The most popular destinations in the Middle East for families are Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt is often considered a part of the Middle East (note that there are currently some travel warnings in place for Egypt, check your government’s website for up to date travel advice). There are plenty of family friendly hotels in Egypt, particularly in Sharm el Sheikh. Turkey is also very popular although recent unrest has led to a decline in the numbers of tourists travelling there. Most of the tourist resorts dotted along the Western coast of Turkey are very family friendly with hotels and apartments suitable for babies and toddlers.
Dubai is a hugely popular family friendly destination located on the Southern tip of the Saudi Peninsula. Jordan is another popular spot with its historical monuments and sights, the country is sure to amaze. Qatar and Oman are becoming increasingly popular destinations for tourists and there are many beachside hotels in the country which offer a great base for families. The best beaches in the Middle East include Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Egypt, Jordan and Israel all have excellent beaches, many of which have a range of activities on offer, from boat rides to diving and snorkelling.
When to Go
The Middle East is a huge region and the weather varies hugely from country to country. The weather is still hot in some areas during Spring, especially desert areas. Jordan is much more pleasant to visit in the off-season to enjoy temperatures more bearable. April, October and November are great months to go. During the summer, the entire Middle East shows scorching temperatures are not conducive to travel with babies or toddlers. Avoid Oman which is in full monsoon between June and September, and the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Israel which are scorching during the summer months. May, the beginning of June, the end of September and October are ideal times to visit Turkey where the climate is perfect (despite some rain in October). In winter, Dubai, Abu Dabi, Qatar and Oman have pleasant temperatures between 25 and 30 ° C from north to south. The Jordan Valley in Israel also enjoys mild winters and pleasant, while in the rest of the country a reign punctuated by cold dry snow.
Getting There & Getting Around
The largest hub for flights in the region is Dubai, from where you can reach virtually any point in the Middle East. After Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi also have good intercontinental connections. Tel Aviv is served by flights from most Western countries, though due to the political situation, it is not possible to fly from there to anywhere in the Middle East besides Egypt and Jordan. However, there are direct flights from large European hubs to most major cities in the region.
If you are travelling long distances (and the distances in this region can be long), air travel is the best option. Rail travel in the Middle East is generally limited and whilst most countries have limited passenger services between cities, there is very little between countries.
Istanbul is the best starting point for rail journeys to a lot of areas in the Middle East. There is a train that connects Damascus with Amman in Jordan. A service from Istanbul also operates to Tehran which includes a 4 hour ferry journey across Lake Van. In general, these trains tend to operate weekly or at most bi weekly. Buses are a more practical option than trains in the Middle East as they are less prone to delays and breakdowns and have far more extensive coverage of the region. However, travelling by bus with babies and toddlers can be difficult and not advisable for long distances.
Baby & Toddler Essentials
The Middle East can be a very child friendly region and people are likely to dote on your children. Travelling with young children also increases your chances of meeting locals who will be interested in you and your little ones.
Your chances of finding what you need (such as cots) increase the more you’re willing to pay. Hygiene standards at many budget establishments can also be poor so when travelling with younger children it’s best to pay a little extra for peace of mind. Children under two usually stay for free in most hotels. Family rooms or adjoining rooms with connecting doors are occasionally available.
Disposable nappies, powdered milk, formula and bottled water are widely available throughout the region in most large supermarkets although you probably won’t be able to find your usual brand so if you are travelling with an infant, it is safer to bring your child’s formula with you unless you are breastfeeding. When preparing bottles, use bottled water and ensure the seal is intact. Breastfeeding is generally permissible publically in Turkey and Dubai but ensure that you have a scarf or muslin and be as discreet as possible. Make sure to keep hydrated if you are breastfeeding in the heat.
In most Middle Eastern Countries, changing facilities, if there are any, will be located in the female toilets so when out and about, Mums should be willing to do all the changing unless you can find somewhere to lay a travel changing mat. Even the airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have changing areas in the women’s toilets only.
If you’ll be travelling by taxi or minibus, you may consider bringing a car seat or booster seat as they may not be available, although in Turkey and Dubai you should be able to find a taxi company which provides car seats. Other useful items to bring include child-friendly insect repellent, a mosquito net, a travel changing mat, sun protection and sterilising spray or wipes. Many of the sights in Turkey, Jordan and other countries with a lot of historical monuments will not be stroller accessible so bring a sling or baby carrier if possible.
Threats & Travel Warnings
There is currently a great deal of instability in many Middle Eastern regions and it is essential to plan and research your trip very carefully in order to avoid danger areas. Egypt was until recently considered safe for travel however most governments are now issuing warnings to take extra precautions and be vigilant when travelling here due to an increase in terror threats.
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