Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and is located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf. It is a cosmopolitan, urban area that happens to be a popular vacation destination in the winter/early spring as the summers are just too hot and humid to properly enjoy. Tourism is a major component of Dubai’s economy, and many travelers spend a few days in Dubai to enjoy the spring sunshine after a dreary Winter. I haven’t yet been to Dubai, but it is extremely high on my travel bucket list. All of the information below was found online from various websites and can hopefully help you in planning your wheelchair accessible Dubai vacation.
Although it has a long history, the emergence of Dubai as a major business, cultural, and transport hub is a fairly recent occurrence – from about 1995 to the present. Because it is so new, most of Dubai’s infrastructure is wheelchair accessible.
Virgin Airlines seems to be the most pleasant and accommodating way to travel to and from Dubai. The only complaint that I was able to find was that the crew can be over-accommodating at times (and I’m not sure why someone would complain about that…?). Their motivation is a sincere desire to be helpful, though, rather than patronizing. A simple “I’ve got it” and they stand back. Wheelchair users are allowed to board before others, and often a simple request to a boarding agent or flight attendant will result in further helpful actions, such as an available aisle seat if you didn’t previously book one. Accessing the airplane bathrooms appears to be a challenge, as it always is. One experienced traveler remarked that this is one instance where the catheter users have an advantage.
Wheelchair Friendly Hotels
The following is a brief list of Dubai hotels that are fully equipped for wheelchair users. They all have knowledgeable and helpful staff, and all areas (lobby, restaurants, bars, pools, beaches and bathrooms) are set up with wheelchair access and elevators.
The Burj Al Arab (the world’s only 7 star hotel), Burj Khalifa, Le Meridean, Conrad Dubai and the Atlantis Resort are all top rated. Many of Dubai’s newer hotels are 100% accessible, and the vast majority have only a small area without an elevator. If in doubt, phone ahead. Most places have knowledgeable staff that will be able to thoroughly answer any questions you have.
Getting Around Dubai
Dubai’s Metro system was built in 2009. It is easily accessible from hotels, and 100% wheelchair compliant. The Metro will take you to all the major destinations, which are also accessible. If you prefer not to take the Metro, Dubai has plenty of wheelchair-friendly taxi vans. These do need to be reserved ahead of time, so you will need to plan your activities somewhat in advance. The Dubai government will also issue temporary driver’s licenses to wheelchair users if you want to rent a van during your stay as well.
Other Accessible Locations
All of the shopping malls are 100% accessible, as are most of the bars and restaurants, so if you’re looking for accessible things to do in Dubai you’ll have no problem. Most of the public restrooms are accessible, although the accessible restrooms are not always centrally or conveniently located.
Dubai is a “dry” state (no liquor stores) so if you want access to alcohol (and who doesn’t?!), you will most likely need to find it in a restaurant.
Desert safari/dune riding activities are available if you don’t enjoy shopping. Remember that the most accessible locations will be in the newer, urban areas. The supermarkets are not as compliant as the tourist establishments – usually your hotel will have whatever necessities you may require.
While Dubai has a wealth of beaches, pools, dining and drinking, its cultural atmosphere has room to grow. The Dubai Museum is located in the city’s oldest building in the old part of town. The museum itself is wheelchair accessible, but the roads are not. There are no eating establishments located in the museum, and the museum does not have any children’s exhibits either. While Dubai is mostly a playground for adults, family vacations are also possible. Spectacular water parks and indoor skiing parks are 100% accessible, even if the activities are not, and located near metro stations in or near the hotels. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try a camel ride.
The one obstacle that seems to be universal to all wheelchair users is the presence of fairly tall curbs. To negotiate these, you will need to have a second person to lift you over them, as they are too large to allow your chair to simply be pushed over them. Many of the locals are more than willing to help. Again, staying in a populated area ensures the presence of helpful people. Many people simply avoid the curb issue though by traveling on the Metro. It is entirely possible to visit Dubai in a wheelchair and be fully accommodated. Start planning your wheelchair accessible Dubai vacation now and let me know how it goes!
Have you visited Dubai? Do you want to?
*A Note from Curb Free with Cory Lee: This post includes affiliate links. When you click on a link, I may receive a small compensation, which will help this blog grow into a better resource for disabled travelers.