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Traveling as a Single Woman in the UAE

Traveling as a Single Woman in the UAE

  • Author: Meg Jerrard
  • Date Posted: Jan 20, 2017
  • Category:
  • Address: Dubai

While I now travel with my husband, I have spent the last 7 years travelling alone, and as a woman I am a huge advocate for travelling solo.  I was never willing to forgo a trip just because friends didn’t want to come along, and the experiences I gained from travelling solo have done wonders for my confidence and really shaped who I am today.

Not only does travelling alone completely push you out of your comfort zone, it forces you to interact with those who you wouldn’t normally interact with.   You’re free to wander at your own will, and don’t have to compromise your bucket list or itinerary to suit the needs of others!

While travelling alone as a single woman may have been a strange concept in the past, today it is very normal and quite common – everybody’s doing it!  I have honestly never really found myself in a position where my gender made it harder or more inconvenient for me to travel; however challenges do still exist in some countries despite the world generally being more open to women who choose to travel alone.  One such country is the UAE.

Traveling alone in Dubai.

Traveling alone in Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country with very strong religious roots, and as with any country, travellers are expected to respect the local culture and customs while there.

The UAE is one of the safest places in the world to visit – however I learnt pretty quickly while in Dubai that women travelling alone are somewhat of a novelty, and attract a LOT of unwanted attention.  Never once did I feel unsafe while in the UAE, and my trip overall was a phenomenal one; however there were many instances when I felt incredibly uncomfortable.

As such, here are some tips for travelling through the UAE alone as a woman.

Dressing

The biggest challenge I faced was respecting Islamic traditions while trying to dress for the desert heat!  Being a Muslim country, modest dress is expected.

Revealing, tight or short clothing is not appropriate by any means, and you will genuinely offend residents by not adhering to a modest dress code.  I was asked to put clothing on by a hotel security guard at one point while making my way from the hotel pool back to my room.

Singlet tops, spaghetti string shirts or dresses, shorts or short skirts should be left at home.  Not only will clothing like this offend the locals, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb, and you’re asking for sexual harassment.

Don’t be Overly Friendly

One of the biggest reasons to travel is to meet new people, and form new friendships. Immersing yourself fully into another culture and becoming friendly with the locals is how travellers truly experience a destination.

However in the UAE, be mindful that acting in a friendly manner, while normal in your home country, can be misinterpreted as an ‘open invitation’ by Muslim men.

I spent a lot of time at the private beach facilities offered by my hotel, which was a big help in escaping unwanted male attention, however there were some times I couldn’t even escape this while on the hotel grounds.  During one of the days spent at the hotel, I became lost while walking around the Atlantis water theme park, and ended up underneath the slides in a ‘staff area’.

A kind young gentleman escorted me back to the main area of the park, and we engaged in general conversation on the walk.   At the end, however, instead of a handshake he went in for a kiss, and only narrowly got my cheek after I turned to avoid his mouth!

I promptly spent $40 on a fake engagement ring to wear around during the rest of my time in Dubai!

The best way to handle unwelcome attention is to completely ignore it.  Ignore the wolf whistles – there will be many – and do not engage in eye contact with any strange men trying to grab your attention on street corners. Ignore any unwelcome comments, and if you are being directly harassed, making a lot of noise generally embarrasses the person involved.  Police in the UAE take sexual harassment extremely seriously.

I purchased a fake engagement ring to wear in an attempt to curb unwanted attention from Muslim men.

I purchased a fake engagement ring to wear in an attempt to curb unwanted attention from Muslim men.

Don’t Drink

The laws in Dubai are incredibly strict when it comes to alcohol consumption.  While alcohol itself is not banned, you can only purchase it at Duty Free Shops when entering the country – residents of Dubai need licenses to purchase alcohol from liquor stores, so you won’t be able to as a tourist.

Drinks can be purchased at bars, hotel clubs and in restaurants; however it’s honestly not worth it.  Being drunk in public is just as serious an offence as drinking and driving.

Benefits

As mentioned above, travelling alone has many benefits.   The great thing about being a woman in the UAE is that women are normally seen first at post offices, hotels in Dubai, banks and police stations, and quite a lot of places have queues set up just for women!

 About Megan Claire

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

 

    33 Comments

  1. Hopefully, I’m going to this region this year! Cross fingers. :))

    • Safe travels! You’ll have a fabulous time :)

  2. Really good tips here! I used to live in the middle east so know some of the challenges women can face with regards to dressing clothing etc. Definitely not worth causing offence and inviting trouble by not respecting dress code etc! Fake wedding rings work a treat as well!

    • The fake wedding ring was a godsend – best $40 I spent!! As you mentioned – it’s not worth causing offence over something as simple as covering up. Hoping to get back to explore some more of the Middle East soon – it’s an amazing region – very cool that you spent some extensive time here :)

      Safe travels!

  3. I might have to spend 6-12 months in Dubai before moving to Thailand as planned and to be perfectly honest I’m not sure I’m looking forward to it at all

    • It’s definitely an interesting destination, and it’s most certainly worth the visit at least once in your life. I’m not sure about spending 6-12 months as I was only here for 5 days, though as with anything else, I’m sure you’ll establish a routine and everything will work out well. There is certainly a lot to explore and the landscapes are beautiful, so hopefully you’ll enjoy your time here.

      Plus, this is a pretty fabulous base for discovering the rest of the Middle East so that’s a definite bonus :)

  4. Great article! I lived seven months @ the Coral Boutique Hotel just outside the Mall of the Emirates. Dubai can be lots of fun but that fun must be exercised with a bit of restraint as compared to the Western world.

    Keep up with your fascinating blog! We’re loving it!

    • Thanks John- so glad you enjoyed it. Dubai can definitely be a lot of fun for those who know how to act appropriately. I really enjoyed my time there :)

  5. Dubai is really nice, the best place to live is Dubai Marina. Everything is near finest restaurants, beach bars, malls, the seaside and more.

    • Glad you enjoyed your time in Dubai too!

  6. I was scrolling through the flip board thing (some app that came on my phone, not a very creditable source for world affairs, but it’s something to do on sleepless nights) when I came across your article. (Congrats on getting featured, I will say that much because that’s pretty awesome) I couldn’t find the article on your website here. I’ll be honest I didn’t put much effort into looking but that’s okay. The feature brought traffic to your website so that’s a job well done. Anyway. It inferred that anyone could travel even if they aren’t rich because you travel on a $32,000 salary. Now that’s just wrong. First and most obviously, that’s double what I make in a year, and a lot more than what a lot of others are raking in. That’s like when you wear a fancy dress and someone compliments you and you respond with “oh, this old thing?” It’s condescending. You say you inspire people but you’re really just sending people into a spiral. Did you hear about the Kardashians donating 100 meals to the homeless this holiday season? You are essentially doing the same thing. Youre esmerelda telling the hunchback hes beautiful. You’re the fitress guru with the youtube channel telling people that they can easily lose 100 lbs. Yes, they CAN lose 100 lbs, but it’s not gonna be any thanks to you. You’re delusional and you’re toxic. Just be thankful for your privileged life. I don’t even care if you take it for granted, just don’t be an ignorant twat.

    • Hi Lulu …. first of all, I would say that since by your own admission you have not even read the article, you have no right calling any-one an ignorant twat. It’s condescending for you to come to this blog, assuming you know what you’re talking about and feel privileged enough to leave your rant.

      If you would like to actually read the article you saw, the link is https://www.mappingmegan.com/travel-on-a-low-income-salary/

      This is written by a woman from North America where $32,000 is considered a low income. Obviously salaries in different countries around the world will all vary greatly. The principles of what she has written though will be the same, thinking outside the box, looking to hospitality exchange, considering road trips or local travel over flying.

      Thats a number which applies to her situation in America. The post itself is more about strategies you can implement whatever your minimum wage.

      Happy new year

  7. I found this post so informative as I’ve heard all sorts of stories from women travelling through UAE, some sound horrendous, but as you point out, what is normal ‘friendly’ behaviour is seen as something so different. Great post Meg.

    • Hi Anna, so glad the post was helpful for you. Yes, luckily I don’t have any horror stories, though I can definitely see how some women would find themselves extremely uncomfortable with the amount of fixated attention. I found the best way to deal with it is to just be confident in ignoring it and do your thing.

  8. I have my special wedding ring for Muslim countries, too. And the funny part is that now I use it whenever I travel (not only in Muslimn countries). I remember I noticed the ring on my finger while I was traveling through Albania (a Muslim country but former-communist) and I said: “oh, if I ever want to meet a travel partner and husband, I should wear this ring less.” I guess it comes a moment for everything!

    • Haha yes, would definitely help to take it off if you’re trying to meet someone – lol sounds like something I would forget too!

  9. I travel alone too and been to muslims countries like dubai.. and the funny this is i buy fake engagement ring too! just to avoid men!! hahahahaha

    • Haha our minds think alike! Travel safe :)

  10. This post was very helpful and thanks megan

    • Thanks Britannia, so glad it was helpful for you :) Happy travels!

  11. My own experience of travelling alone made me to work on a project to provide women safe travel platform.

    Looking forward to bring this project to business with a message for ladies to step out of their comfort zones.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post RK, and congratulations on launching your own platform! Wishing you every success, it’s a great mission to inspire more women to seek travel opportunities and great life experience :)

  12. UAE has become paradise for tourists, there are many things to do, I visited there last year and enjoyed a lot I’ve covered Dubai, Abu dhabi and Sharjah.

    • Absolutely Andrew, glad to hear you enjoyed your time in the UAE too :)

  13. Great article!Keep up with your fascinating blog! We’re loving it!I travel alone too and been to muslims countries like duba. Dubai is really nice, the best place to live is Dubai Marina. Everything is near finest restaurants, beach bars, malls, the seaside and more.This post was very helpful and thanks Megan

    • Glad you enjoyed the post – Dubai is a beautiful place to travel, and indeed, I really enjoyed spending time around the Dubai Marina too :)

  14. Nice Post, Thanks for sharing…

    • You’re welcome, I’m glad it was helpful :)

  15. Awesome Article!
    Thanks for sharing..

    • Glad you enjoyed it Devesh! Happy travels :)

  16. I didn’t know they were so strict with drinking alcohol in public, thanks for the advice, so you avoid many problems for those who like to get drunk.

    • Yes, my experience was that they were very strict on this. Glad that the post was helpful for you, it’s a wonderful city, and the UAE is a wonderful country, but it just requires being a bit more conservative, and yes I think a lot of potential problems disappear if you just take alcohol out of the equation completely.

      I hope you enjoy your time in Dubai :)

  17. Great Idea’s you have shared for solo travelers. Adventures in Good Company is an active travel company for women with adventurous spirits. We offer small group adventures that encourage women of all ages.We create experiences of a lifetime for women seeking a new adventure. Every year an amazingly diverse group of women join us on our adventures but one thing connects them all- women travel with us are women who love being outdoors.

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