what to wear in Dubai - clothing advice for tourists

Dubai Clothing Advice for Tourists

In Dubai (UAE), Middle East by Jurga28 CommentsTHIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS

Probably the most asked question by travellers to Muslim countries is ‘what to wear?’. ‘Do I need to cover my hair?’. ‘Can I wear a bikini on the beach or at a waterpark in Dubai?’. ‘Can I wear a short dress at a shopping mall in Abu-Dhabi?’… Women are usually the ones who seek advice, but men should also inform about the local habits as they too might need to wear long pants, a shirt, and closed shoes on some occasions…

What clothing is appropriate depends on the Muslim country you are visiting, but also on the places you go to. If in doubt, always go for the safer version (covered arms and legs) and women should also carry a thin headscarf in case they need to cover their hair. I bought a maxi skirt especially for this trip and although it wasn’t really necessary I wore it on a couple occasions in Dubai and felt very much at ease anywhere we went.  I think one should always be respectful to the local habits of the country and its people. Just as people should be respectful to our way of life when they come to the West! But that’s another topic, so let’s not get into politics….

This simple what-to-wear guide should help you pack and feel more at ease when traveling to Dubai, UAE.

What to wear in Dubai: practical advice for travellers

Dubai is actually very relaxed and open-minded when it comes to clothing, and as the public is very international, so is the clothing. You will see people wearing all imaginable sorts of clothing – from shorts and sleeveless t-shirts to burqas. But don’t forget that it’s a Muslim country and you are a guest.

Dress code at Dubai hotels, restaurants and malls

Most malls, restaurants, and hotels in Dubai ask customers to ‘dress modestly’ and advise to cover your knees and shoulders, but we saw many people who didn’t fit this description and nobody really seemed to be bothered. As long as you stay in the very touristic places (hotels, malls…), you can pretty much wear whatever you want. The rules might be enforced more strictly during the Ramadan, so keep this in mind.

Most upmarket restaurants require that men wear long trousers and closed shoes; women can wear sandals any time.

Beachwear is only for the beach, so don’t go to a restaurant wearing only a bikini or swimming shorts.

What to wear at the beach, swimming pools and water parks in Dubai

Any type of beachwear from bikini to full cover Islamic swimsuits is allowed at all beaches, pools, and waterparks, like e.g. Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis, The Palm. The only rule is no nudity.

What to wear in United Arab Emirates mosques, traditional markets and rural areas

In the old part of Dubai where the traditional markets like Spice Souk or Gold Souk are located you will be surrounded by many more locals and muslims from other countries than expats or tourists from the West. You will be much more at ease and avoid the stares if you are dressed more conservatively.

If you are planning to go to some rural areas in the Emirates or visit a a mosque, you should better leave sleeveless blouses and shorts at the hotel. Covered arms and legs for both men and women are advisable, and women have to also cover their hair inside the mosque. The mosques that allow non-muslim visits, usually provide proper clothing if needed.


What to wear on Dubai desert safari

One of the most popular tourist activities outside the city is visiting the desert. I would recommend wearing pants, shorts, or capri pants (no skirts or mini shorts) and a t-shirt or a blouse. Normally, it’s very hot in the desert, but it was very cold when we visited in December. In winter, take a sweater or even a jacket as it gets really cold in the evening. Sandals or closed shoes – depends on your preference.

Children wearing warm clothing in Dubai desert with a camel

Dubai desert safari on an exceptionally cold December day

 

Clothing advice for Abu Dhabi and the other Emirates

We haven’t been to the other Emirates, but I heard that Abu-Dhabi is already much more conservative than Dubai and that women are often stared at if they are dressed the way we do in the West. That makes me think that all the other emirates are even more traditional. From what I understand, Dubai is by far the most tolerant of the 7 of the United Arabic Emirates, so keep that in mind if traveling outside of Dubai.

Update after a comment from a reader who grew up in Abu Dhabi. This is what she said: ‘I’m an expat born and brought up in Abu Dhabi and was free to dress however I please, including shorter shorts and sleeveless…(Abu Dhabi) is just as open-minded in terms of dress (as Dubai)’.

What to wear for women traveling to Dubai alone

If you are traveling alone as a woman or with a group of girlfriends, and especially at night, you are probably better off dressing modestly. It’s your choice of course; I say this based on the way some men stared at two young ladies in tight mini dresses we met at the Dubai Marina one night.

Do you need warm clothing in Dubai?

Normally, you only need summer clothing and footwear in Dubai. A thin sweater can be nice for some cooler evenings in winter or inside the malls. In December, when we visited, the malls were air conditioned, but not that cold that you would need a sweater. I hear that it might be different in the warmer seasons and you may want to take a thin sweater with you when going shopping – just in case the AC works too hard .

We visited Dubai for Christmas and New Year, and the temperatures we had were pretty much as cold as it gets over there, with the minimum temperatures around 20°C (68°F) and the maximum temperatures of 28°C (82°F) during the day. One day we even had some rain (it hardly ever rains in Dubai) and that was also the day we visited the desert. You’ve got to be lucky, right?! The wind was very cold and we wore long pants and a sweater during the day and a thin rain jacket in the evening. Except for this one day, we never needed jeans or jackets in Dubai and only used our sweaters once or twice at night. My closed shoes stayed in the suitcase during the whole trip.

What you should definitely pack for Dubai?

I’m not going to give the whole packing list because packing for Dubai is pretty much the same as packing for any other warm destination. So here are just a few tips.

First, make sure you carry a summer shawl/wrap which you can use to cover your head, shoulders or knees if needed.

Second, wear comfortable summer sandals. You will look a bit out of the place with the hiking sandals though. Sportive sandals are ok for children and for men during the day.

*Traveling to Dubai soon? Find the best deals for Dubai accommodation here. Make sure to also check our hand-picked selection of best tours and activities in Dubai that you shouldn’t miss!

Looking for more information for your trip to Dubai? Read more:
Dubai Interesting Facts: from Must Know to Trivia
Top 5 Free Dubai Experiences and 3 Activities Under 3 EUR
All You Need to Know About Dubai Public Transport as a Tourist
20 Things To Do in Dubai for The Whole Family

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What to wear in Dubai and other Emirates

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Comments

  1. Hello ,
    So glad to have a people like you for sharing such useful information .
    We are going to DUBAI on 11 till 15 july , Can you please suggest choice of clothes for my wife

    Thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Rounak, I think your question should have been answered in this post already… I would suggest light summer clothing that covers knees and shoulders.
      Have a nice trip!

    1. Author

      Hi Ankita, you can wear pretty much anything in Dubai tourist areas. But to be respectful to their customs I’d still advise to cover your shoulders when leaving beach/hotel.

  2. This is really an informative blog, The summers are too much warm, the winters are pleasant and the Pashmina shawls are widely popular widely. Dubai is indeed a lovely place.

  3. hi ! are muslims tourist allowed to wear shalwar kameez in dubai for men and women both ?

    1. Author

      It’s a muslim country after all, so yes, Tahreem, I think muslims can wear pretty much anything they are used to. Dubai is really a multicultural mix and you see people wearing all kinds of clothing.

  4. Hi, I’m travelling to Dubai in July with my boyfriend. We’re only there to sit by the pool and visit Burj Khalifa, malls and parks etc. How strict are they with clothing? Of course I will carry a shawl with me, but if I were to wear a top and shorts or a skirt, would that be considered inappropriate since it’s very hot in July?

    1. Author

      Hi Catharina, you will see people wear pretty much anything in Dubai. So it’s really up to you. In the hotel and on the beach you will be fine. However, for malls and Burj Khalifa I would still say try to cover you shoulders and knees, there are plenty of light clothes that can do that, and you will feel better. And also many places have airco so you really won’t be that hot inside a mall for example. And they do have stricter rules during Ramadan, so maybe check if it’s not Ramadan when you are traveling this year.

  5. Hi
    We are traveling to Dubai on 4th may
    What dress and footwear should we carry as temperature is high

    1. Author

      Hi Munira, for hotel and the beach pack just any regular summer clothes as you would do anywhere else. For sightseeing just make sure that you can cover your knees and shoulders if necessary, so maybe carry a light shawl with you and try not to wear too revealing clothes if you plan to go to the old town, visit mosques, or similar. Women can easily wear sandals in Dubai, I think it’s not really a big deal for men either if it’s really hot. My husband preferred to wear light shoes, but it wasn’t that hot when we visited.
      You can always opt for linen clothes if it fits your style (dresses, skirts, blouses, trousers…) – they are perfect in hot weather.

  6. Love the blog Jurga and really helpful. It gives a good idea to those who have never visited the Emirate.

    One small point, I think you should refrain putting out information about places you are not sure of, example Abu Dhabi and the rest of the Emirates. I understand that you have mentioned that you haven’t been there but you are planting a seed of doubt when you do not know the standard yourself.

    Honestly, I’m an expat born and brought up in Abu Dhabi and was free to dress however I please, including shorter shorts and sleeveless. While it’s true that Abu Dhabi is not as lively and touristy as Dubai, it’s just as open-minded in terms of dress.

    1. Author

      Thank you for sharing this, JoAnn. It will be very useful to our readers to know that Abu Dhabi dress code is not much different from that in Dubai. I’ll see if I can update the post and include insights of a local ;).
      And isn’t Abu Dhabi becoming more and more popular among the foreign visitors in the recent years too? Hope to go back to the region and explore a bit more.

  7. kindly suggest me which type of cloths carry in January,2018 like sweater, shawls or winter cloths .

    1. Author

      Hi Ravinder, January in Dubai is better weather-wise than summer here in Belgium :). You will be ok with summer clothes, just maybe take one light sweater for in the evening or to wear inside the shopping malls (air conditioning). A light shawl is always good to have, especially for women – to cover your head and/or shoulders when visiting certain places, or to wrap up when the air conditioning is a bit too cold. You definitely don’t need any winter clothes or warm shawls, etc.

  8. Thank You for the helpful info Jurga. Your Iceland pics look very enticing although i haven’t got time to read the article. I will when I plan for Iceland trip 🙂
    Best Regards
    Tara

    1. Author

      Wow, you are going from very hot places to the very cold ones, Tara. I did the same – was in Iceland in November and then in Dubai for the New Year. Completely different worlds.
      Thanks for your feedback and for taking the time to leave a comment.

  9. Jurga, I just discovered your blog and its useful info. Our family is traveling to Jerusalem in September. While researching clothing recommendations, I see lots of info for men and women, but nothing for kids. I have three (boy 12, boy 9, girl 7). Do you think I need to follow adult recommendations (covered legs and arms) in the Middle East for our kids as well? Or can they get away with regular shorts and tank tops (it will one in the high 80s in Israel when we go). Thank for any info you can provide!

    1. Author

      Hi Amy, I don’t think you need to worry about the kids. Our boys just wore t-shirts and shorts in Dubai and from what I saw all the local kids (boys and girls) were dressed the same as they would be in Western World. You may need to cover the hair of your daughter in some religious buildings (just guessing this, don’t know for sure), so it might be useful to pack a light summer shawl or so (also for yourself). Hope this helps.

  10. Useful info, Jurga. I’d like to point out, for those unfamiliar with Dubai, that it’s an extremely safe place for women travelling alone. You mention young women in tight mini dresses being stared at but I’m inclined to believe that happens everywhere! The difference in Dubai would be that they would be very unlikely to receive any harassment.

    You’re definitely correct that the malls can be chilly and a wrap or cardigan is handy!

    1. Author

      You’re absolutely right, Candice! Short skirts attract a lot of attention everywhere. I never felt unsafe anywhere in Dubai, but then I bought one of those maxi skirts just to be at ease 🙂

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