The 46 must-have apps in the UAE: A guide to making life easy

From grocery to food to petrol delivery, deals and discounts, and the best way to get some home help, we've got you covered

The UAE's most useful apps cover everything from essential services to shopping and travel. Unsplash
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There are plenty of tools available to make life in the UAE easier, with a world of convenience available at your fingertips.

Smartphone apps are part and parcel of this, offering almost everything you can think of, from deals and discounts on food and fitness to government services, medicine and even petrol delivery.

Here are some of the best mobile apps to save you time and money – whether you've been here for five years or five minutes.

1. Helpling

Sometimes things get away from you, and all of a sudden you realise you need a cleaner straight away. Helpling promises to “book a cleaner in Dubai in just 60 seconds”.

The service is offered for Dh35 per hour, with a three-hour minimum, and charges for extras such as ironing or cleaning out the stove or refrigerator. You can even pay for the staff extra to bring their own cleaning materials, and it is easy to order cleaners on a one-time or recurring basis, either weekly or every other week.

2. Entertainer

This two-for-one app just keeps getting better. In your first few weeks in the UAE, you're probably likely to hear the question, “Is it on the Entertainer?” a few times, and because its sole purpose is to save you money, it's a good one to acquaint yourself with quickly.

There are dining deals, as well as ones for fitness and activities (the theme park ones are great), and there are even ways to send unused offers to other people, too. Prices start from Dh525 for the year for the basic package.

3. Careem / Uber

While grabbing a taxi is arguably easier in the UAE than it is in many other places in the world, many prefer sticking with these ride-hailing apps. However, there are a few ins and outs to know before you try.

Both Careem and Uber are available in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but with Uber you have a choice of several options – use UberX for a cheaper service, UberONE for “premium” electric cars, or Uber Chopper if you're really keen to part with some cash and make an entrance on your weekly supermarket shop. Uber Eats is also available in both emirates.

Within Careem, you can book a Hala taxi for more affordable rides, or pick a more sleek car or even a bike. You can also book a driver to pick something up for you, then have it delivered to your location of choice, along with ordering food and groceries using the app, too.

4. Privilee

Fancy taking advantage of the plethora of luxurious pools and beach clubs, or even gyms, in the city's best hotels? Well, no longer do you have to pay for a staycation, just use Privelee.

After paying the membership fee, this app offers unlimited access to pools and beach clubs across the UAE, five-star gyms and discounts at hundreds of affiliated restaurants. It now includes free fitness classes, and access to sporting activities such as tennis and squash, and huge discounts on watersports and golf. Membership packages start at Dh529 a month.

5. Duolingo

Been here for two years but the only Arabic you know is “khalas” or “yallah”? Here's how to change that. Arabic has just become available on Duolingo, and to many, that news was well received.

A slow-and-steady approach to learning, the app promises to teach you Arabic in a little as five minutes a day, teaching scholars to recognise letters and sounds, then build words and sentences. The app is not scared to send you a notification to get you to practice daily, if you fail to log in for a few days, you can expect them to get quite passive-aggressive. The best part? It's free.

6. Washmen

Washmen is a really cool app for people, like us, too bone idle to do their own laundry. A few simple taps will bring the friendly Washmen driver to your home to collect your laundry (in one of their own bags). You also specify when you want your laundry returned. When it is, it is beautifully pressed and cleaned and packaged.

Washmen also encourage social-media participation – and you get rewarded for recommending their service to friends and family.

7. InstaShop

Besides food delivery or taxi-booking apps, grocery apps are becoming more and more competitive in the UAE as they’re just so popular.

InstaShop is one of the best, offering options to buy from nearby supermarkets, restaurants, pharmacies, bakeries, pet shops, butcheries, florists, perfumeries, electronic stores and plenty more, all at the touch of a screen. You can book a last-minute house cleaning or even donate to charity through the app.

8. Smart Drive (Dubai)

There are three great things about the Smart Drive app by Dubai’s Road Transport Authority (RTA).

First, it is intuitive and easy to use, and there is much more detail than Google Maps. You search for your location, it maps a choice of routes, you pick the one you like and a voice – a woman with impeccable and un-annoying English – tells you exactly where to go (even which lane to be in). If you miss a turning, you are automatically rerouted.

Second, as long as you set your location while you have a Wi-Fi connection, you don’t need Wi-Fi to use it during the journey – it uses your phone’s GPS to guide you to your destination.

Third, it is regularly updated so it is better than a Sat Nav and, if you wish, it can also take you to “Facebook places nearby” or “Foursquare venues nearby”.

9. Muslim Pro

While in most neighbourhoods, there are mosques on every corner that broadcast the call to prayer loud and clear, some areas, especially within high-rise offices, do not carry the sound.

For those who try to pray five times a day, Muslim Pro is a useful app that lists the prayer times and sounds the prayer calls on your smartphone wherever you are. It is especially useful as an alarm for the early sunrise prayer. If you would prefer a more discreet reminder, you can opt for a silent notification.

The app is also helpful while travelling, because in addition to the Quran, it features a compass to give you the prayer direction and times, no matter where you are in the world.

10. Deliveroo

The Deliveroo app has fully infiltrated the local market and offers delivery from thousands of restaurants across the various Emirates. You can filter through the choices based on criteria and cuisine. Groceries are also available through the app. Those with Amazon Prime memberships can choose free delivery.

Other popular food delivery apps include Talabat and Uber Eats, to name two.

11. Abu Dhabi police

None of us are proud of getting speeding tickets but inevitably, despite our best efforts, it can still happen. Keep your mind at ease by checking in here every couple of months or so (you can search by licence-plate number) just to make sure you have not accrued any and missed a text message.

The apps also have a wealth of other information – find updates on your long and short-term visas, information about other road-related services and criminal status (if any).

12. Dubai Now

Dubai Now is invaluable for anyone who lives in Dubai. It enables users to pay pretty much everything that can, in theory, be annoying with the minimum of fuss: including Salik and Nol top-ups, police fines, utility payments, charitable contributions and on-street parking. Eleven topic headings cover everything important in life, such as public transport, education, security and justice, health, driving, business, residency, Islam and housing.

13. Darb

Where Smart Salik is your go-to app in Dubai for paying toll fees, this is Abu Dhabi's version and it's a must-download if you're driving through the capital. Register as a new user, pay your fees, check any fines or violations and submit any grievances you might have regarding the service or exemptions.

14. Waze

Waze is a must-have for anyone who drives in the UAE. The community-based traffic and navigation app offers real-time road and traffic information, and is a lifesaver if you're a driver.

Aside from showing drivers where to go, the interactivity of this app allows other drivers to log incidents that may affect other people’s road journeys. Users can log congestion and alert other motorists to accidents that may hold them up

All you have to do is launch it, punch in your destination – an address or landmark – and it will calculate the distance and the time it will take, offering a number of routes. If you need a petrol station or car park, you can search for those, too.

It’s reliable and accurate and the maps are updated regularly.

15. Cinema UAE

Rather than trawling through every individual cinema company’s website or app for times, check this app out for what’s on across the UAE. It might not have every single cinema screen in the country, but it has the bulk of them, including the most popular.

It displays a list of all films showing that day, where and when. You can also see what’s showing for the next two days to help you plan ahead, and follow links to trailers and additional info about the films.

For some cinema chains, you can click on a show time and be taken straight to the cinema’s online booking site.

16. Meetup

Consider this the 21st century method of making friends. Meetup describes itself as a global platform for “finding and building local communities”, but it's also simply just a great way to meet people. Particularly in the UAE where you might find it harder to find like-minded people to socialise with, Meetup is a fantastic and efficient way to connect with people you might not otherwise cross paths with.

If you're not exactly in the market for a wealth of new people to hang out with, it's great for hobby groups (hiking, crafts and outdoors groups) and networking (career groups and professional mentoring help) too.

17. Abu Dhabi Taxi (Abu Dhabi) / Dubai Taxi Corporation (Dubai)

Unwilling to stand on the side of the road, not knowing if you will be there for 25 seconds or 25 minutes, before the flapping of your outstretched arm catches the attention of a taxi driver? These apps are here to help. The idea is simple: they are ride-hailing apps for taxis.

The apps allow you to book a taxi to your location, allow passengers to rate drivers and log your last 10 bookings. There is a small booking fee, which makes it slightly more expensive than flagging down a cab in the street, but there is also the security of knowing there is definitely one on its way if you are in an unfamiliar part of town.

18. TuneIn Radio

If you have data to burn, then TuneIn Radio can provide a slice of home for overseas residents on the morning journey to work. If you miss getting your fill of Britain's BBC Radio 5 Live, India's Radio City, Manila's WinRadio or Radio New Zealand, this might lessen the yearning for home-grown radio from whichever corner of the world you originally belong to.

Search the app for the international radio station you need back in your life and tune in – just like that. You can save stations, too, which will allow you to flick between Monaco and Montreal within seconds. It even has a library of podcasts that you won't find on UAE app stores.

19. Groupon

A similar idea to The Entertainer app, but completely free, Groupon offers a changing array of discounts and two-for-one deals at a huge range of retailers, restaurants and more. From pool days to spa treatments to cleaning deals, you'll never need to pay full price (if you're flexible on retailers) again.

20. Noon / Namshi

Solid favourites of the UAE's online shopping crowd – these are the tried and tested apps that tend to come in most useful day-to-day.

Namshi is a go-to for all things fashion and beauty. Search through women’s, men’s or children’s clothing and beauty products, and order and pay for them for same-day delivery using the app.

Noon is basically a home-grown Amazon, where you can shop all manner of items in one place. Categories include watches, fashion, electronics, furniture, sports equipment, home office products, kitchen appliances and much more, all with free shipping.

21. Cafu (Dubai)

This is possibly the most “Dubai app” on the list: it allows you to get petrol and/or diesel delivered straight to your home, around the clock. There is no delivery fee, it costs the same as at the petrol station and you can pay using the app.

It also refuels boats and watercraft at select marinas in Dubai, offers car wash and steam sanitisation services, plus engine oil changes, battery services and tyre changes.

Check the app to make sure it can do this in your area (a service only shows up if it’s available at the pinned location).

22. Overcast

A lot of podcasts aren't on the UAE iTunes / Podcast list, so this is the best way to find them. Use this app to find podcasts from around the world.

23. Ekar / Udrive

Newly arrived in the UAE and haven't got around to buying or renting a car yet? Need a vehicle for an hour? How about only 15 minutes? Udrive, as well as the similar service Ekar, bridge the gap between somebody else taking the wheel for you and driving yourself.

The basic equation is simple: choose your app, download it, register, then find a car to rent using a GPS-enabled in-app map, where the cars you can use are simply parked on the side of the road. Once you have instantly reserved your vehicle, you unlock it using the app on arrival, then punch in a designated PIN to a keypad in the glovebox, which releases the ignition key. Udrive, which is available in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman and Sharjah, charges 99 fils a minute, excluding VAT. It also has daily rates, which vary per city, as do certain excess mileage charges.

24. Kibson's

You won't be in the UAE long before you hear of a person who “swears by Kibson's”, and there's good reason for that. This delivery service is a rare find – where we can vouch for its nutritional integrity alongside its ability to make us all a little lazier. Kibson's is a fresh food and produce delivery service (they also now stock meat!), offering good quality fruit and vegetables, as well as other edible goods, for fair prices.

25. Beam

It calls itself the “future of retail”, and who's to argue with them? Beam was ApplePay before ApplePay, offering an in-phone payment system that will really come in handy if you realise you've forgotten your wallet at the cash register. Accepted at around 3,000 venues in the UAE, the Beam wallet deems cash and credit cards irrelevant, and even offers reward points on your spending.

26. Airbnb

Discover holiday rentals and home stays not only across the world, but also right here in the UAE. On the app, you can search through properties, filtering them by facility, criteria, theme or destination., You can also book, pay and send instant messages to the hosts,. Not to mention sign up as an Airbnb host within the country yourself.

27. Askwho

Moving to a new country can be a daunting task, particularly when it comes to making a new set of friends. That’s where Askwho comes in, as it allows you to meet others by joining local groups of like-minded people. Ask questions, get recommendations and share your experiences of groups via the app. You can also DM individuals you’ve struck a chord with. It’s also free and ad-free.

28. Booking

For hotel bookings, this is the handiest app around. Whether you’re driving to another emirate for the weekend or jetting off on your holidays, Booking is easily the most well-known and reputable of its kind, and the app makes everything that little bit easier, from searching properties using certain criteria, to booking and paying for your stay. Sign up for the Genius loyalty programme, and you’ll also find discounts and bank rewards.

29. ClassPass

This is a must-download for any health fanatic. It allows you to book fitness classes and gym sessions near you, with access to options from yoga and dance to boxing and spinning. Memberships give users access to a certain number of classes, and studios allow access a select number of times a month. Browse options by studios, activity, times or location, and reserve your spot using the app.

You can use video and audio workouts if you can’t get out of the house. It’s also a global service, if you’re ever looking for workouts in another destination.

Plans start from Dh65 a month for 10 credits, and new users can get one month free.

30. Dubizzle

Looking to buy a house? Sell a used car? Find a job? Dubizzle is your go-to online hub for all these things and more. It's best known for second-hand goods, and a place to buy and sell furniture. If you're new in the UAE, you can furnish your apartment for a fraction of the cost of buying new goods. And when it comes time to leave, this is where you can list those same items to make at least some of your money back. It comes full circle.

31. FirstCry

Every parent knows the beauty and importance of same-day delivery. Thankfully, so does First Cry, which stocks everything you might need in those heady days of newborn haze, right up to the tween phase. The app is easy to navigate, and you can narrow the selection down with criteria including age, gender and so on. Store your payment details and, with a few taps of your home screen, you could have a new dummy, breast pump, nappies – or whatever it is you might need – all within a couple of hours of ordering. There are often app-only discounts to take advantage of on First Cry, too.

It has a parenting section as well, where users will find a nutrition guide for families, items such as a due date calendar, and a vaccination tracker, to name a few features.

32. JustLlife

Formerly JustMmop, this app has expanded its services to encompass far more than simply home cleaning. Book a PCR test, virtual therapy sessions, furniture cleaning, salon services, personal training, maintenance and even IV therapy, all to come straight to your front door.

33. Kidzapp

A must for families looking for fun come weekends and public holidays, (of which there are many in the UAE). Kidzapp allows you to search through hundreds of fun, family-friendly things to do in your area, but it also allows you to book and pay for them using the app, and offers exclusive discounts and cashback to spend on your next activity. It’s available nationwide except Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah.

34. Liv.

Liv. is Emirates NBD’s “first lifestyle banking app” that was launched in 2017, aimed at millennials. It’s since become useful for many busy residents, as it allows customers to open a bank account directly from their smartphones by simply scanning their Emirates ID card.

You can then deposit funds using any bank debit card you have, plus carry out local fund transfers and pay bills. You can then have a debit card delivered to you, with which you can withdraw cash from ATMs, as well as shop on and offline.

35. OSN+

Want to watch House of the Dragon, The Handmaid’s Tale or Industry on the go? Then it’s worth having the OSN+ app handy. There are plenty of TV series, films and documentaries to search through in a number of languages, including Arabic. It’s not only the home of HBO in the Middle East, but also Paramount+. There’s a free seven-day trial and you can create up to five profiles for family and friends.

There are also other streaming apps to download in the UAE, including Netflix and Disney+.

36. PayPal

PayPal is one of the easiest-to-use money transfer apps for many people in the UAE who want to send funds home or elsewhere quickly. It’s available in more than 200 countries and regions, and supports 25 currencies, and allows you to do this from the comfort of your home, rather than having to go to a money transfer shop. There is a transfer fee, but you don’t need account numbers or IBANs, simply an email address connected to another PayPal account.

37. Qidz

Similar to Kidzapp, Qidz allows users to search through thousands of children’s activities, free days out and exclusive offers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The app, created by mothers, includes reviews from other customers. You can filter and search for activities easily, and book on the app.

38. Recapp

As the messages on climate change only get more dire, many more of us are finally beginning to take action. Recapp can help achieve that by allowing you to easily recycle from home. It’s the first mobile app in Abu Dhabi and Dubai to offer these services, and helps users segregate recyclables from general waste. On the app, you can schedule the pickup time and someone will collect your rubbish at your door and recycle, all free.

39. Smart Salik

You can’t drive around Dubai without this one, as it’s the app you use to pay your road tolls. It’s from the Road and Transport Authority or RTA, and it keeps users updated about any violations and allows you to top up your account. It also has handy information on centre locations and an option to post feedback.

40. Tier

You’ll spot electronic scooters around in the UAE, particularly across Dubai, and for many, you’ll need to download this app to use them. Tier introduced its first fleet of e-scooters in 2020, and they have become increasingly popular as a way to get around ever since. Riders can use the “pay as you go” option at Dh1 per minute, or choose a subscription and pay for that using the app. Book a ride and activate the scooter with a QR code, and off you go.

41. UAE Pass

If there’s only one app to download while you’re in the UAE, this is it. UAE Pass keeps your national digital identity and log-ins for all government service apps and allows users to sign documents digitally in a secure space. It means you can sign into all government websites and services, accessing more than 6,000 services through one login, plus store and share digital documents and update your profile information and address records.

It uses biometric face recognition to register users, and you can get an account within five minutes.

42. Visited: My Travel World Map

Most people who live in the UAE are world travellers. We're in a great location for short hops and those harder-to-reach destinations. So this is a really handy app to document and track all your travels. Add spots to your bucket list, mark off where you've been, get plenty of inspiration and lay it all out on your own digital map.

You can also keep a travel journal by country, adding dates, points of interest and memories. There's also a community aspect: share your travel stats with others, compare the countries you've visited and the percentage of the world you've seen.

43. Xe

To convert currencies, has long been a go-to website. The benefit of the app, however, is that you can see several exchange rates simultaneously, in real-time. Check live rates, but you can also transfer money globally and track it. You can also set a rate alert, so the app will let you know when your chosen currency pairs, and when your target mid-market rate is live.

44. YouTube

It is almost too obvious to mention, but no comprehensive app list is worth its weight without YouTube. The video sharing platform has become ubiquitous, be it watching music videos, vlogs, how-to guides or movie trailers. Parents will also know YouTube Kids has a wealth of family-friendly content. And for a Dh23.99 a month subscription, users can watch all content ad-free, as well as take advantage of other features.

45. Zofeur

This is the world’s first pay-by-minute chauffeur service – which plays on the Greek word for life, “zoh” – aiming to send residents a personal driver whenever the need for one should arise, round the clock. This not only ensures that you are transported from A to B in the comfort and luxury of your own car, but you can also end up saving money. Rates average Dh1.25 per minute, and there is a booking fee of Dh15.

It’s not only a safe driver service, though. You can book a Zofeur for all manner of services, from taking your car to and from the service station or RTA registration centre, to filling up with petrol or dropping off the dry-cleaning.

The app enables customers to book a driver on the spot, but allows for a 30-minute lag as one Zofeur drops another in the company car to the meeting point.

46. The National

Sure, we’re biased, but the best way to get the most important news stories of the day delivered right to your home screen is The National’s newly updated app. With coverage on everything from local and regional news, to lifestyle features and the latest on the stock markets, it’s the only news app you’ll need.