1. The RTA (Dubai)
Dubai's one-stop shop for everything roads- and transport-related, the RTA app actually overarches many other apps that have broken off its most useful features separately. The app helps with Salik top-up, parking – from helping you pay it, telling you how much time you have left and topping up your parking account, and even remembering where you parked your car – replacing or renewing your licence, paying your fines (not police fines, though, find out more about that below), and registering a vehicle. It also provides public transport information and will even help you call a taxi.
There is also a Green Points calculator, where you can figure out how many kilometres of travel via what mode of transport you have done a day, and thus the impact you have had on the environment.
And if you are completely stuck, there is a live chat option that will connect you with a transport expert.
2. Waze / Google Maps (nationwide)
There seems to be a divide between those who swear by Waze and those who prefer the old, trusty Google Maps.
Where Waze was supposed to succeed was in its inclusion of speed cameras and real-time traffic and accident updates, reliant on its community of users to report incidents on the road. This means it requires a large number of users, which is why it has done so well in the United States. However, it doesn't seem to be as popular in the UAE, which means the information is sometimes not as accurate in real-time as it would be with a larger crowd to source information.
Similarly, Google Maps is OK if all you are doing is picking your fastest route or avoiding tolls, but don't expect it to tell you where the speed cameras are or about accidents as quickly as it should.
3. Careem (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) / Uber (Dubai)
We are all familiar with Careem and Uber in the UAE, the two most prominent ride-hailing apps, but you might not know just how much they have changed in recent months. For starters, Uber isn't available in Abu Dhabi anymore – but UberEATS entered the scene a few weeks ago. In Dubai, Uber launched UberX, a cheaper service, earlier this year, and UberONE – a move that introduced 50 "premium" electric cars to its fleet – in mid-October. Both are good choices for getting from A to B without having to wade out into oncoming traffic to flag a taxi down or having to worry about how much cash you are carrying (or having the correct change).
4. Abu Dhabi Taxi (Abu Dhabi) / Smart Taxi (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.
While the two are not quite as extensive as Uber or Careem, they do 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 obscure part of town.
5. TuneIn Radio (nationwide)
If you have data to burn, then TuneIn Radio can provide a slice of home for expatriates on the morning commute. 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 multiple 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.
6. Keno (Dubai)
This is the Uber/Careem of the car-washing world. This app will save you wandering through the muggy basement of your apartment in a vain attempt to locate a car-washing expert after a sandstorm on the highway caught you off-guard.
When you register with Keno, you upload your car details and credit card information so that you are ready to go whenever dust and grime strike.
Just like Uber, the app will use GPS to find your location, and all you need to do is hit "Wash me" for an ETA of one of Keno's riders to show up at your location.
The prices are surprisingly affordable, too. You will pay only Dh15 extra for an interior clean of any car, Dh35 for the exterior of a saloon, Dh40 for an SUV and Dh20 for a bike. They also offer engine detailing and a Super Keno Shine service.
And if you still aren't sold, there is a first-wash-free offer. No longer will you actually have to leave your car to have it washed – unless you are having the interior done, in which case, it is probably wise to get out.
7. Ministry of Interior (Abu Dhabi and Dubai)
What was once the only vehicle-related app in Abu Dhabi, which provided licensing and registration services, continues to provide a long list of services across the Emirates. In short, if you need anything related to traffic and licensing, vehicle registration, traffic fines, number plates, drive testing, civil defence or where to find police headquarters, this is the app you need.
It will also provide you with service-centre locations, so if you are having trouble fumbling around with your large thumbs and smartphone, you can visit an actual human, too.
8. Abu Dhabi Police / Dubai Police
If you have just been pinged for travelling a bit too far over the speed limit, your trusty old RTA app isn't going to help you. For these fines, you are liable to the Police, but luckily, there is an app for that, too. Use the Police apps to pay your speeding fines, or report a disturbance or incident on the roads. The Abu Dhabi Police app also offers driver-licensing services, whereas the Dubai Police app is able to be integrated with Siri and the Apple watch.
9. Wojhati (Dubai)
The RTA app is a one-stop shop for everything driving-related, but this is what you need if your preference is public transport. Wojhati offers the RTA's journey-planner arm, where you can view bus and Metro timetables, compare transport options to get you from A to B, and look for transport updates in case there are any disruptions on the network. Each route option will give you an approximate length of journey, plus how much it will cost you – including taxis.
Because this is Dubai, there is even an augmented-reality feature that allows you to point your camera in any given direction to see if there are any stops/stations near you at that moment. Ah, technology.
10. RTA Smart Salik (Dubai)
Since launching a couple of years ago, there has been a steady uptake in this app that helps you pay your road-toll bills (which can rack up pretty fast if you are buzzing along the length of Sheikh Zayed Road a couple of times a day). With the app, you can create accounts for multiple vehicles, and save all their account numbers, PINs and credit card details on your smartphone.
Then, when your Salik account gets low, all you have to do is whip out your phone, load up your app and recharge your balance. You will never again have to take a convoluted alternative route in an attempt to dodge the tolls because you haven't topped up your Salik.
11. Makani (Dubai)
Another app to help you figure out exactly where you need to go, in a country where street names and numbers sometimes won't get you far.
This smart, geographic "addressing system" will help you pinpoint the exact location of a building, rather than a rough location that might leave you circling in a taxi for 25 minutes. Using the app, you use the map (satellite, traffic or transit) to click on the destination you are heading for, which then gives you the "Makani" number.
Copy and paste that number into Google Maps, and you have've the most accurate, language-barrier-friendly way of getting definitely from A to B, without any misunderstandings.
Dubai is the first city in the world to use this type of service, which is great – but that also speaks wonders of the complexity of reaching any given location here.
12. Find My Car (nationwide)
While this app doesn't originate from the UAE, it is probably more relevant here than almost anywhere in the world, given that parking spaces are at a premium and you could end up parking your car blocks away from where you need to go.
This app – which sounds like it should've been masterminded by Ashton Kutcher, à la Dude Where's My Car? – allows you to save on your phone the exact spot you have left your vehicle.
Either tag the position of your car via GPS or use your camera to take a picture of it, and it will save on a map. While it doesn't boast pinpoint accuracy, it is certainly better than wandering in circles in 45°C laden with 14 bags from Ikea.