What to wear in Dubai: everything you need to know before travelling

You’ve just booked your holiday to Dubai or thinking about it. You find yourself being very unsure about what to wear in Dubai and what to pack for the trip. No worries, we got you covered (pun intended) ! This guide will give you all the heads up on what to pack for your holiday in the United Arab Emirates, both for men and women.

Frequently asked questions about what to wear in Dubai

  • Do you have to cover your hair? No
  • Do you have to wear an abaya/burqa in Dubai? No
  • Do you have to cover your shoulders in Dubai? No
  • Can you wear a bikini on the beach in Dubai? Yes
  • Can you wear short dresses in Dubai? Yes
  • Can you show skin in Dubai? Yes
  • Can you wear tight leggings in Dubai? Yes
  • What to wear during Ramadan in Dubai? Will tell you about that now.

Like seriously the list can go on and on and on but in a nutshell, if you are travelling to the UAE and Dubai you should know that it is all about context. You wouldn’t go for example to visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi wearing your flashy short pink dress.


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Things to consider when packing for Dubai

  • The weather: During summer it will be crazy hot, and winters can be chilly at night and early mornings!
  • The season: Just what we said. When will you be travelling? This will affect your packing list!
  • The traditions: The UAE is an Islamic country, hence always good to have few conservative pieces, but note that Dubai is quite liberal, as long you are smart about where to wear what. PS: NO, you won’t need an abaya.
  • The locals: Note that only 20% of the population is Emirati and the rest is predominantly expats.
  • The malls & sales: You actually might want to carry less and shop everything once on ground as Dubai has the biggest malls and all the international brands. Sales are always on somewhere but unfortunately note that the UAE has implemented a VAT Tax at 5%.
  • The activities you plan to do: For example, if you plan to do some outdoor camping in Dubai during the winter or other evening outdoor activities, you might consider warm jumpers or light coats that will keep you warm enough.

What To Wear in Dubai

Equally targeted for expats-to-be or visitors of Dubai, we would tell you it is “just like back home”. The only difference would be to mind the situation and location you will be in. Just like back home you would probably give a bad eye to a person wearing an overly short dress in public transport. What we mean by that is that being modest is the key. If you feel like being sexy, cover yourself in public and remove your extra layers in the bar or club, if you get what we mean by that.

The main places in Dubai would absolutely be in shopping malls and professional/government establishments. There will be a high number of locals, so you want to be respectful and not draw negative attention to yourself. You actually can get a visit by security in malls if you got a complaint from someone, so better not put yourself in such situation.

What To Wear in Abu Dhabi

This guide is actually going to give you a broad idea about the whole United Arab Emirates, so it will apply to Abu Dhabi as well. You must know that Abu Dhabi is a little more conservative than Dubai, hence you might not want to walk around in your short shorts as comfortably there versus Dubai!

What To Wear to Public Places in Dubai

Public places are the streets, public transportation, shopping malls, parks, souks/markets, restaurants/cafés, festivals, etc.

For women, for tops or anything that is covering your belly button and not showing too much of shoulders. If you are going to wear a shirt shorter than a t-shirt, make sure to have a vest or scarf. For bottoms, knee-length is the recommended shortest. You could go a bit shorter, but this will depend of your body shape, as it can be quite scandalous accordingly. If you are going to the local markets, you might consider covering up even more considering you will be around a lot of men that will stare at you.

For men, how easy is it to be a man eh? Guess the best way to put this is, don’t wear speedos, boxers and transparent t-shirts? Don’t wear shirts with offensive messages? That’s pretty much it, you men have it quite easy!

Many tourists or expats won’t care, but that is unfortunately their decision to ignore the modesty and not respect the local culture of the land that is welcoming them. This usually make us quite irritated. Again, would like to emphasis on the fact that it depends of the context. If you are going to a restaurant that is quite festive, you won’t need to cover up as much as if you were going to a traditional restaurant. Piece of advice, always have a vest with you, just in case!

What To Wear at the Mosque in Dubai

For women, it is recommended to wear pants that aren’t too tight and a top that will cover shoulders, cleavage, back… well just skin! It’s okay for hands and feet. Absolutely bring a scarf to cover your head. Not all mosques will provide you an abaya (the traditional black robe-like dress) to wear on top, so it would be smart to dress accordingly if you plan to get in a mosque. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi will certainly give you an abaya for lend. As for men avoid t-shirts, wife-beaters singlets and shorts. For the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, we usually tell men to wear full inappropriate outfits to be able to borrow the white kandora that local men wear in the region. If you are dressed conservatively already, they won’t let you lend a kandora. (It’s free of charge)

What To Wear at Beach in Dubai

Swimwear is allowed at all private and public beach and pool. We usually would say to leave your skimpy Brazilian thongs at home if you plan to go to public beaches. It’s a bit more acceptable if you are in some private parties or beach clubs, but even then, it’s quite attention seeking. As for men, we would recommend you to leave your Borat swimmers out of the country haha (this is obviously a joke, you can bring it in, but absolutely don’t go out at any beaches and public areas with that).

Although beach attire is accepted, don’t walk on the boardwalks, roads, beachside cafes and promenades in your swimwear. Not even half/half, just cover up it up with shorts and a tank top, a sundress/kaftan/ maxi or whatever else! There are many beach malls in Dubai (La Mer, The Beach JBR, Kite Beach Canteens, etc), so make sure to bring the extra cover-ups!


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What To Wear in Dubai in Summer

Air conditioning will be pumping everywhere you go, so consider bringing a vest with you ! If you are planning to walk outside, dress the same way but just go for fabric that is lighter. Best for women would be to wear light maxi dresses. We would say that during summer do avoid leather and jeans. Also make sure to carry tons of sunscreen if you are going to the beach. If you are spending the day indoors, go for longer pants because like we said you actually will be quite cold!


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What To Wear in Dubai in Winter

Winter is a wonderful time to be in Dubai. Although in the evenings it does get a bit cold. Do have a light coat or scarf and actually wearing long pants will be more comfortable!

What other things should I Pack for Dubai

For Women

  • A scarf is a must! You will find it useful to always have one with you in your purse just in case what you wore is not appropriate at a venue.
  • Always bring one pair of high heels because Dubai does have  a lot of fancy pantsy places !
  • Any type of hat is handy to be able to not have the sun in your face all the time if you plan to spend quite some time outdoors.
  • Of course sunglasses which is useful all year.

For Men

  • Just like the women, make sure you have a good pair of sunglasses.
  • A hat is quite useful.

Bon voyage

You are now ready to visit Dubai and the UAE! Would love to hear about your experience there about your journey and also your impressions about what people wear in Dubai. If you a resident of the United Arab Emirates, we would love to hear about your thoughts and if you have anything you would like to add to it !

Ma'a as-salaama

  • Have you ever visited Dubai? Share with us your experience if you have been! You can also read more about the UAE to make your journey a memorable one!
  • Don’t forget to book your travel insurance before travelling.
  • If you don’t have your flights, check out ways to book the cheapest fares here.

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