Dos and Dont’s in Dubai

When we hear the word United Arab Emirates, many people think of 1001 Nights, the desert, the Middle East, Burj Khalifa, luxury hotels and shopping. The huge metropolises of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are absolutely hip and are attracting more and more tourists from all over the world. Everyone wants to visit the city of superlatives, see the tallest building in the world, visit a man-made palm island and enjoy a bit of luxury. Dubai has breathtaking sights, great beaches, colorful markets and luxury for every budget.

So we all have a good idea of the attractions and what the city of superlatives has to offer. But what do we actually know about the culture of VAT? People follow Islam do not eat pork, women often wear traditional clothing and cover themselves with a Abaya, alcohol is forbidden and even as a couple you have to follow certain rules on how to behave in public – How do these religious values and norms affect us as a tourist? What am I allowed to do and what are we not allowed to do in Dubai?

Check the local rules before you visit Dubai

Dubai attracts millions of tourists and business travelers from around the world every year. As an Islamic country with a captivating blend of Eastern customs and Sharia principles, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the cultural differences and laws before your first visit. Therefore, we have compiled useful tips and advice to ensure a smooth journey and avoid any misunderstandings.

Do Not Dress Inappropriately

Dubai has a dress code for tourists that reflects its cultural and Islamic values. While it is a relatively liberal city compared to some other places in the region, it is important for tourists to dress modestly and respectfully when in public areas, especially in places of religious significance.

The face of an arabic woman wearing a hijab.

Dress Code for Men

  • Men can generally wear clothes like short-sleeved shirts and regular shorts or long pants.

  • In more casual settings like the beach, wearing swim shorts or trunks is acceptable.

  • While traditional Emirati clothing like the kandura (a long white robe) is not required for tourists, it can be worn as a sign of respect if desired.

Dress Code for Women

  • Women should cover their shoulders and knees. Short skirts, sleeveless tops, and low-cut dresses should be avoided.

  • Bathing suits are acceptable at beaches and swimming pools but should not be worn in public places outside these areas.

  • When visiting mosques or religious sites, women are often required to cover their hair with a scarf (hijab) and wear an abaya (a loose-fitting black robe).

Important "don'ts" of the dress code in Dubai

A cross-dresser holding a heart of LGBT colors in the hand.
  1. Don’t Get Upset or Aggressive if Asked to Cover Up: If you are asked by authorities or individuals to dress more modestly or cover up, it’s important to remain calm and comply with the request. Getting upset or aggressive can lead to unnecessary trouble.

  2. Don’t Cross-Dress: Cross-dressing is prohibited in Dubai and can result in legal consequences. It’s essential to dress in a manner consistent with your gender identity as stated on official documents.

  3. Don’t Bathe Topless or in the Nude: Public nudity, including bathing topless, is strictly prohibited in Dubai. Always use appropriate swimwear.

A woman wants to kiss a man, but he turns his face away.

Can Unmarried couples share a hotel room?

In Dubai there are certain behavioral norms and cultural expectations for couples.


  1. Holding Hands: It is generally acceptable for couples to hold hands in public places. This is a common display of affection and is unlikely to draw much attention.

  2. Private Resorts and Hotels: Inside private resorts and hotels, couples can generally behave more openly, including holding hands, hugging, and showing affection without drawing much attention.

Not allowed:

  1. Public Displays of Affection: Kissing, hugging or cuddling should be kept to a minimum and should not be too pronounced.

  2. Unmarried Couples Sharing Hotel Rooms: Dubai follows Islamic law, and it is illegal for unmarried couples (including same-sex couples) to share a hotel room. However, many hotels do not enforce this strictly for tourists, but it is still generally advisable for unmarried couples to check the specific policies of the hotel or accommodation they plan to stay in.

A security man looking to the skyline of Dubai.

Drinking Alcohol in Dubai

Alcohol regulations in Dubai are subject to local laws and customs, and it’s essential to be aware of them to avoid legal issues.


  1. Legal Drinking Age: The legal drinking age in Dubai is 21 years old.

  2. Licensed Venues: Alcohol is typically served in licensed venues such as hotels, bars, clubs, and restaurants.

  3. Purchase Alcohol: You can buy alcohol in licensed liquor stores, often located in hotels or designated areas.

  4. Parties and Events: You can attend parties and events where alcohol is served, but these events are typically held in licensed venues.

Not allowed:

  1. Drink in Public: Drinking alcohol in public places, such as streets, parks, or beaches, is not allowed and can result in fines or legal consequences.

  2. Drinking and Driving: Drink alcohol and driving is strictly prohibited, with a zero-tolerance policy. Penalties can include fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment.

  3. Ramadan: During the holy month of Ramadan, it’s important to be respectful and refrain from consuming alcohol in public during daylight hours. Alcohol consumption is restricted during this period.

Arabic family celebrating a dinner together.

Can I eat during the day during Ramadan?

Ramadan is a significant and sacred Islamic festival observed by Muslims worldwide. It is a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn (Suhoor) until sunset (Iftar). The fast is broken each evening with a meal called Iftar.

For tourists visiting Dubai during Ramadan, it’s important to be respectful and considerate of the local customs and religious practices.


  1. Public Consumption: Avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours. Doing so can be considered disrespectful and may lead to fines.

  2. Music and Dancing: It’s best to avoid loud music or dancing in public areas, as it may disrupt the solemn atmosphere of Ramadan.

  3. PDA: Public displays of affection should be minimized during Ramadan.

Two arabic man with tradiotional clothes are taking a selfie.

Taking Pictures Without Permission

Snap a photo in public is generally allowed in Dubai, but you need to be extremely cautious while doing so.

  1. Respect Privacy: Avoid photographing individuals without their consent if they are in private or intimate situations.

  2. Government Buildings and Security: Be cautious when photographing government buildings, military buildings, or sensitive areas. Photography of such locations can be restricted, and it’s best to ask for permission or avoid it altogether.

  3. Religious Sites: When visiting mosques or religious sites, be respectful of the rules regarding photography. Some places may prohibit or restrict photography inside the premises, especially during prayer times.

Monitor in a aiport checking the luggage of a passenger.

Things you shouldn’t carry with you

Dubai has strict regulations regarding prohibited items carried through Dubai International Airport. Here are some items you should not carry with you when visiting Dubai:

  1. Narcotics and Controlled Substances: Bringing drugs, narcotics, or any controlled substances into Dubai is strictly prohibited. This includes prescription medications containing controlled substances without the appropriate permits.

  2. Prescription Medicines Without Paperwork: It’s essential to have the correct paperwork for any prescription medicines you intend to bring with you. This includes a valid prescription from a licensed medical professional in your home country.

  3. Pornographic Material: Possession or importation of pornography is illegal in Dubai. This includes explicit magazines, videos, and other adult material.

  4. Counterfeit Goods: Bringing counterfeit products or counterfeit currency into Dubai is against the law.

  5. E-Cigarettes and Vaping Devices: Vaping devices and e-cigarettes are banned in the UAE. Bringing them into the country can result in fines and confiscation.

  6. Materials Offensive to Islam: Any materials deemed offensive to Islam or the Royal Family, such as books, pictures, or other items, are prohibited.

  7. Drones: Flying drones in Dubai without the proper permits is generally not allowed. Bringing a drone into Dubai may require special permission.

  8. Pets: Importing pets to Dubai involves specific regulations and requirements, including health certificates and vaccinations.

Always check check UAE’s official website or the airline you are flying with before traveling to Dubai.

Be careful with hand gestures

Arabic men gather together and drink coffee seating in traditional Bedouin tent.

It’s essential to be aware of cultural differences and norms when it comes to hand gestures in Dubai. While many hand gestures are universal, some gestures may have different meanings or interpretations in different cultures.

  1. Avoid Obscene or Rude Gestures: Obscene or rude hand gestures are not tolerated in Dubai and can lead to legal consequences.

  2. Thumbs-Up: While the thumbs-up gesture is considered positive in many cultures, in the Middle East, it can be seen as offensive.

  3. “OK” Sign: In some cultures, forming a circle with the thumb and index finger and holding the other fingers straight up is a sign for “OK.” However, in Dubai and some other Middle Eastern countries, this gesture can be interpreted as offensive, resembling the evil eye.

Do not Swear in Public

In Dubai, as in many other places around the world, using offensive language or swearing in public is generally considered impolite. It’s important to be mindful of your language and behavior when in public spaces to ensure a respectful and harmonious environment:

  1. Respect for Local Culture: Dubai is a diverse and cosmopolitan city, but it also values cultural norms and traditions. Using profanity or offensive language can be seen as a breach of these values and may offend others.

  2. Laws and Regulations: The use of profanity in a way that disturbs public order or offends others may have legal consequences.

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Do not miss visiting the popular tourist spots

Certainly! Dubai offers a wide range of popular tourist spots and attractions that are not to be missed. Here are some must-visit places when you’re visiting Dubai:

  1. Burj Khalifa: The iconic Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. You can take an elevator to the observation decks on the 124th and 148th floors for breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

  2. Dubai Mall: Adjacent to Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall is one of the largest shopping malls globally, offering a mix of shopping, dining, entertainment, and attractions. Don’t miss the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo inside the mall.

  3. The Dubai Fountain: Located at the base of Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, the Dubai Fountain is a mesmerizing water and light show set on the artificial lake. It’s best enjoyed in the evening when the fountains are illuminated.

  4. Dubai Marina: This modern waterfront district is known for its stunning skyline, upscale restaurants, and vibrant nightlife. Take a leisurely walk along the Marina Promenade and enjoy the views.

  5. Palm Jumeirah: A palm-shaped man-made island, Palm Jumeirah is home to luxury resorts, beautiful beaches, and the iconic Atlantis, The Palm resort.

  1. Jumeirah Beach: Relax on the pristine Jumeirah Beach and enjoy the clear waters and the view of the Burj Al Arab, another iconic Dubai landmark.

  2. The Dubai Frame: This architectural marvel provides a unique perspective on old and new Dubai. The glass bridge offers panoramic views of both sides of the city.

  3. Al Fahidi Historic District: Explore the historic Al Fahidi neighborhood, with its wind-tower architecture, narrow lanes, art galleries, and the Dubai Museum.

  4. Dubai Opera: If you’re interested in arts and culture, catch a show or concert at the stunning Dubai Opera, known for its world-class performances.

  5. Ski Dubai: For a unique experience, head to Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates, an indoor ski resort with real snow slopes and various winter activities.

  6. Desert Safari: Take a desert safari to experience the stunning desert landscape, go dune bashing, ride camels, and enjoy a traditional Arabian dinner under the stars.

  7. Dubai Miracle Garden: If visiting during the right season (usually November to April), don’t miss the Dubai Miracle Garden, a breathtaking display of flowers and designs.

  8. Old Dubai: Explore the charming Al Bastakiya Quarter, visit the historic Dubai Museum, and enjoy shopping at the traditional Gold and Spice Souks.

Section of a shop window full of gold jewelry, such as necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

Can I buy fake Goods while visiting Dubai?

Buying fake or counterfeit goods, including counterfeit luxury brand items, is illegal in Dubai and the wider United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai has strict regulations and laws in place to combat the sale and purchase of counterfeit products.

Engaging in the trade or purchase of counterfeit goods can result in legal consequences, including fines, confiscation of the counterfeit items, and potentially even imprisonment.

Is the public transport safe in Dubai?

Monorail subway trains run between glass skyscrapers in Dubai.

Yes, public transport in Dubai is generally safe and well-regarded. The city has invested significantly in developing a modern and efficient public transportation system, making it one of the most accessible and convenient cities in the world for getting around.

The Dubai Metro has rules and regulations in place to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers. Consuming food and beverages, including chewing gum, smoking, loud music etc. is generally not allowed on the Dubai Metro.

A 4x4 in the desert with the skyline of Dubai in the background.

What is the drug policy in Dubai?

Dubai has extremely strict laws regarding drug possession and trafficking. Possessing even small amounts of illegal drugs can lead to severe legal consequences, including lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty for serious drug-related offenses. Travelers are strongly advised not to engage in any illegal drug activities.

Conclusion for your perfect Dubai Trip

In conclusion, Dubai offers a mesmerizing blend of modernity and tradition, making it a captivating destination. However, to ensure a trouble-free and truly wonderful experience in this vibrant city, it is imperative to adhere to the dos and don’ts laid out by the local authorities.

By taking the time to familiarize oneself with the local rules and customs before visiting Dubai, travelers can avoid any potential pitfalls and ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. Respecting the cultural norms, abiding by the legal regulations, and being mindful of the local sensitivities will not only keep you out of trouble but also allow you to immerse yourself in the rich and diverse experiences that Dubai has to offer. So, remember to do your homework, stay informed, and embrace the incredible culture and hospitality of Dubai, and you are sure to have an unforgettable time in this magnificent city.

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