Do solo Muslim female travellers have a different experience than solo non-Muslim female travellers in Dubai?
I lived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during summer 2017. I stayed with my relatives in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, but there were many times when I ventured out alone, to explore and do photography without having someone breathe down my neck or whine at me hurry up. I drove alone, on the highways and in quiet residential areas, travelling to beaches, malls and historical sites.
Is Dubai Safe for Solo Female Travellers?
Below is an itinerary of what I did for seven days in Dubai. I felt safe doing everything on the list while solo and you should too. Bluntly put, Dubai isn’t the least bit dangerous for solo female travellers. I doubt a female Muslim traveller, such as myself, would be treated differently than a non-Muslim female traveller, even though I wear a headscarf. Just be respectful of the laws and enjoy your time. In fact, there are many non-Muslim women in Dubai, roaming about on their own, dressed in crop tops and short skirts with men, cops or not, just walking past, going about their day. I even saw lone expat women waiting at bus stops late at night. Don’t fret over being harassed or cat-called. The chances are slim than what you’d face in America.
Where to stay in Dubai
Avenue Hotel in Diera (old Dubai)
It’s a 3-star hotel so I didn’t expect much. If you’re a budget traveller or spend a majority of your time outside and just need a place to crash at the end of a long day, this hotel is for you. It’s relatively clean, quiet, has a rooftop pool and just 15 minutes from Dubai Mall. It has a very tiny underground parking lot for guests, but there’s also paid parking outside (AED 10 for 24 hours).
Old Dubai is a bit shabby, but it's only a ten-minute drive to downtown Dubai. Diera hotels are known for having prostitutes solicit themselves in hotel bars and clubs, but I'm sure that happens in any hotel across Dubai. Nonetheless, I felt safe going out in the area at night. It’s a populated region, primarily with Filipinos. There are many nearby fast-food chains, like Hardy’s, Popeyes and McDonald’s.
I drove a Nissan Sunny rental car from Thrifty. When renting a car, you need to show your drivers license if it's from a western nation (due to similar driving laws) or an international drivers license if you're not from a western country. A credit card with your name on it is required.
However, Dubai being Dubai, always goes for the fastest and most advanced of any technology, so its public transit system is superb. Along with buses, trams, Uber, taxis, water buses, the Dubai metro and a monorail, Dubai is scouting locations to build the first Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system that uses a pipeline to carry passengers and goods inside capsules.
If you decide to take public transportation, get the Nol Card, which works on the metro, tram, local bus and water bus. Purchase it from a metro or bus station or a ticket vending machine before boarding and top it up with credit. Publis transportation is relatively inexpensive and allows you a 30 minute transfer time when switching modes of travel.
Bear in mind I was in Dubai during July and August. Many outdoor attractions, such as Global Village, were closed. It's sometimes too hot and humid to do outdoor activities. I recommend visiting in the fall or winter months.
Nasimi Beach by Atlantis the Palm: Dubai Hotel
This will gain you access to the hotel’s pool, food services, vast beach and a close-up of its amazing architecture. Security standing in the parking lot will ask where you are going. Tell them ‘Nasimi Beach’, which will gain you access to the hotel’s premises.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah
Where you will find traditional Arab and modern American stores all in one place. This is a great place for handmade goods, souvenirs, to dine in or grab your Starbucks fix. It's easily accessible by car and there is underground parking to your right, once you drive through the entrance.
Mall of Emirates
The mall with indoor skiing. It’s fancy—think Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto, but with more high-end stores.
At The Top, Burj Khalifa
It’s better if you buy and print your tickets beforehand. Visit floor 124 and 125 to enjoy the scenery and swings, or go up to floor 148 to get a more decent birds-eye view of the city.
The Burj Khalifa exit will lead you back to Dubai Mall. The mall is huge and mainly consists of American stores, but prices are more expensive than what you'd find back home.
Dubai Miracle Garden
The one place I felt slightly creeped out. Something seemed fishy as I neared Dubai Miracle Garden and the area was pitch dark. I stopped in front of the garden entrance and peered through my passenger window. A lone guard walked up to my car in the eerie moonlight. ‘It’s closed!’ he chuckled.
I've been told Miracle Garden is must visit, so if you travel to Dubai during the winter months I recommend checking it out. If you visit Dubai during summer, some outdoor activities will be closed due to the heat. Check beforehand so that you won’t drive into a dark, empty abyss in the depths of the night
Umm Suqeim Beach
White sand and provides a good view of the Burj Al Arab.
My favourite place in Dubai. Take a leisurely stroll while restaurant servers try to convince you to eat at their restaurant and marina workers sell you boat tours. There is a plethora of restaurants to choose from.
I spent a lot of my time here and somehow, I always caught the fountain show right on time. If you want to see the fountain show from the top, go through the Apple Store.
The Terrace, Ras Al Khor
The Terrace is a restaurant that was temporarily closed, but I went there for the spectacular view of the Dubai skyline. It’s a posh area with a golf course, but I returned to my hotel rather quickly as the summer heat was getting to me.
Visit the last ‘branch’ of The Palm for endless food trucks, a great view of Dubai’s skyline and a stunning sunset.
Great for nighttime picnics or taking a stroll. Walk across the bridge or ride a dhow boat through the canal.
SALT on Kite Beach
Dubai is a Muslim's foodie haven, with all the halal food options. If you want fresh, juicy, mouth-watering burgers, try SALT.
Dubai Marina yacht cruise
You can haggle a cheaper price with the boat cruise sellers (you can do that anywhere in Dubai). I took an evening yacht cruise, which took me around the Burj Al Arab, The Palm and back to the marina. You can catch dinner at one of the restaurants to end the night.
A spectacular experience. You'll ride a land cruiser over sand dunes, ride an ATV, enjoy dinner, shisha and watch dance performances at night. I recommend booking with Musandam Travel, they were great!
Dubai’s Hollywood-inspired theme park. Wander from Columbia Pictures to Smurf’s Village to Dreamworks and Lionsgate to enjoy outdoor and indoor roller coasters and rides that will maneuver you around the ceilings and through the walls.
If you wear a hijab, don’t be startled if a ride operator hands you a hood with a drawstring to put over your head. It’s to keep your hijab from slipping off when the ride accelerates. I thought that was quite thoughtful.
Solo Female Travel Tips for Dubai
- It's safe to go out at night provided you're in a populated, well-lit area (Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina to name a few).
- Easily buy a sim card and a phone plan with data. This came in handy when I had to call the police after someone hit my rental car. It's also great for using Google Maps so you don't need to spend extra on a GPS when renting a car.
- Keep your phone charged at all times. I recommend the Poweradd Pilot charger, it can continuously charge my Samsung for up to two days, without needing a recharge.
- Shoulders must be covered and bottoms that at least cover the kneecaps must be worn when visiting during Ramadan. This is just respectful practice in general as the Emiratis prefer it, but you can get away with wearing less during other times of the year.
- Bikinis are allowed on beaches only. Don't be like the British woman who stripped down to her bikini after an Emirati woman approached her in Dubai Mall, asking her to cover up.
Would you travel to Dubai as a solo woman? Where do you consider the safest place to travel?
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