what to wear in dubai clothes dress code

What to wear in Dubai – The Dubai dress code

Dubai is a very popular destination. With amazing malls, great beaches and legendary parties, no wonder millions of tourists visit this city every year. It is the most popular and open emirate in the United Arab Emirates. We need to keep in mind that the UAE is a muslim country. This means that there are laws and customs that might be different from our own, but that we need to respect.
People often ask me what to wear when travelling to Dubai. Can you wear open dresses and shorts? Are you able to wear a bikini on the beach? Will breaking the dress code get you arrested?
When we packed our bags to move to Dubai I threw out a lot of my clothes and bought a ton of knee-length and sleeved dresses. All blog posts I read told me to dress modest and to cover up as much as possible. I said goodbye to my favourite dresses and decided to invest in some more modest clothing. I regret doing this every single day.
Why? Because Dubai has no dress code! Yes – you read that right. Unlike in Sharjah, you will not get prosecuted for wearing clothes that do not cover your shoulders and knees.
There are a few “buts” you need to keep in mind when travelling to Dubai. I will elaborate below and explain how I deal with it and what kind of clothing I wear.
weather dubai dress code tourists what to wear
Although Dubai looks lush and green and modern, big parts of the emirate still exist out of desert. The city of Dubai may be coastal – the only effect the sea has on the weather is that in summer it can be very humid. Yes that is right! A humid, desert coastal city. One day your lips chap because it is so dry, the next you sweat your pants of because of the humidity. I had no idea about this before I moved.
Because Dubai has consistent temperatures of 45 degrees in summer and 24 in winter, you will not be needing gloves and a thic coat when visiting. You should try and opt for cotton T-shirts and linnen trousers. Choose breathable fabric over polyester and bring flip flops and comfortable canvas shoes. Try to avoid shoes made of artificial fabric because they might give you stinky feet.
As most apartment buildings and hotels boast beautiful rooftop pools you will want to bring your swimsuit. You can wear a bikini but G-strings are generally frowned upon or even banned through dress code regulations. When moving from your room to the pool or from the beach to the shops or malls, make sure to cover up!
If you are planning on spending considerable time outsside, bring clothes to protect you from the sun. Yes, you will be able to protect yourself using sun screen, but you should always be careful and protect your head and shoulders. A nasty sun or heat stroke is never far away on a day-long desert safari or hike.

What to wear in Dubai to respect local culture

When you go to Dubai, it is important to respect the local culture. This does not mean you need to cover up from head to toe, but merely that you need to cover your shoulders and upper legs.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Dubai and Emirati people. Emiratis are some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. The whole Emirati culture revolves around hospitality and being the perfect host. This is one of the things I love about living in Dubai.
The fact that Emirati people are so welcoming and open minded means that you do not want to offend them in any way. Or – at least I don’t! Emirati’s are always ready to help you out, to assist you or to provide you with information. If you dress inappropriate, however, you might find that the local people – not even emirati, are less helpful or welcoming.
The local culture is one of covering shoulders and upper legs. And this is a dress code you are best to respect when going to a mall or museum. I myself have often tsk’ed at tourists wearing crop tops or short dresses in the local mall. Why? Because it is completely inappropriate and inconsiderate.
Sharjah, the emirate next to Dubai does have a legal dress code. When crossing the border you need to cover your shoulders and upper legs. If you do not do this you can be find AED 100 on the spot.
On the beaches you can wear whatever you want. There are, however, some family beaches that might have a certain dress code. It is best to check this before going.

What to wear in Dubai: keeping in mind context and place

So Dubai has no dress code, yet you say that you should cover up your shoulders and upper legs when going to the mall or to museums? Yes! Because you need to dress for the occasion.
When I head out for a brunch – I might wear something with a cleavage or that does not cover my upper legs to the knees. I still make sure it is not too skimpy or that – when the dress is too short, I wear stockings or leggings.
There is a context and place for wearng certain dresses or certain things. When you want to wear swim wear, you obviously do this in and around the beach or pool. When you step away from the pool or decide to go from the pool to the mall, you need to cover up.
The same is true for going to a brunch or a night club. You can wear whatever you want – some people wear skirts and dresses so short you can lip read. But as long as all they do is go from home to taxi to brunch/club to taxi to home, that’s okay.
Brunches, clubs and other places will have strinct dress codes to avoid confusion. Best to check the dress code. When yo go to the 0 gravity brunch, for instance, you will need to wear clothing (instead of the bikini or bathing suit you have been wearing all day) after 7PM. At 7PM they implement a dress code.

More info about Dubai

If you are looking to travel to Dubai you might also like this overview I made of the most important travel tips when visiting Dubai. 

My husband and I moved out to Dubai in August 2018. My husband is an international teacher and we love to help other teachers adjust in the UAE. If you are moving to the UAE to teach or to work, you might benefit from reading this post about moving to Dubai from the United Kingdom. 


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.