Rolling Around Dubai: A Wheelchair User’s Travel Guide

The Burj al Arab. What a beautiful hotel!
The Burj al Arab. What a beautiful hotel!

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.

 

wheelchair accessible dubai

 

 

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 accessible dubai wheelchair accessible dubai wheelchair accessible dubai wheelchair accessible dubai

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.

 

wheelchair accessible dubai

The Burj al Arab. What a beautiful hotel!

wheelchair accessible dubai wheelchair accessible dubai wheelchair accessible dubai wheelchair accessible dubai 

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.

wheelchair accessible dubai

 

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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.

wheelchair accessible dubai

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.

 

 

 

35 Comments

  • Great tips Cory! My husband has been spending a lot of time in Dubai for business so if you need him to scope out any other locations, just let me know 😉

    • Shweta says:

      Hi. I want wheelchair accessible car/van for sightseeing as i am planning to visit Dubai in November. Any company or contact. I did search online but no luck so far.

  • I haven’t visited Dubai yet, despite stopping over there a few times. It wasn’t somewhere that really interested me, but neither was Vegas and I enjoyed my time there. Dubai seems to be quite similar in a lot of ways (theme park for adults) and I would like to check out the impressive architecture

  • I have long wanted to visit Dubai but I haven’t made it there yet. It has some beautiful skyscrapers. Regarding airlines, a large percentage of travelers to Dubai get there via Emirates Airlines. Do you have any idea how wheelchair-accessible Emirates is?

    • Cory Lee says:

      From what I’ve found online, it looks as though Emirates’ planes are as accessible as any others, but there are quite a few stories saying that the Emirates team treated the disabled travelers badly. Not sure how true that is though…

  • Gretta says:

    Good tips, Cory. I haven’t ever been to Dubai, but if I ever do I’d like to go up to the top of one of those huge towers!

  • Sandra @ Tripper says:

    I’ve been to Dubai two years ago and was slightly disappointed. Not by Dubai itself (it’s not its fault), but because I enjoy other destinations better. Still, visited, checked. Maybe someday I’ll go back and look at it with different eyes — has happened before in other places. They have an amazing transport system and everything is very high tech. Since you love heights you’ll love the view from the top of the Burj Khalifa I know 😉

    • Cory Lee says:

      Aww I hate to hear that it didn’t live up to your expectations. A couple places have been like that with me also though. NYC is one of them. And the Burj Khalifa is the main reason I want to visit Dubai. It looks amazing!

      • Asim Hussain says:

        I would love to go Dubai. I was planning to go this year.
        I have been to Istanbul, Orlando, Paris, Saudi Arabia
        & Pakistan. When we went to Istanbul, my electric wheelchair was damaged so i couldn’t use it while i was there. The controller wire was damaged.

  • Amy says:

    I’ve never been to Dubai but would love to experience some of their over the top buildings in person. The Burj Khalifa looks amazing, but I’d partially terrified to be at the top. So tall!

  • Love the idea of taking a camel ride downtown. 😉

  • Clay says:

    Awesome article Cory! It’s very informative :)

  • Great post, Cory, super informative! I’ve yet to visit Dubai, it seems like it’ll be one of those places that is surreal to see.

  • Great information- Looks like your research is very thorough…it’s setting you up for a great Dubai trip in the near future… 😉 I had never thought about it before, but before going somewhere you probably have to log more time on the computer and phone than the average traveler!

  • Milosz Zak says:

    That sight of Dubai is just incredible – a miracle in the desert. Let us hope that it will continue to be so for many decades to come.

  • Claudia says:

    It’s nice to know there are places that are properly equipped to allow wheelchair users to move around. I go to London on a regular basis and despite known as a very civilised country, i am shocked every time to see only a few underground station have proper wheelchair access. I always wonder how people on a wheelchair can get by there!

    • Cory Lee says:

      Hi Claudia! When I was in London I used the black cabs to get around. The subway wasn’t accessible as you mentioned, so the cabs were really the only option. They were quite expensive, but I was happy to have transportation.

  • Heather Cole says:

    I’ve never really fancied Dubai, being more of a countryside kinda gal, but think it would make a great stop-over en-route to somewhere, yet every time we fly that way its the wrong time of year and far too hot to even use the pools. Maybe when I’m a millionaire :-)

  • Brianna says:

    I visited Dubai back before the construction boom with the Navy. It’s crazy how much it has changed.

  • Dubai is VERY HIGH on my list as well. I haven’t really had a chance to check out any part of that area of the world but I really want to. Good information for any traveler!

  • Els says:

    Good to read that Dubai is pretty accommodating to wheelchair users! I’ve never visited, I’m not sure whether I’d like to or not, it all seems to fake, but on the other hand I went to Las Vegas and loved it, and that’s not exactly the highlight of authenticity either :-)

  • Hi Cory,

    That’s some hotel, right? What a shot and a super helpful breakdown here.

    I’ve yet to see Dubai but it’s high on my list. Such a prospering country and to boot, they are up with the times in many areas, including being accessible for all folks. I like that because I’ve seen other spots where the wheelchair crowd isn’t as fortunate.

    Here in Fiji 1 man in Savusavu sells stuff from a wheelchair each day. He struggles to get around a bit because as you may imagine Fiji is still developing infrastructure on so many levels, so they have a long way to go to make things more accessible.

    Cory, so hope to meet you one day.

    I love connecting with inspiring travelers and you my friend are one of them. Super comprehensive research here too. Complete job.

    Well done!

    Tweeting this soon.

    Signing off from Fiji.

    Ryan

    • Cory Lee says:

      Hi Ryan, thank you so much for commenting! Fiji looks beautiful from the pictures I’ve seen. I’d love to visit one day, after the accessibility has improved maybe. I’m going to check out your blog as well. I love the name of it – Blogging from Paradise. Ahhhh must be nice! Keep living it up! Hope to meet one day.

  • Sounds like you need to get your bags packed! I am glad it is so wheelchair accessible. I can’t wait to visit Dubai one day.

  • Karen Warren says:

    I enjoyed Dubai but it seemed that you are expected to get taxis everywhere – it isn’t particularly easy to walk around and when I went the metro only had limited coverage. But if you can find wheelchair enabled taxis you should be fine – it’s a great place to visit.

  • Elena says:

    Nice article! Very descriptive

  • Dubai has never really been high on my list, mainly because the chief attractions are “Look at this really cool building” as opposed to any cultural or natural attractions, which is more my thing. :) I’d love to know if anybody thinks it’s worth going for the museum and the few desert experiences you mentioned.

  • Lauren says:

    I’m glad that Dubai is such a wheelchair-friendly place! I don’t really know too much about Dubai other than it being such a warm place with beaches. Regardless, it sounds like a really cool and modern destination!

  • Veronika says:

    Good tips Cory..! So is Dubai your possible destination for the upcoming winter?

  • OH CORY I always love your stories – you are so much fun and such an inspiration to others – for really no excuses not to travel and see the world. I have not been to Dubai, but it is on my list – and love your story – great photos as well and very informative. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Emma says:

    Dubai looks AMAZING! It’s never been high up on my list of places to urgently go but it looks like a place that I’d like to spend a few days en-route to somewhere further afield! Great photos too :)

  • Christine says:

    Dubai sounds awesome! And its always nice to hear that a place is accommodating to traveler’s in wheelchairs. Although I agree with you, don’t know how I’d handle the alcohol ban! Dubai sounds so interesting culturally and really fun! Thanks for posting!

  • Dubai looks amazing – I have a friend teaching English in a town a few hours from Dubai, sounds like a very different place!

  • Such a helpful compilation! I live an hour and a half away in Abu Dhabi, also an interesting place for a visit. If you need travel tips for going around the UAE in general feel free to holler.

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