Are you wondering if it’s safe to travel to Dubai as a solo female? Or, maybe you’re feeling nervous about cultural norms for women in Dubai? You’ve come to the right place. I’ve spent countless months in the UAE since 2014 and know Dubai very well. Here I will give you my best tips on staying safe in Dubai as a solo female.
Maybe the Middle East holds as much fascination for you as it does for me. But, maybe it also scares you a bit to think about visiting solo.
You wouldn’t be the first to tell me this. One of the most common questions I get, after all of my travels throughout the Middle East, is about the safety of each country – especially as a solo female.
I can understand. The entire region has certainly received a bit of a bad reputation from the western media. If you’re feeling a bit hesitant, but can’t shake your curiosity, Dubai is a great place to dip your toes in.
With a huge expat population, and with English being widely spoken, Dubai is a very navigable place even for a first time visitor. And, you can absolutely get a feel for the “real” middle east here, too, if you’re willing to explore a bit further. Just outside of the bustling city is a more traditional way of life.
Here are some of my best tips on how to stay safe while you travel to Dubai as a Solo Female!
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Modern Day Dubai
When you fly into United Arab Emirates, you will most likely land in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Both offer something uniquely different for visitors, which you can read about here, and both are certainly worth a visit.
Dubai is one of the seven Emirates in the UAE. Emirates function like states or provinces, with separate governments unified under one country. Abu Dhabi is the capital city, but Dubai is arguable more well known to travelers.
The luxury shopping, giant skyscrapers, man-made beaches and the nightlife – Dubai is a popular stopover destination. Did you know that you can find snow at the indoor ski park or sleep inside of an aquarium hotel room, complete with fish swimming overhead?! It is nothing short of flashy.
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The undercurrent of the city, however, is deeply religious amidst all the excess. Islamic morals guide the government, the laws, and many of the locals’ day to day lives.
Dubai’s glamour is a relatively recent development over the last couple of decades, after the discovery of oil provided a warp-speed facelift for the city. The wealthy country attracted expats from all over the world, and now they many up the majority of the population in Dubai itself.
When asked if it is safe to travel to Dubai as a solo female, my answer is a resounding YES. However, you must first familiarize yourself with the culture and expectations.
For those coming from western countries, I can’t deny that the role of women will be somewhat different than you are used to But if you come prepared, you can avoid offending the locals or getting any unwanted attention. And that will set you up for a safe and happy trip.
Need more detailed information on where to go and what to see? Get my Dubai & Abu Dhabi Travel Guide today!
Is it Safe to Travel to Dubai? Advice for Solo Females.
1) Dress Appropriately.
This is the number one thing you can do to avoid unwanted stares, comments, or advances from men. I have an entire post on what to wear in Dubai, which outlines exactly what I pack when visiting.
In a nutshell, dress modestly. Cover your chest and shoulders and don’t expose your midriff or show lots of skin. By dressing in a conservative and culturally sensitive way, you will gain instant respect from Emirati citizens.
It’s true that you will see foreigners in all manner of dress around the country. But I think it’s always best to follow cultural norms as a sign of respect for the country you are visiting. Do not assume that because Dubai is an expat-heavy country, anything goes. It does not.
2) Realize That You Are an Anomaly.
Dubai locals will probably still find it curious to see a woman traveling alone. This is especially true if you plan to travel further into the country and not just in expat-heavy Dubai.
I experienced this myself, and was met with the question “Where is your husband?” several times.
While 99% of people are simply being kind and curious, if anything feels off about someone’s glances or questions, simply say “he is at the hotel”, or “at work”. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with a white lie when safety is at stake.
Again, typically this question is brought on purely by curiosity, but stay alert and trust your gut.
3) Stay Connected.
Grab a local SIM card from the airport upon landing. I highly recommend Etisalat.
You’ll have access to maps, GPS, and the internet while on the go, not to mention access to Uber and the local emergency lines (999 for Police. 998 for Ambulance. 997 for Fire Department.)
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4) Be Prepared to “Fight” for What You Want.
I don’t mean literally. What I mean is, as a solo female, you may be treated differently in some aspects of travel than if you were with a man.
A great example is when you need to hire a driver. I was planning to go deep into the Arabian Desert, toward the Saudi border, which requires several hours of travel across the sand dunes.
There is no reliable public transportation going into the area, and renting a car means you need to be an expert at driving on the sand. The Arabian Desert is gorgeous, but is not something you want to mess with as a novice! People die there when they get lost or have a wreck and don’t have enough water. I had to be smart.
What I found on my search for a driver was, the majority of companies would not accept me as a client because I was a solo female.
The drivers for that type of work are all male, and an unrelated male being alone with one female is both improper – and considered a risk for all parties involved. The males worry about any type of complaint or accusation; the females worry about unwanted advances.
So what did I do? I persisted.
I was so determined to get to this particular area that I devoted a lot of time (seriously, a lot) to calling around until finally I found one company that would take me. On the day that the driver arrived, I trusted my gut and felt all to be well. And, it led to one of the most beautiful travel experiences I have ever had.
Not all of your Dubai tourism experiences will be like this. If you plan to tour the city you can easily join a group tour. But if you plan to go off the beaten path, be prepared to be persistent to get what you want.
5) Absolutely no PDA.
Public displays of affection are taboo in most middle eastern countries, and in Dubai that is no exception. If you happen to be at a resort or on resort grounds, there may be some wiggle room. But do not push it.
And absolutely do not engage in any PDA while out in public. Even holding hands is a pretty uncommon sight if you observe the locals.
If you are coming from the western world, maybe you don’t understand or don’t agree. I would say to follow this protocol anyway. You are a visitor in the country, and PDA is not just socially unacceptable– it is unlawful.
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6) No Drinking in Public.
Drinking goes hand in hand with the aforementioned PDA– best to do this safely behind the closed doors of your hotel room.
There are plenty of bars and a lively nightlife in the city. If you choose to indulge there, it is advisable to keep your wits about you (i.e., stay sober enough) to not draw any attention to yourself.
7) Choose Your Hotel Wisely.
This tip is actually two-fold.
First, there are fairly strict laws about sharing a room with someone of the opposite sex as an unmarried couple. If you are not traveling solo but instead are with a friend or significant other of the opposite sex, plan in advance.
You will almost always be asked to show a marriage certificate to room together in more conservative areas, and if you can’t, you will be turned away. This rule seems to be more lenient at the touristic center of Dubai and in hotels frequented by foreigners.
Not sure how to tell if you need a marriage certificate?
First, anything labelled “aparthotel” means apartment-style hotel. Typically, these hotels will not allow roommates of the opposite sex without that certificate. If you choose a western brand hotel or a large chain hotel in a tourist area, you are probably okay, but I would certainly suggest calling or emailing to ask in advance.
Pro Tip: Use Booking.com to reserve your hotels and you will usually get the best price!
My second hotel tip is to not go too cheap, even if you are on a budget.
Hostels are not widely available in Dubai, as sharing of rooms with the opposite gender is a big NO. So, if you are travelling solo, you may be tempted to choose some really budget options to keep your costs down.
I did this a couple of times, and one instance in particular it was a disaster. The locks wouldn’t lock, the hotel manager wouldn’t help, and the maintenance man said it could be fixed “tomorrow”.
It’s a long story, which I can share if anyone is interested, but the bottom line is, spend the extra $10 USD for the better hotel down the road. Your safety and sanity is worth it.
8) If You Do Find Yourself in Harm’s Way, Be Loud.
If you follow all of these suggestions but still come across that one bad egg, fear not- I have a tip on how to handle him.
The conservative laws are in your favor if you ever have a man follow you, touch you, make obscene comments to you, etc.
Remember, everyone else is under the same restrictions that you are. If any of these things do happen, be loud. Speak up. Either by yelling loudly in public at the perpetrator to leave you alone, or by going up to any group of people, particularly other women, and tell them that so-and-so is following you or harassing you.
Strangers will absolutely come to your aid in this situation as it is considered highly inappropriate behavior on the man’s part.
Furthermore, if you are ever lost and confused while traveling, do not hesitant to ask another woman for help. Most of the time they will be happy to assist. Dubai even has pink colored taxis that are only for women and families, so if you see one, hop in!
And there you have it! These tips will keep you safe and prepared as you travel to Dubai as a solo female. As you can see, about half of these tips center on modesty in dress and action. If you can remember that basic premise, you’ll be well on your way.
It is absolutely safe to travel to Dubai as a solo female once you arm yourself with information. Be knowledgeable, be respectful, and go explore. And always trust your gut!
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