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I am looking to understand if it is possible to get from Dubai to Europe without flying and any recommended routes/links to book.

My brother is having a baby in December and I want to get my mum there in November which I can do via a cruise, but getting back is the issue as there aren't any cruises to EU until March, but she is terrified of flying.

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    As an aside, have you ever considered something like this to help aleviate her fear: Fear-of-Flying Seminar. (This is just one example I picked randomly that is located "Europe", not knowing where you actually are)
    – Peter M
    Aug 22, 2023 at 16:27
  • Hi thanks - we have tried every possible solution to get on her on a plane and none worked. She has very bad anxiety and even the thought of it led to an attack Aug 22, 2023 at 16:37
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    Any overland option will be a lot more DANGEROUS then flying. Some of the countries you will have to pass through are not particularly safe or "nice"..
    – Hilmar
    Aug 23, 2023 at 7:03
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Travel Meta, or in Travel Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Willeke
    Aug 24, 2023 at 10:30
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    Frame challenge: Would it possibly work for your mom to just stay in Dubai for four months? Having an extra pair of hands around to help out with the baby for the first four months could be really helpful for new parents. Aug 24, 2023 at 21:16

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As others have pointed out, anything else than flying or taking a cruise ship to UAE is much more dangerous and only for someone adventurous and resourceful. I'm not sure your mum is the type, given the fact she has fear of flying.

  • The only realistic overland route (using trains, buses or a private car) is via Turkey and Iran, and then by ferry across the Persian Gulf either to UAE or to Oman. Syria and Iraq must be avoided at all costs, even by the adventurous types! Iran is not outright dangerous, but it's not safe either, it's under various sanctions, things might not work there as expected, and visiting it will forever taint one's travel history. I can't recommend it. Anyway, getting an Iranian visa is quite a pain (visa on arrival is available only for those who arrive by air).

  • Another option is travelling on a cruise or cargo ship to Egypt or Israel, which might be easier to do than taking a ship to UAE. It's not possible to get there overland from Europe, and sadly there are no scheduled ferry services either. From Egypt or Israel it's possible to travel overland to UAE via Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Borders are open, visas are easy to get on arrival, bus connections exist (private car is not an option here), but it's not without risks, especially for unaccompanied women. Additionally, travelling via Egypt implies crossing the Sinai peninsula, which might be unsafe.

That's about it. I don't think these are viable options for your case. Either your mum overcomes her fear, or she stays in UAE until March (check how long she can stay there without a visa) or she will have to wait until the baby is old enough and has a passport to fly to Europe instead.

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    Minimum age required by most airlines is only a few days; typically more than a week-old babies can fly. But it's not very convenient and especially in winter can be outright dangerous for the baby. I would definitely not fly to see my parents until my baby is at least 3 months old, possibly even older, once it gets some mandatory vaccines. Aug 23, 2023 at 14:10
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    Curious how flying with a week-old in the winter is any more "outright dangerous" than driving the kid home in December or January at 2-3 days (as I did with 2 of my kids) or taking them shopping or to see other family members. But... we digress very far off topic now, so I'll leave it.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 23, 2023 at 14:13
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    Well, airplanes, airports and other busy places are full of viruses and bacteria. A respiratory infection accompanied by fever can be fatal for a several days old infant. True, a baby can get infected anywhere, but while some exposures are unavoidable, flying is in most cases avoidable. Aug 23, 2023 at 14:18
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    Fair enough, thanks for clarifying. And now, back to your regularly scheduled on-topic discussion...
    – FreeMan
    Aug 23, 2023 at 14:19
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    Flying with a one-week old baby is difficult, because you might have to specify the age of all passengers at booking time, and unless you book last-minute, this age is not known. When you're travelling internationally, getting a visa or visa waiver for an unborn person is also difficult. The passport might also not be ready in time.
    – gerrit
    Aug 23, 2023 at 16:01
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I believe this is really a matter of how adventurous you want to be.

There's a ferry from Dubai to Bandar Lengeh, in Iran. From there, a few busses and/or trains can get you to Tehran. I'm not sure if the Tehran to Istanbul train is running again, but if it isn't, and that border is closed, you could do Tehran to Baku to Tbilisi to Ankara to Istanbul.

As per the comments below, Seat61 claims the Tehran to Istanbul train isn't running, but Wikipedia claims the border is open.

Alternatively, it's theoretically possible to drive from Dubai to Amman (in Jordan), through Saudi Arabia. But I would think this much less advised than traveling through Iran.

From Amman, you could get yourself to Tel Aviv. But, crossing the Med is difficult. And, driving to Turkey would require traversing Syria.

There are at least some ferries that cross the Med, including one from Tunisia to Italy. But, driving along the southern seaboard through Egypt and Libya also ain't the best of options.

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    there's no way to drive from Tel Aviv to Syria or Lebanon, if that's the route then the OP would need to go to Syria directly from Amman. The route through Iran and the former Soviet Union is the safest, IMHO, and also the longest.
    – littleadv
    Aug 22, 2023 at 17:48
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    Why would the route through Saudi Arabia be "much less advised" than through Iran? I wouldn't visit either, but Iran strikes me as the riskier place. Aug 23, 2023 at 11:00
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    @Johnnyjanko Aversions to various things very often has no great degree of logical reason. I knew an otherwise normal enough person who was petrified of hot-air hand-driers in restrooms. || I AM adventurous. 72 years old 35 countries. Have owned 25 motorcycles. Willing to wade into danger IF innocent and helpless people are threatened. (Really). AND despite having flown internationally very often, for a long time I had serious concerns about flying. I flew and I knew the stats BUT it still nagged. Planning to fly to Urumqi in NW China (about 6 hours) I looked into ALL accident stats ... Aug 23, 2023 at 11:53
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    ... for all candidate airlines. ALl had lost one or 2 aircraft 10 to 20 years ago. None in the last 10 - years. Without any other action or intention on my part my concern about flying vanished. That was in about 2008 and it's never come back. || "Come ride along with me, you'll be petrified ..." :-) Aug 23, 2023 at 11:55
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    @StrangerToKindness - I don't think the issue is Saudi itself, its just that going that way commits you to going through Iraq, Syria or Sinai, all of which present safety issues
    – JayFor
    Aug 23, 2023 at 12:13
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If driving is an option: from Bandar-e Langeh to Vienna is around 5,500 km if you cross directly from Iran into Turkey (avoiding Iraq and Syria).

Note that several countries, including UK and Germany, currently (August 2023) advice against all travel to Iran. Whether this is warranted could be debated, but it may affect the ability to get travel insurance or consular assistance.

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I assume it is actually your sister-in-law who is going to have the baby, and not your brother? Though these days, one can never be certain. My advice below might seem a bit harsh at first but my heavily pregnant daughter is having to juggle similar issues at the moment, so I know what I am talking about.

Plan A is to look at cruises heading East. Keep going far enough and they end up back in Europe.

Plan B is driving. Google maps suggests sixty-four hours of driving will get you from Dubai to Geneva on a route that doesn't go through 'active' war zones, even if it gets pretty close in places. You could probably do it in ten days at six hours driving a day if you were determined (I assume your mother is not interested in driving herself?). Of course, the quality of accommodation en route may be variable so you might want to consider a camper van. Naturally, hiring one will be a challenge as will insuring it, given the route you are considering, though if you buy one you could probably sell it again and recover most, or at least, some of your costs.

Plan C. You could offer to fly to fly your expectant sister-in-law to Europe where your mother can inspect mother and child before flying them home again. Of course, it is not wise to fly expectant mothers or young infants, so they might need to stay with your mother for an extended period of time. I don't know how your brother will feel about that.

Plan D involves getting your mother to accept that her problems with flying are her problems and they are solvable, but they are not your problems, and they are definitely not your sister-in-laws problems.

Buying a camper van option might be your easiest option.

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    The route suggested by Google Maps goes via Iraq, which at least 3 people here strongly advise against.
    – jcaron
    Aug 23, 2023 at 23:35
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    @jcaron To me it suggests a route via Syria. People, please don't trust satellite navigation to keep you away from war zones! Aug 24, 2023 at 7:18
  • @PaulSmith Have you done much international road travel in the Middle East?
    – Sneftel
    Aug 25, 2023 at 10:31
  • @Sneftel - yes. Was that the only reason for your downvote?
    – Paul Smith
    Aug 25, 2023 at 22:40

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