Insider’s Guide as a Single Female Expat and Traveller in Abu Dhabi


I consider myself a seasoned and open-minded traveler who is always curious about what life is like in other countries. However, I didn’t give much thought to working overseas in a foreign country until the opportunity came knocking 8 years ago.

Credits: Max Pixel

Photo of Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates by Jacquelyn Sit

I was offered an opportunity to work in Abu Dhabi and being in my comfort zone in my home country, and enjoying my work at that time, I didn’t give much thought to the actual job offer as I was more interested in meeting a local (an Emirati person) in the flesh and getting to know their country from a direct source. I remembered that I didn’t even know where exactly Abu Dhabi was located, other than that it was in the Middle East! So when I was offered the job, I hesitated and while I didn’t have all the information and there were many friends and family members who told me that it was not safe for a solo female to work or travel to, I decided to take the plunge and go with an open mind and I have not looked back since then. There have been many experiences from my first day in Abu Dhabi that demonstrates how travel helps to open one’s mind to a foreign culture and country, and that not everything you read in the news is accurate.

Debunking myths (more like untruths) on Abu Dhabi:

1. Safety for females (especially solo travelers)

Photo of Insider’s Guide as a Single Female Expat and Traveller in Abu Dhabi by Jacquelyn Sit

This is probably the most common misconception and question that I get asked from my friends who have not been to Abu Dhabi. In contrast, I have never felt more safe in any other country, including my home country. Abu Dhabi is so safe that one can leave the car unlocked, with valuables in there, overnight and everything will be as it is the next day (not suggesting that you try it of course!). I have walked many streets of Abu Dhabi by myself, whether during the day or late at night, and there is not one suspicious character on the streets. In fact, I believe that recently, Abu Dhabi or the U.A.E has been named the world’s safest country in the world.

2. Respect for females

Photo of Insider’s Guide as a Single Female Expat and Traveller in Abu Dhabi by Jacquelyn Sit

I consider myself as somewhat of a feminist. While this is an obvious movement in Abu Dhabi, I have come to appreciate that sometimes, it is nice to be given priority as a female, especially when one is a hurry. In certain institutions such as the bank, police station and the driving school (where I got my driving license), there is a women’s queue only and this is always helpful to me. The respect that men in general give to women is also obvious in many situations that I do not see often enough in other countries that I have travelled to. For example, men still give way and open doors for females. Men will stop to help a woman if her car is stranded on the highway. Men will offer to help carry your luggage if they notice that you are struggling with it.

Emiratis are in general very hospitable and everyone (male and female alike) will go out of their way to help you, especially if you are a visitor to the country.

3. Driving & travelling as a solo female

Credits: kirkandmimi

Photo of Insider’s Guide as a Single Female Expat and Traveller in Abu Dhabi by Jacquelyn Sit

This is perhaps the second most common question that I am asked by friends that have not been to the region and to the U.A.E. There seems to be a perception that women are not allowed to drive their own cars. This is not true. All females (local and expats) are allowed to drive their own car, if they wish to. And it is completely safe to drive to any parts of the country, whether during the day or night as a solo female traveler. I have not encountered a single problem in this regard. It is also relatively cheap to rent a car in Abu Dhabi and definitely worth doing if you intend to explore the three main regions of Abu Dhabi (Eastern region also known as Al Ain, Western region – Al Dhafra and Abu Dhabi City) as they are of considerable distance apart. With a car, you can also drive to the other emirates of the U.A.E. Dubai is 150km from Abu Dhabi and will take you approx. 1.5 hours to get there. It also helps that the main highways of Abu Dhabi are relatively straightforward with the help of a GPS of course.

4. Covering up (dress code) as a female

Photo of Insider’s Guide as a Single Female Expat and Traveller in Abu Dhabi by Jacquelyn Sit

People who don’t really understand the Emirati culture and traditions would probably not appreciate why locals have to be dressed in a black abaya (overcoat) and cover their hair and why local men have to wear a white dress (which is their national dress). However, many also don’t realize that this is not an expectation on foreigners who are non-Muslims. Without getting into religion, all non-Muslim foreigners have the freedom to wear whatever they wish to, just like any other country. However, as the U.A.E. is a Muslim country, and as travelers to a foreign country, one should respect the local culture and dress a bit more conservatively in public areas.

5. Language barrier

Photo of Insider’s Guide as a Single Female Expat and Traveller in Abu Dhabi by Jacquelyn Sit

While Arabic is the official language in the U.A.E. and Abu Dhabi, everyone in the country (maybe 5% of the older generation have not) learns English as a second language in their education and the current generation, as I understand from my Emirati friends, are learning the other subjects in English as well, not just as a second language. I have not had any problems communicating with the various locals I have been in contact with for my housing, transport, etc.

My experience as a solo female expat and traveler in Abu Dhabi has been a positive one in the past 8 years that I have lived here and call home. Of course, there are bumps along the way, but that’s part of life experience, right? But one thing is for sure – whether as a solo female traveler, or with your friends/ family, you will have a great time in Abu Dhabi.

1 Comment(s)
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well written on the basic concern most travellers who wary about visiting Middle East, if one has no impression where is Abu Dhabi.
Mon 06 04 18, 22:19 · Reply · Report