Dubai dress code UPDATED: February 2018
Simple What to Wear Guide – dress code for woman, men, children, beach, mall, desert safari, nightlife, mosque, souks, sport.
Are you visiting Dubai for the first time and worried about the Dubai dress code?
Questions like ‘can I wear a bikini on the beach in Dubai?’ ‘what can I wear on a Dubai desert safari?’ and ‘what can I wear to a mall in Dubai?’ frequently appear online. You might have read that you can wear what you want anywhere you want; or read that you have to dress very modestly or you’ll be arrested. Neither of those is true and this Dubai – Simple What to Wear Guide explains the Dubai dress code so you can have a worry-free holiday.
Please feel free to comment and ask questions at the bottom of the page (updated: February 2018)
Dubai Dress Code – Quick Answers
- women don’t need to cover their head unless visiting a mosque
- it’s OK to wear a bikini on the beach or at the hotel pool – but only if you’re a woman!
- men can wear board shorts and t-shirts pretty much anywhere except high-end restaurants
- young children wear what they would wear in any other country with a hot climate
- to be respectful, women should cover shoulders, thighs, midriff and cleavage
- the older areas of Dubai are more conservative, dress accordingly
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 is a simple Dubai dress code to follow if you want to be respectful of local Emirati culture and tradition while still making the most of this unique destination.
Dubai Dress Code – A 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.
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 should 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.
What to Wear in Dubai – On a Desert Safari
Men and women can wear almost anything they feel comfortable in on a desert safari: 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. You won’t meet any Emiratis on these trips so don’t have to worry about offending them. Just be aware of how you’re dressed in your hotel lobby while you’re waiting for your pick-up, you may want to cover up a little.
What to wear in Dubai – Ramadan
Ramadan is a wonderful time to visit Dubai and experience the local culture. You can read about the rules during the holy month and how to have a great holiday here. The dress code during Ramadan, to be respectful, is more conservative. It’s a month of reflection and prayer for Muslims and you should make sure you are not flashing too much flesh.
What to Wear in Dubai – At the Mosque
This is one area where the Dubai dress code is strict and enforced. 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.
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 – Children
The Dubai dress code for children is pretty much what it would be in any other hot climate. Swimsuits are fine on the beach and by the hotel pool. Dubai is a very family-friendly destination and many hotel pools have shaded areas for young children. If your child is under 12 then they can wear normal, hot weather clothes like shorts and t-shirts when you’re out of the hotel. By 12 or so, you need to use common sense with how your daughters dress, if she’s starting to look like a young woman rather than a child she should follow the adult dress code.
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.
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.
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.
If you have any questions about the Dubai dress code then go ahead an ask. I’m always happy to hear from you.
Read detailed reviews, with photos, of my stays at more than 10 of Dubai’s top hotels: Luxury and Boutique Hotels