Top Dubai Hacks for Smart Expats:


After living in Dubai for two years, I have learned some important Dubai hacks, which have helped make life here a little easier in terms of enjoying the best this city has to offer. Often in Dubai, research and timing is everything.

So here are some of my top Dubai hacks for smart expats:


  1. Driving: Avoid getting gas in the evenings after work or right before work to avoid the long queues. Fill up your tank on the weekends or during a late evening grocery shopping run instead and save yourself time.


  1. Shopping: The best time to shop in Dubai is at the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) in January every year, when major outlets and stores have a massive sale (up to 60%-75% off). Instead of the malls, go to the textile souks for shawls, scarves, harem pants and kaftans. Meena Bazaar is the place to go for textiles and fabrics too and you can get a lot of home furnishings tailored or custom-made here, for a fraction of the cost in big home stores.

  1. Entertainment: Make online reservations for cinema tickets and try to avoid Thursday and Friday night if possible. Use your credit card to make bookings, because special credit cards offer 50% discount on cinema bookings.


  1. Grocery Shopping: Carrefour is definitely cheaper than Spinneys or Geant. Try ordering your fruits and vegetables online from Kibson or try the fruit and vegetable market in Ras al Khor, with cheap veggies and great service. Buy local when possible. Also, it’s a good idea to bulk buy toiletries from Lulu or Union Co-op, since they have a lot of buy 1, get 1 free deals.


  1. Dubai Hotels: Check out deals in the Entertainer, Group On or wait for the yearly Dubai summer resident discounts when almost all major hotels offer staycation deals to Dubai residents, because its low season. Usually June – August is the best time to indulge in a staycation in Dubai.


  1. Finance: Sign up to a customer reward scheme through your credit card because often registered customers are the first to know when stores are having a sale.


  1. Best App: In order to successfully manoeuvre Dubai’s pubic transport system, look no further than the RTA Dubai app, which allows you to book taxis, locate the nearest metro station to wherever you are in the city at any point in time, and receive an instant cost projection for the ride through its fare calculator. And if you are out of coins or don’t feel like trekking over to a charged parking zone’s pay machine, the app offers a mobile parking tickets service as well.

  1. Best Loyalty Card: Get a ‘Shukran’ card and a quick trip to the mall or a casual lunch can net you some points. I use it the most at Home Center, Centrepoint, Babyshop and Carluccios. Once you’ve earned 500 points, you can start redeeming them at participating stores. You can pick up an application from one of Shukran’s partner outlets or register online at


  1. Flying and Travel: Get an E-gate card, for easy access which allows you to skip the queues at immigration at Dubai’s airport. While supposedly the Emirates ID should be usable as well at the smart gates, in reality it does not work in many cases. An E-gate card is more reliable, costs AED 220 approximately and is valid for 2 years. You can obtain it in a matter of minutes at the immigration centre in Dubai Airport Terminal 3 arrivals area (landside, on the far right end of the public hall). With the card, you can speed through immigration by simply scanning your boarding pass and finger prints.


  1. Beach Tip: If your idea of relaxing is to spend a day at the beach, then you might be interested in checking out the Privilee Card, which lets you enjoy exclusive beach access to 12 of Dubai’s top 5 star hotels. With a monthly fee of AED599/month if you pay monthly or AED499/month if you opt for an annual payment plan, you can enjoy access to hotels such as Sofitel Dubai the Palm Resort, Fairmont the Palm and Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah. If you opt for the annual payment plan, you receive 2 complimentary guest cards; weekly passes perfect for visiting friends and family.

Got other Dubai hacks to share?  Share them on Expat Connect!

About the Author: Mariam is an eternal expat who 15 years, 7 countries and 3 continents later, is embarrassingly a seasoned expert at getting lost in every new city she calls home.  She is the founder and writer of the blog ‘And Then We Moved To’ where she writes about her expat life. She is a regular blogger for Expat Connect and currently lives in Dubai with her husband and two children.

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