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Summer on a slight shoestring

Summer is now upon us in the UAE and holiday planning has reached fever pitch. Whilst the traditional expat summer holiday revolves around going back ‘home’ for a couple of months, there’s an increasing amount of us who work for most of the summer with a couple of weeks holiday. I documented my summer holiday plan in a previous blog post but, today, let’s talk about cheaper, easier getaways from the UAE that are great options for a 3-10 day holiday.

In the UAE, we’re in a fairly unique position in that we’ve got a great range of holiday options never far away . We’re only really far away from the Americas, Australasia and the very Far East but there’s a whole host of options that are pretty much right on our doorstep. Today, let’s take a brief look at a few of them so you can make a fantastic summer holiday decision.

I’m also going to write some expected costs for each destination. For the sake of clarity and easy comparison, I’ve based it on a one week holiday in the middle of July and I’ve used flexible dates to try and find the lowest prices. Rough flight prices are per person. Hotel costs are based on 2 adults sharing 1 room for 7 days (unless otherwise specified).

Disclaimer: prices shown in this blog post are NOT quotes, only rough guides.

Sri Lanka

The Indian Ocean island is a firm favourite for the UAE expat. It’s cheap to get to, cheap to find accommodation and there’s an incredible range of activities. Sri Lanka has a vastly rich history and, now that the civil war has drawn to a conclusion, almost the entire island has opened up to tourists. There’s beaches, nature reserves, culture, history and so much more.

Colombo is a fairly decent base but Sri Lanka really sells itself on some great day trips. You can visit Kandy to see the world famous Temple of the Tooth, visit turtle sanctuaries, elephant orphanages and a whole host of other activities.

Flight costs? AED1,125 – AED1,550

Hotels? AED1,320 – AED5,200 (Colombo), AED2,100 – AED5,000 (Bentota)



Another much-loved summer getaway for the UAE expat. Service to the country has been boosted by Emirates now flying direct to Phuket, however, the whole country remains extremely popular with visitors from the UAE. A location with cheap accommodation and entertainment, it’s a great place for families to visit whilst not breaking the bank.

Flight costs (Bangkok)? AED1,967 (with a stopover), AED2,700+ (direct)

Hotels? AED1,000 – AED5,000



Lebanon’s capital is cosmopolitan, vibrant and exciting. A fantastic getaway for groups of friends, the infectious nature of the city has always attracted GCC-based visitors. The city is full of interesting nightlife, great beach clubs and a wide range of events making it a fantastic destination to visit for the weekend.

Beirut retains a real outdoor café culture leading it to it sometimes being referred to as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’. Make sure to try to visit Pigeon Rocks, Jeita Grotto and the National Museum of Beirut.

Flight costs? AED1,300 – AED1,700

Hotels? AED1,320 – AED7,700



One of our neighbouring countries, Oman is renowned for its hospitality and natural beauty. Muscat is driving distance and there are a whole heap of flights going to Salalah these days.

Try to see plenty of the local architecture, wadis and natural heritage areas.

Flight costs? From AED1,000 (to Salalah)

Hotels? From AED2,700 (Salalah), AED1,800 – AED5,000 (Muscat)


UAE (the ‘staycation’!)

There are some fantastic holiday options in the UAE and hotels tend to drop their prices due to a lull in traffic over the summer; why not explore the UAE this summer? Ras al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Fujeirah are both great options and have some really reasonably priced hotels.

For me, Ras al Khaimah tends to be my favourite little UAE getaway. My wife and I particularly love the Hilton Ras al Khaimah Resort & Spa where prices generally start at around AED700 per night but advance rates can be had for as low as AED450 (plus 10% tax).

A great summer staycation in Abu Dhabi can be had at Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara. They have a fabulous ‘Big Weekend Special’ which runs until December. Prices start from AED1,200(plus taxes) per night for two people but this includes the room, Friday brunch (with free flowing French sparkling grape, hop-based beverages and soft drinks) and a daily buffet breakfast. I visited them for this package in May and can highly recommend it.

Hotels? Upwards of AED300 per night. There’s a huge range of pricing so do some enquiring!


If you need assistance with summer holiday booking – call us! Our service is second to none and you’ll always work with the same consultant in order to really get to know what you like. Call us today on 04 343 3929!



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Flashpacking: What is it?

Whilst not exactly a new term, ‘flashpacking’ isn’t immediately recognised by a lot of seasoned travellers. Best way to explain a term? An example!

A bit of background information: my wife and I love Italian culture, history and food but we don’t have much direct experience of the country. I’ve only ever been to Rome and she’s, sadly, never been. This year, we decided it might be fun to go backpacking around Italy. We’re both in our mid-late 20s and it’s the sort of adventure that we wanted to do before we have children. Our plan is to fly in to Napoli and then visit Ischia, Procida, Florence, the Tuscany countryside, Siena before eventually flying out of Rome.

When we started planning we really wanted to retain a ‘backpacker’ feel to the trip but we found that we were booking some nice hotels and experiences. Had we lost the backpacking roots to the trip? This is where the concept of flashpacking comes in. As previously stated, we have no children (unless cats count?) and we don’t have any major financial burdens so we, naturally, have a fairly decent disposable income.

We sat down and questioned the idea that we were actually ‘backpacking’ round Italy and realised that, whilst we would still carry backpacks and ride trains, there was something inherently different about the way we were travelling compared to your run-of-the-mill backpacker who has traditionally been quite low budget.

We don’t really want to get lost so we’re taking a Samsung Galaxy S3 (with Google Maps and TripAdvisor for on-the-fly recommendations.) and we’re going to be taking Kindles for the long train journeys. Years ago, we might have been looked down on by some backpackers for having a magical device that shows us exactly where to go (and how to get there) but, the fact is, we just don’t want to lose our way. We only have a finite amount of time per year to travel and there’s a natural desire to fit as much in as possible.

We also booked some pretty nice hotels (I’ll blog about these post trip – in the meantime, look up Albergo il Monastero in Ischia and Follonico in Montepulciano) so, suddenly, it didn’t feel like a backpacking trip anymore. We’ve booked no hostels either which would usually be a sure sign of a low budget backpacking trip. As a married couple, we weren’t keen to share a hostel dorm room and the private hostel rooms didn’t really work out much cheaper than most hotel rooms.

And, again, we go back to the disposable income. I think we’ve both got to the stage where we’d rather carry a little bit less on our backs and a little bit more in our wallets. No towels somewhere? I’d rather buy some cheap towels and then donate them to charity instead of carrying with me for 2 weeks. Suddenly rainy? I’ll buy a coat while I’m there instead of lugging the thing all around Italy.

I’ve left it until last but here’s our final difference between this trip and a traditional backpacking holiday – we’ve rented a car for 3 days for part of the trip, something that would have been unheard of in backpacking circles a decade ago.

So I suppose this is where flashpacking comes in. I found the following definition on the Internet:

A flashpacker shares some of the characteristics of a backpacker: a sense of independence, no fixed itinerary and relatively long periods of travel to more exotic and far-flung destinations. Whereas backpacking is traditionally associated with budget travel and destinations that are relatively cheap, flashpacking has an association of more disposable income while traveling and has been defined simply as backpacking with a bigger budget.




There you have it; I guess we’re probably flashpackers now but certainly not backpackers. I’ll write a big, proper blog post about the trip (I’m back around the 20th September) so do keep an eye out for it. I’ll try my best to make it exciting and hopefully inspire you to take a flashpacking trip to Italy or somewhere else (which, of course, we can help you plan).

For the record, I don’t think it’s a good or a bad thing that some portion of backpacking trips has evolved into flashpacking trips – I guess it’s just a reflection of the more modern, switched-on world we find ourselves in. Have we lost some of the ‘purity’ of traditional backpacking? Probably, yes, but in our situation I can’t help but feel the pros outweigh the cons.

Final point.. am I looking forward to the trip?





(Disclaimer: this post is the opinion of an individual staff member at Al Arabi Travel Agency and does not represent the opinions of the company)

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Emirates schedule changes for Winter 2012

Good morning everyone! For our first blog post, we thought we’d let you know about changes that Emirates plans to make to its schedules for Winter 2012. We normally share these things on Twitter and Facebook but there are a LOT of changes for this schedule. Without further ado:

  • Dubai – Beirut. As of 28th October 2012, this service will be increased from 14 to 18 times a week.
  • Dubai – Dammam. From 28th October 2012, this service is boosted from 7 to 10 times a week.
  • Dubai – Dar es Salaam. This route was previously operated by a 3-class A340-500. From 1st February 2013, this will be replaced by a 2-class 777-300ER. So, if you’re flying to Dar es Salaam, you can no longer book first class on this sector.
  • Dubai – Hong Kong. From October 28th 2012 – 31st January 2013, EK 382/383 will be serviced by an A340-300 rather than the usual 777-300ER.
  • Dubai – Larnaca – Malta.  This route will see substantial aircraft changes. From 1st October 2012 – 31st Janaury 2013 this route will be serviced by an A340-300, replacing the A330-200. As for 31st January 2013, this route will be serviced by 777-200.
  • Dubai – Riyadh. Do lots of business in Riyadh? This one will be good for you!From 28th October 2012, this route will be increased from 17 to 21 weekly services.
  • Dubai – Rome. A 3rd daily service was due to be introduced on this route but, unfortunately, this has been cancelled. Effective 1st October 2012.
  • Dubai – Cape Town. From 1st December 2012, second daily service will resume. This was suspended for October and November.
  • Dubai – Colombo – Singapore. From 1st December 2012, this service will be operated by a 2-class 777-300ER replacing a 3-class 777-300
  • Dubai – Copenhagen. As of 1st October 2012, this service will be operated by a 777-300ER (with suites!) instead of the 777-200.
  • Dubai – Frankfurt. From 1st October 2012, EK 043/044 will no longer be serviced by A330-200. Replaced by 777-300ER with suites.
  • Dubai – Glasgow. As of 1st January 2013, EK025/026 will be serviced by 777-300ER with suites, replacing A340-300.
  • Dubai – Ho Chi Minh. From 28th October 2012, a 2-class 777-300ER will replace the A330-200 on this route.
  • Dubai – Hyderabad. From 1st March 2013, EK526/527 sees the introduction of an A340-500 which replaces the A340-300.
  • Dubai – Istanbul. From 1st January 2013, EK123/124 will see a 2-class 777-300ER enter service, replacing the 777-200.
  • Dubai – Johannesburg. From 1st December 2012, the Airbus A380 resumes service on EK761/762.
  • Dubai – Lisbon. As of 1st Feburary 2013, a 777-300ER will replace the 777-200ER.
  • Dubai – London Gatwick. From 28th October 2012, on EK011/012 a 3-class 777-300ER will replace the currently used 777-200ER.
  • Dubai – London Heathrow. As of 1st Feburary 2013, an A380 will replace the 777-300ER on EK029/030. From that point, 4 out of 5 of the DXB-LHR daily services will be operated by A380.
  • Dubai – Lusaka – Harare. From 1st October 2012, service increased from 5 to 7 times a week. Operated by A330-200.
  • Dubai – Melbourne – Auckland. From 1st October 2012, the Airbus A380 will operate a daily service.
  • Dubai Moscow Domodeodovo. Effective 1st March 2012, EK133/134 will be operated by 777-300ER rather thank A340-500.
  • Dubai – New York JFK. As of 1st January 2013, this route will have a second daily A380 service.
  • Dubai – Nice. From 1st September 2012, Airbus A340-500 will replace the A340-300.
  • Dubai – Paris CDG. As of 28th October 2012, this route is increasing from 18 to 19 times a week.
  • Dubai – St. Petersburg. From 1st December 2012, this route sees a daily A340-500 operation.
  • Dubai – Tunis. From 1st December 2012, this route will be serviced by 777-300ER rather than A340-500.

Phew! If you know anyone who this information would be relevant for, please share our posts!