Are you a female, considering a solo trip to the United Arab Emirates? The country with a beautiful mix of cosmopolitanism and Islam-influenced tradition can offer an unforgettable experience to courageous ladies. My decision to move to Abu Dhabi at the age of 19 was one of the best ever made, as the UAE is a wonderful destination for both tourism and living. All you need is sincere curiosity, respect, and willingness to go against the stereotype-enforced fears.
Dress Code for women
Since the UAE opened itself up to the foreigners in the 1970s, many more cultures and religions became present alongside Islamic tradition. Local population developed tolerance to different immigrants’ lifestyles, allowing harmonic co-existence of multiple traditions, religions, and modernity. Thus, tourists can count on a pretty relaxed attitude when it comes to dress code.
In response to the most frequent question, women in the Emirates do not have to wear “burqa” or “nikab”, the fully covering veil. In fact, women are not expected to cover their hair at all. You’ll see that some local ladies do not hide their hair, as this is not enforced by law.
That being said, out of respect and for your own comfort you should avoid wearing overly tight or translucent clothes, mini-skirts, and shorts. In order to prevent unnecessary attention from men, keep your breast, shoulders and upper legs covered. At the same time, on the beach you can surely wear your bikini, and in the hotel areas beach-style clothes are fine.
Usually, signs in the malls and other public places indicate the expected dress code. Keep in mind that some places in the Emirates are more conservative than others. While in cosmopolitan Dubai or Abu Dhabi slight violations of dress code will be ok, in Sharjah or Ras Al Khaimah you may get disapproving looks.
When attending mosques, women must always wear a loose dress called “abaya” and cover their heads. Such clothing is usually provided at the mosque.
Are the Emirates safe at all?
It may surprise you, but the UAE is one of the safest places on Earth. Thankfully, I never felt any danger at night time or during the day, either alone or with friends. Dubai and Abu Dhabi police can often be seen around, and are quick at response. Besides, people are aware of the harsh punishments for unlawful deeds, which keeps the crime rate low.
When it comes to stealing, in contrast to other countries in the region, you do not need to worry about your belongings too much. There are very few stealing in the UAE, though an adequate amount of attention won’t hurt.
In regard to moving around, the best option is to rent a car. For those without driving licenses, public transportation is a safe and cheap option.
In Dubai you can enjoy a ride in the modern air-conditioned metro, sit back in the marked “women only” space, avoiding the crowd.
However, as public transport in the Emirates does not go everywhere, at times you will need to use a taxi. Always make sure you get into the car with the national taxi logo. If necessary, you can book a family taxi with a female driver.
If you plan to travel to other emirates, why not contact MeetnGreeters to find out the best way to commute? Our MeetnGreeter in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah will ensure you get to explore the mysterious ghost town and other hidden jewels of the emirate, where local traditions are flourishing.
Shopping: malls and souks
The Emirates claim to offer the finest shopping experience with numerous shopping malls and authentic souks (markets). You will surely feel comfortable in stunning malls, full of high fashion boutiques, exclusive designer stores, massive supermarkets, and tons of entertainment.
At souks, full of noise and chaos, the situation is drastically different. When wandering around Dubai’s Deira and Gold souks, as a solo female be ready to counter lots of attention. Southeast Asian sellers will call you “Shakira” or “Angelina” and even say something in your language (80% they’ll get your nationality right). They’ll put their products on you, inviting you to their shops to see much more. Feel free to try all the stuff out and bargain, but be ready for a negative reaction if you leave without buying anything.
Although the souks are full of tourists and are generally safe, try to pay more attention the surroundings and don’t go there during dark time. Also, this is the place where you should dress most appropriately for your own comfort.
Dealing with attention
Even though you won’t be constantly harassed, you will get some attention from males. For instance, when walking along the road, there is a chance of a car stopping by and offering a ride. Although the driver’s intention might not be bad at all, it is better to ignore or politely decline the offer.
Apart from dressing modestly in crowded places, you can also wear sunglasses to avoid eye contact. While eating alone at small local restaurants, ask to be seated in the section for families.
If someone follows you, go to any public place or take out a phone pretending to call the police. The latter act will surely make them go away.
Overall, be confident and look confident. This is the best way to cope with unwanted attention, as well as reduce anxiety.
Safety tips for partying animals
If vacation is not a vacation without nightlife, don’t rush to postpone your trip to the Emirates. Dubai nightlife has a lot to offer, in terms of venues, music, and dance. In bars, clubs, pubs and hotels alcohol consumption is allowed as long as you’re above 21. However, you must not drink or appear drunk in public, as this may cause criminal responsibility.
In any case, avoid excessive drinking on your own, which is an essential tip for solo travelers at any destination. Also, forget about drugs – in the UAE there is absolutely zero tolerance for that, with serious penalties including 2-year jail sentence.
So, whether you are looking for a beautiful high-class rest, acquaintance with an unfamiliar culture, or new adventures, the Emirates will exceed your expectations. Just keep a curious and friendly approach, respect the culture, and remain sensible in all your acts.
Don’t forget to make the use of MeetnGreetMe, where you can find a trustworthy local, who will give specific recommendations, make necessary arrangements or accompany you during the whole stay.