A quick guide to get you ready for off-road driving in the UAE

Your usual Dubai weekend activities are losing their edge? Off-roading in UAE's breathtaking inland will definitely bring the fresh excitement you're looking for. Here's a quick guide on how to get your car ready for a great - and safe - desert driving experience.
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In case you wondered: yes, there's plenty of things to do in Dubai besides visiting the Dubai mall or lazing around on the beach. In fact, we claim that the best places in the UAE are the ones outside big cities like Dubai or Abu Dhabi. If you're like us and get excited over all-things-outdoors, then you'll love going dune bashing or wadi driving in one of the many spots located a stone's throw away from the city. Trust us: there's a reason why this activity keeps on hitting the TripAdvisor's Top ten most exciting things to do in Dubai.
But do you have what it takes to safely venture off the beaten track and into the beautiful dunes or the wadi desert?
We compiled a checklist to get you off-road-ready.
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1. Make sure your car has what it takes
It's clear you won't venture into the desert with a Toyota Camry, but you should also consider that not all SUVs have what it takes to go dune bashing safely.
Your car should be a four-wheel drive (4WD, or 4X4), not an all-wheel-drive (AWD). The latter sends power to each of the wheels automatically. So if you get stuck in a dune, you won't be able to apply power to the wheels manually to get out. Also, a big plus is if your car has a 'differential lock' function. Turning it on will allow the wheels to move at the same speed. It will make it easier for the wheels with the best traction to pull you out of a stuck situation.
Here is a list of vehicles that have continually ranked as best cars for the desert here in the UAE. If you find your vehicle on it, you're good to go. Otherwise, you should consider renting.
  • Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Nissan Patrol
  • Land Rover & Range Rover
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Mercedes G-Wagon
  • Ford Raptor
2. Get some training
Leaping over dunes and rocky trails requires a technique when it comes to steering, accelerating, and braking. We strongly recommend you invest in a few lessons with one of the many off-roading and desert safari clubs in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Mastering the ABCs of off-road driving will help you shake off that nervousness and make the experience more enjoyable.
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3. Get your buddies to come along
The first rule with off-road driving is never ever to go alone. There should be at least two vehicles travelling. Accidents happen even to the most experienced drivers, so if one car gets stuck, having at least one more in the group to get back safely is a must.
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Once you've ticked off the items from the point above, it's time to check if your car is ready for your off-road adventure:
  • Deflate your tyres to about 15 psi - but only when you’ve reached the off road destination
  • Make sure you've got a spare and fully functional tyre
  • Check the fluid levels (water, oil, clutch, steering, coolants)
  • Fill up. Never go off-road with a half-empty tank.
  • Secure all heavy items with a net. You don't want a coolbox hitting you in the back while flying over a dune.
  • Installing a flag on a high bar at the rear of the vehicle. It will help others locate you when you are hidden behind a dune
  • Make sure you have all your papers on you: your driving license, car registration, ID, and of course - car insurance that covers you for off-road driving
5. Prep your vehicle and check your papers
Speaking of car insurance, read the terms and conditions carefully. Better still, get in touch with your insurance company to confirm your policy covers off-road driving, as well. You'll be surprised to know many insurers don't include it in their insurance policies. If they do, they may apply very restrictive conditions. For instance, they will cover you only for accidents which happen within 500 metres from the road.
PS Our Beema comprehensive pay-per kilometre insurance has you covered for your off-road adventures, and there are absolutely no limitations in terms of how far off you can drive. As long as your car is a 4x4 and you're not competing in a sports event, we have your back while you're out bashing those dunes or driving across the wadi. 😉
4. Pack these essentials
Here is the list of the key items you should pack when going dune bashing.
  • Detailed map or a GPS
  • Jack
  • A wooden plank (to avoid the jack to sink into the sand)
  • Shovel
  • Tyre pressure gauge
  • Sand mats
  • Tow rope (better if it's an elastic one)
  • Mobile phone
  • Plenty of water
  • First-aid kit
  • Camera or binoculars
  • Torch