Dubai – Simple What to Wear Guide

What to wear in Dubai?   It’s concern for many first time visitors leading to frequent, often slightly panicked, questions on travel forums: ‘Help! I’m going to Dubai, what should I wear?’ ‘Do I need to cover my head?’ ‘Can I wear a bikini on the beach in Dubai?’ ‘Can I wear shorts to a mall?’   This Dubai – Simple What to Wear Guide explains all so you can have a worry-free holiday.Please feel free to comment and ask questions at the bottom of the page. If you find the article useful, please share.

Dubai is the best known, and most tolerant, of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. Its economy may rely increasingly on tourism but let’s not forget that it’s still a Muslim country.   There are some simple guidelines to follow if you want to be respectful of local Emirati culture and tradition while still making the most of this unique destination.

Poster advising on appropriate clothing at Dubai's biggest mall

Poster advising on appropriate clothing at Dubai’s biggest mall

Dubai Simple What to Wear Guide

What to Wear in Dubai – In the Streets, Souks or at the Mall

When out and about in the streets, souks or shopping malls women are most respectful if they wear skirts or shorts to the knee and have their shoulders covered. The air conditioning in the malls can be fierce and you may find a wrap, light cardigan or pashmina comes in handy. A comfortable outfit, suitable for the culture and the icy a/c, might be ¾ length Capri pants, a strappy top and a loose, open shirt.

Men are fine to wear shorts to the knee; t-shirts are more respectful than skimpy muscle vests no matter how much you want to show off your fine physique.

The gold, spice and textile souks are in the old part of Dubai, in Bur Dubai and Deira. These areas have a high South Asian population and it’s advisable for women to dress conservatively here to help avoid stares.  Click here for a post about a fun visit to the souks.

dubai what to wear beach bikini photo

Bikinis and other swimwear are fine for the beach but not for walking through your hotel or on the street. Dogs optional.

What to Wear in Dubai – By the Pool, At the Beach, Or around your Hotel

It’s perfectly acceptable to wear swimming trunks, bikinis or one piece swimsuits on the beach or by the hotel pool; but it’s disrespectful to walk the streets in a bikini or in shorts and a bikini top. Gentlemen may admirably fill out their Speedos but keep them for the beach too. It is illegal for women to sunbath topless. Thong bikini bottoms are disrespectful and likely to attract a crowd of appreciative construction workers if you wear them on the beach. If you wouldn’t wear your beach outfit to your local supermarket back home to do your weekly shopping, then it’s most probably not a good idea to wear it outside of your hotel in Dubai.

Bear in mind, also, that many of the other tourists in your hotel may be families from neighbouring, more conservative, Gulf countries and to avoid making them uncomfortable you may want to cover up when you walk through the hotel to get to the pool or beach. There may also be local Emiratis in your hotel as hotels form a big part of the social scene in Dubai.

Dubai what to wear mall

Out and about cut-off trousers or lighter 3/4 capris and covered shoulders are ideal

What to Wear in Dubai – On a Desert Safari

You won’t meet any Emiratis on a desert safari so both men and women can wear almost anything they feel comfortable in: short shorts and a strappy top, or vest tops for the men, are all fine. In the winter months a jacket or sweater will be useful; in summer, the desert nights are hot but more comfortable than the city because of the much lower humidity.

What to Wear in Dubai – At the Mosque

 Very few mosques in the UAE admit non-Muslims but if you decide to visit one of those which does then, as with any place of worship, it’s important to dress appropriately. Long trousers and long sleeved tops or shirts for men; long trousers or ankle length skirts/dresses for women combined with a long sleeved top which is not low cut.  The easiest way to remember is to be covered from neck to wrist to ankle.   Women are required to cover their hair and there will be headscarves available to borrow.   The most beautiful mosque in the country, the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, requires women to wear an abaya (long black over dress/coat) over their own clothes and you can borrow one for free there.

Everybody is required to remove their shoes before entering a mosque.

Dubai what to wear

Knee length shorts and a shirt or t-shirt with sleeves are a good combination for souks, mall, sight-seeing (for men and women)

What to Wear in Dubai – In Restaurants, Bars and Nightclubs

In popular bars and night clubs you will see people dressed the way you would in the West. All bars and clubs which sell alcohol will be within a hotel as only hotels can have liquor licences. It therefore makes good sense to be more covered up walking through the hotel than you may be while busting some moves on the dance floor.

Upmarket restaurants (generally restaurants which are licenced to sell alcohol) require men to wear long trousers and covered shoes. Emirati men in national dress – that is, the long white robe or kandourah – wear sandals all the time but this not acceptable for any man not in national dress.

Women can wear whatever they would wear to a smart restaurant back home but, again, it’s best if there is not a lot of cleavage or thigh on display. Sandals for women are fine anywhere.

What to Wear in Dubai – At the Gym or Running Outdoors

At hotel or private gyms it’s fine to wear your usual work out gear. If you are running out doors then shorts (but no bottom-skimmers please!) with a lightweight technical top are OK for men; for women a similar outfit but with running leggings to the knee is ideal.

dubai what to wear running

Knee length running leggings and a t-shirt for outdoor running or the gym

When you are in Dubai you will see lots of people wearing a lot less than what is suggested above. Mini skirts in the street or in the mall; hot pants walking through the airport; a see-through top over a brightly coloured bra in the supermarket etc. Though these outfits will not get you arrested (they may, however, mean you are denied entry to a mall) but they are disrespectful to local culture.

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, rules on appropriate dress are more likely to be enforced and flouting them will cause particular offence.

At the end of the day it’s a choice: to forget where you in the world and dress as you would in Europe or the Caribbean; or to accept that part of the fun of being somewhere with a different culture is that you may have to think a little differently too.

I hope this Dubai Simple What to Wear Guide is helpful.  Feel free to add your comments and experiences below or share this article if you found it useful.

Read detailed reviews, with photos, of my stays at more than 10 of Dubai’s top hotels: Luxury and Boutique Hotels

140 thoughts on “Dubai – Simple What to Wear Guide

  1. VALERIE WEITZ

    Hello. Thank you for this forum…it’s most helpful.
    But just to double check, I’m going to Dubai during Ramadan, am a female, and again, is wearing these two things ok?
    1. Skinny, tight jeans
    2. Dresses or skirts at the knee, maybe a tiny bit showing the knees? iS that ok or does a skirt or dress have to be at or below the knees? Not above??
    Thank you kindly. Valerie

    Reply
  2. Matheus

    Hi! I am grateful for all tips that you have mentioned. I will be visiting Abu Dhabi in the begining of May so I have a few questions about appropriate and descent dress code there. I am aware that rules for clothing is stricter than in Dubai and I want to respect the locals culture and to not have any problems with authorities or locals. I just want to feel relaxed and not to be distressed with judgmental looks. I am used to wear pretty tight cloths from jeans to shirts so I have big dilemma what can “pass” as descent from their point of view. So here are my questions:
    Is it ok to wear skinny jeans and loose blouse with slives till elbows or shorter slive which covers my shoulders? These blouses will be long just to cover my behind? Almost all my jeans are skinny so I taught to buy some loose t-shirt, shirt or blouse which will cover only my behind.
    Also, is it ok to wear loose trousers with high waist and to put blouse into trouser? In this way my waist is exposed and my behind to some extent but everything is covered…Will this be inappropriate?
    Is it ok to wear tight t-shirts with high cut cleavage?

    Sorry for a lot of questions but I am in big dilemma and I have a little time to prepare for trip!
    Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hello Matheus, what you describe sounds like it will be OK but my concern is that you will be uncomfortably hot in jeans when you are outdoors. If you plan to spend most of your time in a/c then it will be fine. Please note that what you describe is not appropriate if you visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (and you should, it’s stunning!) but you will be able to borrow an abaya – the long overcoat some Muslim women wear – to put on over your clothes. You will also need a scarf to cover your hair.

      Have a great time and don’t forget to check out my post on 7 great activities to make you want to visit Abu Dhabi

      Reply
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  4. Julia Kim

    Hi! I will be visiting Dubai during Ramadan and my 13 year old daughter was wondering if she could wear shorts. Also, could my daughter drink and eat in public places?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Julia, at 13 years old I think it’s better if your daughter follows the dress code and does not eat or drink in public during Ramadan. It’s really easy to pop into a toilet and drink from a bottle of water when you are out and about. Your hotel and probably most malls (it changes every year) will have areas where you can eat and drink during the day. If you are staying at a beach hotel then you won’t notice much difference and can wear shorts, bikini etc as normal. City hotels tend to be a little less relaxed. It’s a very nice time to be in Dubai 🙂

      Reply
  5. Denise Hodge

    My family and I are visiting Dubai during Ramadan in June.
    In regards to shorts length, does it have to come past your knees or is just above the knees ok?
    I have a dress that comes to the knee. Is this appropriate?
    Do my husband and two sons (21 and14) also have to wear shorts that cover the knees?
    What about footwear? Are thongs and sandals appropriate?
    What about clothing on a desert safari during Ramadan?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Denise, Ramadan is a lovely time to visit Dubai. Make sure you do an iftar (breaking of the fast meal in the evening) while you are there. And if you’re out and about at that time keep and eye out for the lines of men seated on the floor in the grounds of mosques, waiting to share iftar.

      Shorts to the knee are fine and the men should wear those too. A is a dress to the knee is also fine.

      Clothing on the desert safari will be the same during Ramadan but if you’re wearing short shorts be aware that you will probably be hanging around your hotel lobby for a while waiting to get picked up and short shorts are not ideal.

      Men and women can wear sandals anywhere except high end restaurants. In high end restaurants men usually have to wear closed shoes. Women can still wear sandals.

      Sadly, even during Ramadan you will see people wearing skimpy clothing. Thank you for taking the time to consider what you will wear to be respectful during the holy month.

      Have a fantastic holiday!

      Reply
  6. Pete

    Great Post! We are trying to plan a family visit in August!! We realise it will be hot but we cant be doing with the usual package holiday in Europe.

    The dress code will be fine as we would respect anywhere we visit. That’s just normal, right?

    Going a little off the track, my girls are all young ladies now, 14, 15 & 17 when we travel, I’ve been looking around for things to do and appears to be plenty! Especially with the new parks opening.
    My concern, which is only at the back of my mind is how safe is Dubai? Other forums are saying it is fine! Travelling to and from restaurants at night, can we walk? Will I need another mortgage to eat out over there? And already mentioned, the temperature! Is August the wrong time to go?

    So many questions…I’m desperate to take the family but something is stopping me? Please convince me.

    I know its already been mentioned, great post 🙂

    Pete

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Pete, Dubai is extremely safe and without knowing where you are I would bet that you and your family will be safer there than at home. There is virtually no street crime and I’ve never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable travelling around on my own at any time, day or night.

      August is very hot and extremely humid but many families visit every year at that time of (school holidays) and have a great time. You just have to be aware of the conditions and take the weather into account in your planning. Everywhere inside has a/c – malls, restaurants, taxis etc. It’s a good time to visit the water parks to help keep you all cool. It’s also fine to do a desert safari at this time of year as the desert is drier and more comfortable than the city.

      It’s possible to eat out without spending a fortune. There are many cafes and restaurants with prices around what you would pay at home (although more expensive than usual at the moment because the £ sterling is weak). Food courts in the malls are also affordable. For the adults, alcohol is expensive so if you like a tipple do what many others do and stock up in Dubai duty free on arrival and have an aperitif or night cap in your room.

      Have a look into the Entertainer voucher book. It has hundreds of 2 for 1 vouchers for activities (desert safaris, water parks, boat trips etc) and for eating places. It could save you a small fortune if used wisely. Bear in mind that if you get the app rather than the book you will need data on your phone to access the vouchers at the venues where you plan to use them.

      I’m happy to hear you found the post useful 🙂

      Reply
  7. Irene

    Hi there,

    I’m basically a jeans T-shirt kind of girl so I guess that’s more than fine anywhere? Also for going out at night to a bar or club, Jeans and an off shoulder top is acceptable?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      It will be fine most places but could be very hot, depending on what month you are visiting.

      As long as you are ‘dressed up’ then smart jeans should be acceptable in bars and clubs but be aware that to be respectful you should have something over your off the shoulder top when travelling to/from the venue.

      Reply
  8. Lydia

    Thank you so much for this article! I am moving to Dubai to teach next Friday and have been extremely worried about what to wear! I have bought maxi dresses and loose shirts and am hoping for the best. I’m sure there is plenty of amazing shopping there anyway if I am stuck.

    All the best x

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Exciting times ahead Lydia! Dubai will be very hot and humid when you arrive but don’t worry, it does improve in the coming months.

      Good luck with your new job, I hope you love Dubai as much as I do.

      Reply
      1. Janice

        Thanks for a really helpful guide! We’re moving to Dubai in October. I’m a little unsure about some tops I have – like a blouse but sleeveless.. Slight V cut at the front but no lower than a regular v neck tshirt. The top of my shoulders are covered but do I need to cover top of my arms too? Also, do dress code rules apply to kids? (Boy & girl age 8 & 6). Daughter loves strappy floaty dresses. Should I get her to cover up too? Thank you!!

        Reply
        1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

          Lucky you moving to Dubai!

          Your tops sound absolutely fine. You’ll get a feel for what’s appropriate very quickly. My suggestions about what to wear are intended to help people keep comfortable whilst respecting local culture. You’ll see lots of people dressing quite differently.

          Your children will be fine wearing whatever they would wear elsewhere in a hot climate. Your daughter sounds like she’s got good taste already!

          Best wishes for your move. I hope you and your family love Dubai as much as I do.

          Reply
  9. Christopher McLean

    Hi,

    Great helpful comments thanks. Having never stepped foot out of te EU before, was very useful. However, I’ve have a massive mind blank, auto pilot kicked in (guy here!) I put shorts on for the plane, they are jogging shorts to the knee, although when seated they show my knees, i have a plain black t shirt on. I plan to change into trousers at the airport once I collect my suitcase, will this be ok getting into the airport and baggage reclaim? Ahhh can’t believe auto pilot kicked in.

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Christopher, as you will have found out by now, you will be fine going through the airport. I hope you are enjoying your holiday in Dubai.

      Reply
  10. Tina

    Hello, I found your article very helpful. Thank you. I do have a question though. Do children follow the same rules? I have a 5 year old and most of her outfits are long shirts with tights. Is that ok?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Tina, your daughter will be fine in the sort of outfit you describe. However, it may be very hot for her to wear tights for much of the year so I’d consider looking at long shirts and some kind of shorts as an alternative.

      Reply
  11. Cass

    Hi Candice,
    This was great information! I am going in June and i am planning on wearing a lot of maxi dresses and have a cardigan to cover up my shoulders especially since we are going during Ramadan. Question, I saw this cute long overalls but the bottoms are lace with shorts underneath so it has some see through from mid-thigh down, do you think that would be ok to wear? Or would that be considered too revealing during that time?
    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Cass, I’m sorry for the delay in replying. I could see my messages but not reply. I would suggest blouses rather than a cardigan for over your dresses. As you know, June will be very hot even when you are outdoors. The overall you describe isn’t really respectful for the malls, the streets etc so I would suggest just saving that for around your hotel. I’m also going during Ramadan, hope you have a great time.

      Reply
      1. Heather Landry

        Candice, this was the most helpful article I’ve read so far. I too will be there during Ramadan this year! In fact we arrive on July 3. Thank you again for this fantastic description. I feel a bit calmer now, although still a bit stressed about how to dress respectfully in 115F degree heat 🙂

        Reply
        1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

          Hi Helen, thanks for your comment. I’m happy to hear you found the article useful. I just got back from a trip at the start of Ramadan and thankfully it wasn’t too humid yet. Really, when it’s 115C you’re going to be hot anyway! I find loose, floating clothes are best for being respectful and not overheating – I can’t say ‘cool’ because you won’t be! Have a great holiday.

          Reply
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  13. Nervous traveller

    This is my first trip to Dubai and I’m excited but very nervous about the customs regarding women and dress codes. While I want to enjoy the warm temps in tanks and shorts, I am worried that I won’t enjoy my trip because I will always be watching what I am doing. Can I wear sleeveless blouses with collars? I have some very pretty dressy ones and I would Iike to wear them.

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi, there’s really nothing to be nervous about. The rules for remaining respectful as straightforward. You will be fine wearing sleeveless blouses and they don’t need to be dressy, casual is fine unless you are going to an upmarket restaurant. Long shorts are also fine but it’s best to keep short shorts for around your hotel. They are not appropriate for out and about and in the mall. You will see people wearing short shorts but it’s not respectful.

      Reply
  14. Naazneen Ahmed

    Hi Candice

    Amazingly useful post!
    Going to Dubai next week and have been stressing as I tend to always have shoulders out and no shorts/skirts that are knee length!
    For night club would short strappy dresses and short skirts with crop tops be ok as you said it’s much like in the west?
    And for the desert would high waist trousers and a crop top be ok (not touching the trousers – little bit of skin showing but not full midriff?!)
    Thank you ????
    Xx

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Naazneen, I’m happy to hear that you’ve found this post useful.

      You can wear the clothes you describe in a night club but make sure you cover up going there and back because what you describe is not respectful for out and about.

      If you go on a desert safari you won’t encounter any local Emiratis so I tend to think you can be relaxed about what you wear. Just avoid crop tops anywhere outside of the desert or a night club.

      Enjoy your holiday!

      Reply
  15. Linda Loo

    Hi Candice,

    I am travelling to Dubai in a couple of weeks time. I have pretty much everything sorted but I do have a see through tops (not full see through though – smart one) if I wear a vest top under this would this be acceptable. as i say it’s not on the risky side that you would wear to a night club or anything.

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi there, it sounds fine. The important thing is that you’re giving some thought to this which means you’re unlikely to go wrong and offend people. Have a great trip!

      Reply
  16. Bianca

    Hi candace,

    I’d like to know if we can wear the joggjng pants in your picture as an everyday attire?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Bianca, you could but they are not ideal. For one thing, they would be uncomfortably hot in the summer months and they are not really very modest so personally I wouldn’t wear them to a mall or out and about.

      Reply
  17. Ann

    Hi Candice
    I’m going to Dubai with my partner and we are not married (heterosexual ). Will this be an issue sharing a hotel room? I’ve already booked so hope not
    Thanks for your feedback

    Ann

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Ann, many thousands of unmarried couples share hotel room so and many residents live together before marriage, even though it’s actually illegal. Just make sure you don’t break the law in any other way. Hotel staff will assume you are married so don’t tell them any different.

      Reply
  18. Jurga

    Great guide! I have similar suggestions on my blog. 🙂
    We are just back from Dubai and indeed many Westerners seem to wear whatever they would wear at home. I have to agree with you that one should be respectful to local customs and people. Dubai is multicultural and quite tolerant and all, but you’ll fee much more at ease if you wear appropriate clothing. And ladies (especially those who are traveling alone) – I’d leave all those tight mini dresses and see-through blouses at home.
    Jurga recently posted…20 Things to Do in Dubai for the Whole FamilyMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Thanks for the comments and link to your blog, Jurga.

      Just to clarify in case your comments worry anybody: Dubai is an extremely safe city and this is true for women travelling alone too. I never once felt uncomfortable or unsafe when I lived there.

      Reply
      1. Jurga

        Didn’t mean to worry anyone! 😉 We really liked Dubai and never felt unsafe. It’s just that women on their own attract more attention and we witnessed that in Dubai as well. We saw quite a few young ladies walking around in tight short dresses in the evening; nobody bothered them, but they did get lots of looks. So if you are not looking for the extra attention you will feel much more at ease wearing more rather than less… Just my two cents.
        Jurga recently posted…How Much Money Do You Need to Visit Dubai in 2016My Profile

        Reply
        1. Ally

          Hello Jurga, we are off to Dubai in a couple of weeks and I have bought my husband a few pairs of tailored shorts to wear out in the restaurants in the evening, are they not allowed? Just reading through your comments! Also can you give me some attractions that are popular to see, I know of the Burj al Arab and the fountain shows! Thanks!

          Reply
          1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

            Hi Ally, it depends on what restaurants you are going to. Tailored shorts will be fine in casual restaurants like the restaurants in malls but for upmarket places your husband will have to wear long trousers and closed shoes. The restaurants will have air-con so he won’t be too hot.

            Some other things to do are: a visit to the souqs in old Dubai; an abra (wooden boat) ride across Dubai Creek; Ski Dubai (for a look even if you don’t ski); a desert safari – look at Platinum Heritage for the most upmarket one or Desert Rangers for a standard one; it’s not my thing but most people like to explore the malls. You can also do a day trip to Abu Dhabi or a fabulous day trip to Musandam in Oman.

            Reply
      2. kathryn griffiths

        I have been worried what to pack so I have been quite sensible and packed light cardigans for when I go out at night my husband is taking me for my birthday and I have found your replies quite hepful thank you

        Reply
        1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

          I’m happy to hear that you’ve found this page helpful, Kathryn. Have a fantastic trip!

          Reply
      3. Kirstie

        Hi! I have found your post extremely helpful! So thank you for that! I have an outfit in mind what to wear when visiting Dubai for the day and that is.. Long floaty skirt which is high waisted. Then a short top which just meets the top of the skirt? Is this acceptable? Then because the top had thin straps I am wearing a cover up/kimono which is white and has lace and things on it (some bits of it are slightly see-through) – is this bad?

        Also quick question, is the Dubai marina worth a visit. I have seen photos of hotels and restaurants all looking onto the water with boats and it looks very classy and nice… – I presumed this was the marina. Do you think I’m right or could it be somewhere else?

        P.s going at the beginning of April

        Thank you!

        Reply
        1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

          Hi Kirstie, I think the outfit you describe sounds fine as long as the top meets your skirt and your midriff is not exposed.

          It’s very likely that the area you’re describing is the Marina area. One of my favourite places there is the Yacht Club. It’s very nice to sit on the outdoor terrace during happy hour in the early evening and look out over the boats while surrounded by the tall towers.

          Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Maricela, I’m afraid I don’t understand your question re figures and straps down! If your top is very low cut or otherwise revealing then it’s better to wear a light non-transparent blouse over it.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        Hi Candice I cannot figure out how to comment on your post besides a reply…but I am in Dubai now and was told my someone who has been here that short shorts are okay to wear around. I was wondering if you feel the same? They don’t show my butt, however they definitely do not go down to my knees. Please help! I don’t want to be disrespectful but the only shorts I own are shorter, and it is hot here

        Reply
        1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

          Hi Allison, you’ve probably seen people around wearing a lot less than I suggest in my post. They seem to be going about their business without any problems and in most cases they are. However, it’s not respectful to the local culture. You just have to look at the sign above that is from the entrance to Dubai Mall to find out how the locals would prefer visitors to dress. So it’s OK in that you won’t get into any trouble but not OK if you want to show respect for locals.

          I don’t think you’ll be much cooler in short shorter than in shorts which are a bit longer and reach your knees but I hope you find a way to be comfortable 🙂

          Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Mary, yes you can and it’s a good way of saving money if you like a tipple. Each adult is allowed up to four litres of alcohol be it wine, beer or spirits. You can also stock up in Dubai duty free on arrival if you won’t want to weigh down your luggage with wine. The duty free shop is after immigration, in the baggage claim area.

      Reply
    1. Ann Marie

      Hi Candice, I’m travelling to the UAE in April with my friend (2 ladies in their 50’s from Glasgow!). We are spending time in Abu Dhabi, Dubai then a cruise taking in Muscat, Khasab as well as Dubai. You’ve given me a good idea of attire for Dubai, what about the other places? Also, any restrictions on clothing on the cruise ship itself. Thanks

      Reply
      1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

        Hi Ann Marie, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Khasab are more conserative than Dubai so more care should be taken there but if you follow the advice for Dubai that will also keep your alright in the other destination.

        For on board the ship then whatever you would normally wear on a cruise but just keep it more conservative when you go ashore.

        Reply
  19. Reece

    Hey. I’m going to Dubai this april with my mother and I pretty much do not know what to expect in terms of weather and also morals (I don’t want to be frowned upon for something I didn’t know was an offence lol!). I live in Scotland where it’s mostly miserable, cold and rainy literally everyday, I’m obviously not expecting this in Dubai, but is it as excruciating as people make it out to be? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Reece, I’m also from Scotland so I understand exactly what you mean about the weather!

      I don’t know what you’ve read about Dubai that makes it sounds excruciating? As the post above says, it’s a welcoming and tolerant place. If you use common sense regarding what you wear you won’t offend anybody. Also, don’t get falling down drunk in public and don’t take photos of any locals without their consent – which is really just common courtesy.

      The weather will be hot, think high 30s/40C. Luckily, it won’t be too humid as the extreme humidity doesn’t kick in until June. Air-conditioning is everywhere – hotels, taxis, shops, malls and hotel swimming pools are chilled so you can cool off nicely.

      If you have any other questions then feel free to ask.

      Reply
      1. Pam Smith

        Hi Candice, off subject but we are going on cruise and have an overnight in Dubai. Any suggestions on how to spend an evening there so that we see as much as possible.

        Reply
        1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

          Hi Pam, with one evening I would suggest getting a taxi from the port and going to Madinat Jumeirah which is only a few kilometres along the coast. The Madinat is a mordern development in the style of an old souq and is very nice to wander around – but definitely not a place to find a bargain! You will get a great view of the Burj al Arab and there are good points to take photos of it. There are lots of bars and restaurants here but after looking around I’d hop in a taxi to the Downtown area to see Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain and have dinner at a restaurant overlooking the fountain. My favourite restaurant is Thiptara (Thai) in the Palace Downtown Hotel. It’s at ground level, close to the fountain and almost feels like you are in the fountain. If you choose this place be sure to book in advance and specify that you want an outside table. It’s not cheap so if you prefer something more casual and less costly there are plenty of restaurants with fountain views in Dubai Mall. Just turn up – TGI Fridays gets good reports.

          Definitely do not miss the fountain shows, with the world’s tallest building as the backdrop they are quite spectacular. Shows run every half hour from 6-11pm and are best viewed after dark.

          Enjoy your short visit!

          Reply
  20. Nathja

    Hi Candice.
    I was hoping you’ll have the answer on what clothing to wear in Dubai if going to a business meeting. It’s no problem for my boyfriend; nice pants, nice shoes and a white shirt. But what about me, as female? It’s my boyfriends meeting but I want to represent him the best way I can.

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Nathja, it’s always so easy for men with business attire, isn’t it?! Actually, in Dubai it’s pretty straightforward for women too. I used to wear pretty much what I would have worn back in London on a hot day. I’d suggest a smart skirt to the knee or a bit longer (do they still call them pencil skirts? that’s what I wore) with a blouse or top which covers your shoulders and the top part of your arms. It’s OK to have a top that stops before the elbow but best to avoid sleeveless and of course no cleavage. If you prefer trousers it’s also OK to wear suit type trousers.

      Also, bare legs and sandals are absolutely fine.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  21. Elya

    Hello! Very useful tips! Thank you! I plan to visit Dubai 1 week before Christmas. Going with my partner – we are not officially married. I have heared it might be a problem when checking into the hotel.

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Elya, while it’s illegal for unmarried couples to share a hotel room it’s something that happens all the time. Thousands of unmarried couples visit without any problems and many unmarried expat couples live together in Dubai. Simply don’t tell anybody that you are not married. Hotel staff will assume you are married and the fact you have different surnames on your passports doesn’t mean anything. Many women don’t change their name when they get married and in some cultures it’s not done at all.

      As long as you don’t come to the attention of the authorities for some other reason then you should be fine. Enjoy your trip.

      Reply
  22. Eva

    Hi!

    I hope you are still checking this page. Great post thanks for ask the info. Couple questions, you had mention in the safari we should be able to wear what we want so shorts are ok? How about skinny jeans? And for during the day are sleeveless tanks tips ok?

    Thanks for all your help!

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Eva, thanks for your questions. Yes, shorts or skinny jeans are fine for a desert safari. It can get a little chilly at night in winter so I’d opt for jeans rather than shorts.

      Tops shouldn’t be too low cut and it’s best if your shoulders are completely exposed so a sleeveless tank top should be OK. Keep in mind that it can be quite cold in the malls due to the a/c so you may want a wrap or shirt to put on over the top of your tank.

      Have a wonderful trip!

      Reply
  23. JF

    This was a very helpful read! I’m going to Abu Dhabi and Dubai in two weeks and have put a lot of thought and time into packing appropriately. I now have plenty of modest clothes for daytime and some modest but stylish dresses for nice dinners, but I’ve been puzzled about what to wear to the nightclubs in Dubai. I think I have a better idea now, thanks to you!

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      It’s always good to hear that the guide is helpful, thanks for your comments and have a fabulous trip.

      Reply
  24. JayneDoh

    Great tips thank you.

    Travelling to Dubai this week with my 16 yo daughter.

    She has alot of crop tops and belly button pierced, will these cause offense. Also very long legs and high heels?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Jayne, yes, cropped tops are likely to cause offence and are best avoided if you/your daughter want to be respectful. Long legs and high heels will be fine if she follows the above advice and avoids short skirts and short shorts which are not respectful. You will see women wearing skimpy clothes either because they didn’t take the time to find out what sort of clothing is appropriate or they just don’t care about respecting local customs. It’s really up to you to decide.

      Reply
  25. hungrysandy

    Thank you for this post! I was worried about the desert safari and really wanted to wear shorts and a dri-fit top. Whew! Glad I read this since we are leaving tomorrow!

    Reply
  26. Jeanne

    Hey,

    I am going to Dubai on Friday, and I wanted to wear a long strapless dress? with a little scarf over to cover my shoulder. is that okay with their dress code?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi, it sounds fine. The a/c in malls and restaurants can be very chilly so you may need a more substantial wrap. Also, if you visit a mosque you will have to cover up more as explained above.

      Reply
  27. Hayley

    Hi Candice,

    I loved reading your article. Thank you.

    My husband, my little boy and I are visiting Dubai at the end of October and I’m unsure what type of clothes to take for the night. I was wondering whether you could help?

    My husband said to take jeans and nice tops to wear to restaurants but I wasn’t sure whether a dress would be more appropriate? Could I take a shawl off in the restaurants if I’m wearing a strappy top?

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Hayley, thanks for your message. It really depends on what sort of places you will be eating. For restaurants in malls and casual restaurants then jeans and nice tops will be fine but you may want to take a nice dress, or smart trousers, if you go to any upmarket restaurants.

      Ideally you shouldn’t wear strappy tops on their own but you will see many women doing this. It’s also worth bearing in mind that many restaurants and malls have the air-con up high so they can be a bit chilly and you might be glad of your shawl.

      Reply
  28. Alison

    Hi, I am going to Dubai in a few weeks time…birthday present from hubby!
    Have read through these reviews and found them very helpful.
    My husband loves to wear his flip flops, is this ok for during the day?
    Is there a danger/risk of being in ‘trouble’ if you do not wear the appropriate clothing?

    Look forward to hearing from you

    Thanks x

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      What a wonderful birthday present! It’s fine to wear flip flops for wandering around the streets and malls. If you go to any upmarket bars or restaurants then your husband will have to wear long trousers and closed shoes. As for being ‘in trouble’, you risk offending people if you are not appropriately dressed but unless you are really over the top then it’s unlikely you will be in any real ‘trouble’. But who wants to offend our hosts in a country that is being so tolerant? I hope you have a great trip and a wonderful birthday – I’d love to hear about it when you get back.

      Reply
        1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

          All of the currencies you mention can be easily changed at at exchange place so just take what’s most convenient for your. Many people swear by not taking much cash and just using credit cards or ATMs as they go along but it’s worth checking with your bank beforehand so you know what fees they will charge (if any) for ATM withdrawals and also to inform them that you’ll be using your cards in the UAE.

          Reply
            1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

              Hi Sherri, what a fantastic silver anniversary treat! If you have any specific things you are nervous about then feel free to email me via the ‘contact me’ button above and I’ll see if I can help.

              Reply
  29. Nomer

    A brief and helpful blog. I hope you will visit Philippines soon. I’ll be in Dubai this November and i hope i will have a great time.

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      I’d love to visit the Philipinnes. I’ve been to Manila for a couple of days but would love to see some of the beautiful islands. Have a fantastic time in Dubai.

      Reply
  30. Marina

    Hello
    We are going to Dubai in November and I was just wondering how short is acceptable for a dress. Can the knees show at all? What if it is a few inches above the knee?

    I also have to daughters that are 6&8 is there a dress code for kids?

    Also in general is the dress code more on the fancy side or casual one?

    Thanks a lot and I think your post was great!

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Thank you, glad you found it helpful. Just above the knee is fine but I would avoid anything more than a couple of inches above the knee at most. Kids can dress how they would in any other hot climate. You will see plenty of women in the malls and at the supermarket looking glam but casual is absolutely fine and acceptable. If you are going to an upmarket restaurant then of course you should dress accordingly but other than that, dress in a way that you are comfortable.

      Reply
  31. Lesa

    Thank you so much for all your great advice! I was wondering if I could buy sandals and linen trousers there, as the stores here in Ireland really aren’t carrying them so much right now.

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      I’m happy you found the advice useful. Yes, you can buy linen trousers and sandals in Dubai, either in more up-market stores or for sandals you can get cheap sandals in the Hypermarkets like Carrefour in Mall of the Emirates.

      Reply
  32. CS

    We will be heading to Dubai shortly and I was curious about the types of t-shirts my GF can wear. She enjoys wearing tight fitting t-shirts and I am thinking perhaps loose fitting would be more appropraite. Could you comment?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Of course loose would be better in an ideal world but Dubai residents/visitors are far from ideal. She won’t stand out in a tight fighting t-shirt but she should avoid low cut tops showing lots of cleavage.

      Reply
  33. Lesley

    Hi Candice,
    Not sure if you still check this page, I’m going away to Dubai in 6 weeks. My friend who has been before is making me paranoid about what i can and cannot wear.
    I found your post great and it has put me at ease somewhat.
    Sounds like i cannot really show my arms in public areas, which is fine, i will wear a shawl or cardigan with my strappy maxi dresses or sleeveless tops.
    My biggest concern is with my arms, particularly my left arm as a have a full sleeve of tattoos (I’m female by the way). My tattoos are not in anyway offensive, pretty flowers and a quote, but a) would this be considered disresectful if shown? b) Would it be acceptable to wear strappy dresses to nightclubs like i do in west end with my full sleeve of tattoos on show?
    I haven’t seen any advice on this and wondering if you could help.

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Lesley, you will be fine showing your tattoos. It’s not common to see full sleeve tattoos on women in the UAE but you won’t offend anybody and can wear strappy dresses to night clubs. I have a large tattoo on my back which is only visible if I’m at the pool and nobody has ever commented on it.

      Reply
  34. Monica

    This was incredibly helpful as I pack – thank you!
    My question is: I work for a high-end yoga/athletic retailer and I am helping to open one of our stores in Dubai. Almost my entire wardrobe consists of 3/4 length athletic leggings. Are these appropriate to wear in most settings? They cover my knees, but my concern is that they are fitted. What are you thoughts?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      I think your clothing would be fine. I run in leggings that come to just below my knees and are fitted so I don’t think there would be any problems with your line of clothing.

      Reply
  35. Luca

    Great article Candice. I have never been to Dubai before and am going next month, is it advisable for guys not to wear vests in the streets? Thanks

    Reply
  36. elaine

    We are just stopping over in Dubai airport en route to Thailand. Are there any do’s or don’ts about what to wear at the airport?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      It’s a very busy airport with lots of different nationalities milling about. Best to avoid skimpy clothing – but not many people travel in hot pants and crop tops!

      Reply
  37. Soph

    Hi,

    Is there any rule on flip flops and footware?

    Usually when I go on holiday I spend most of my time in flip flops and trainers, both day and night.

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Soph, you’ll be fine in flip flops and trainers in most places but if you go to any upmarket bars or restaurants then you’ll have to wear appropriate footwear – which can be a nice pair of open toe sandals for women, closed shoes for men.

      Reply
  38. Vicky

    Hi I am going to Dubai in 2 weeks and staying in Sharjah i understand that you must cover your shoulders and knees so i have bought a lot f loose trousers and tops to cover. I also have some shorts and skirts and dress above the knee for dubai. I wondered is it okay to wear a dress with a low back or a strappy back and wear a wrap with it or do i have to have my back and arms covered in restaurants and bars and hotels. I am happy to cover up but want to take some nice dress aswell.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi, Sharjah is more conservative than Dubai so you should take more care there about what you wear. Covered from neck to knee to elbow is best. I like to dress up to when going out in the evening too and in Dubai you can wear strappy tops or low backs with a wrap in nice bars and restaurants. I wouldn’t advise wearing that sort of stuff to the mall or wandering around though. Apart from anything else, the a/c in malls is quite chilly.

      Reply
  39. Briany

    This is so useful. I’ve never been to Dubai and I go in 2 weeks! I have a couple of questions; I read another blog that said anything see through isn’t acceptable, but if i’m wearing a normal strappy top with trousers to a mall or around the streets and i wear a kaftan that has small holes in the design or is slightly see through is that ok? I’m trying to find out as much as possible before I go spending money on clothes to find I cant/shouldn’t wear them. Another question is; i own a pair of Levi shorts that arent short shorts but also dont quite reach my knee, will they be ok?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Briany, I think what you describe with the kaftan and shorts sounds fine. Although being covered to the knees is ideal, if the shorts are just above the knee then I don’t think you’re going to offend anybody and it sounds as though the kaftan is not really see-through so that will be OK too.

      Reply
  40. Diane Diggins

    This has some very useful tips thank you. I’m visiting Dubai for the first time in October and I too have been stressing on the dress code. I have some denim shorts that sit just above the knee. Would these be OK to walk around sightseeing or would 3/4 be better to be on the safe side? I think I’m ok on everything else. I like to wear strappy tops too whilst walking around but I will have to change my attire for this trip I think

    Reply
    1. Diane Diggins

      The tops I mean are the ones similar to the ones at the top of this page. Not tight fitting ones though (loose fitting)

      Reply
      1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

        Denim shorts just above the knee will be fine – you’ll see many people in a lot less. Again, it’s all down to choosing to be respectful or not. It’s best to cover strappy tops with a loose blouse or something similiar. Tops like the one at the top of the page are fine for the beach but show too much flesh to be considered respectful walking around – and you’re likely to feel cold in a mall’s a/c with such a top on.

        Reply
  41. Mary

    Thanks for the awesome tips. I must admit I have been stressing a bit over what to wear on my upcoming trip. You may have already answered this, but just to be sure, is it ok to wear three quarter pants and a short-sleeved t-shirt to the Mosque if they give you an abaya to wear anyway? Also, would a dress that falls just below the knee with a small cap sleeve and dressy sandals be ok for a High Tea at the Burj Al Arab Sky Bar? Thanks so much for your advice!

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Thanks for your comment. You should turn up to the mosque appropriately dressed so could just throw a loose shirt over your t-shirt. To be honest I’m not sure how acceptable 3/4 length pants would be as I’ve never worn them or seen anybody with them so best to go for full length – not all mosques have abayas available. What you describe for high tea at Burj al Arab sounds perfect. Enjoy!

      Reply
  42. Jade

    Hi, I am going to Dubai next week and struggling to buy bottoms suitable! None of the shops I go into have 3/4 shorts however they do have “Knee length shorts” however these knee length shorts still show a little bit of my knees… Are these OK? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Jade, it’s great that you’re making an effort to dress respectfully. You will be fine with the shorts you describe. I hope you love Dubai as much as I do!

      Reply
  43. Sue Harris

    Women don’t have to wear an abaya to visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi but trousers, long sleeves and a headscarf are essential. In Dubai, I’m always comfortable in jeans or a “proper midi” (if anyone else reading this is old enough to remember what that was/is!) and a T shirt or sleeveless (but not strappy) top.

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Sue. Maybe the rules at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque have changed since my last visit as I was in an ankle length loose dress, long sleeved loose shirt and headscarf when I visited and I was still asked to put an abaya over the top – which surprised me as the same outfit has been acceptable in mosques in other countries such as Iran and Oman. (I have to admit, I’m old enough to remember what a midi was!)

      Reply
  44. Parker

    Enjoyed your write up. I’m leaving for Dubai in 2 weeks for a 3 day wedding, and am still a bit torn on what to bring. I’m a carryon girl even for 10 days, but got a big bag to check cause I’m bringing more than I need due to mixed thoughts on what to wear. I always wear maxi dresses and maxi shirts, but they’re always plunging halter tops or thin spaghetti straps at shoulders. So will be wearing lots of scarves as I definitely will not show my low cut tops.
    You mentioned men can’t wear sandles to nice restaurants. But are men’s nice leather sandles ok at more casual restaurants throughout the day? My husband doesn’t own any closed toe nice casual shoes come summer heat (we summer in the hamptons, and anything goes out there), so looks like he needs to find some fast.
    Lastly, can he jog on the streets in shorts? He’s training for a marathon the week we get back to the states, and he doesn’t do gyms. Or does he have to wear long running pants he only wears during winter time?
    Cheers!
    Parker recently posted…A Fashionable Family ReunionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Hi Karen, it’s fine for me to wear shorts out running (and good luck to your husband in his marathon!). Leather sandals will be fine at casual restaurants, it’s only the upscale venues that have the closed-toe rule.

      You’ve got the right idea with your top, scarfs and wraps to cover your cleavage will be respectful – and also welcome in the chilly a/c in malls.

      Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Both are fine when wandering around the streets, your hotel or a mall but, as mentioned, you will need to be more covered up if you visit a mosque.

      Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Thanks for the link to your blog. Happy to hear you enjoyed Dubai, the dress code really isn’t difficult to follow, as you found out.

      Reply
  45. Holidays Dubai

    its an excellent blog and your observation and knowledge about Dubai is very good. It is always respectful for ladies to wear knee length shorts and hey should not show skin in public places. Though it is a Muslim country but it is the tourist center of all over the world, so you can see varied people from every corner of the earth.

    Reply
  46. Attila Kiss

    May I wear a beautiful white kandora together with my real Emirati friend visiting the Dubai Mall and other places together? I am aEeuroepan white guy and I hope I can wear it without any problem.

    Reply
      1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

        May I wear a beautiful white kandora together with my real Emirati friend visiting the Dubai Mall and other places together? I am aEeuroepan white guy and I hope I can wear it without any problem.

        Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      From what I’ve heard, Emiratis and others from the region find it quite silly when Westerners wear a kandoura. But why don’t you ask your Emirati friend what he thinks? He may not mind at all.

      Reply
  47. swee

    What about kids, specially girls. Is there any dress code for kids, like they also must follow the adult dress code, OR can they wear regular western clothes (shorts and tank tops included)?

    Reply
    1. Candice - Desert to Jungle Post author

      Young (pre-adolescent) children can wear whatever they would wear in hot climates anywhere so shorts and tank tops are fine.

      Reply
  48. Glamourous Traveller

    Good tips!

    I’ve always found it safest (as a bare minimum) to just wear three quarters everything as a basic safe rule (3/4 sleeve tops, 3/4 sleeve pants) though that being said, like you mentioned, I went on a desert safari and wore shorts and it was perfectly fine =)

    Reply

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