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What is the Dubai Dress Code? What to wear in Dubai!

Are you planning a trip to Dubai? What to wear in Dubai – and more importantly: what not, is a question I often receive in my mailbox. Although a lot of websites make the Dubai Dresscode out to be more strict than it actually is, it is important to dress appropriately.  Nudity for instance, can land you in jail. Sure, you need to dress modestly when walking around on the streets, but it’s not like showing cleavage will land you in jail.

So what will? What can you wear in Dubai? And what will be frowned upon? Let me explain! 

The dress code in Dubai does not apply in your own home or hotel room.

When heading out, however, it is important to keep in mind where you are heading and what dress code will apply. When walking down the street or going to a mall or a supermarket, I would recommend wearing something that covers your shoulders and your upper legs to your knees. Some malls and supermarkets might ban you from entering if you don’t comply. 

In Dubai Mall – overall – you can wear whatever you want as long as it is not too short or revealing. I walked through the mall in my brunch or ladies’ night clothes before. 

Some websites might tell you that you will need an abaya to visit the court or a government building. This is absolute bull! Just wear something that covers your shoulders – preferably your upper arms, and your upper legs to your knees. 

When you head to a brunch or a party or a ladies’ night you can wear a short dress with a plunging cleavage – nobody will care, really. 

I honestly don’t necessarily keep to the “cover shoulders” bit as long as they are not spaghetti straps. Rules and expectations have progressed these past few years and as long as what you are wearing looks smart. 

Tip: As long as your dress is long enough, you can bring a little cardigan or even a scarf to cover yourself up when heading into the mall after a party or a brunch. 

What are the most important dress code rules

Although you won’t really get into trouble with the police in Dubai for wearing something with a bit of cleavage, it is important to respect the local culture when out and about in Dubai.  
The general rule is that your body should be covered from your shoulders to your knees when you are on the street. This is not a law but rather culturally expected when out on the street.

As for men: don’t go out without a top. Walking around bare-chested is something you actually might get into trouble for. But if we’re honest: you wouldn’t walk around London or Paris without a top either. 

Men can wear shorts but do make sure the shorts are not too short. We soon found out that walking around in shorts in some (more local) malls was a bit awkward as everyone around you is wearing trouers or kandoras. 

Wear appropriate clothing when visiting a mosque in Dubai

When visiting a mosque in Dubai, you need to adhere to the strict dress-code. If you are not a Muslim, you may not be allowed to enter the mosque at all.

Women are asked to wear a headscarf and an Abaya. When visiting a mosque please wear something that covers your arms and legs completely. Mosques open to tourists might have clothing available. 

Please take a headscarf with you to cover up your hair. You will also be asked to take off your shoes.

Women must cover both their hair and their entire body. Men don’t have to cover their hair, but can’t wear shorts or sleeveless shirts.

What to wear in restaurants and bars in Dubai

When looking at what to wear in restaurants and bars, I will keep to the more high-end restaurants and bars where they serve alcohol. In all the other kids of restaurants and bars, I would keep to the normal dress code: cover upper-legs and shoulders. 

For more upscale places, bars and brunches I would just wear whatever I would wear in Europe: a nice dress. I don’t think about covering up legs or shoulders as I would (probably) go from home to taxi to venue to taxi to home. 

Some bars and restaurants might have dress codes for men – but this is rather to make sure you are not wearing slippers and a football shirt. Most dress codes are Smart Casual. 

Can you wear a bikini in Dubai

You can definitely wear a bikini near swimming pools and on the beach in Dubai. There are, however, a few rules you need to adhere to:

  • Do not wear string bikini.
  • Do not go to a mall or café in your swimsuits, but change your clothes first.
  • It is not permitted to wear wet swimwear underneath your clothing if this makes your clothes translucent.
  • Topless sunbathing is forbidden in Dubai.
  • Some public beaches might not allow bikinis so it is a good idea to buy a pool pass on groupon or cobone to access a private hotel beach and pool. 

Clothes to take to Dubai

When heading to Dubai there are a few items of clothing you might want to take with you to easily adapt to the dress code and clothing expectations. 

Wear leggings and tights under short dresses

As long as you wear tights or leggings under a short dress, you are okay. 

I’m not kidding… it’s all about that skin! 

Even in the more “conservative” Emirate of Sharjah leggings under a short(er) dress are allowed. 

Carry a cardigan for aircon and to cover your shoulders

I always bring a cardigan in my massive bag. I don’t only do this to adhere to certain dress codes (you never know when you want to pop into the local mall) and to battle the waaaaay too cold airconditioning! 

A shawl is great against cold evenings and to cover shoulders

Evenings in Dubai can get quite chilly at times! Most restaurants with outside seatings will offer you a little blanket, but I prefer bringing a shawl anyway. 

Shawls are also great for covering up your shoulders when you need to. 

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