When I first mentioned I would be travelling solo to Dubai, UAE I was met with some hesitation from friends and family. After all, Dubai is in the Middle East which does have a reputation for being difficult for solo female travellers. I knew that Dubai was extremely westernized and not at all like Egypt. However, even though am a very experienced solo traveller, after my rough time in Morocco I made sure to ask ahead so I could be best prepared. So I spoke to my Dubai foodie friend Liam, who currently lives in Dubai with his wife Naomi, and asked for Naomi’s opinion on solo travel in Dubai as a woman. She laughed and told me that it’s probably the safest place she’s ever been and, after spending 5 days in Dubai, I agree. Solo travel in Dubai is easy, safe, and a lot of fun. So if you are considering travelling solo to Dubai, here’s what to know.
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Safety in Dubai as a Solo Traveller
So, why is Dubai so safe for solo travellers? Well, it’s safe for everyone. Dubai has one of the lowest crime rates in the entire world. Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t any crime at all. Of course there is, so you still need to be aware and make smart choices while travelling solo in Dubai. But the chances of you getting robbed, assaulted or worse in Dubai is very low. In fact even the Emirati princes go out without body guards and security (at least that you can see) in an effort to show just how safe Dubai is.
So, why is the crime rate in Dubai so low? This is mainly for two reasons. First off, there are cameras everywhere recording everything so it’s basically impossible to pull a wedgie much less do any criminal activity without being caught on camera.
Secondly, and probably the real deterrent, is the severity of the punishments associated with the crimes. The United Arab Emirates is incredibly strict and they do still enforce capital punishment. This works to your advantage as a solo traveller in Dubai wanting to ensure your safety, but it also means that you, as a traveller, need to be cautious and respectful of the rules and regulations of Dubai as well. For example, you need to be incredibly cautious of what medications you bring into the country as many are illegal. I usually travel with allergy medications and pain killers as a ‘just in case’ but left them all behind just to be safe, assuming if I needed something I could just go to a pharmacy.
I also want to point out that I was never catcalled or sexually harassed in Dubai. As a woman, this always feels like a small miracle. During my time in Dubai I was approached by a few interested men while I was there but everything was very polite, friendly, and respectful.
Getting Around Dubai as a Solo Traveller
If you have done any research on Dubai before you’ll probably have noted a lot of mentions about public transport in Dubai and how it’s, well, not so great. Yes, there is a metro and yes there is a bus system but the connectivity is lacking and, while cheap, they can be quite slow. For this reason, especially if you are limited on time, it’s recommended to take taxis or use uber which are quite affordable.
As a solo female traveller, I usually avoid taxis and ubers. I’ve had a couple of bad experiences with male drivers and would honestly usually prefer to be on a crowded bus. However, I had zero issues with any of the drivers I had in Dubai. They were all men but they were all incredibly kind and respectful and I really enjoyed chatting with several of them. If you aren’t comfortable driving with men, there are female-only taxis. These are pink taxis and you can request them at the airport and ask your hotel to arrange one for you.
The Dubai metro also has female-only carriages. I did not take the metro but I did take a bus once, and it was totally fine. The driver was male but he was very kind. I didn’t know that I couldn’t pay in cash (you need a card) and the driver actually let me use his personal bus pass to tap on and off for the ride (I gave him the cash in exchange).
When I was in Old Dubai I also hopped on a stranger’s boat for a ride up and down the canal. As I sat there, alone on a boat with a strange man in the Middle East, it occurred to me how strange this was. Yet I was totally safe and happy as he pointed out various restaurants and landmarks on my scenic tour.
From cars to buses, boats and even just walking around alone and asking for directions, I felt safe and comfortable as a solo female traveller in Dubai the entire time, both during the day and night (in the central downtown areas).
Where to Stay in Dubai as a Solo Traveller
There are plenty of areas in which to stay in Dubai. Again, since you will be relying mostly on taxis and ubers (or public transit if you choose) to get around there really isn’t a bad area. That being said, the downtown Dubai area is the busiest and most touristic so I chose to stay close by and would recommend the same for other travellers. Not only does it make it easy to see some of the highlights such as the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, but because it is more popular I just felt safer, in general, being surrounded by fellow tourists. I, personally, haven’t heard of any bad places to stay as a solo traveller, but downtown was also what my friend Liam suggested as well so I was happy to take his advice as someone who lives there.
Looking for some recommendations?
If you want to splurge, try: The Palace Downtown
For something more midrange try: Ramada Downtown Dubai
I stayed just outside of Downtown Dubai in Business Bay at City Premiere Hotel Apartments. They had a great sale on and suites include kitchen & laundry facilities.
*Note: There are some hostels in Dubai but I’ve heard its more workers trying to find somewhere cheap to stay than backpackers. I’ve also heard that Dubai is big for Airbnb scams so I would suggest choosing to stay at a known hotel or apartment.
Eating out in Dubai as a Solo Traveller
One of the things that solo travellers are mindful of is eating out. Some people don’t like it and just feel uncomfortable. Personally, I don’t mind it but I would agree that some places are more comfortable for eating alone than others.
I had no issues eating alone in Dubai and there are tons of restaurant options. Even the malls have plenty of restaurants and places to eat, including many of the brands and chains you recognize from home (like, for me, Tim Hortons!). My favourite place to eat in Dubai as a solo traveller was Time Out market in downtown Dubai. I loved the one in Lisbon so was very excited to see one in Dubai as well. If you have never been, it’s kind of like a high-end food court with some amazing food options from Japanese to British to Italian and more. There is a cocktail/beer/wine bar as well and you can order whatever you like from each individual vendor. Seating is big long tables in the middle and nobody will look twice at you if you are alone. Plus, the food is amazing.
If you want to eat somewhere a little nicer and traditional, like one of the restaurants overlooking the Burj Khalifa or the lake in downtown Dubai, I suggest making reservations. I didn’t think ahead to do that and a lot of places were fully booked, especially on the weekend.
Finally, if you really hate eating on your own, you can order delivery from most places too. There are plenty of delivery apps and if you have any questions the hotel staff can always give you some recommendations.
What to Wear in Dubai as a Solo Female Traveller
As safe as Dubai is it is important to remember that Dubai is an Arabic city in a Muslim country and as such, you should be respectful and more mindful of what you wear. A quick look through Instagram will show you that anything goes but while you probably won’t be called out on wearing short skirts, booty shorts and crop tops in the street, it’s not really appropriate. Yes, it’s hot but there are plenty of cute outfits you can wear to look good in photos and still be mindful of the local culture.
Also, for those who like to keep it casual; it’s worth noting that some places do have dress codes. Especially if you are going to mosques, beach clubs during the day, or bars and events at night.
Things to do in Dubai as a Solo Traveller
Another perk to solo travel in Dubai is that even though I was alone, I didn’t really feel like I missed out on anything. I was comfortable exploring the city on my own, and visiting the big attractions like the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building), the Dubai fountain show, and the Dubai Miracle Garden. I felt fine shopping solo at the shopping malls and in the gold souk and spice souk of Old Dubai. I also had no problem finding a group tour to go to Abu Dhabi for the day. (I love using Get Your Guide for travel day trips. They also have some Dubai desert safaris and adventure options but having been to the Sahara and the deserts in Egypt, Jordan, and Israel I didn’t feel the need to see more sand dunes.)
The one time where I did feel excluded for being a solo traveller was trying to go to a beach club for a day. I emailed Nikki Beach Club to ask about availability, indicating that I was a solo traveller. Their reply to me literally said ‘we prefer couples and friend groups’. As a solo traveller, I found this really awkward and chose not to go somewhere where I wasn’t wanted. Instead, I went to the public beach and had a fun beach day by myself which ended up being a lot cheaper too.
Final Thoughts on Solo Travel in Dubai
I really enjoyed my solo trip to Dubai. It was fun, it was easy, and it was so incredibly safe- probably the safest place I’ve ever been. I would highly recommend Dubai as a travel destination for all solo travellers, but especially my fellow solo female travellers. It was so refreshing being somewhere that felt so safe and where I didn’t have to worry about being harassed as a solo woman.
Looking for more Dubai inspiration? Check out my 4 day Dubai itinerary.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Dubai
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.