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Dubai is generally safe, but its always good to be wary of tourist traps
Dubai is generally safe, but its always good to be wary of tourist traps | © Isabell Schulz / Flickr
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8 Tourist Scams You Should Avoid in Dubai

Picture of Jessica Harn
Updated: 14 March 2018
While Dubai really is one of the safest cities in the region, it doesn’t mean it’s without problems. From common pickpockets to fake salesmen, here are some things you need to look out for so you’re not scammed while trying to enjoy your Dubai holiday.

Unofficial taxis

Although most parts of Dubai are highly regulated, there is still an off-chance that you’ll get scammed into taking an unofficial taxi and being charged enormous rates. So, be sure to always make sure the car has a yellow taxi sign and a registered number inside. Be careful at the airport especially, and ignore the people inside claiming to be cab drivers – instead, follow the signs leading up to the area designated for official taxis.

Learn to recognize the registered taxis in Dubai
Learn to recognize the registered taxis in Dubai | © Fabio Achilli / Flickr

Tampered with or missing meters in taxis

Even if the taxi looks official from the outside, be sure that the meter is working and is legitimate when you get into the vehicle. The normal starting price for taxis is 12 dirhams (except for evenings, or if there was waiting time, etc.), so double check that everything is priced accordingly.

Fake cell phones or data packages

Most commonly found in the older parts of Dubai, these scammers will stand outside on the street and try to sell you cheap phones or data packages. If you are in need of buying a cell phone, go inside a mall and to a legitimate phone company shop like Etisalat or Du.

Mother-with-child scam

These scammers will often target apartment buildings, although sometimes you can see them outside on street corners as well. Observed in cities around the world, this is the common mother with a child pressurizing you to give her money for a certain emergency – instead of feeling pressured to pay, offer to contact the police for help and see if she really is in need.

Scams are more likely in the older parts, such as Bur Dubai
Scams are more likely in the older parts, such as Bur Dubai | © Jay Tornaquia / Flickr

Winning-the-lottery scam

If you have a phone number in Dubai, beware of the common ‘you’ve won the lottery’ call. This caller will typically congratulate you on winning an enormous amount of money, then ask for your bank details – don’t be fooled, no one ever wins the lottery like this in Dubai.

Spiked drinks

This especially targets women who travel to Dubai and visit bars. Unfortunately, there has been a growing number of spiked drink incidents, in which a woman has her drink spiked and is then taken advantage of. The laws related to extra marital sex (which, shockingly, include rape as a category of extra marital sex) are extremely strict, so try to limit possible dangers by always fetching your drink yourself and not from a third party.

Fake gold

Dubai, the city of gold, is famous for its enormous Gold Souk. Most tourists want to buy something, even if its a small piece of gold, as a memento of the trip. Just be sure that the gold store you are in has a registered number and just remember that if the prices seem too good, it means that the gold is probably not real.

Dubai’s Gold Souk is one of the most popular places
Dubai’s Gold Souk is one of the most popular places | © Elroy Serrao / Flickr

Pickpockets

Like any large city around the world, we will always have to deal with pickpockets. Here in Dubai, a common strategy is to spill something on you, and then rob you while pretending to help – beware of your surroundings and always keep money and valuables in a closed bag (and not your pockets).