however don’t rely on this as out of 6 times in Dubai airport we have only been able to get our hands on one once) -there is often a huge gap in the airline’s thinking when it comes to you getting off the plane at the other end and quite often you are expected to carry your baby and all your hand luggage (and airport shopping!) to the luggage carousels.

After a long flight (and often little sleep the night before) I don’t think Mum would have managed to do this without me in a carrier.  It may sound like a small thing, but trying to get a trolley, load possibly two suitcases, hand luggage, a stroller and a carseat on whilst holding a baby and then pushing the teetering lot through customs – especially when you’re a bit tired – is not an easy task. With me in my carrier, it becomes a possibility. Be prepared to have a few pound / Euro / whatever currency coins handy in your pocket  in case you need them to get a trolley (you don’t need them for Dubai, but do for example in Manchester, Rome and Leeds Bradford).

Unfortunately you can’t rely on a nice person being around to lift your baggage off the carousel (unless you are at Dubai airport when you’ll hopefully be able to locate a porter who will, for AED 25, pick all your luggage off the carousel and take to your car, taxi etc – well worth it). There have been a few times when someone -usually someone who looks like a sympathetic mother who has once been in mum’s position- has offered to help by holding me while Mum struggles putting things in the overhead compartment on the plane or offers to pick up the contents of the baggage trolley that have spilled over the entire customs exit lanes holding up eager holiday makers, but many, many times (especially in the UK airports) people pretend not to notice or even worse, tut! Although Emirates staff are usually particularly good, it has been known for one to laugh and push past the aisle when mum has been struggling to put her hand luggage in the over head compartment whilst gently placing her knee on me on her seat to stop me wriggling off! However, sometimes you do just have to ask for help – the worst they can do is say no (or drop your bag with the laptop in it)….

In summary here are my top tips:

- get yourself a baby carrier (Ergo Sport is ideal) and practise using it a few weeks before hand so you can quickly get baby in and out of it without any assistance

- try and fly with an airline with a generous luggage or baby equipment (stroller and car seat) allowance. Make sure you know what you are allowed to take beforehand so you don’t end up with a huge excess baggage fee.

- use the porters in Dubai airport if you are flying without another adult and are struggling

- carry a few pound coins / euro coins easily accessible etc for getting a trolley at baggage claim (not needed for Dubai airport)

- breastfeed for as long as you can so you don’t have to faff around with formula

- minimise your hand luggage and airport shopping so you have as little to carry as you can get away with

Watch out for my next post on what to pack in your hand luggage.

If you have any tips on flying with  a baby please comment on this post so others can benefit from your tips. One useful resource to look at is flyingwithababy.com – written by a mum who used to be an airhostess and has a wealth of info and ideas.

Lunch in Dubai with a baby – outdoors and with a great view

It’s still just about cool enough to enjoy have my lunch outside as long as there’s some shade and whether you’re in Dubai on holiday or you live here you’ll probably agree it’s always nice to have a view too.

So for discerning babies, here’s some inspiration Read more…

Mushrif Park

International Village English House Dubai Mushrif ParkConsidering its massive size, Mushrif Park is not a park that’s often talked about but bearing in mind its far out location (beyond Mirdif) perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. We went in the middle of the day during the week and it was totally deserted. In fact other than gardeners and park wardens we saw absolutely no one else at all.

After hearing it recently described as ‘barren’ by one of Mum’s friends (well that’s the publishable description anyway) I wasn’t getting too excited beforehand, but although it’s fair to say it is a ‘desert park’ (rather than the much more lush Creek Park or Safa Park), it was certainly worth a visit.

The highlight of my trip was a wander around the International Village (not to be confused with Nakheel’s International City development, nor Global Village next to the Arabian Ranches). The park’s International Village is a small but shady area in the centre of the park with traditional houses from around the world. They’re not full sized but they are just big enough to walk inside and I can imagine once I’ve mastered walking I will really enjoy toddling in and out of them.

Mushrif Park  dubai

Model Thai house in the International Village

Mushrif Park  dubai

Model Arab house in the International Village

Next to the village was a rather sorry looking animal pen with several rabbits, pigeons and a peacock all in together- it seemed a bit pointless and sad, but the rabbits with their babies were cute, I admit.

Elsewhere in the park there’s the usual unappetising Malik Burger cafe, a swimming pool, several average looking playground equipment areas, barbecue areas, a cycle track and, most excitingly, an equestrian centre. We didn’t go in but if I were a bit older it would be great to hire a horse here and trot round the bridle paths. (Click here for more information about riding in Mushrif Park) As the park is quite undulating in places it would be great for mountain biking.

Mushrif park dubai

I would definitely advise bringing a car- not just because it’s nowhere near any public transport and you would probably struggle to get a taxi- but because it’s so huge you really need a car just to get around it.

Admission is AED 10 per car or AED 3 per individual. There’s no ladies days and no dogs allowed.

Directions:
From the E111 heading towards Sharjah, take the next major turning to the right after the turn off for Mirdif City Centre Mall (D89). Head under the under pass and the park is further up the road on the right hand side. It’s well signposted.

Map of Mushrif Park Dubai

Keeping cool in my car seat

Car on beach sand

A Dubai summer will guarantee you have a real challenge to avoid overheating in the back seat.  However, there’s a few things you can do to make sure your baby is as comfortable back there as possible:

  • The most obvious one is air conditioning. Not all cars have an AC vent in the rear so if you’re in the market to buy a car this might be something to put on your checklist. Before the summer really kicks in it can be worth taking your car for an AC service as from time to time the gas in the AC system will need changing. A check over at a garage or service station is only around AED 200 – 300 and will make sure it’s working at its best when it’s needed most.
  • Recirculate the air in the car so the AC  is cooling down air that’s already cool, not working flat out cooling the hot air from outside.

recirculate air symbol

  • When you get in a car that’s been parked in the sun the air inside is much hotter than the outside so give your AC a helping hand and open your front windows for a minute to let the really hot air escape.
  • A heavy tint on your rear passenger windows reflects infra-red rays and can make a significant difference to the air temperature. It does need replacing every few years though and beware not to go too dark or you’ll find yourself paying to get it removed when you next register your vehicle.
  • If you don’t want to go for a tint, window shades can help. You can get retractable ones like this or similar ones are also available from Mothercare, but check that they’re not obstructing the driver’s visibility. Shades or tint are also great for privacy if you want to breastfeed in the back of the car. Just be careful not to try and open the electric windows with a shade attached (like Mum often does).
  • Parking under shade reduces the temperature in the car by 5C compared with parking in the full sun. If  it’s not possible at least use a windscreen shield to pop on your dashboard.
  • Always always keep bottled water in the car in case you break down in the summer. Remember to replace it fairly regularly as the heat can make chemicals leach out of the plastic bottle and into the water. (see my post on drinking water) A bottle of water can also come in handy to top up your windscreen fluid if you get caught in a sandstorm.
  • Leather seats can be excrutiatingly hot on little bare feet, especially when you’re in a rear facing car seat and you like to press your toes into the leather. Drape a muslin or blanket across the seat, but just be careful not to let it interfere with the fixing of the car seat.
  • Most Maxi Cosi car seats have an optional fabric cover you can attach which are less sweaty in hot weather. I have a ‘summer cover‘ for my Maxi Cosi Pebble which is cooling in summer and machine washable too. If you choose a car seat which does not have ‘summer cover’ then consider getting one in a lighter coloured fabric.
  • Keep a water spray in the car for an instant cool down. You can either buy an empty spray bottle which you can refill (like this one from Boots) or you can buy something like the Evian aerosols from a pharmacy or supermarket. On very hot days don’t leave the aerosols in the car or they can explode in the heat. If, like me, your baby is not so impressed at having a mist sprayed in his face you could spray a flannel or muslin and pat his little forehead cool with it. evian-water-spray
  • Most importantly keep everyone well hydrated. If breastfeeding, allow extra time to park up in a safe place or make sure your baby has water in his bottle / sippy cup.
  • Don’t be in the habit of running low in petrol – it’s no fun getting stranded in the summer and with no AC it could quickly become a dangerous situation for a young baby.
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