dubai-hotels

Dubai Hacks for Visitors & Expats

After living for some time in Dubai, or visiting it many many times, you start to learn few Dubai Hacks here and there.

For writing this article, I’ve searched the likes of Reddit, Quora, British Expats and the sort of websites to write the ultimate Dubai hacks guide.

Having said that, Dubai is a vibrant city (or Emirate for that matter) and so expect Dubai Hacks to keep changing and getting updated, so mark this page and make sure to come back to check on the updated and new Dubai hacks.

Dubai Skyline - @Flickr / Fariz Safarulla

Dubai Skyline – @Flickr / Fariz Safarulla

Dubai Driving Hacks

Try to use Al Khail road more. The traffic is less and the lack of Salik (toll road payment) means you save a little money monthly.

For washing your car, go on weekdays and/or go after 10 p.m. to a 24/7 car-wash. If you are an early riser, try to go before 5:30AM.

Download RTA’s Smart Drive (AndroidiPhone) if you tend to get lost. The offline GPS-enabled navigation has all of the Emirates available.

Another app to download is Smart Parking (Android iPhone), which helps you avoid paying for the SMS every time you use sms-paid parking. Some users reported server-connection woes though.

The Dubai Water Canal, @Saharsh Cherian / FLickr

The Dubai Water Canal, @Saharsh Cherian / Flickr

Dubai Shopping Hacks

The best shopping time yearly is at the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), which is in January every year, or wait for mid- (up to 25% less) or end-of-season (up to 60% less) sales for some great bargains.

You can find less expensive clothes in the Dubai Outlet Mall and the Dragon Mart is perfect for Chinese goods.

There’s also usually a flea market every month, if you’re looking for cheap furnishings. The Meena Bazaar is the place to go for fabrics of all types. You can find textiles for decorating the home, pre-cut saris and tailors to customize clothes.

The Shedd app is a nice start for the savvy clotheshorse, while the Dubizzle app is like Craigslist. You can find almost anything you need.

Dubai Food Hacks

Brunch is a ‘thing’ in Dubai. There are places that offer brunches from 12:30-3:30 or 4 p.m. on Fridays vary in style and cost. Warehouse is geared more to a younger and wilder crowd; Bubbalicious is mixed ages and more costly; Traiteur is expensive, but has excellent food. If you’d like to combine a beach day, try Maya (Mexican food).

When you’re shopping for food, Carrefour at the Mall of Emirates is cheaper than going to Spinney’s. Looking for a great steak to make at home? Try Prime Gourmet, in the Gold & Diamond Park. For fresh fish, go to the Diera Fish Market (5 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5 p.m.-11 p.m. daily). You can even clean and cook your loot in the fish market. On Fridays in Sharjah, you can find fresh fruit and vegetables as well, with amazing prices, but you need to bargain.

If you need a place to eat or order from, try Zomato’s app. You can find price range, descriptions and reviews, plus a map. For a straight delivery service, Food on Click is useful.

Read also: Top 10 Hotels to Book in Dubai

Maybe one of the best Dubai Hacks - start learning water sports and chill out! @Flickr / kartaba

Maybe one of the best Dubai Hacks – start learning water sports and chill out! @Flickr / kartaba

Dubai Hacks, Money Saving

Credit cards are almost a necessity in Dubai, but a general rule of thumb: never let your outstanding balance on your card go over 30% of your income. And don’t transfer your ‘available credit card balance’ to your bank account. (If they’re insistent, tell them you’ll be leaving Dubai in a few months. It saves hassle.)

Find out the details of the credit card(s) you have; many have perks like discounts for restaurants or films, lounge access in airports or even shopping deals.

Make online reservations for cinema tickets in advance and try avoiding Thursday or Friday nights. Special credit cards offer 50% discount on cinema booking. Check the Wafi Mall for a schedule of their free rooftop movies.

Many expats make the mistake of living beyond their means and then taking out a personal loan. Don’t do it.

Vouchers are great and typically are 2-for-1s. You can find them in The Entertainer (you can buy the app if you fly Air Emirates Duty-Free); Time Out Dubai advertises the vouchers inside on the cover, so you can opt to buy that week’s issue; and check Groupon weekly for coupons and vouchers.

Check out the app ‘Money Lover’ to keep track of your spending. It has a budget planner, works in different currencies and reminds you of bills owed.

Read also: Top 25 Places You Must Visit in Dubai

Dubai Life Hacks

DON’T Drink tap water. Tap water is desalinated water but not meant for drinking (or cooking), unless you are Ok with kidney stones. I recommend NESTLE PURE LIFE bottled water.

If you live and work near a Dubai Metro station, don’t bother buying a car. Simple but true. You can always rent a car in the weekend and venture into the neighboring 6 Emirates.

Dubai streets are reasonably flowing on Fridays, so it’s the perfect day for driving and visiting those remote landmarks you keep reading about. On the other hand, malls and beaches are full-house in the weekends, mainly from evening till midnight.

Even though culturally Dubai has roughly 75% expats living there, you might make local friends. A few cultural tips: dress politely; respect Ramadan; use ‘Uncle’ when meeting a friend’s father, not his surname; and try learning a few words or at least ‘Thank you’ (=Shu-k-run)

You can find affordable basics (bin bags, toothpaste, cleaners) at the Sharjah Gift Market.

Buy a cheap pedestal fan and skip on using the AC from October to February. It’s healthier and cheaper.

When you’re in the mood for entertainment, the LUCIDubai or Exclusive Tables app are helpful for finding nightlife.

Dubai Hacks – Stopping SMS Spam:

Once you buy a SIM card in UAE, expect to receive unsolicited SMS Spam messages. Spammers play the rules by trailing their SMS messages with an OPTOUT XYZA. Such optout messages cost 30 UAE Fils. If you block one number, another will start spamming you. On average, you will receive 15-30 spams SMS per month. Living spam-free can prove to be costly.

Fortunately, there is an official way to block any SMS ID on both telecoms in UAE (Etisalat & Du) enforced by TRA.

To block SMS spam on Etisalat / Du SIM cards, send an SMS to 7726 in the following format:
B [The Number you want to block]

Example 1: to block SMS from 4451, type:  B 4451
Example 2: to block SMS from iEnglish, type: B iEnglish

Each SMS message will cost you 30 Fils.

Dubai Hacks – Shipping:

Dubai expats usually prefer different shipping companies based on their needs. Start by weighing the boxes you want to ship out. Call as many shipping companies as possible. Pitch them against each other, mention the best price quotation you’ve received and see what they can do. You’ll end up with a list of prices and shipping speed that will help you to decide the best option for you.

1 – The cheapest shipping company in Dubai is probably Skynet Worldwide Express. Sometimes they use DHL for shipments and give you a DHL tracking number. (Cheaper than using DHL directly). They offer good rates to UK.
2 – TCS Express. They can’t sustain a good service level. Sometimes they do a good job. Other times they fail to. Check their Google reviews.
3 – Your cheapest shipping option is Emirates Post, but they are not the fastest.
4 – If you are very desperate and out of options, choose Aramex. Try them and you will know why.

Special Thanks go out to Melanie for her invaluable input to this list.