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Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai-Hotel Review

by Tuesday, May 12, 2015

thewanderlustyogi.netApril 30, 2015- May 2, 2015, I had the pleasure of staying at the Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel in Dubai. Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel Dubai It was a planned stopover coming from a two-week trip to India and South East Asia. I flew on Emirates Airlines and Dubai is the layover, so naturally, to break up these long haul flights, I would want to stay a few days in Dubai. Do you blame me?

I’ve heard so many things, as of late, about this extreme city and how it has become a hot tourist spot. Not only does this futuristic city offer sightseeing of over-the-top attractions, boasting the tallest building in the world Burg Kalifa, and the largest man-made islands, The Palm Islands, but it also has some of the best high-end shopping in the world. (although I can only window shop)

Movenpick is a 5 star hotel chain, and in Dubai, they have 3 locations. We opted for the Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate location for two reasons.

1. it was right across the street from a mall

2.It has a private beach

Since this was at the tail end to a 2 week nonstop action trip, we felt like lying low and relaxing on the beaches of Dubai, would be a perfect end to our vacation. The sight-seeing things weren’t really a must-do for us, all except the camel safari in the desert experience.   We really wanted to do that excursion. Other than that, relaxing was the main goal.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe arrived around 2 pm at the hotel and were pleasantly greeted by the hotel staff. Everyone at the hotel seemed extremely friendly and helpful. From the bellman, who was dressed in Arabian attire, ( I couldn’t stop thinking about Aladdin) , to the concierge, to the front desk.

The front desk women took all the information, and quickly found my reservation. She offered an upgrade to the pool floor (on the 8th floor) and explained that breakfast was included as well as the shuttle bus to the private beach.  I was a little surprised and can’t say, not slightly disappointed, that we had to take a shuttle to the beach. My impression was that the hotel was directly on the beach. This was probably my mistake, and although it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, still fine.

Every staff member at the hotel spoke English, which for some reason I didn’t realize . I thought they may speak Arabic, with English as a second language, but this was not the case. At any rate, it made it that much easier to communicate.

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hotel lobby

We took a walk around the main lobby and the restaurant area.  It was very beautifully decorated with Middle Eastern inspired lamps hanging from the ceiling and ornate decor.  The hotel did a great job of embodying the essence of the Middle East, or at least felt authentic to  how I would imagine the United Emirates to be.

thewanderlustyogi.netThey have 5 restaurants with a variety of cuisines including Moroccan(Al Bahou), Indian(Chor Bazaar), Italian (Sicilia) and Chinese(Shanghai Chic) and global (Mistral) which has an array of cuisines and live cooking stations for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe only ate the breakfast at Mistral and were overly impressed of the diverse food choices and the sheer amounts of food offered. We could have anything we really wanted, literally; from made to order of omelets, sushi, salads, cured meats, fruits, cuisines from all over the world, you name it, they’d probably have it. You could eat for days and still have options. It was certainly the highlight of the hotel.thewanderlustyogi.net

Our room was with two full beds. My daughter and I have been traveling for weeks sharing a king-sized bed mostly, we opted for the two beds, but did have a choice.thewanderlustyogi.net

The room was very clean and modernly decorated. It had a storage closet for luggage with draws and a safe.

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a perfect spot to keep passports, credit cards and extra money

The bathroom was very roomy, with a toilet to one side, next to a large mirror and wash vanity, then at the opposite side, a rain shower style shower and a tub. It had the glass open view into the bedroom, like many hotels we’ve stayed at have.  thewanderlustyogi.netThey did have a privacy wooded type slide door if you wanted.  This was the funny thing when traveling with your daughter, all the romantic and seemingly normal rooms for couples, didn’t quite fit for our type of traveler.thewanderlustyogi.net

The 8th floor pool was small, but looked classy, had a city view, and seemed like a very nice place to relax.  thewanderlustyogi.netThe pool staff were very attentive, being sure we had sun if we wanted to, or shade if we preferred not. It was very busy the day we went to the pool with no chairs available when we first arrived. The staff kept watch and organized two chairs together for us within minutes.  They also moved our chairs when the sun became blocked by the building, and brought our things to an area with perfect sun exposure.  We laughed at how obliging they were on providing us the conditions for achieving a perfect tan!thewanderlustyogi.net

It was hot beyond what we are used to, to say the least. The desert heat that day was around 101 degree’s, but the pool was, although a tad warmer than one would like, still very refreshing after just sitting for 10 minutes,  a quick dip was a must.  The pool attendants also came by with fresh squeezed fruit drinks for everyone at no charge. It was a great pool day and I don’t remember having such great service by a pool before. I honestly don’t even remember having pool attendants in previous hotel stays. Now that I think about it, all except The Leela Palace- New Delhi, which were extremely accommodating too. It’s funny how the pool service really made a difference in our stay.

Hotels that pay attention to seemingly small details, create a much more pleasurable experience, but its clear that the ones that do, already know that.

The next day we planned on hitting the beach. Relaxing was what we were all about.  We were very excited! We already shopped the mall the night before and have booked our tour excursion for a camel dinner and show in the desert for that night. Thankfully the concierge let us know on the first day that, although we have free shuttle service to the beach, we needed to reserve a time.  It ran every half hour to and from the beach.  (on the hour at the hotel, and on the half hour at the beach) We booked from 9:00 am-1:30 pm,  that way we could have a few hours on the beach, and then have time to get ready before our tour pick up at 3:30.

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waiting for the beach shuttle with our new beach hats we bought the night before at the Ibn Battuta Mall (such tourists!)

We waited for the shuttle with other hotel guests, only about 8 others. The concierge gave us all VIP wrist bands and said it gained us access to the beach, pool area, and restaurant near the beach. It  took about a 20 minute ride through the city towards the beach, and we were dropped off at an executive apartment building.  We had a to take about a 10 minute walk through the parking lots, and down some stair cases towards the beach area. (which would be hard for some seniors, the handicapped or people with small children). Good thing we followed another guest that looked like they had done it before or at least knew where they were going, because otherwise we would have had no clue of how to get tot the beach. The bus driver didn’t say a word. It was all very vague.

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Movenpick beach shuttle bus

When we reached the bar area of the pool, they had a towel lending booth. It was free, but you  had to give them your room number and return it before you leave. We noticed quickly that the pool, which looked like a huge lazy pool, was behind fences and under construction. This was too bad because we would have had access to it, and the thought of floating around on a lazy river would have been awesome.

thewanderlustyogi.netNot that this wasn’t  bad enough, but when we got down to the beach it was more than lack luster.  It was a very small beach, away from everything and filled with lounge chairs end to end.  It felt like you were in a bay area that really wasn’t meant to have a beach there.  It was actually the Dubai Marina and the beach was called Jumeirah Beach.  We were both at a loss for words for a good 10 minutes. We could not believe that this was the beach. We imagined a beautiful white sand beach with camels walking by, aligned by a strip of cool Arabic style shops and restaurants and an amazing backdrop of this skyscraper filled city. It did have a city view (the only kind of cool thing about it), but not the one with Burj Kalifa or that area of the city like we were thinking. It was like a hidden and abandoned area, with nothing else there. thewanderlustyogi.net

I think we are at the wrong beach? We must be!

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We both thought that. We swore we saw youtube videos and pictures of Dubai and their beaches and it looks nothing like this. At all! Suddenly I got a sinking feeling, we had reserved the bus back to the hotel for 1:30 pm, it was now only 10ish. That means we are stuck here at this excuse of a beach for 3 and a half more hours! No!  Theres no way we were doing that!

We went up to the bartender and started expressing our disappointment and confusion, even asking him if we could get a taxi to a better beach.  He said we were probably thinking about the beach at the Atlantis-The Palm, Dubai.  I think he was right. I asked if you had to be a guest to go on that beach. He said no, and that there was a beach club that you could pay a daily fee to enter.  We looked at each other and said, “Lets do it!” Ahh rescued. But not so fast. On further information given, he said that the cab ride would be about 45 minutes long and would cost around 250 AED which is approximately $70.00 USD, each way! Then, also keeping in mind we would have to pay the fee to get into the beach club, which was 225 AED ($61.00 USD).

If we were to pay the cab fare, take the 45 minute ride (each way), and pay the beach access fee, we would be spending around $260.00 USD to sit mainly in a cab and spend maybe 45 minutes, max, on that beach. We passed. It just didn’t make sense.

We asked if we were allowed to at least go back early on the shuttle. We were.  We looked at the clock and instantly started running to the shuttle pick-up site, knowing that we probably will miss this one and will have to wait for the next. Luckily we made it. We figured that we would go back to the hotel pool. It was very nice and was extremely convenient to our room if we wanted to use the bathroom etc.  We would have a little poolside lunch and sun.  So it wouldn’t be a total wasted afternoon. And since we would already be right there, when it was time to get ready for our dinner in the desert, it would be easy.  It was a better alternative than the beach.

thewanderlustyogi.netOverall, on the positive,  the hotel was very nice, clean, modern, had a helpful staff, and great food. The less positive aspects, would be the beach (no surprise here),  the beach pool being under construction, having to take the shuttle to the beach, and that the hotel itself is located quite a distance to the city center and where most tourist attractions are.

I would stay at a Movenpick again for sure, I’d just have to stay in one with a better location. I was told by an Emirates flight attendant who lives in Dubai, that next time we come, to see the real authentic Arabic part of Dubai, was to visit the  Deira area of town. This area is filled with old souks, selling spices, gold and perfumes.  We were so bummed out that we found this out at the airport on our way home.  This is exactly what we would have loved to see.  I clearly didn’t do enough research for my quick layover in Dubai. If I go back I will definitely have to check out this area, and  Movenpick even has a hotel there. Perfect!

Travel Safety for Females

by Tuesday, May 5, 2015

thewanderlustyogi.netStill fighting jet-lag and coming down from a travel high, I contemplate what my last trip has taught me. Each time I travel, I have a takeaway. Some more powerful than others, but I always learn something new. Whether I’ve learned something I didn’t know before about the location, the culture, the food, the people or, and usually, most importantly, I learn something new about myself.

I’ve found that I discover more about myself when I am out of my comfort zone.

Three days ago I returned from a whirlwind,  2 week, mother/daughter trip, with my 16-year-old daughter, Maddie. Everyone, I mean everyone, in our lives, were extremely worried and thought we were crazy, when telling them of our travel plans, due to our unique destination choices.  Although our friends and family were supportive, or at least tried to be, we always got the, ” Be so careful!”, ” Stay safe!” ” Why are you going there?”  and so on. You get the picture.

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This was all totally understandable, especially considering, we are two females, one being a teen, traveling alone to India, Thailand and United Emirates. We realize there are real dangers in traveling to these locations, but we didn’t want this fact to stop us from exploring the world. Every time I got a negative comment or feedback implying I was crazy and wrong for going to these places, especially for bringing along my teenage daughter, I would usually respond, ” These dangers are true anywhere. You don’t think we could be taken, raped and killed in New York City or Boston for that matter? Not to mention, the world’s worst terrorist attack happened on our turf, with our planes.”  Our news stations are very good about brainwashing our country into thinking all other countries are bad and not safe to visit for one reason or another.

We are naive to believe that we are safe, if we only stay in the United States and never leave.  

My daughter and I planned our trip with precautions, so that we would be as safe as possible, and try not to put ourselves in any vulnerable situations.

For one, my uncle had provided us a driver for the entire time we were visiting India. This is a must, for even men. The driving in India, if you haven’t heard, is absolutely insane. I can’t even imagine driving for one minute in New Delhi. Thankfully our driver, Ramen, was as skilled as an Indie race car driver, but even with that, I felt a panic attack coming on almost every ride. The cost is so inexpensive too. The fee can run you anywhere from 700-1500 RS per day, (that’s  an average of only $11.02- $23.62 USD) You really can’t beat it.  Not only do you have someone who knows how to manage driving in this seemingly undrivable city, but they also are familiar with the city, its tourists areas, not -so- good for tourists areas, and they can act as a guide or a chaperone, like our driver did in certain situations.  It was a win-win, and really made all the difference for our time spent in India.

Another strategy we formulated was to never be out after dark. We planned on touring around during the daylight hours and be back at our hotel by dinner. This would serve two purposes;

1. Being out at night, we would be much more likely to be in a dangerous situation

2. We would eat at the hotel with hopes in preventing food poisoning (nobody wants Delhi belly)

Other than that, we both tried to be very observant of our surroundings and stuck with our gut instincts.  If something didn’t feel right, we would remove ourselves from the location as soon as possible.  These skills are very important to possess for anyone, and as for my teen daughter, she has already been extremely keen on these sorts of things. I’m not sure how, but she has always been mature beyond her years.thewanderlustyogi.net

  • We also tried to keep ourselves with groups of people and avoided areas that seemed chancy.
  • While driving in taxis (other than India) we would take note of the drivers ID (taking a picture of it) and talk on the phone, as if we were on our way of meeting someone (always implying its a man).
  • If we were being harassed and/or followed, we were extremely stern and sure to yell, “NO” very loud, and never made eye contact.

thewanderlustyogi.netYes, even with our prowess, I will admit, there were times we did feel a bit uneasy, but we were able to analyze every situation and find a way to manage it for our well-being and comfort level. These skills can’t just be taught, they have to be experienced first hand.

I, at times, even doubted myself, letting the fears of others, and their opinions ring in my head.  I started to question myself, and think about if they were right, and maybe I was irresponsible for taking my daughter to these places?  I stopped myself, recollected my thoughts and said , “No, we got this!” We are not incompetent women that need to be sheltered by men, have to stay in our country, or our home for that matter. This is not the lesson I want to teach my daughter.

I want my daughter to believe in herself and be confident that she can do anything a man can do. thewanderlustyogi.net

We not only survived this trip, but conquered it. The lesson I’ve learned will probably be the most important one to date. I discovered more about myself than I have in any past trip. I learned that I CAN travel the world as a women alone, or with a teenage girl, even in dangerous places of this world, and be smart enough to stay safe. This lesson was not only life-changing, but also empowering. If by taking my daughter on this trip, she also received this takeaway,  I think its one of the greatest gifts I could ever give her.thewanderlustyogi.net

 

How to Get An Indian Visa On Arrival

by Wednesday, April 1, 2015

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I’m traveling to India in less than 3 weeks and I need to get an Indian Visa On Arrival for myself and my daughter. I thought this wasn’t going to be a big deal, but unfortunately I’ve been having a lot of trouble trying to attain this.

My trip, leaving April 18th, 2015 is starting in New Delhi India, then on to Bangkok, Thailand, Phi Phi Island, Thailand and lastly, Dubai, before heading back to Boston after our 2 week tour. India is the only stop that requires, not only a passport, but also a visa. No worries, I thought. I have plenty of time. That was all until having the toughest time going through the online application with the Indian Embassy.  It is a very long and complicated application. I was told by friend’s that have gone to India, that the smallest of error on the application gets rejected and you would need to start the whole process over again. That made me a little concerned.

Some of the questions make you wonder why they ask, like “Indicate any personal marks” this includes tattoos. I read that someone answered “none” and were denied.  They really didn’t have any. I was thinking, “Do they need to know this in case they have to identify your dead body?” Lets not go there.

Another question is about your religion. Apparently another person said that you get denied if you answer atheist or other, yikes!  Let me play it safe and choose Buddhist, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind that philosophy? Or would they? Another one, that I luckily, don’t have to worry about is, if your grandparents were Pakistan Nationals or belong to Pakistan held area. If so, no entry into India.No soup for you!

I researched about what kind of visa we needed (there are a few kinds-  depending how long you are staying, or if you are a tourist, a government official,military, or need a business visa) and it looked like we could qualify for the Tourist India Visa On Arrival. Great! It was less money and had fewer restrictions.  I filled out the applications for my daughter and I, filling out all of the weird questions, uploaded copies of our passports and visa 2×2 sized, required photos.

Everything was fine except when it came to the payment part.  Every time I tried to “pay now” with my Mastercard it said failed? I tried it a few times, (actually 4 times total). I  called my bank to ask if it wasn’t going through on my end (possibly my bank stopped payment thinking it was a fraudulent transaction?) No. They never even had any transaction of that kind go through. Hmm? I thought.

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Next, I decided I should call the number provided for any questions. I spoke to a person and explained my situation and every time I stated my issue, click, the phone hung up. I did this 3 times and every single time, they hung up on me. I didn’t know what to do?

Time was getting close. So I started searching online for other options. I found this website that had great review, out of New York city, that help submit applications for passports and visas to most any country.  India and Brazil being the two most popular visas requested. Perfect!

The website was called itseasy.com Expedited US Passport Services Travel Visa Expeditors. They help guide you through the steps to be sure everything is correct and submit all of the necessary information to the country you are seeking entry in. They even help get last-minute travel documents if problems arise while traveling, such as lost passports or visas.

The service obviously costs more than if you just submitting the application yourself, but with a trip like this, I’d rather be sure everything was done perfectly, than go through immigration  the day on travel, and getting turned away for entry, after flying halfway across the world. No thank you!

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The visa itself costs $62.00, to be paid to the Indian government. The fees vary depending on how quick you need it. The fees are as followed:

No -Rush Visas = $69.00

Rush-Visas = $129.00

Urgent- Visas = $ 169.00

This is on top of the $62.00 fee to Indian government, which I was forgetting. When I ever saw the cost of 2 Urgent-Visas( I was nervous, so I just got the quickest one) was $472.00!! I wanted to cry. That’s a lot of money that I really wasn’t expecting, but with travel, comes expenses. There was a $10.00 M.O. Convenience Fee added. So just keep in mind of this when you try to apply. If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, it can be done by yourself, without the help of a service like this, but it’s just up to you if you feel confident that the application will be accepted with no problems. I, myself, wasn’t willing to take that risk. Especially, after all the difficulty I was having throughout the application process directly through the Indian Embassy.

The cost Breakdown for my Tourist on Arrival Indian Visas:

India Tourist Visa On Arrival   $62.00 (2 )= $124.00

Urgent Visas                              $169.00 (2) $338.00

M. O. Convenience Fee                                 $10.00

__________________________________________

GRAND TOTAL=                                            $472.00

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There are longer term visas you can get, but for Tourist Visa On Arrival, they have a check list to see if you qualify. If you answer yes to all of the questions it will tell you that you can go forward with this application. If you don’t, you may need to apply for a different visa. The website is very user-friendly and guides you through each step along the way or you can call them directly with any questions. They have 24/7 Live Support: 1-866-ITS-EASY(487-3279)

Qualifier for India Tourist Visa on Arrival

  • current passport (ordinary tourist)
  • photo requirement (2×2 sized color photo with white background-no glasses) the website even has a free app to take this picture using your iPhone or smart phone
  • proof of travel (e-confirmation from airline or travel company) with dates leaving US and dates leaving India
  • proof of residency ID
  • supplemental form( a declaration that you are not falsifying any part of the document and you have no criminal charges or record, etc)
  • visa application
  • you are going to India for sightseeing, medical treatment for short-term visit (more than 6 days from today and less than 30 days)
  • you are a US citizen and do not have parents/grandparents that are Pakistani

I actually got a call from them today with additional questions I didn’t answer. See? Mine would have been rejected. Thank goodness I went through this company. They do this on a daily basis and are extremely familiar on the ins and outs of this process, and what each country needs for visiting, from a different country to theirs.

I am still waiting to receive the visas, but I had just applied late Monday night. You can track the progress on their website with your email address and a confirmation number. Mine is at the final step. I’m hoping to receive it in a few days and that my entry through customs and immigration in India goes seamlessly. I’m crossing my fingers.

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