It is my pleasure to introduce my latest guest poster, Chantell Collins from Adoration 4 Adventure
Australian born horse rider and hula hooper, Chantell is co-founder and writer of budget travel website Adoration 4 Adventure www.adoration4adventure.com.
A late starter, Chantell went on her first plane at 21 and first international trip at 24. Since then she has traveled to over 30 countries (before turning 30!) as well as lived in the United States, Brazil and Canada.
These days she mainly travels with her partner and the other half of A4A, Darrell. At the end of April 2016, they will leave the U.S.A. to backpack Central America.
Follow along with Chantell’s adventures;
Enjoy her latest piece,
Solo Female Travel in the United Arab Emirates
A few years back I remember receiving a group email in my inbox at work. I clicked it open to see photos of Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. It was a giant man-made island in the shape of a palm. I rubbed my eyes and looked again – could it be real? Looking through the photos of this shiny city, I was floored by the opulence, wealth and extravagance of Dubai. As I exited out of my email, I wishfully hoped that one day I would get a chance to visit.
These days the UAE is much more accessible and affordable to travelers, partly due to the increasing popularity of Emirate-based airlines. When booking a flight from Dallas, U.S.A. to Brisbane, Australia I came across an affordable flight with a stopover in Abu Dhabi. Without any research or hesitation I booked it, and only after the confirmation had come through did I begin to wonder what I would need to know for my first venture into the Middle East.
Here are my recommendations for ladies traveling solo in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
What to wear
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are considered to be more “cosmopolitan” cities than some of the more conservative neighbours to the UAE, although you will still see locals covered up in their traditional dress. Emirati women traditionally wear an “abaya” (long robe) with a hijab (head scarf). Sometimes you will see women also wearing the “niqab” (face veil). The Emirati men also wear the “dish-dash” (a long white robe) and a headscarf called the “keffiyeh”.
Visitors aren’t expected to be as modest, however there are some guidelines that you may want to stick to so you don’t cause a fuss. No matter what your religious beliefs, nationality or feelings are, it is expected that visitors adhere to the suggested dress code to avoid offending locals or worse – risking a charge of public indecency.
General guidelines for women’s dress in UAE:
• Wear loose-fitting clothing (it’s almost always super-hot, so you will appreciate this one)
• Cover at least down to your knees and keep your shoulders covered
• Avoid showing any cleavage or mid-drift (basically keep covered between shoulders and knees)
• Don’t wear anything see-through
• European-style bikinis (the ones that cover your bum) at the beach are fine but no topless bathing
• When visiting mosques, women are required to be fully covered from neck to ankle with a head scarf covering their hair
During my stay, I alternated between long loose-fitting pants or ¾ harem pants and either loose-fitting t-shirts or light long-sleeved shirts. I carried around a scarf with me to wrap around my head when I visited mosques, although many mosques will provide robes you can wear.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai have public beaches, however I never felt 100% comfortable going by myself. Other options are going to a private paid beach or hanging out by a hotel pool.
Although there are some public transport options available in both these cities, it is generally quicker and easier to get around by car. Taxis are affordable and metered so you know that the price you are paying is fair for the distance. Watch the route that the driver is taking you though, as I had drivers take longer routes and one even took me to the wrong hotel by mistake. A good way to check this is by putting the directions into the map on your phone before leaving your hotel (or area of Wi-Fi) and watching which way the taxi is going. The map should still show you where you are, even once you have left Wi-Fi range.
An alternative mode of transport is a “hop-on, hop-off” tourist bus. Although I had never considered doing one of these tours before, always favoring travel by foot or public transport, this was the perfect option for me while in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It allowed me to hit all the sights I wanted to visit in the comfort of air conditioning and free bottled water.
Traffic in Abu Dhabi and Dubai can be pretty hectic during rush hours, so if you are traveling by car or bus during peak times make sure to factor this into your travel time. I made the mistake of leaving Dubai Mall during peak hour by cab, heading to my pick up point for a Desert Safari tour. The cab literally sat in the same spot for twenty minutes due to grid lock traffic. Sadly I missed out on my tour – don’t let this happen to you!
If you are a budget backpacker like me, you might be disappointed to find out that hostels are not very common in the United Arab Emirates. Luckily hotels aren’t too pricey and you can get a hotel room for as low as $30 or $40 USD. I stayed at two different hotels near downtown Abu Dhabi for around $50 USD. Unfortunately I soon found out that this only included Wi-Fi in the lobby and I needed to pay extra if I wanted to access the internet from my room.
Although Couchsurfing isn’t that common in the UAE, I did manage to find a host in Dubai. My host was actually an expat from Kenya who loved showing people around. If you are interesting in Couchsurfing, it can be a great way to see the city, however for solo female travelers, I would recommend staying with a female host.
Laws and safety
It is important to be respectful to the local Emiratis while in the UAE. Unfortunately women don’t have the same rights here as they do in most Western countries and being disrespectful to an Emirati (especially a male) can actually land you in jail.
Here are some of the laws that you may not have been aware of:
• Do not take other people’s photos without their permission
• If you happen to meet a lucky guy during your trip, be careful about showing attention in public. Holding hands may be tolerated but kissing or more could get you in a lot of trouble
• No swearing or rude gestures (I have heard of a woman who flipped the bird at an Emirati man and landed up in jail).
If you are traveling during Ramadan (a religious month of fasting) or with prescription medication, you may want to check for additional restrictions or laws.
In terms of safety, I didn’t have any issues while traveling solo and never felt unsafe.
By understanding the important cultural facts and laws, you can pack and plan your trip accordingly. This will make it easier to enjoy a stress-free visit to the United Arab Emirates. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are both great destinations to visit and worth extending your layover for. I loved my time in the UAE and look forward to my next visit.