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DUBAI RULES: Top 5 quick do’s and don’ts for visiting Dubai

Mel sitting on a window at the Burj Khalifa wearing colourful overalls and sunglasses with Dubai's buildings and Dubai Mall fountain in the background

DUBAI RULES: Top 5 quick do’s and don’ts for visiting Dubai

Dubai is one of the most awe-inspiring cities in the world. It’s the largest and most popular Emirate in the UAE and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It’s hard to believe that the entire city sprung up from the desert sands in less than 50 years – certainly Dubai rules when it comes to innovation!

But as Dubai’s popularity has skyrocketed over the last 10 years – many tourists forget that they are visiting a muslim country and need to be aware of its rules and cultural norms when visiting.

Dubai may have some of the most relaxed social codes in the conservative Gulf, however authorities will enforce strict decency laws and crack down on people accused of pushing the limits.

If you’re a sensible traveller or have been to an Islamic country before you have nothing to worry about. Dubai is made up of 85% expats from all over the world and is a largely liberal and tolerant Emirate.

However if you’re still unsure, here are my top five Dubai rules that you should follow – quick do’s and don’ts for visiting.


1) DON’T dress inappropriately

It’s important when you’re visiting Dubai to be respectful of Emirati etiquette and dress appropriately – both for women and men.

This doesn’t mean you have to be covered from head to toe! Just be mindful of what you wear out in public and dress modestly. As a general rule, keep your shoulders and your legs covered and avoid showing any cleavage.

When I lived in Dubai, I would sometimes wear spaghetti strapped tops and dresses without a problem, but you will generally garner more looks. I always find that shopping malls and restaurants can get quite chilly anyway so I always take a pashmina or light cardigan with me to put over my shoulders.

By the pool and at the beach you’re free to wear your swimming costume of course but there is strictly no topless sunbathing (duh!).

For more practical reasons, covering up will help protect you from the sun when you’re out exploring.

Mel in front of the Atlantis Hotel from a distance in Dubai wearing blue overalls and sunglasses

2) DON’T pack on the PDA

Kissing and holding hands is classed as “inappropriate behaviour” according to Government guidelines. However, having lived in Dubai as a teenager venturing into first relationships, as long as you are respectful and are aware of your surroundings, a peck on the cheek and loose hand hold are generally fine when out in public.

Although the same rule applies even if you’re married, you will often see even local couples holding hands whilst wandering around the shopping malls. So things have moved on a lot since the tabloid stories 10 to 15 years ago. Just be wary!

Couple smiling together with their arms around each other with Dubai's La Mer beach in the background

3) DON’T get drunk in public

I should really change this to: don’t be drunk and disorderly in public but everyone’s level of “drunk” is different! I’ve left bars and nightclubs in Dubai after way too many drinks but I’ve quietly put myself in a cab and headed home. This is not a problem. The problem is when people get a little carried away (as we do sometimes on holiday!) and start making a t*t of themselves in public.

You’re not on a hen do in Magaluf, this is the UAE.

You can order alcohol in most restaurants and hotels as long as you are 21 and over. But if you’re obviously drunk and making a nuisance of yourself you may find yourself sobering up rather quickly if the wrong person takes offence.

The one place you cannot buy alcohol is supermarkets and shopping malls. So don’t count on that nightcap on your way back to your hotel after a heavy night! Even residents have to obtain a liquor license in order to buy alcohol for consumption in their homes.

Enjoy yourself but take care. This is one of the Dubai rules you do NOT want to get caught out on.

A couple drinking colourful cocktails sat at a restaurant in Dubai with palm trees and umbrellas in the background

4) DON’T travel to Dubai during Ramadan

During the holy month of Ramadan you cannot eat, drink, chew gum, or smoke in public during the day. Nothing is permitted to pass through your lips between sunrise and sunset. Even tourists must abide by Ramadan in public areas whilst locals are fasting during daylight hours for 29-30 days.

Restaurants often stay open during the day in shopping malls and hotels for tourists but they are concealed/partitioned off. Many places will also be closed or open for shorter hours too which may affect what you can do during your trip.

The beginning and end of Ramadan is dictated by the Islamic calendar but usually falls between June and July. So make sure to check dates before booking your flights so you can fully enjoy your holiday.

Selfie of Mel in an abaya with the ceiling of a yellow and blue detailed mosque

5) DON’T forget to prepare properly for the heat

It’s never not hot in Dubai. The average summer temperature is around 36°C and in the summer months and can reach 45°C. However, being a desert and all, you can hardly be surprised – the highest temperature recorded was 52.1°C!

Just make sure you have a high factor sun cream on (even if you’re just walking around) and enjoy. After all it’s rare to visit somewhere that can guarantee you glorious sunshine all year round.

Mel smiling in the Dubai desert wearing a white tshirt

What do you think about the Dubai rules? Are you happy to follow stricter guidelines when you travel to certain countries? Let me know below! 😄

Mel x

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About the author

Hi, I’m Mel! The adventure-seeking vegan travel blogger behind Footsteps on the Globe. On this blog you'll find my latest adventures, travel inspiration as well as tips and tricks on how to be vegan around the world. You don’t have to give up being vegan to follow your travel dreams and I’m here to show you how!