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Dubai Postcards: Worth Sending?

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Dubai Postcards: Worth Sending?

We always used to send postcards to our family and friends from all over the world. After a couple of years of traveling and a bad experience in China where none of the 30+ postcards we sent had reached their destination, we stopped doing it and only sent an occasional card to our family.

But when we were visiting Dubai with kids for Christmas and New Year holidays, we thought it was a good idea to send our holiday greetings to family and friends from there… But once again, we ended up regretting it…

In this post, you can read all about our Dubai postcard experience. Keep in mind that this experience is from a few years ago and a lot has changed in Dubai since then.

What happened to our holiday postcards from Dubai

Just like most tourists, we bought postcards and stamps at our hotel in Dubai. We wrote a couple of dozen cards and gave them to the reception of our Dubai hotel.

A few weeks later, we asked our family what they thought about our Christmas cards this year. What cards?! It appears that nobody received our postcards. Not in Belgium, not in the UK, not in Lithuania, and not in the USA.

Some friends suggested that maybe Muslim countries censure the outgoing mail and kept it because it had something to do with Christmas…

Other people joked that Dubai probably uses camels to transport the mail and that it might take a while…

When doing research for my blog post about all kinds of fun and special Dubai facts, I found out that they have a really strange postal system in Dubai. Dubai doesn’t have street addresses, just to mention one fact. Also, we have not seen one single post-office in Dubai during our stay (and we did look!). So we started to think it was probably not the best idea to send postcards to start with…

Just when we forgot about the cards, we received a couple of e-mails from family and friends thanking for the late New Year’s wishes. 7 weeks! That’s how much time it took for the postcards to get from Dubai to Belgium.

A few days later, they arrived in the UK as well. Exactly 9 weeks later, the postcards finally reached Lithuania. After 12 weeks, there was still no sign of the cards we sent to the United States though…

‘Is this card meant for a Chinese New Year?’ – my aunt asked. My cousin said that even a camel would have been faster and suggested that they probably use turtles… By the time our cards reach our American friends, they will probably think that we are really early with our New Year’s wishes for next year… In any case, it gives us all something to laugh about.

One of the people who called us to thank for the card said that they had friends living in Dubai who told them that outgoing international mail should not only have a stamp, but also some kind of a sticker, otherwise it gets shipped by boat. I don’t know if it’s true and what kind of a sticker you need (if any), but that would make sense.

It took two months for the boat to reach Belgium, the UK was next, then it took them another week or two to find Lithuania… In the end, our American friends never received our postcards from Dubai.

Should you still be sending postcards?

Should you still be sending postcards in this time of instant communication? Or are they getting extinct? And what about all those people who are not online? What about your grandma?

Even after this experience, or maybe even more because of it, I would say don’t be afraid to be old-fashioned and send a postcard next time you are traveling. In the best case, it will arrive as expected and you’ll make someone happy. And otherwise, you will have a funny story to share at the next family reunion.

With a bit of luck, you might even make it into the Guinness World Records. Although that might be a tough one to beat – there was once a letter that took 220 years to arrive… So there’s still hope for our postcards from Dubai that never got to the U.S. 🙂

Update

Somehow this old article that was supposed to be lighthearted all of a sudden got lots of attention many years after it was first written.

People from Dubai say that there are now plenty of post offices in the city and that their postal system works perfectly well now. Although most of them seem to find it normal that the post takes 30-45 days to get to its destination, so you may want to keep that it mind if you are planning to send mail from Dubai.

And so I feel obliged to add that this is in no way a review of the Dubai post system or its efficiency and it was never meant to be. For us, this was the very last time we sent postcards from our vacation destination. But that has more to do with all the instant communication means that are now available to all of us and not with any postal system in the world.

All that being said, I am also going to turn off comments on this article as I see no point in discussing this any further.

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Andrea

Monday 21st of December 2020

While clearly written to be funny or cute, it seems this is one experience that does not represent the postal system in the UAE (it would be respectful to note that in the post). I send mail from the country all the time - and it typically takes two weeks average to arrive to another country. Postcards are 3 dirham each for all destinations. Easy-peasy - no drama as this post indicates. COVID shifted things globally in the postal system in 2020. There was no mail service between many countries for months. Before blaming the UAE for having a "strange postal system," it could be the destination country or any country the cards transited in between. Every experience at the post office is quite normal and straight forward. For example of 2020 changes: Poland is still restricting mail service to the UAE. And from experience, the USA system has been notably slower in some areas - while remaining normal in other states/cities. The camel mail delivery comment is just ignorant and unnecessary in 2020 given the amount of infrastructure in the country. If you're going to state something silly like that at least also mention that the country also has feasibility studies for Hyperloop and flying taxis - and has a space program. Your blog has lost credibility to me with some of the flippant and cliche statements made about the country.

Fairoz

Friday 4th of December 2020

I live in Dubai and I send postcards regularly. I do not post them tracked, I simply put the 3AED worth of stamp(s) on the card and put them in a post box near my home.

The maximum it has taken for a post card to reach for me, was 40 days and that was to someone in America. And 30 days maximum for someone in Germany.

Also, not having a post code does not equal bad post service. Dubai (and the UAE) is so small that it does not need postal codes. You would think that they would have established postal codes if it was really that bad.

Plus, I am surprised that no one mentioned that you gave your cards to the hotel reception, which already has a large pile of postcards. This seems the most likely reason why your cards arrived late.

Like Noura mentioned, there are 115 post offices in Dubai so you could have sent it through any of them.

Anyways, I hope that the next time you and your family post cards, they arrive on time!?

Jurga

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

Thank you for sharing your experience. I am just amazed at how everyone in Dubai thinks it's totally normal for the post to take 30-40 days to arrive anywhere. But I guess we all compare to what we are used to. Anyway, just to clear things up - part of our cards never arrived. This was a few years ago, so I think it's safe to say they got lost :). I also don't think it's the hotels' fault as they would have lost them all or none at all, but not just those that were meant for the USA...

Michael Jolliffe

Monday 26th of October 2020

I send a lot of postcards - about 50 per destination - to family and friends when I travel. They routinely arrive - rather slowly, the postal service in Europe was faster 100 years ago! - from UPU member countries, but even from non-UPU countries they usually arrive eventually. In the last couple of years the postcards which I mailed from North Cyprus, Palestine and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh) generally arrived after a few months.

Jurga

Tuesday 27th of October 2020

Oh wow - a few months! That's really long. And you still send so many! It's a nice tradition though! I'm sure your family and friends must appreciate it. Happy travels!

Noura

Saturday 12th of September 2020

Hi,

I'm sorry your mail was lost. I have no idea what was wrong with the cards you sent out, but this is the most strange thing I've read. I live in Dubai. I send out postcards regularly, to so many different countries, and I've never faced a problem like yours. For instance, my latest postcard was sent to the Netherlands and arrived in 16 days. You might've not had the correct amount of stamps on your card. There is always the option of having your postcard sent with a tracking number. This way it would always be tracked down. It is also super strange how you say you couldn't find any post-offices! Fun fact: there are 115 post-offices in Dubai. One in each area. You could always try looking it up in google maps.

Hope your postcards arrive to the US soon:)

Stay safe.. Noura

Jurga

Monday 14th of September 2020

Hi Noura, yes, we put enough stamps. And this was a few years ago, so no, those missing postcards won't get there anymore. :) And who in his right mind would ever send holiday postcards with a tracking number? It's the whole point of vacation postcards - that it's spontaneous and gets there before you get back from holidays. Anyway, it sounds like Dubai has improved its postal system somewhat, so hopefully, it works better now. But even then, 16 days for a card posted directly at the post office, followed by a 6-hr direct flight from Dubai to the Netherlands, is way too long, don't you think?

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