12 Tourist Scams in Dubai and How to Avoid Them | Solo Female Travel
Dubai is on every solo female traveller’s list. What makes it worth being on the list are its delicious cuisines, stunning monuments, clean and beautiful beaches, and gorgeous malls!
Another reason that makes Dubai every solo traveller’s must-visit country is safety. Yes, Dubai is one of the safest countries for solo female travellers. Also, the Arabs are quite welcoming and friendly as well (as long as you don’t break their rules and regulations!).
Even though Dubai is one of the safest and most visited countries in the world, it still has its flaws and problems. One of the major problems being tourist scams.
And yes, tourist scams are real. They differ in every country. If you fall for these tourist scams on your solo trip to Dubai, chances are the experience will ruin your trip. And you wouldn’t want that happening. So, here are a few tourist scams that you may come across on your trip to Dubai. These will help you stay alert throughout your trip without compromising on the fun.
1. Unofficial taxis
Many parts of Dubai are mostly organised and regulated, but you may still come across some not-so-organised-and-regulated things – like unofficial taxis. Not only will these taxis be unofficial, but they will also charge you a higher amount than normal. One place where you will be at an increased risk of coming across unofficial taxis is the airport. You may be trapped into taking one of the unofficial taxis.
In order to avoid this, make sure that the taxi you are taking has a yellow taxi sign and registered number on the outside. You can also follow the signs to the area designated for the airport taxis. You will find many official taxis in the designated area to quickly take one to reach your hotel.
2. Taxi overcharge
This is another common tourist scam in Dubai. Sometimes, the driver may tell you that his meter is broken and charge you more than the actual fare, and other times, even if the meter works alright, the rate on the meter will increase faster than usual. This way, you will end up paying more than the actual fare!
In order to avoid this tourist scam, the one thing you need to do is know the actual fare from one place to another. To do this, you can check it online or on taxi apps. This way, you can offer the cab or taxi driver the actual fare. If he refuses to take you for that amount, you can ask other drivers.
Also, another thing to note here is the routes. Because many times, the taxi drivers will take the longer route to take you to your destination, thereby charging extra amount even with a meter that functions properly. You can check on Google maps or other apps how much the distance is between places.
3. ‘Mother with a child’ scam
You will see many women with a child in their arms on the streets or open areas. Or sometimes outside apartment buildings. They will see tourists and beg and pressurise them to give money. In most cases, the women will say it’s an emergency for their kids. The chances are you will be tempted to give them money under pressure.
In order to avoid this, you can call the police for help. This will clarify whether they really need money or are just scamming tourists.
On my solo trip to Dubai, I came across a woman with a nine-month-old baby in her arm. She saw and approached me for money. Something about her seemed fishy, and instead of giving her the money, I called the police. The moment she realised I am calling the police, she disappeared. Sometimes, it is ok not to be emotional and move on with your journey when travelling alone!
4. ‘Spilling drinks or liquids on your clothes’ scam
All you are doing is minding your own business, and someone comes along and spills something on your clothes. But accidents happen, right? They apologise, and you go about minding your business again. But they follow you to clean up your clothes while apologising again and again. Sounds strange, right? Yep. This is a tourist scam used for picking your pocket or stealing your valuables (like a piece of jewellery or a watch).
To avoid this, stay alert and keep an eye on people approaching you at any place. Even if a drink or something gets spilt on your clothes, tell the person to leave you alone and clean yourself on your own.
5. Fake gold
Dubai is considered the city of gold. Famous for its gold jewellery, many people buy a souvenir for themselves or their loved ones from the Gold Souk. And while most places that sell gold are authentic, there are a few places that may sell fake gold and scam you.
You can avoid this fake gold scam by checking the registered number on the outside of the shop. Also, if the gold price seems either too pricey or cheap, it is probably a fake one. So always make sure the shop is an authorised dealer with the help of Google reviews and locals.
6. Fake cell phones and data packs
This tourist scam is more common in some parts of Old Dubai. You will find many people standing on the streets selling fake phones and offering fake data packages. They will tempt you to believe the phones and data packages are real.
If you need a new phone or a good data pack for your mobile number, I would recommend you visit stores available in malls and purchase from there.
When I had visited Dubai on a solo trip, I was excited to explore Old Dubai as it holds the true culture and heritage of the country. I came across some seven or eight people on the streets trying to sell fake phones and data packages!
7. The lottery scam
If you do change your SIM card in Dubai, beware of calls or text messages that say, “Hi, Congratulations! You have won yourself a lottery of XYZ amount”. This will be a completely fake call. The caller will call you, congratulate you, and then ask for your bank account details. Do not be fooled by such calls. It is impossible for tourists to win a lottery, especially in Dubai.
Since I had switched to a Dubai SIM card on my solo trip, I did receive one fake call claiming that I had won a lottery. Sadly, I had to disconnect the call, but I really wish I had won a lottery though!
I would recommend you stay alert and keep track of everything that you do while you explore the country.
8. Spiked drinks
Spiked drinks are one of the most common tourist scams in Dubai. These scams are laid out to target solo female travellers especially. Sure, every traveller has the right to explore as and when they want, but being a female requires being extra cautious.
Spiked drinks incidents have recently been growing in the country over the past few years. They start by spiking the woman’s drink and then taking advantage of her. Sometimes, the person who spikes your drink may even rob you after taking advantage of you.
To avoid getting scammed like this, make sure you get all your drinks by yourself. If you find a person being suspicious, immediately change or leave your place. You can even ask for help from the bar staff.
Read my travel guide on Dubai solo trip.
9. Motorbike or car scam
This scam happens when you rent a vehicle such as a motorbike or a car to explore the country on your own. When you give the vehicle back, the owner demands an additional payment for damage on the vehicle that is not your fault. The damage could be something that was on the vehicle even before you rented it and knew nothing about it.
I would suggest you take full pictures of the vehicle before renting it. Speak with the owner and look for damage around the vehicle. This way, even the owner would know that you know what you are doing and would not scam you.
Although quite rare, the owner sometimes sends a person to damage or steal the vehicle. So, keep an eye on obvious road accidents and park the vehicle properly.
10. Fake police
Although not so common, there are chances this may happen to you. Fake police officers may flash their badges and ask you to show your passport or other documents. All this will be done in the name of ‘verification,’ and it will all seem SO real.
While you show them your passport, another fake police officer may distract you so that they can steal from you. It could be anything, your bag, valuables, or the passport itself. Or the fake police officer may ask you to hand them over your cash and card along with an ATM pin while threatening you to put you behind bars. However, this is quite rare.
To avoid this scam, I would recommend you stay alert. If you have done nothing wrong, there is absolutely no need to worry. Also, never show anyone your original passport. Keep a few photocopies of your passport with you at all times. If at all someone asks you to show your passport, take out the xerox copy.
Is Dubai your first solo trip? Read my blog on things not to expect from your first solo trip.
11. The drug deal scam
This scam is quite popular in many countries, including Dubai. You are in a popular area such as a beach party, and someone offers you drugs, and you take them. Even before you know it, a real police officer is at the scene. In such a case, the police officer will threaten you unless you agree to pay the bribe. And remember, these bribes will not be a small amount of money. So even if you agree to pay the amount, it will most probably affect the rest of your solo trip.
My recommendation to avoid this type of scam would be to not take any drugs or drinks from strangers. Sure, you can attend parties but try to be as alert as much as possible.
12. Fake WiFi hub scam
Let’s just agree on one thing – we are all always on the lookout for free data or WiFi. Either needed to send pictures from our solo trips to our family members and friends or upload a picture on social media platforms, WiFi has become quite essential.
One common scam that hackers will do is create a fake WiFi hub and lure tourists into using it. Once you connect your device to the WiFi network, they steal your data. You may not even realise how and when the hacker has gotten access to all your data, and it will be gone!
One way to avoid this is to never connect to unsecured WiFi and data networks. Also, ensure that you have a VPN downloaded on your phone whenever you use your hotel WiFi as well. Although these are quite secure, why take the risk, right?
If possible, always try to keep a mobile data package on your phone. It will come in handy. You can access the internet from anywhere and sure will keep your data secure!
Dubai is a beautiful and one of the safest countries for solo female travellers. And the chances of these tourist scams happening with you are rare! All you need to do to tackle these scams is stay alert and keep track of things you do every day. Check for authentication of shopping and jewellery stores because it will be extremely helpful.
Although I did not experience too many tourist scams on my solo trip to Dubai, I had read up about them on the internet and was well prepared! I would suggest you do the same and enjoy the trip to Dubai to the fullest and cautiously bring back home a bag full of beautiful memories.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.