Taking a solo trip to Dubai is a dream for a lot of travel lovers. It really is a city like no other, and there are a few things you need to know before you travel to Dubai alone.
Even though Dubai is a relatively easy city to navigate as a solo traveller, it does present some unique challenges that I didn’t expect before I arrived in the city.
Challenges that I haven’t experienced in any other country than the United Arab Emirates.
Of course I haven’t been to every country, and these challenges likely aren’t exclusive to Dubai and the UAE, but they were new to me.
I want to share everything I learned during my solo trip to Dubai, so you are more prepared than I was when you arrive.
And just because there are challenges and things you should know about before travelling to Dubai alone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go.
All things considered, Dubai is a relatively safe and easy city for solo travellers to navigate.
Now let’s get into it. Here are the top things I think you need to know when planning a solo trip to Dubai. I hope they help you plan your perfect trip!
1. It is the Hottest Climate I’ve Ever Experienced
I knew Dubai was going to be hot, but I was in no way prepared for just how unbearably hot Dubai is. And I visited Dubai alone during the cool season. I can’t even imagine how unbearable the city is during the summer.
There isn’t really any way around the heat or any way to prepare for the heat, but I do wish I had a better idea of how hot it is before taking a solo trip to Dubai.
It’s the type of climate where the moment you step outside you start sweating more than you thought you could sweat.
And this will impact your solo trip to Dubai.
I never thought a warm climate would impact a trip as much as the weather in Dubai did.
It was so hot and humid and unbearable that walking around to see the city was out of the question.
The metro and taxis/Ubers were essential to surviving Dubai.
I ended up relying on public transportation and taxis more than I ever thought I would. I’m so used to walking where I want to go when travelling that I was shocked to not be able to do that in Dubai.
I know it sounds like I’m whining about the weather in Dubai. And in some respect I am.
But, I’m telling you that it is extremely hot and humid, so you can know what to expect when travelling Dubai alone. So you can have a plan and budget a little bit more than you might think for transportation.
I don’t want you to be caught off guard and not have enough money to take public transportation or taxis to get around Dubai.
2. The Metro Doesn’t Go Everywhere You Wish it Does
Speaking of transportation, I was surprised at how limited the Dubai metro is. It does cover a lot of ground, but it really only runs in a straight line through the heart of the city.
Unlike other metros where there are multiple lines that go multiple directions, there is only one metro line that runs along the city.
There is also a light rail system near the waterfront, but it is also quite limited.
Luckily, a lot of attractions are near the metro line, so that makes getting around a bit easier.
Attractions like the Museum of the Future, Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, and Expo City all have stops along the metro.
But, if you want to see attractions like the Etihad Museum, The Green Planet, the Frame, or Dubai Miracle Gardens, you need to rely on taxis or the bus.
It is possible to get to the light rail near the waterfront from the metro line, so that’s a big plus!
My recommendation is to stay near a metro station.
I stayed near Dubai Mall and found it to be the perfect place. I’m not a water person, so I didn’t really have an interest in staying near the waterfront. If you prefer the water, you’ll likely want to stay near the waterfront.
That way you’ll be able to take advantage of the metro on your solo trip to Dubai. Even though it doesn’t go everywhere, I found it really convenient to be a short walking distance from the metro whenever I needed it.
It would feel really isolating to stay somewhere that wasn’t walking distance to the metro.
It really limits your ability to get around Dubai and makes you completely reliant on taxis and the bus.
Consider Taking a Bus Tour
I don’t always think that hop on hop off bus tours are worth it, but Dubai is one of those cities where the Big Bus Tour is 100% worth it.
I purchased the two-day Dubai Big Bus hop on hop off ticket and loved it. It was super convenient, took me everywhere I wanted to go, and half the top was indoors. You got to experience the amazing sights from the top of the bus without melting to death.
Without a doubt the Big Bus tour made getting around Dubai way easier than the metro or taxi/Uber (we’ll talk about them a little later on).
There is also a night bus tour that is fantastic. Even if you don’t purchase the day tour, I highly recommend the night bus tour.
You can learn more about the Dubai Big Bus Tour here.
3. Taxis are Cheaper than Ubers
I promise this is the last transportation tip I’m going to give you!
I was super surprised to discover that taxis are less expensive than Ubers in Dubai. Not much cheaper than Uber but still a little cheaper.
This is important to know if you’re taking a budget solo trip to Dubai. Every penny counts!
With that being said, Ubers are more convenient if there isn’t a line of taxis outside where you’re staying.
It’s easier (at least in my opinion) to call an Uber on the app than it is to download a whole new app and create a new profile to call a taxi in Dubai.
If you’re staying at a hotel, the hotel will be able to hail you a taxi as well. If you’re staying at an Airbnb like I was, it’s a little more challenging to get a taxi.
That’s why I relied on Uber more than taxis in Dubai when I wasn’t using the metro. Simply for the convenience.
I guess the bottom line is that if you’re able to catch a taxi easily, take it. If not, you’re not paying that much more to take and Uber.
The biggest price differences is in the shorter rides. If you’re going a longer distance, the price is more of less the same.
But you’ll be paying more to take an Uber a short distance compared to taking a taxi a short distance.
4. Dubai is More Expensive than You Think it Will Be
I knew Dubai had a reputation of being expensive, but I was absolutely shocked at the prices during my solo trip to Dubai.
For some reason, I thought it would just be hotels that were more expensive, but it’s pretty much everything.
Food was more expensive in Dubai than it is back in Canada, and I was not prepared for that. I was scrambling with my budget trying to feed myself, and I don’t want you to be in the same situation I was.
Of course, it also depends where you eat. Fast food and eating in local, non-touristy neighbourhoods will be less expensive than eating at a sit down restaurant. Grocery store prices are expensive but not unreasonable.
I suggest budgeting about $25USD for every sit down meal you want to have. From my experience, that’s enough for an entree and water.
I didn’t have an alcohol, so I can’t comment on those prices. If you do want to drink, first, know the rules and societal norms around it, and, second, find a place that offers a drink special or all you can drink package.
Sightseeing is also more expensive than I thought it would be.
It is super expensive to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa. I honestly don’t think it’s worth it since you’re missing out on having the Burj Khalifa in your view, and it’s the most iconic part of the city.
The Museum of the Future is also very pricey. And be warned tickets sell out fast. Book them two to three weeks in advance. I didn’t book my tickets in advance and missed out on the museum, which was the number one thing I wanted to do in Dubai.
Just be prepared for a little bit of sticker shock on your solo trip to Dubai. It probably isn’t the place you want to get if you’re on a strict and small budget.
It might be best to safe Dubai for a later date when you have a bigger budget if that is the case.
5. Dubai is Safe for Solo Female Travellers
It probably isn’t surprising to hear that Dubai is safe for solo female travellers.
There are low instances of crimes in Dubai, and you’ll feel safe walking alone, taking the metro alone, and being out at night alone.
Of course, there are always basic safety precautions you should take, but, in general, you won’t be fearful of your safety when on a solo trip to Dubai.
Please do be respectful of the rules in Dubai though. There are cameras everywhere, and you don’t want to be caught breaking the law.
This includes when it comes to alcohol. Keep that inside or in establishments. No need to be walking around with alcohol outside.
6. Modesty is Appreciated but Not Always Followed
I knew going into my solo trip to Dubai that it is a muslim country, and that I should dress modestly.
I packed long skirts and shirts that covered my shoulders to respect the local culture and not offend anybody I walked past.
I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see how many women were wearing very small outfits. Short skirts, tight tops, and their stomach showing.
And I’m saying women because the dress code expectations are much easier for men to follow in their typical clothing than women.
A lot of the clothing I saw in Dubai would have been considered revealing even by North American standards.
But there wasn’t an issue. I didn’t see anybody say anything to anybody about dressing more modestly or people being rejected entrance to a place because of their clothing.
Of course, if you’re going to a mosque, you’ll be required to cover up and won’t be let in without being covered, but there aren’t really any tourist mosques in Dubai like Abu Dhabi.
I guess what I’m getting at is that I personally think you should dress on the modest side when on your solo trip to Dubai. I always like to try to respect the local customs and culture as much as I can when I travel.
That being said, if you do wear less modest clothes, it won’t be an issue.
Oh, and bikinis at the beach are definitely allowed. No need to worry about that!
7. Everybody Speaks English
I like to learn a few words of the local language before I travel to a country, so in preparation for my solo trip to Dubai, I practiced some Arabic words.
Turns out I didn’t need to do that.
Dubai has a huge immigrant population, and everyone everywhere speaks English. It’s the default.
Even if you were to say hello in Arabic, it wouldn’t do you much favour in showing your appreciation and trying to understand the local language. Because there is a strong chance the person you’re interacting with doesn’t speak Arabic either.
So, while I always encourage you to learn a few words in the local language when travelling, Dubai is one place you don’t have to worry about that.
8. Dubai Airport Departures are a Bit Chaotic
For such a modern, technologically advanced city, the Dubai Airport departures hall (specifically terminal 1) is an absolute mess.
I checked into my flight to Istanbul the night before thinking I would just get a bag tag and drop my bag off and be on my way in a few minutes.
I knew Dubai Airport was busy (even though my flight left at 6am), so I still got to the airport 2.5 hours early.
Turns out that the airport doesn’t offer the nice kiosks that print a bag tag and do bag drop. I had to stand in a very long line, get checked in again, and drop my bag off.
The process took forever. By the time I got through security and customs, the plane was already boarding.
And I was at the airport 2.5 hours early!
People were getting frustrated and angry. It didn’t help that there were only three check in agents for a very full flight.
And, of course, tons of people had to pay for extra baggage, but the payment place wasn’t at the check in counter. They had to run to another part of the airport, pay their baggage fees, and then come back to the counter.
During that time, the agent couldn’t help anybody else.
Now, that may have been partly a Turkish Airlines problem, but the fact that you had to manually check in and couldn’t just drop a bag was shocking to me.
I just take that for granted in major airports at this point.
Anyways, the moral of the story is get to the airport early. Earlier than you think you need to be there because it will be a long check in process, and you don’t want to be stressed before your flight.
I have heard that terminal 3 offers the kiosks and baggage drop, but, from my experience, most flights leave from terminal 1, so you probably won’t have that option.
9. It Might Not Live Up to Your Expectations
Dubai is a very popular tourist destination, and I expected to really like it. However, I just didn’t like it that much.
It really is a city with huge buildings, a nice beach and water area, and that’s about it.
There aren’t that many tourist attractions outside of the malls and beaches. And the ones that they have are expensive.
Add in that it is expensive and excessively hot, and Dubai may not be all that you imagine it to be.
Or at least that’s how I felt after my solo trip to Dubai. And I’ve had a lot of friends say the same thing. They didn’t love Dubai, and they won’t be going back.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel alone to Dubai. You may fall in love with the city.
I’m just saying that if beaches and shopping isn’t something you really enjoy, you may not enjoy the city as much as you think you will.
If you’re looking for history, culture, and museums, Dubai might not be the best choice for you.
Again, I’m not telling you not to go to Dubai. I’m just saying to manage your expectations. It is a unique city that is unlike anywhere else in the world, and it may not be the city for you.
But it’s worth visiting to find out!
Dubai Tours You May Be Interested in
The Importance of Internet Safety
You’re going to rely on public wifi a lot when you’re in Dubai. Whether at a hotel, the airport, a mall, or a restaurant, you’ll be connecting to public wifi all the time.
And that puts your personal online information at risk of being stolen. Trust me, you do not want to deal with having your banking information stolen while you’re travelling Dubai alone. It is a headache that will ruin your vacation.
The only way to keep your private information and data safe when using public wifi is by installing a VPN on your devices.
A VPN essentially puts a forcefield around your devices that makes it impossible for prying eyes to see your personal information or access it.
It makes using public wifi just as safe and secure as using your home wifi where you’re the only person who knows the password.
Installing a VPN on your devices is a very small, simple thing you can do to protect yourself when travelling alone. You don’t have anybody to rely on if your personal information is stolen, so you need to take steps to protect it.
My Favourite VPN
I’ve used a lot of different VPNs in my many years of travelling. VPNs are notorious for slowing down your devices, and I can honestly tell you that I’ve turned off different VPNs I’ve tried because they slowed my devices down so much that I couldn’t do anything on my phone or laptop.
That all changed when I discovered NordVPN.
NordVPN has been proven to be the fastest VPN on the market, and I can say from my experience that is absolutely true.
I’ve been using NordVPN for over four years now and have never once felt any slow down when trying to use the internet. And I put my laptop through a lot of stress uploading videos and having a million tabs open.
I have no plans of ever switching from NordVPN to another provider. That’s how much I love it.
The best part is that one subscription protects up to six devices, so you can secure all your electronics with one subscription.
The next best part? NordVPN is very affordable.
A two-year subscription costs less per month than a single Starbucks latte! It is a very small price to pay to protect your personal information.
I always say that if you can afford to travel, you can afford to protect yourself with a VPN.
I really hope this post helps you plan your solo trip to Dubai. There are certainly a lot of things in this article I wish I knew before visiting Dubai alone.
I know I talked a lot about the downsides of Dubai from the weather to the price. But that is only because I wanted you to have a realistic picture of what Dubai is like, so you can properly plan for your solo trip to Dubai.
I find that when I have a more well rounded idea of what to expect when I go somewhere, I have a better time and can plan better.
I want you to have the best solo trip to Dubai possible, and that’s why I’m maybe coming off a little more harsh than I normally do.
Dubai is a super unique city, and you have to experience it to understand it. I hope you have the best solo trip to Dubai and come home with tons of memories (and no sun burns).
PS- Don’t forget to download an Airalo esim to make you can share all your amazing pictures online any time you want!