The UAE deals mostly in luxury beach resorts, swish city hotels and more business-minded budget and midrange hotels. The only boutique-hotel scene is in Dubai, which has a handful of heritage hotels in Bur Dubai and downtown.
Although the UAE has no official public campgrounds, pitching a tent on a beach or in the desert is very popular with locals and is a free and safe way to spend the night. Be prepared to take everything in (and out), don't litter and bring a shovel to bury your 'business'.
For camping destinations, consult the locally published specialist guides widely available in bookstores. Because of the coastal resorts gobbling up a lot of the beaches, many of the remaining seashores used for camping are very popular on weekends. For a 'glamping' option with no other campers around, check out the Dibba camping organised by Absolute Adventure.
All the big tour companies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and many of the resorts in Ras Al Khaimah, offer overnights in the desert. These are nearly all permanent setups with toilet facilities and tents with actual beds and are exceedingly comfortable (don't expect to be roughing it).
An overnight at a desert camp includes dinner – usually a barbecue – and typically some kind of musical entertainment. Some will find the entertainment a tad tacky while others will love it. Sandboarding and often, camel rides, are usually included in the experience.
If you've never been to a desert before, these trips are a decent-value first-time experience that allows you to see the desert night sky in all its star-studded glory. If you have been in a desert before, though, you'll most likely find the typical overnight camping trips offered in the UAE a bit too artificial.
There are three hostels affiliated with Hostelling International in the UAE: one each in Dubai, Fujairah and Sharjah. Of all of them, the Sharjah option is the nicest. All are open to men and women, although solo women are a rare sight. Facilities are basic and shared, and smoking and alcohol are prohibited. Accommodation is in dorms or family rooms, which may be booked by small groups and couples depending on availability and the manager’s mood.
Hotels in the UAE are to a good standard, though their star system can be a bit laughable at times; five-star ratings seem to be given out like lollipops with a huge disparity in maintenance and service levels between top-rated hotels.
Budget hotels are completely safe for solo female travellers. Most are made for business travellers, and although the older (cheaper) ones can be a little worn in places, they're still perfectly comfortable. More interesting at this level are the heritage hotels in Dubai.
Midrange hotels usually offer good value for money, and many are international-name chains. At the top end, it's all the bells and whistles you can think of – plus more.
Although designed for long-term stays, hotel apartments are a great way for wallet-watching travellers to economise in comfort. Available in various configurations from studios to two-bedroom apartments, they come with cooking facilities and room cleaning. A gym or pool are fairly standard, but on-site restaurants or bars are not. Rates start at Dhs300 per night.
From exclusive desert and island escapes to the beach resorts of the cities, the UAE does resort tourism well with plenty of choice. Note that staycations and weekend breaks are huge business here so Thursday and Friday nights are extremely busy.
Room rates fluctuate enormously, spiking during festivals, holidays and big events and dropping in the summer months (May to September). The best beds often sell out fast, so make reservations as early as possible if you've got your eye on a particular place. Most properties can be booked online with a best-price guarantee.
Rates are subject to a municipality fee and a service charge, which vary by emirate but are usually around 10% each. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah also tack on a tourism tax ranging from Dhs7 to Dhs20 per room per night, depending on the property's star rating.