Last Updated on February 22, 2021 by Natasha Amar
Your complete guide to the Dubai dress code for both women and men, all year round.
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If it’s your first time visiting Dubai, you may rightly be confused about what to wear in Dubai and what to pack, considering that the weather in Dubai can be very hot in summer (think 52 degrees Celsius). If you really want to enjoy your trip, you’ve got to plan carefully when to visit Dubai and you have got to pack right.
While the UAE is an Islamic country, Dubai is surprisingly modern, multicultural, and fashionable. Over 70% of the population is made of expatriates and Western culture is predominant, BUT the locals are always dressed modestly.
You might have seen social media influencers and celebrities posting updates from Dubai, perched on skyscrapers or riding camels in the desert, dressed in tiny shorts. Well, as someone who was born and raised in Dubai, and has been resident here all my life, I’m just going to say it- sadly, social media or the ‘gram is not a reliable point of reference to understand how to dress appropriately in Dubai.
These jarring contrasts can leave you wondering about the right Dubai dress code. I know that not everyone understands how to pack for Dubai because ever so often readers will write to me with these questions which I’ve gone on to answer in detail in this guide:
- Do you have to wear an abaya or burqa (or traditional Dubai clothing) in Dubai?
- Can you wear a bikini on the beach in Dubai?
- Can you wear shorts in Dubai?
- Can you wear ripped jeans in Dubai?
- I’ve heard you should only wear loose clothing in Dubai, should I bring only linen pants, scarves and long-sleeved shirts?
What To Wear in Dubai
First, let me say this: Dubai is a modern city in the UAE. A majority of the population in Dubai is made up of expats from all over the world including the Indian subcontinent, other parts of Asia and the African continent, and some neighborhoods are predominantly home to expats from the West.
Traditional Dubai clothing is modest, classic and beautiful, and modern versions can also be high-fashion. But you as a tourist do not need to wear traditional Dubai dress.
In fact, Dubai is perhaps the most modern, cosmopolitan and forward-looking city in the Middle East, and tolerance is one of the foundations of Emirati society and culture. The only thing that is expected of tourists is to be respectful.
When it comes to the all-important question of what to wear in Dubai as a tourist, the answer is simple- wear clothing that is modest, elegant and appropriate for the weather, AND for the culture.
You might be interested in my guide to the best time to visit Dubai to help you understand the weather and know what to expect.
So, what can women wear in Dubai, you ask? Women can wear summer dresses, jumpsuits, skirts and tops, jeans, leggings and even shorts. Men would dress like they would anywhere else- so, men can wear shirts, t-shirts, shorts, trousers, and jeans. Western, international clothing is perfectly acceptable in Dubai, as long as it is not too revealing.
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You are also welcome to wear your national dress in Dubai, as long as it is modest- you’ll see many nationalities like Indians and others from the subcontinent wearing their national attire such as saris and salwar kameez.
As a local in Dubai, I squirm in irritation when I see someone dressed inappropriately in a shopping mall, to the movies, or on the metro. It’s easy for me to see, quite plainly and obviously, why a certain attire might be completely wrong in Dubai.
So I decided to write this guide to what to wear in Dubai in the hope that it helps you pack right and know what to wear and how to dress in Dubai. I hope it inspires you to reflect upon the implications of tourists’ behavior abroad, and how, a little respect and regard goes a long way to appreciate cultures that might be vastly different from our own.
By the way, you can also join our Dubai Travel Planning Group on Facebook where you’ll find plenty of free resources, practical information and insider tips about cool restaurants, cafes, instagrammable spots, attractions and things to do in and around Dubai. Click on the image below to join.
Other than suggesting outfit ideas for your Dubai trip, I’ve also included detailed answers to some frequently asked questions, so that in addition to knowing what to pack and how to dress in Dubai, you can also understand and hopefully appreciate the why of it all. Finally, I’ve included a section on what NOT to wear in Dubai, so that you can avoid making innocent mistakes that invite serious consequences.
Does Dubai Have a Dress Code?
Yes, there are dress codes in Dubai, depending on where you’re going.
Public places in Dubai do have a dress code that’s clearly defined- you’ll see this at the entrance to shopping malls, retail and entertainment areas, beaches, and parks. This is both thoughtful and practical because when you have a city that is so multicultural, dressing decently and modestly can mean different things to different people, depending upon where they’re from, and the same applies to tourists.
- Briefly, in public places like shopping malls, women need to cover their shoulders and knees.
- Women may wear jeans, trousers, dresses, shorts, or skirts that are at-least knee length, and tops and dresses with sleeves or that are sleeveless, but not off-shoulder.
- Spaghetti straps or off-shoulder tops and dresses are not appropriate in malls, unless you throw a cardigan or shawl over them.
- Men must also be mindful of the length of their shorts and ensure it’s appropriate for a mall or casual restaurant, and wear a shirt or t-shirt with sleeves.
- Men must button their shirts in public places- I only say this because I have, in the past, been shocked to see a bare-chested gentleman (or two) at the Dubai Mall and Dubai Marina Mall, shirt casually thrown on but unbuttoned. Please do not be that guy.
Basically, don’t dress like you’re going to the beach or gym when you’re not actually at the beach or gym, and you should be fine.
Of course, this is different from the Dubai dress code for mosques, beaches, bars and nightclubs, and desert safari and I’ve gone into more detail about those in the following sections.
Additional Reading: Best Free Things to do in Dubai
How To Dress in Dubai as a Female Tourist?
Or maybe what you’re really wondering is: How much skin is too much? This is where the unspoken rules of dressing right come into play. Now to be honest, I’ve read similar ‘how to dress in Dubai’ posts where the authors talk about how it’s okay to wear what you want in Dubai because everyone does it anyway.
I strongly disagree and here’s why: I’m all for cultural exchange and female empowerment, and so are the locals in the UAE. You only have to look to the achievements of the fierce, independent Emirati women here to recognize that. And even as the hardcore feminist that I am, I believe that dressing respectfully is a matter of showing regard for the sanctity of local culture, as a guest in someone else’s home.
In Dubai, how much skin show is okay largely depends on where you’re dressing for. While dressing as a female tourist in Dubai, think about if there will be many locals and families where you’re going- the shopping malls, cinema, park, mosque, cultural event, local restaurant, or just young, party-happy expats- beach club party, brunch, and nightclub etc.
If you’re going to a place with a mix of both, then dress modestly, i.e. in a way that is not offensive to the local culture.
Wondering where to stay in Dubai? Read my guide to Dubai hotels and apartments for every budget.
What To Wear in Dubai for Men
This guide has detailed advice for what to wear in Dubai for both men and women in individual sections. But briefly, men must dress appropriately as well while adhering to the dress codes for each place, especially restaurants and bars.
Men can wear shirts, t-shirts, shorts, trousers, and jeans, but should refrain from wearing vests and tanks except at the beach or gym. It’s not acceptable for men to be shirtless in public anywhere except at the beach or poolside.
How To Know If You Should Dress Modestly in Dubai
Consider this- will there be locals and local families around where you’re going? You can expect that to be the case in shopping malls, at the cinema, in public parks, souks, old parts of Dubai like Jumeirah, Deira, Al Fahidi, and Satwa, as well as local and casual restaurants. If the answer is yes, you should dress modestly.
If you expect to be around the newer parts of Dubai that are mainly home to expats, such as Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residence or Jumeirah Lake Towers, or are going to the beach, a beach party or pool party in a hotel, a fancy restaurant, bar, or club in a hotel, you can dress much more freely.
But It’s Hot: What To Wear in Dubai in Summer
The need for tourists in Dubai to dress sensibly does not mean you have to cover yourself in yards of fabric, especially in summer when it’s hot and not exactly the best time to visit Dubai. Like I said, Dubai is fashionable and you’ll find that people here are dressed like they would be in any big city.
In summer, temperatures can go up to 52 degrees Celsius and some summer days in Dubai can see as much as 90% humidity. Here are some tips on how to dress in Dubai in summer:
- If you’re visiting Dubai in summer, pack clothing that is light and breezy fabrics that won’t cling to your skin and will allow you to breathe. Cotton and linen work well on such days, and light colors absorb less heat when you’re outdoors.
- Women should pack shorts, t-shirts, tops, and shirts, summer dresses, maxis, and midi skirts.
- I also personally prefer culottes and palazzo pants in vibrant summer prints or neutral colors over jeans in summer. In fact, I do everything I can to avoid wearing tight jeans in summer.
- To dress modestly or a bit more conservatively in summer in Dubai, consider maxi dresses, skirts, culottes and short-sleeved tops.
- Finally, don’t forget your swimwear so you can take a dip at the beach or in a hotel pool on hot summer days.
- In summer, men should pack t-shirts and shorts, but always bring shirts and trousers and at least a nice jacket that you can throw on if you happen to go to a fancy restaurant or bar.
- The thing with packing for Dubai, no matter how hot it is that time of year is, that you should be prepared for the fact that it’s almost always cold indoors because of air-conditioning, whether that is in the malls, offices, or bars and restaurants, so you’ll want to bring at least one or two jackets or cardigans (one casual, the other dressy). This applies for both men and women.
From fitted denims, dungarees, skirts, shirts, tops, and dresses, to jumpsuits and shorts, here’s how to dress in Dubai in different situations.
What To Wear to the Beach in Dubai
Beachwear is allowed on public beaches in Dubai- but strictly on the beach only. The Dubai beaches dress code says that women can wear bikinis and swimwear at both public and private beaches in hotels and pools (but my advice- leave your skimpy Brazilian thongs at home because they’re not appropriate at public beaches). Women should not wear transparent swimwear- you could be barred from entering beaches and pools, even in the hotels.
Men can wear swimwear as they would in any other city in the world, but please don’t show up in transparent, or white swimwear that becomes transparent in the water.
You’re not allowed to wear swimwear anywhere else other than the beach or pool, that means you can’t walk on the roads or sit at the beachside cafes and promenades in Dubai in your swimwear. You’ll need to cover up with shorts and a tank top, sundress, kaftan, or maxi. So don’t forget to pack a cover-up- that is an essential must-have when it comes to Dubai’s beach dress code.
If you’re going to the beach, don’t show up to take the metro there in skimpy shorts and a transparent top thrown over a bikini. The metro is a public place where you should be dressed modestly (see section for public places).
Flip-flops in Dubai are great but only for the beach. For malls and other places where you’ll be walking a lot, wear comfy sandals, shoes, or sneakers.
If you’re looking for general advice and tips for travel to Dubai, you’ll find this page useful.
What To Wear to Wild Wadi or Another Water Park in Dubai
If you’re hoping for water adventures in one of Dubai’s amazing themed water parks like Wild Wadi and Aquaventure, you should know that the Wild Wadi dress code and the code at other water parks requires you to wear proper swimwear, whether that’s one-piece swimsuits, bikinis, full body swimsuits, or another type of bathing suit (including burkinis).
Your swimwear should not be transparent (skip the thongs too).
Don’t show up in your underwear, flowing dress, or clothing that isn’t a bathing suit and expect to be allowed on the rides or in the water.
What To Wear to Public Places in Dubai
By public places I mean the shopping malls, metro, parks, souks and markets, restaurants, cafés, food or other festivals, and cultural events- you get the idea.
The Dubai dress code for female tourists is about maintaining the rules of modesty that don’t make local families uncomfortable in their own home.
What To Wear to The Dubai Mall and other Shopping Malls in Dubai
Shopping malls in Dubai have a dress code and while some malls enforce these more strictly than others, it’s best to dress modestly to avoid being in the situation where a security person has to come to tell you to cover up- that’s probably more unpleasant for them than for you. You’ll see the Dubai Mall Dress Code and the same for other malls displayed on signs at the entrances.
- Your clothes should be at least till the knee and your shoulders should be covered, so if you’re wearing a tank top or racer back, bring a shawl, cardigan or light jacket to cover up.
- Plus keep in mind that the malls in Dubai are air-conditioned- so while this may seem peculiar, it is true that it can get very cold indoors even when it’s very warm outside- you’d rather be covered up than not!
- Skirts in Dubai are okay- but again mind the length of your skirt and think about where in Dubai you’re headed.
- Mini-skirts are okay in a bar or club or for a brunch or to the beach, but they’re not a good choice for the mall or a souk. Maxi or midi-skirts, on the other hand, are okay to be worn in most places.
- Generally speaking, summer dresses in Dubai, especially maxis, work very well and are great for the weather too.
What to Wear to Souks in Dubai
Souks are old, traditional markets in Dubai, though most of them have been renovated, so they are newer constructions but in the heritage style of architecture. If you’re going to old Dubai or the souks of Deira, expect that you’ll be walking around a lot in areas with a South Asian population (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis etc,) as well as Emiratis, Omanis, Iranians, Syrians, and others from around the region, many who work in retail in the local markets and souks, away from the glitzy shopping malls and the expat areas of new Dubai. To them, new Dubai might feel like another world and they’re still used to Dubai’s more conservative and traditional ways.
- It’s best to dress modestly here in the souks or on a walking tour in Dubai.
- Cover your bare shoulders with a light scarf and don’t wear something too short, tight, or revealing, to avoid second glances.
- A shirt or top and jeans, culottes or midi or maxi skirts are good choices here. You can also wear a midi or maxi dress with sleeves, that does not cling to your body.
- You can wear sandals or any type of shoes that are easy to walk around in.
Wearing Shorts in Dubai
The question of can women wear shorts in Dubai is perhaps the most common one. The simple answer is Yes, women can wear shorts in Dubai, but that is not recommended everywhere in Dubai.
- While packing shorts for Dubai, bring the most modest pairs you own- extremely short shorts are frowned upon, except at the beach.
- You should not wear shorts where the dress code explicitly asks that you cover your shoulders and knees (such as shopping malls).
- You also should not wear tight, thigh-grazing shorts in the more conservative parts of the city such as some parts of old Dubai, Deira and the souks. It is okay to wear shorts in new Dubai areas such as Marina and JBR where mostly expats live.
Can men wear shorts in Dubai? Of course, except where more formal dress codes are enforced- such as some hotel restaurants and bars. But men too must be mindful of the length of their shorts. Think more Dubai, and less the beaches of Costa Brava!
What To Wear to a Mosque in Dubai
Some mosques in Dubai, such as Jumeirah Mosque, are open to the public for set tours and it should be common sense to dress modestly there. In fact, the only thing you should think about when planning what to wear in a Dubai mosque is dressing appropriately in terms of covering up.
- Women should wear pants, trousers, or a maxi skirt with a top or shirt that has short or long-sleeves (latter preferred) or long dress that isn’t too tight, with sleeves.
- Ensure that you’re not baring your shoulders, cleavage, back, knees, or midriff.
- Bring a scarf for your head, though you will most likely be asked to slip an abaya (traditional black robe for women) on top of what you’re wearing and will be given a shayla (head scarf) as well.
- Men should wear shirts or t-shirts (with sleeves) and full-length pants or jeans. No shorts and no tank tops.
- Men also might be requested to slip on a kandora (traditional white robe for men) on top of their clothes if they aren’t adequately covered.
- You can see the Jumeirah Mosque Dress Code here.
Interested in culture in Dubai? Here’s a guide for the culture lover.
What To Wear to the Desert in Dubai
You’re most likely going to go on a desert safari in Dubai, and spend an afternoon and evening in the desert. During the day, it gets very hot and sunny and you’ll be doing activities like riding on a camel, sandboarding, and riding a quad-bike on dunes.
Moreover, bear in mind that you might be meeting and interacting with local guides on your desert safari- it’s best to show up looking like you respect their culture and have been mindful of modesty with respect to your clothing choices.
- Pick a desert safari outfit in Dubai, that is light and practical, like linen trousers, culottes, palazzo pants, jeans, or light joggers paired with a casual t-shirt, top, or shirt.
- Women should avoid shorts and short dresses, not only because they’re uncomfortable to do these activities in but also because the evenings can get quite chilly (so bring a warm jacket or shawl).
- Long skirts and dresses are fine if you think you can ride a quad-bike and camels (although I wouldn’t).
- Absolutely do not wear clothes with a plunging neckline.
Check out the photos below for some desert outfit ideas.
- Men can wear shorts or light and comfortable trousers or jeans with a t-shirt or shirt.
- In winter, be sure to bring a jacket because it gets really cold.
- Wear comfortable covered shoes that are practical for activities and don’t let the hot sand into your feet.
- Wear sunglasses and don’t forget to put on lots of sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
- You can also bring a hat to protect your head from the sun, and look good in photos!
Like nature and wildlife? Why not visit and stay at the only real wildlife safari in the UAE or visit the hot springs and picnic on a mountain in Jebel Hafeet?
What To Wear to Nice Restaurants and Bars in Dubai
On your Dubai holiday, you’re sure to go to classy restaurants and bars with a semi-formal or formal dress code. The key to dressing right when it comes to Dubai’s evening wear, is to dress to look both elegant and trendy.
Women can wear jumpsuits, rompers, dresses, or tops and shirts with pants, jeans, or skirts and shoes (sneakers might not be allowed). Of course, in such restaurants, the majority of which are in international hotels, it’s okay if your dress, skirt, or outfit is above the knee and your outfit is strappy or has a deep back. But keep it classy and bring a jacket or shawl to cover up while getting there and after you leave.
For such restaurants and bars, men should pack a few dressy shirts and polo shirts, pants, and dark wash jeans (that aren’t ripped) along with formal or semi-formal shoes, as many restaurants and bars have a dress code for shoes. Keep your sneakers for the daytime and casual dining venues and bars.
Is There a Burj Khalifa Dress Code?
If you’re going up to the observation deck at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, then you don’t need to worry about a dress code- just dress as you would in public places in Dubai- and you’ll probably want to look nice for the photos.
However, a Burj Khalifa Dress Code applies if you’re visiting Atmosphere, the restaurant and lounge that is located at the Burj Khalifa. You can see the Burj Khalifa dress code for Atmosphere here in detail- but briefly put the dress code is Smart/Elegant for the restaurant and Smart/Casual for the lounge- so you cannot enter in shorts, t-shirts, athletic wear, caps, trainers, flip-flops for women, and open shoes for men.
For more FREE resources and tips to help you plan your Dubai trip, join my Dubai Travel Planning Group on Facebook where you’ll find updated and new info about attractions and things to do.
What To Wear to Nightclubs in Dubai
The nightclubs in Dubai are located inside international hotels and you’d dress just as you would in any other city with an active nightlife. Feel free to wear cocktail dresses, short skirts, halter-neck or off-shoulder tops, or strapless dresses.
Ladies, wear covered shoes and know that some fancier places will only let you in if you’re wearing heels.
The same is true for men; many nightclubs and bars in Dubai have a policy that says no shorts or sneakers. Many venues have a strict dress code for shoes- so wear dress shoes and be prepared to level up your style game, if you plan on going clubbing in Dubai and want to avoid disappointment. Wear dress shoes and full-length trousers.
What To Wear to Business Meetings in Dubai
If you’re mixing business with leisure and wondering how to dress in Dubai, know that people are always dressed well in business settings. Business attire in Dubai is smart, classy, and modest.
- Men may wear shirts and formal trousers, or suits and blazers with formal shoes.
- Most, but not all men wear ties in formal settings.
- Office wear for ladies in Dubai includes formal dresses, suits, formal tops, blouses, and shirts with pencil skirts and trousers.
- As all offices in Dubai are air-conditioned, it can get very cold indoors- you might want to pack a jacket just in case.
- The traditional Emirati attire of the white kandora for men and the black abaya for women is acceptable business attire in Dubai, and one you will commonly see at government offices in Dubai.
What to Wear to the Dubai Opera
If it’s your first time in Dubai, you should try to watch a show at the Dubai Opera, it’s a fantastic experience if you can afford it. While there’s no official dress code at the Dubai Opera, you CAN dress nice if you like- you’re certainly encouraged to do so by the venue itself. But don’t worry if casual is more your style- you will not be denied entry if you’re in jeans and a shirt, but please don’t show up in shorts and flip-flops.
I personally like to dress up a bit, you know, just because I don’t go the Dubai Opera every weekend- it’s very much a special occasion visit for me.
- For women, I recommend dresses, or tops with pants or skirts, with a nice jacket for women and semi-formal or formal shoes or sandals with a bit of a heel.
- For men, a suit or a shirt and trousers with a nice jacket and bowtie for men, with closed formal shoes.
- You can also choose to wear an evening gown or tuxedo if you like, there are plenty of very nicely and formally dressed opera-goers at the Dubai Opera. But if that feels too over the top and if you’re packing light, a nice dress for women and a shirt with trousers for men will do just fine.
However, without going into too much detail and to let you decide how formally you want to dress for the opera, here are some outfit suggestions:
What To Wear To Ski Dubai
You’ve probably planned to visit Ski Dubai, the indoor ski resort with penguins at the Mall of Emirates where you can go skiing in -4°C when its 50°C outside in summer, because it really is one of the coolest things to do in Dubai (no pun intended)!
So what is the dress code for Ski Dubai when you can’t exactly don winter parkas on your way there? The good news is that Ski Dubai offers guests all the winter clothing and gear they need to be comfortable inside, including jackets, warm ski trousers, fleece and waterproof gloves, ski or snowboarding boots, and disposable socks that are laundered after every use. Equipment and outfit rental is included in all the packages including the Slope, Snow Park, and Snow Penguin packages.
But my advice is that it’s best to additionally wear or bring a layer or two that will keep you adequately warm under the rental jacket and trousers– such as a long-sleeved shirt and pullover or turtleneck, reasonably warm trousers, rather than cotton leggings, thermal underwear if you own a pair, scarves, maybe a fleece jacket, and a warm hat. You can also rent a locker at Ski Dubai, so you can just keep the layers you don’t use in there, but it’s nice to have the option in case the gear provided isn’t warm enough for you.
What Accessories Should I Pack for Dubai
- If you like dressing up, bring statement pieces (jewelry, belts etc) that could glam up otherwise minimal outfits.
- At least one pair of heels (if you plan on going to a club).
- A light scarf to cover up bare shoulders in a shopping mall or your head for when you’re going to a mosque. Fits easily in a bag and is fairly versatile!
- A cross-body bag, stylish backpack, or tote for exploring the city during the day (Dubai isn’t really a sporty/outdoorsy city so your daypack won’t exactly help you blend in) and a clutch or small purse for nights out.
- A trendy hat or cap for when you’ll be outdoors during the day.
- Sunglasses– you’ll need them year-round during the day.
- Pack a cap or hat for sunny afternoons.
- You’ll also need a smart pair of sunglasses.
- Bring a cross-body bag for daytime exploration if you need more space than your wallet.
What Shoes To Wear in Dubai
As a general packing rule, for both men and women, bring a pair of shoes that you can walk around the city and malls in, an athletic pair for the desert, flip-flops or sandals for the beach, and a pair that you can wear to a semi-formal or formal dinner, club, bar, or opera (heels for women and closed shoes that aren’t sneakers for men).
How To Dress in Dubai in Ramadan
This is one question I get asked a lot (how to dress in Dubai during Ramadan) and contrary to the popular ‘wear what you want’ advice that’s frequently dished out, I’m going to say just the opposite:
Please don’t wear what you want, please do cover up- it shows respect for what is a very holy time for all the Muslims who are fasting in the country.
While I do wear short dresses and skirts while going out to dinner or bars during the rest of the year, I pay special attention to my wardrobe during Ramadan.
Out come the longer maxi and midi dresses, nice tops with trousers and jeans, and the bare shoulders or bare backs are covered up with a blazer or jacket. Plunging necklines and thigh-grazing shorts with crop tops are a faux pas during Ramadan.
Bear in mind that going out during the evening in Ramadan means you’ll be in the company of iftar (the meal where the fast is broken at sunset) attendees at dining venues or night markets or malls- people who have been fasting and praying through the day before breaking the fast at sunset. So dress modestly (but not sloppily) to be respectful. Here’s a guide to Ramadan in Dubai, if you’re interested.
It follows then that if you’re invited to someone’s home for iftar, show up on time and dressed modestly with your shoulders and knees covered. Women can wear a maxi dress with sleeves, or a top or shirt with a long skirt, pants or jeans that aren’t ripped. Men can wear a shirt or collared t-shirt with jeans or trousers (no shorts or ripped jeans).
Do You Need Winter Clothes in Dubai?
Winter in Dubai lasts from November to March, but our winter is nothing like what you might be used to back home. Down jackets, parkas and fur coats have no use in Dubai. You can read my guide to the best time to visit Dubai to help you understand the weather.
Our winter is much milder- with temperatures ranging from 17 degrees celsius on colder days to mid-20s on other days. Light sweaters, mid-weight jackets, leather jackets, light shawls, scarves, sweatshirts, hoodies, and cardigans work well in winter in Dubai.
Some Dubai winter outfit ideas are warm ribbed dresses, long-sleeved dresses with tights, turtlenecks, hoodies and pull-overs, leather-look tights, biker leather jackets, light denim jackets, and sparkly sweaters. You won’t need gloves and hats, unless you’re visiting the mountains around the UAE and Oman in winter.
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Can you wear boots in Dubai?
Yes, you can wear boots in Dubai, just don’t bring your warmest ones. In fact, though it doesn’t get terribly cold in Dubai, us Dubai residents love to bring out our boots between November and February because nothing says winter fashion like boots and you know, we LOVE fashion!
What To Wear in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and the Rest of the UAE
Dubai is certainly the most liberal of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. In other emirates like the capital Abu Dhabi, culture-rich Sharjah, adventure capital Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah with its beautiful coastline, you will need to dress much more modestly, failing which you will be denied entry to tourist sights, museums, restaurants, and public places.
- In these cities, ensure that your clothing does not reveal your shoulders, knees, cleavage, back, or midriff.
- Do not wear clothing that is too tight or any degree of transparent. This is something to remember if you find yourself going on a day trip to see the museums in Sharjah, or visit the garden city of Al Ain in Abu Dhabi, or visit local villages in Wadi Shees.
- You can still wear swimwear in these emirates but only on hotel beaches and in hotel pools- not even on all public beaches.
- In these emirates, even at a fancy hotel, staff will ask you to cover up if you try to enter a restaurant in a dress that’s too short or revealing- so it’s best to stick to a modest wardrobe in the rest of the UAE.
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Frequently Asked Questions About the Dubai Dress Code
Do Tourists Have to Wear Traditional Dress?
Dubai is a fashionable, modern, and cosmopolitan city where a majority of the population is made up of expats from all over the world. Tolerance is one of the pillars of Emirati society and culture and no, you do not have to wear the traditional dress. Women don’t have to cover their heads with a headscarf in Dubai either.
Do you have to cover your head in Dubai? Do women have to wear a headscarf in Dubai?
No, neither women nor men need to cover their head in Dubai. Women do not need to wear a headscarf in Dubai and are free to show their hair and leave it down.
What can women wear in Dubai?
Women can wear shirts, tops, t-shirts, skirts, shorts, trousers, jeans, and dresses in Dubai. Women can wear swimsuits and bikinis on the beaches. They can also wear the traditional dress of their country or culture, such as saree or salwar kameez, as long as it is modest.
What is the UAE Traditional Dress in Dubai?
If you’ve seen photos, you might already know that the UAE traditional dresses of robes for both men and women are beautiful. The black robe for women is called the abaya and the white one for men is called the kandora.
Women’s abayas will often have ornate designs and embroidery on them, and modern high-fashion versions will have creative motifs on them. The headscarf worn by local women in the UAE is called shayla- it covers the head and shoulders but the face is usually not covered.
Do not confuse a shayla with a burqa (which usually covers the entire face and has a thin mesh layer for the eyes) or a niqab (a veil for the face which leaves the eyes open).
Some women, usually older, might wear a niqab or burqa, but a vast majority of Emirati women wear a shayla.
The locals wear this dress with pride and not because they’re forced to, because they’re not. Some Emiratis do not wear the local dress at all times and some do.
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Can Tourists Wear the Local Dress in Dubai?
If you want to try wearing the local dress as a tourist, you’re allowed to. In fact, you might even find it is available to wear and take photos in local dress on a desert safari. If you want to buy the local Dubai dress, whether for men or women, the souks in old Dubai or the shops at the Souk Madinat Jumeirah are excellent places to buy them.
Do You Have to Dress Conservatively in Dubai?
That really depends on your personal definition of conservative dressing, doesn’t it? How conservatively you need to dress depends on where in Dubai you’re dressing for.
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The dress code in shopping malls, public places like parks, cinema, retail districts, and on public transport like the metro and buses is much more modest than on the beach, or in bars or nightclubs or in restaurants located in hotels in new Dubai, where you can wear clothing that is much more revealing without offending anyone’s sensibilities. In old Dubai and on cultural tours, it’s wise to cover up and dress modestly.
It is wise to dress modestly in Dubai, when you aren’t sure of how to dress for a certain situation.
How Fashionable is Dubai?
I’ve traveled a fair bit and after spending long periods of time in other cities, I can safely say that Dubai is a very fashionable city, like London, Milan, and New York. Dubai loves dressing up and the city’s residents love showing off their brands (if they own them) and/or their creativity and individual sense of style.
When it comes to your packing list for Dubai, don’t feel like you have to play safe.
Dressing in Dubai, whether it’s going to work, or on casual weekends, or going out at night, people are generally smartly turned out- elegant, or edgy, or smart, or nerdy, or whatever their style is.
Of course, just like in every city, there are people who are more relaxed in their dressing but a majority of Dubai residents make the effort to look good and well put together when they leave home.
Can you wear a bikini in Dubai?
Of course, you can wear a bikini in Dubai but only on the beach, whether that’s a public beach or a hotel beach, or a hotel pool, but nowhere else. Not even on the promenade across from the beach with food stalls. To sit here, slip a kaftan or sundress over your bikini.
Are short dresses allowed in Dubai?
Yes, short dresses are allowed in Dubai but it depends on how short and where in Dubai you’ll be wearing a short dress. Dresses must be at least knee-length to be worn in public places such as shopping malls, souks, parks, and the metro. But on the beach, in an international hotel, a fancy restaurant in new Dubai, or in a bar or nightclub, it’s acceptable if your dress ends anywhere from mid-thigh to above the knee.
Bear in mind that this is what is acceptable in Dubai- the rules are completely different in the other emirates that make up the UAE, such as Sharjah, Ajman, and Abu Dhabi, where you need to dress much more modestly, such as in full-length pants or skirts or maxi dresses. In these cities you will be denied entry to public places and restaurants if you’re not dressed modestly.
Can you wear ripped jeans in Dubai?
Yes, you can wear ripped jeans in Dubai, but use your judgement depending on how ripped your jeans are and which part of Dubai you’re dressing for. If they’re just minimally ripped, and don’t show too much skin especially above the knee, you can wear them to most public places. But I do not recommend wearing heavily ripped jeans to the mall or on public transport or the souks of old Dubai or the desert. It’s perfectly okay to wear them to bars, beach clubs and party brunches in hotels.
Absolutely do not wear ripped jeans that show any skin at all on a mosque visit, a walking tour, or to a cultural meal or experience in Al Fahidi or if you’re visiting a government office of some sort.
Can you wear shorts in Dubai?
Yes you can wear shorts in Dubai, even as a woman but use your judgement depending upon where in Dubai you want to wear them and how short they are. You can wear knee-length shorts in public places and malls or to a desert safari. I don’t recommend shorts to souks in old Dubai, museums, cultural tours or walking tours in various neighborhoods. You can wear shorts to the beach or pool and dressy shorts to bars and nightclubs.
Join my Dubai Travel Planning Group on Facebook for insider tips about cool restaurants, cafes, instagrammable spots, attractions and things to do in and around Dubai.
Can you wear a crop top in Dubai?
That really depends on the length of the crop top. Basically, showing off your midriff is a complete no-no in a public place, unless you’re at a beach, beach club, poolside, pool party, fancy restaurant, concert, nightclub, or bar. You can easily wear a regular crop top with high-waisted bottoms to a restaurant or mall if your outfit shows barely any skin, and carry a jacket or blazer if you’re not sure.
Do not wear a crop top to a mosque or cultural museum or souks and definitely do not show off your bare midriff or waist in these places.
Can you wear flip-flops in Dubai?
Yes, you can wear flip-flops in Dubai, but just don’t wear them to nice restaurants in international hotels, fancy bars, or nightclubs that specifically have a no-flip-flops policy (dress codes are always mentioned on their websites). If you’re visiting in summer, I totally get wanting to wear flip-flops or open sandals- and these are okay to wear on walking tours or in the souks, or even to the mall, and of course, they’re perfect for the beach.
Can you wear cold-shoulder tops or dresses in Dubai?
Yes, you can wear cold-shoulder tops or dresses in Dubai, but be sure to carry a light scarf or jacket to cover up if you’re wearing them to a souk or a shopping mall where the dress code requires you to cover your shoulders.
Are There Clothing Restrictions in Dubai?
I don’t think of the dressing rules in Dubai as clothing restrictions- to me, they are guidelines to help foreign tourists and residents who might lack the cultural nuance to know what attire is appropriate in Dubai in different situations. It’s not like you’re not allowed to express your creativity or personality through your clothing. Like bright colors and neons? Wear them. Like bold prints and patterns together, wear them.
But when it comes to showing skin, these rules and guidelines take the second-guessing out of the situation and help develop cultural sensitivity. If you’re ever dressing to go out in Dubai and are not sure if your attire is appropriate, err on the side of modesty.
This next section spells out the types of clothing that are frowned upon in Dubai.
What Not To Wear in Dubai
- Both men and women must not wear clothing or accessories in Dubai, or the rest of the UAE, that display obscene or offensive pictures, words, and slogans.
- Steer clear of clothing or accessories with swear words, insults, or any profanities- these are not welcome in Dubai and strict action might be taken against someone wearing them.
- Don’t wear clothing that contains slogans or pictures that disrespect or defame any religion or country or nationality or even person.
- Definitely don’t wear anything that displays religious symbols, icons, signs, texts, or the likeness of gods or goddesses from any religion.
- As a general rule, too much cleavage is frowned upon, so no plunging necklines in public places.
- When it comes to wearing shorts in Dubai, even by tourists, use this as a quick guide- Thigh grazing shorts, booty shorts, hot shorts, and mini-skirts that barely cover the bum, they’re not a good choice in Dubai, unless you’re wearing them at the beach.
- Off-shoulder tops in Dubai are okay in some, not all places. I personally would not wear an off-shoulder top in a crowded souk in old Dubai or Deira, or in a shopping mall (where the AC makes it quite cold)- but I’d be okay wearing it to brunch or a party or to the beach.
- Sheer tops and dresses where some or all of your lingerie is visible is also inappropriate.
- Of course you can wear leggings in Dubai- at the airport or the gym or to the supermarket or wherever. But transparent leggings with short tops are a real eyesore; no one in Dubai wants to see your polka dotted underwear through your thin leggings, so please, just don’t. You can of course wear them with long tops, shirts or dresses that cover your bum.
- Avoid super low-waist jeans that bare your bum and more when you sit.
- Crop tops are okay if you wear them with high-waisted bottoms, and don’t bare your midriff except at beaches or nightclubs. They’re not okay in shopping malls.
- Leave the Brazilian bikini thongs at home or wear them at hotel pools only.
It’s perfectly okay to wear sleeveless or short-sleeved tops and dresses, and it’s also okay to wear fitted clothes. Knee-length dresses and shorts that are a bit above the knee are also okay, except in places where there might be a dress code to cover the knees and shoulders.
- Men can wear vests and shorts but keep the short shorts for the beach.
- You can wear shorts with smart collared and other t-shirts or shirts elsewhere, as long as you don’t look sloppy. Many restaurants, bars, and clubs have a no shorts or sneakers policy for men.
- Men absolutely should not be shirtless or bare-chested- that is acceptable only at the beach or pool.
How to Dress in Dubai By Month
Summer in Dubai lasts from May to September, with June, July, and August being the hottest months of the year in Dubai. You can expect temperatures in the high 40s (degrees celsius) and some days with humidity as high as 80-90%.
The weather begins to cool down from mid-September and is pleasant until March, slowly beginning to warm up in April. January and February are now the coolest months in Dubai, perfect to explore the outdoors in the UAE on easy day trips from Dubai, such as to Wadi Shees, Hatta, or Al Ain.
Here’s a guide to dressing right for the weather in Dubai, depending upon the month you plan to visit Dubai in. You can also read my post about the best time to visit Dubai.
What To Wear in Dubai in January
January is the coolest month in Dubai with some days colder than others. You can still wear dresses, skirts, and shorts, but pack a light to medium weight jacket or cardigan for when it gets chilly in the evening.
If you want to wear fall or winter clothing in Dubai such as boots, turtlenecks, knitted dresses or tops, or leather jackets and pants, this is the time of year to do it.
If you plan on taking day trips, especially to the mountains in Hatta or Ras Al Khaimah, then pack a pullover or warm hoodie and some warm socks.
Average temperatures: 14°C (57.2°F) to 24°C (75.2°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in February
Weather wise, February is not too different from January. Pack a warm pullover, and maybe a dressy jacket or blazer to jazz up an outfit in the evenings.
Bring closed shoes- it might be too chilly for sandals or flip-flops in the evenings.
Average temperatures: 16°C (60.8°F) to 25°C (77°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in March
Temperatures are quite pleasant in March- perfect for sundresses, t-shirts or shirts and jeans, and perhaps even shorts in the afternoons. You might occasionally want a light cardigan, especially if you’re strolling on a waterfront promenade in the evenings.
Average temperatures: 18°C (64.4°F) to 29°C (84.2°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in April
The afternoons are much warmer than January, and you’ll want clothing that is light, comfortable, and not too thick. You’ll rarely need a jacket outdoors in April, but will need one indoors in shopping malls. Dresses, skirts and even jeans are still comfortable to wear in Dubai in April.
Average temperatures: 21°C (69.8°F) to 33°C ( 91.4°F)
In 2021, Ramadan in Dubai begins in April- be sure to dress modestly in Dubai during this holy time of year.
What To Wear in Dubai in May
In May, you can feel summer slowly but surely creeping up in Dubai. The seawater at the beaches is nice and warm in May but you do have to be careful about the time of day you decide to go to the beach. The peak afternoon heat from 12pm to 3pm isn’t exactly ideal.
If you’re visiting Dubai in May, pack light, airy fabrics and clothing like culottes, shorts, sundresses, midi skirts, and of course, don’t forget your swimwear.
Average temperatures: 25°C (77°F) to 38°C (100.4°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in June
In June, the summer heat can feel oppressive and you will most certainly want to wear a cap or hat if you plan to walk outdoors in the day. Wear light, loose clothing in fabrics that won’t cling to your skin and avoid that icky feeling on humid days. You’ll look for any excuse to take a dip in your hotel pool, so don’t forget your swimwear.
Average temperatures: 28°C (82.4°F) to 40°C (104°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in July
July begins to feel brutal in Dubai and by now, us Dubai residents have made routines that involve spending our days hopping from one air-conditioned spot such as the mall or gym or office or cafe to another. Wear light shirts, trousers, tops, culottes, midi skirts and sundresses. Bring out the shorts on warmer days and carry a light scarf with you in case you need to cover bare shoulders in some places.
Average temperatures: 30°C (86°F) to 41°C (105.8°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in August
Soothing, neutral colors that keep you cool, light airy materials that let your skin breathe, a hat to keep you cool and protect your head from the scorching sun, sunglasses and sunscreen should be top of your Dubai packing list in August. Pack dresses, skirts, palazzo pants, and tops that you’ll be comfortable in the peak of summer.
Men should pack colors and fabrics that will keep them feeling and looking cool.
Bring open sandals or flip-flops because there will be days when you will loathe the thought of putting on socks under your sneakers.
Average temperatures: 31°C (87.8°F) to 41°C (105.8°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in September
Spirits lift in Dubai slowly as the afternoons cool down, even if just a little bit. At least, you won’t be as sweaty outdoors anymore. You’ll pack much the same as August but it’s easy to wear jeans and sneakers again without feeling like your skin cannot breathe.
Average temperatures: 28°C (82.4°F) to 39°C (102.2°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in October
I guess this is our version of Fall- I don’t blame you if it’s more like summer where you come from. Pack shirts, t-shirts, trousers, jeans, and dresses, with a pair of shorts or two. You will need a very light jacket for the malls and for desert safari where it can get chilly in the evenings.
Average temperatures: 24°C (75.2°F) to 35°C (95°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in November
While it’s technically not that cold, leather jackets, boots, turtlenecks, sweaters, full-sleeved dresses, and baseball jackets are all fair game. After all, this is the only time of year us Dubai residents can flaunt our winter wardrobe, so why shouldn’t you?!
Average temperatures: 20°C (68°F) to 31°C (87.8°F)
What To Wear in Dubai in December
December is seriously festive in Dubai! Bring your shiny, sparkly, sequinned dresses and tops, your cute Christmas sweaters, your stylish pullovers and sporty hoodies- you will use most of them as you’ll be spending most of your time outdoors- whether it’s adventures, dining, shisha, or nightlife. And don’t forget the Christmas markets, concerts and December events- you’ll want to glam up to match the Dubai dressing style this time of year.
Average temperatures: 16°C ( 60.8°F) to 26°C (78.8°F)
Looking to book a hotel in Dubai? Check out these great options:
- Rove Downtown Dubai – Budget-Friendly & Great Value
- Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai – Mid-Range & Great Location
- Jumeirah Al Qasr – Ultimate Luxury, Dubai Style
- XVA Art Hotel – Heritage Boutique Hotel
Don’t feel overwhelmed while planning your Dubai trip. Join my Dubai Travel Planning Group on Facebook for FREE resources, tips, and updated and new info about cool restaurants, cafes, instagrammable spots, attractions and things to do in and around Dubai.
Looking to book your next trip? Check out the following services I use:
- Skyscanner to find a cheap flight.
- iVisa for online visa.
- HotelsCombined.com to find affordable hotels.
- Rentalcars.com to pick up a car rental.
- Taxi2Airport for airport pick-ups and drop-offs.
- World Nomads to insure your trip.
- GetYourGuide for affordable day tours and city sightseeing.
- G Adventures or Intrepid Travel for a multi-day guided tour.
If you’re a Dubai resident, I’d love to hear if you’d add something to this list or your own tips on what to wear in Dubai. If you’ve visited Dubai, I’d love to know if you found it easy to dress right. If you’re visiting Dubai soon and have questions on how to dress in Dubai, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to help.
Dubai is an expensive city. If you’re visiting on a budget, you might be interested in my guide to the best cheap and free things to do in Dubai.
For a laugh at us Dubai kids, read 20 Signs You’ve Been in Dubai Too Long.
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