The best things about Dubai are its dynamism and multiculturalism. Not only is the city expanding in area as new neighborhoods develop to accommodate the growing population, but the cultural fabric of the city is also becoming more diverse. If you’ve ever wanted to travel or move somewhere to meet people from all over the world, Dubai is an excellent choice.  

But while you prepare to do so, you might have concerns that are all too common when moving to a big city—such as how to find a supportive community, how to enjoy the Dubai lifestyle on a budget, and how to spend your weekends wisely so life in the city doesn’t begin to feel monotonous. Here’s what you need to know in order to navigate everyday situations and find your bearings in Dubai.

Dubai is Among the Safest Cities in the World

With strict laws and a highly-competent police force, Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world. While walking around the city, even in crowded areas or on the metro, you’ll never have to worry about petty crimes such as pickpocketing or purse-snatching. Violent crimes such as kidnappings, robberies, and murders are extremely rare in the city. Being a diverse city that is home to people of all races, Dubai is a safe destination for people of color, where they can expect to be treated with respect and equal rights. 

The city is also safe for women—according to the Women Peace and Security Index 2021-22 by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, the UAE offers the highest perception of community safety for women in the world. It’s not dangerous or risky to take public transportation late at night, catcalling, or harassment is not common, and complaints by women are taken seriously and result in prompt action by the authorities against the offenders.   

However, it’s good to watch out for sketchy con artists and money-related scams. Ensure that any agreements (such as those related to apartment rentals) are finalized through a legal contract.  

It’s Home to a Diverse Population 

Among the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Dubai is home to over 200 nationalities that live and work here. Whether you’re looking for people to cowork with or new friends with whom to hit the beach, your circle will likely include people from far-flung corners of the planet and will only be richer for it. During your time in Dubai, expect to hear a variety of accents, eat diverse cuisines, and celebrate different festivals from around the world. 

The Culture is Built on Tolerance and Mutual Respect 

Tolerance isn't a buzzword in the UAE; it’s a fundamental tenet of society that allows different cultures, nationalities, and religions to co-exist seamlessly in Dubai. Mutual respect is built into the fabric of everyday life here, whether it’s about dressing up considerately when a formal dress code isn’t enforced, behaving appropriately in and around places of worship, or being open to meeting new people and learning about their cultures.    

There are Social Rules

Dubai is very multicultural with expats comprising over 85% of the city’s total population. As such, it’s helpful to know the rules of etiquette to follow in your social interactions. 

When introducing yourself to a member of the opposite sex who is Muslim and wearing traditional dress, it’s best to wait for them to extend their hand first for a handshake. They might respond with a greeting accompanied by a hand to the heart instead. Hugs and kisses on the cheek are usually reserved for family and friends who are close and of the same sex, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. 

If you’re invited to someone’s home or a traditional majlis, dress modestly, bring a gift (like dates or sweets), and take your shoes off before you enter. Drink tea and eat food with your right hand only, the left one is meant for personal hygiene practices in local culture.  Rude gesturing and swearing aren’t tolerated and pointing to someone (or something) with your index finger can come across as offensive (use your entire hand instead). Public displays of affection can come across as disrespectful to the culture and are frowned upon. 

You Can Use Social Networks to Make Friends

Whatever your hobbies and interests, you’re sure to find like-minded people among the city’s 3.5 million-strong population. There are a large number of expats and remote workers moving to the city every day and long-time residents are also looking to meet new people. Facebook groups around common interests, supper clubs, and websites like Meetup are a good place to begin, but if you’re not shy, you can also chat up the people you meet at cafes, coworking spaces, or art festivals.  

Apps Make Life in Dubai Easier

With a smartphone app for nearly everything, everyday life can be very convenient in Dubai. Want groceries sent to your doorstep? There’s NowNow to get everything from tomatoes and fresh flowers to medicines delivered within an hour. On Noon, you can buy cookware, groceries, fitness equipment, cosmetics, and everything in between. 

To browse restaurant menus and reviews, look at photos, and get food delivered, it’s useful to have Zomato, Talabat, and Deliveroo on your smartphone. If you plan on taking taxis, the Careem app lets you book a Dubai Taxi with location tracking, so you aren’t trying to wave one down on a blistering hot afternoon. Need a handyman to put up some wall art, want to get your sofa cleaned, or fancy a pedicure at home? Urban Company has experts on hand for every service and charges by the hour.    

It’s Worth Exploring the Outdoors When the Weather Allows It

Between October and May, when the days are considerably cooler, join the city’s outdoorsy types to get active, whether that’s driving 90 minutes to the town of Hatta to hike the many trails in the Hajar Mountains, going for long desert rides on the 86km-long Al Qudra Cycle Track, or kayaking in mangroves like Al Zorah Nature Reserve in Ajman. Your time in Dubai will be much more memorable if you venture beyond city limits to the other emirates (like Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah) to see mountains and dry river valleys, date palm plantations, and towns with old forts that still retain much of their character.   

There’s Always a Good Deal to Be Found

A workation in Dubai doesn’t have to break the bank if you keep your eye out for savings on dining, nightlife, entertainment, and staycations. For discount vouchers to be used at restaurants, gyms, spas, salons, and hotels, check the Groupon website. A Zomato Pro membership earns you a 20% discount on the bill while dining at many restaurants around the city. If you’re keen to experience Dubai’s top restaurants, bars, attractions, and hotels, it’s worth getting an Entertainer membership for 2-for-1 offers and significant discounts. 

If you want to experience the best of Dubai on a budget, try not to schedule the priciest experiences for the weekend. Even the swankiest award-winning restaurants offer a value-for-money “Business Lunch” through the week (except on weekends) which works out much cheaper than a dinner on the weekend. The same is true of pool days with most hotels offering entry through the week for a minimal fee that includes credit to use towards food and beverages.    

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