Dubai: Dubai was ranked the most popular destination in the world for the second time in a row, by the 2023 Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Awards. The safety, exciting outdoor activities, and tourist-friendly experiences make it extremely popular among global tourists. But did you know that Dubai is also the second best city in the world for expatriates, as per a 2022 survey by expat networking company, Internations.
Whether you are a visitor or resident, we have compiled a list of seven free smartphone applications that you must download.
Want to get a UAE SIM card and data connection? Read this.
1. UAE Pass
Before you download any other app, the first one you should register for is the UAE Pass, which is the national digital identity for citizens, residents and visitors in the UAE.
UAE residents can register on the app using their Emirates ID number and mobile number. But even if you are a tourist, you can easily register on the app in a few minutes by scanning your country’s National ID, if you are a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizen or resident, or by entering your passport details, if you are from outside the GCC.
Once you have created an account, you can get access to over 10,000 government services, as well as some of the services listed below, like booking a taxi through the S’hail app.
This app is a must-have if you are using public transportation in Dubai, as it helps commuters plan their journey using the Metro, Tram, taxi, bus or any of the marine transport options in the emirate.
The app is free to download, and is available on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Huawei AppGallery.
It provides route details – including the duration of the trip, the arrival and departure schedule – and the estimated fare.
So, if you want to travel from your hotel to any of the popular tourist destinations in Dubai, you can simply enter your current location on the app and where you plan to go, and the app will provide you with all the public transport options that are available.
You can also use the app to book a taxi.
3. nol Pay
Public transport users in Dubai need to pay for their trip using a ‘nol card’, which you can buy at any Metro station in Dubai. However, if you want to add credit to your card, you do not need to pay by cash at a public transport counter.
The ‘nol Pay’ app enables you to top-up your card and also pay for public transportation. You can use the app to pay for trips on Dubai Metro, buses, Dubai Tram, marine transport or even the taxi. It is also helpful if you are renting a car in Dubai and need to pay for public parking.
Here is how to top up the card on the app in a few minutes:
1. Open the app, and tap on 'Top-Up nol card'. Then, place the physical nol card on the back of your smartphone and do not remove it until the card is successfully scanned by the app. The app uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to identify the card and top it up. This feature is available for iPhone and Android users. However, for some older iPhone models, you may need to enable the ‘NFC tag’ reader in your settings.
2. Enter the top-up amount or select the amount from the options given. You can top up a nol card with a maximum amount of Dh150, when doing it online.
3. Next, tap 'Confirm'.
4. Tap the 'Pay' button.
5. Next, the app will transfer you to Dubai Pay, which is the official online payment channel for Dubai government services.
6. Enter your credit/debit card details.
7. Next, place the card on the back of the smartphone again to allow the app to top up the amount on the card. Make sure you do not remove it until the transfer of the amount is successfully completed.
8. Once that's done, you will view a summary of your payment.
Careem is another app that you can use to book taxis, which gives you a much wider range of options. Not only has the app tied up with RTA, allowing users to book RTA-licensed taxis, you can also book private taxis that may be available in your area, with the option of choosing luxury taxis, too.
Here is how to book a taxi on the Careem app:
1. Download the ‘Careem’ app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
2. Create an account with the onscreen instructions and sign in.
3. On the home page, you will get the option to book a ‘car’ - which refers to private taxis – or a ‘Hala Taxi’, which refers to RTA-operated taxis. Make your selection.
4. Enter your drop-off and pickup location.
5. Next, tap the ‘Confirm’ button.
6. The app will give you all the options available to you of taxis nearby, and the estimated fare for the trip. The fare for the same trip will vary depending on timings (with peak time bookings costing more) and the type of taxi you choose. For example, taking a luxury taxi (if available at the time), you would pay a higher trip fare, compared to a standard taxi.
7. Make your selection and then tap the ‘Yalla’ button.
8. Next, you will receive a notification confirming the trip’s details and updates on your driver’s route.
5. Dubai Police
Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world for residents and tourists, with Dubai Police even setting up a special unit called ‘Tourism Police’, which is tasked with handling issues and requests related to tourists.
If you are a tourist, you can contact the special wing of the Dubai Police Department through the Dubai Police app. They allow you to provide comments and suggestions, make inquiries or ask for help. As a resident, downloading this app can help you reach out to the police quickly and easily, too.
Emergency features on the Dubai Police app
If you are involved in an accident or are in any other emergency in Dubai, a single tap on the Dubai Police app can help you alert the police.
The app, detects severe accidents, such as car collisions, and also sends out an automated distress signal (SOS)
- Special SOS service for women and children
The app also has a special section within the SOS button for reporting abuse or crimes against women and children. In addition, women and children can send an SOS to Dubai Police through this option during an emergency.
- Sailing or going on a yacht? Use 'Sail Safely'
If you are going on a yacht or cruise, before you head out to the sea, you should activate the 'Sail Safely' service on the app, which can then help you stay safe throughout your journey. The service allows users to send distress requests directly to Dubai Police and warns users of potential hazards.
The app supports seven languages - Arabic, English, Russian, German, Chinese, French and Spanish.
901You can also call Dubai Police on their non-emergency line if you want to contact the tourism police
6. Visit Dubai
The ‘Visit Dubai’ app, developed by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), will allow you to create your itinerary and personalise your experience using smart filters, and even make bookings for Dubai’s top attractions and restaurants. This can be used by visitors to plan their trips as well as by residents, to make the most of a long weekend.
Follow the steps below to find out the top Dubai attractions you can visit:
1. Download the ‘Visit Dubai’ app, which is available on the Apple Appstore and the Google Playstore.
2. Next, create an account on the app or sign in with your Facebook, Twitter or iCloud account. To create an account, enter your full name, email address, and mobile number and create a password.
3. Once you have logged in, select your interests, and the app will recommend places you might like. For example, if you are interested in visiting cultural attractions, and do some shopping as well, choose them accordingly.
4. Tap, the ‘Next’ button.
5. The app will then recommend the available attractions and restaurants based on your selection.
7. Dubai Calendar
The calendar of events in Dubai is always jam-packed, with concerts, exhibitions, family-friendly shows or sports tournaments. Through the ‘Dubai Calendar’ app, which has also been developed by DET, you can always find something exciting and new every day in Dubai and plan ahead.
Here is how you can use the app to customise your experience:
1. Download the app, which is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
2. Open the app and tap on ‘Discover’ which is on the menu tab at the bottom of your screen.
3. Next, use the filters on the app to find an event, concert or tournament. You can choose the date, price range, or category, for example, sports, arts, or live entertainment.
4. Next, you will get events recommended according to your interests. You can also buy tickets through the app.