Staycation ideas in the Middle East during Covid

Published 2020-11-05 09:30:00
Dubai boat trip - Credit: Pixabay

The global pandemic has shifted the way we live, work and also the way we go on holidays. With countries in a state of flux with travelling in and out depending on the Covid restrictions, rules are continually changing. The pandemic has caused us to miss Easter, the long summer vacation when most expats go back home to visit with friends and family, and now it looks very likely that the Covid-19 pandemic might axe Christmas too!

Expat families have not seen grandparents, friends and other family members for almost eight months now. This has impacted important relationships and caused great anxiety because we are unable to support each other during this difficult time.

It feels like holidays are coming and going but we’re stuck at home alone with no end in sight in the foreseeable future.

Encouraging staycation to help the local economy

Apart from the personal toll the pandemic has taken, the travel industry has taken a gigantic financial knock. Airlines are operating very limited flights in countries where very reduced air travel is still possible, retrench staff and endure mammoth financial losses. Hotels all over the world have experienced the same.

Some countries have started to cautiously agree to staycation packages to give the travel and tourism industry a much-needed economic boost. A staycation is a vacation spent domestically and involves day trips to local attractions, rather than going abroad. In other words, the idea is that people can still enjoy a break from home and work but not travel too far to some exotic location thus avoiding long-haul air travel which could spread the virus.

Bahrain’s hospitality industry was brought to its knees when all access into the country was cut off. The international airport and King Fahad Causeway- the two most accessed points of entry into the country- were closed indefinitely in March to curb the spread of the virus. It was only during the latter part of the summer holiday that certain hotels and resorts were allowed to offer domestic guests accommodation packages in an attempt to keep the hotel industry going.

Hoteliers have had to come up with innovative packages that can appeal and add additional value to local guests like competitive pricing, fun and exciting activities, great kids’ facilities and private beach access. Furthermore, these hotels have had to implement very strict hygiene and deep-cleaning protocols to ensure their guests feel safe at all times.

The United Arab Emirates has taken the lead in promoting staycations with their typical enthusiasm. Their target market is people from all over the Emirates and the other Gulf countries. Abu Dhabi and Dubai, in particular, have seen a marked increase in hotel bookings since the introduction of staycation packages. People are frustrated at their cancelled vacation and still want to experience a “holiday” away from home but in a location that is safe and familiar to them.

Other incentives that hoteliers are using to entice the domestic guest are:

  • Food and beverage discounts
  • Free upgrades
  • Flexibility with bookings where they can be cancelled or postponed without any penalties
  • Generous loyalty programmes offering better deals
  • Stringent deep cleaning and hygiene protocols
  • Better access to facilities, like private beaches, pools etc

Discouraging people to travel to other countries

Another factor that is popularizing staycations is the rigorous screening of passengers that still want to travel to other countries. For example, Bahrain requires all passengers landing at the International Airport or obtaining entry through the King Fahad Causeway to have a PCR test done on arrival and this test is valid only for 72 hours. After 10 days they have to have another PCR test to confirm the negative result. Non-compliance with quarantine rules have hefty fines so travel may just not be worth it for many would-be holidaymakers.

As the countries in the Middle East ease into cooler weather people tend to head out to the great outdoors to make the most of the milder weather and being out in the fresh open air is a good way to avoid Covid transmission and still engage in fun activities.

What’s on offer in the Middle East?

What can you do in Abu Dhabi this winter?

  • Bike tours on the corniche
  • Watch the camel races
  • Visit the GP circuit- there are both walking and biking tours available
  • Camping out with the family on Dalma Island
  • Catch a movie at the Cinema in the Park located at Umm al Emarat Park
  • Take the kids to feed the animals at Emirates Park Zoo.
  • Take a kayak tour at the Eastern Mangroves

Outdoor activities in Dubai:

  • The Dubai Safari Park has over a thousand animals and is well-respected for its exceptional standards of animal welfare and ethical conduct.
  • Boat ride in the Dubai Canal
  • Visit another camel farm, obviously! The Camel Farm offers camel rides and has a great petting zoo.
  • Have dinner while watching the symphony of the dancing Dubai Fountains
  • Take in the colours of a spectacular Dubai sunset at West Palm Beach
  • Visit the Ras al Khor Wildlife sanctuary
  • Thrill the kids with a visit to the Glow Garden and Dinosaur Park.

Activities in Al Ain:

  • Visit the Al Ain Camel Market
  • Al Ain Zoo
  • For some heritage and culture visit the Al Ain Palace Museum
  • Al Jahili Fort
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Things to do in Ras Al Khaimah

One of the most popular places in Ras Al Khaimah is the mountain region of Jebel Jais.

  • Visit Jebel Jais to see the highest mountain peak in the UAE. There you can ride the longest zipline if you’re the thrill-seeking type of person. You can reach a top speed of between 140-150km/h at almost 1680 metres above sea level!
  • If you’re an avid hiker, be sure to try out the many hiking trials available to fully explore the ecosystem of the mountain.
  • The viewing deck at Viewing Deck Park is the best place to enjoy a bite to eat while you take in the majestic scenery.
  • Rent a bike if you wish to explore this unique area.
  • Kids can enjoy the exciting Jebel Jais Sky Maze, which is an obstacle course suspended above the ground.
  • How about having a meal in the highest restaurant in the UAE called 1484. It is aptly named because It is 1484 metres above sea level and has a sumptuous menu.

Staycation ideas in Oman

  • Resorts, such as Shangri La Barr al Jissah in Muscat, offer great amenities and has the best of both worlds in that it is situated between the sea and the local mountain range. Strict hygiene measures are employed with regular temperature checks and sanitation protocols in place. Social distancing is also strictly enforced and is possible because the maximum capacity they can accommodate at any one time is much lower than normal.

They offer amazing activities like kayaking, jet skiing, beach games, etc. There are turtle nesting sites and great hiking trails nearby.

  • Al Bustan Palace is another luxury holiday resort nestled between the majestic mountain range and the sea. It offers a range of water sports, fun activities like tennis and also their luxury spa. They have an all-inclusive offer of complimentary activities like a culinary workshop, swimming lessons for kids, sunset yoga, discounts on all meals and beverages, etc.

Maybe all you need right now to renew your flagging spirits is to book your own staycation! Do your research carefully taking note of any quarantine rules and testing procedures that may be in place. Pack your bags and head off. To breathe in the fresh sea breeze and get out into the sun can only make you feel better. You can have your holiday fun without placing you or your family at risk.

Share your experience, participate in the discussion and leave comments in our forum HERE.

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Author: KashGo
Expat Mum in the Desert and content writer for

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

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