Dubai: The UAE has a wide and varied selection when it comes to things to do – from dining and the opera to hiking and adventure activities. Residents and tourists are always spoilt for choice in terms of the different categories of activities - especially when it comes to budgets.
You can find something to do here in your budget and still have a wonderful time. Here, we look at certain apps that can make your day, or night, out be a fun time while also saving you either time or money or both!
Making a plan
Groupon, Cobone etc.
Globally available aggregator site Groupon is active in the UAE and offers some incredible deals that you can take advantage of without a subscription. Most helpful to your wallet when heading out as a group, you can get discounts of up to 70 per cent at five-star properties for brunch, buffets, spa offers and more. Staycations, shopping deals and beauty and wellness deals are also available at major discounts. Cobone is a similar aggregator.
Our main tip when using these websites is to make sure the offer is still valid by calling up the hotel or restaurant or organiser, making a reservation or booking if required and reading the reviews. These sites are also great to present an experience to a friend.
The Entertainer and Privilee need customers to subscribe to get the exclusive deals that they offer. For residents who know exactly what they like to do on a weekend these make sense because the value of the discounts redeemed can quickly cover the initial cost. Privilee – unlike Entertainer, which has various categories including food, beauty and wellness – is more focussed on lifestyle deals and offers subscriber access to pools, private beaches and clubs only.
Being a regular user of this hotel aggregator website gives you major perks including special discounts, called ‘Genius’ discounts, free breakfast, upgrades and more. Along with hotel stays, the website and app also have discounted tickets to major attractions in the city you want to stay. For example, you could get priority tickets for Global Village to skip queues or a Desert Safari experience with dinner. Most of these come with a free-cancellation option.
The short-stay rental platform has an entire section devoted to experiences in the city you’ll be staying in. You could enjoy food with a local family, desert safari experiences, quad bike rides, full-day city tours and more. Using the website can give you a chance to go for the best reviewed experiences.
Buy Now, Pay Later on experiences, bookings
For the uninitiated, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) apps offer the customer the option pay back in three-four instalments at no extra cost. tabby and Spotii are some of the BNPL providers available in the UAE. For going out and travel, some of these providers have partnerships that you could take advantage of to get easier payment plans. Some of them also offer cashback on spend.
For example, tabby has deals with Emirates, FlyDubai, Etihad, Arabian Adventures, Wego, Rayna Tours, among other tour operators and airlines, and offer cashback on spends from 1 to 8 per cent. You can also get the ‘Split in 4’ option on spends at partner agencies. Spotii also has leisure and travel partners who will give you either BNPL schemes or cashback rates.
This app promises 'all the best kids activities, entertainment, events, places to visit, play areas and attractions for kids'. The site offers a variety of kid-friendly activities acros the UAE. Some have discounted rates starting at 10 per cent, while others have cashback offers.
Similar to Kidzapp, Qidz offers activities for children and has discounts and/or cashback offers on most of them as well. Both of these apps also have blogs that list out the new and old activities that are available in the city.
Getting ready to leave
Cafu, Enoc Link
Having a full tank of fuel when heading out, especially for road trips or longer drives, is critical and apps such as Cafu and Enoc Link can save you the stress of heading out at the last minute to the pump. Both providers can come to your home, fuel up and leave – all you need to do is book and pay online. The price is the same as you’d pay in the pump and the app sometimes has offers as well. With Cafu, you can also opt for car wash, engine oil change, and tyre change or battery service.
If you need a quick car wash before you head out, you can book one with MySyara who will come to your door for the wash. They also have, like Cafu, other car care services such as oil change, battery boost, detailing, car repair etc.
Directions and traffic
Google Maps – offline
So everyone uses Google Maps online, but what if you do not have a data connection or if you are heading somewhere remote where you may not have access to a good network connection. This is very possible, especially if you are heading out to the desert, or to one of the picturesque mountains in the UAE. The offline option of Google Maps is perfect for this.
We used this option on our Oman trip because we did not have a data package to use there – all you need to do is select the area you’ll be travelling and download offline maps for that region. You must manually select the area. Once there, you can use the app as you normally would.
Like Google Maps, Waze will give you directions to your destination based on real-time traffic data. The app also alerts motorists about speed limits on each route, so you're safe from accidents and fines.
For foodies, subscribing to an app like Zomato is a no-brainer. With Zomato Pro, while you may not get deals at every single restaurant you search for, they have a wide array of outlets ranging across cuisines and areas with offers starting from 10 per cent to 50 per cent. Some of them also offer additional discounts or deals. More often than not, you can cover your subscription cost with the discount earned in one outing.
The Etisalat Smiles app is something that can give you great bargains, especially if you need a quick pick-me up on your exploration of the UAE. The app has offers for most fast food joints, ensuring that you can step into a mall food court or a store wherever you are. The app mentions which stores have the offers, so check that on the app before going ahead with the purchase. How it works is you use Smile points, earned through valid spends, or by paying small amounts to ‘buy’ an offer. These include buy-one-get-one offers or combos at discounted rates.
You can book taxis through Careem or Uber in the UAE. Careem has the option to book a cab with Dubai Taxi by choosing the 'Hala Taxi' option.
You can use the RTA Dubai app to check your nol card balance, and to see schedules of the metro, buses and trams as required. Other apps by the authority can also help motorists and for those who use the public transport system. For example, S'hail allows easy booking of vehicles and travel planning.