Category Archives: Dubai

Dubai travel guides, itineraries, packing lists, tours and day trips.

What to Wear in Dubai – Sensible Advice From a Local

Girl in red dress with Dubai skyline

Wondering what to wear in Dubai? Look no further! This guide details the best Dubai packing list items, explains the reasons for the rules and gives examples of how to dress in all areas of the country so you can have fun without worry! 

The United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country that follows the Sha’aria law. All tourists and residents are required to dress modestly, no matter how hot the climate. That is why a lot of people wonder how to dress in Dubai before they book their trip.

A tourist will not end up in prison if they aren’t dressed properly. They might get some stern looks from other people and a security guard would kindly advise them to cover up but it’s not worth offending the locals. 

When you’re visiting any country, it’s always good to obey their laws and respect the local culture. So let’s take a look at how to dress in Dubai. We’ve also provided links to outfits so you can buy online before you fly. 

You may also like our 1-3 day or 5-day Dubai itinerary and packing list.

What to Wear in Dubai

Weather in Dubai

It’s very comfortable to visit Dubai between November-March. 

These are the cooler months when most tourists arrive because it’s easier to do more outdoor activities.

The temperatures during these months can be between 20C/68F-35C/95F.

From April-October it can be very hot and sticky.

The hottest months are from May-September.

That’s when the temperatures are around (35C/95F-55C/131F). 

It’s essential to find the right balance between modesty and dressing comfortably, especially during the summer months. 

Dubai is the most liberal city in the United Arab Emirates.

It’s nothing like Saudi Arabia, so you don’t have to wear clothes that are too conservative.

Women are allowed to show their hair, arms, and legs.

There’s no objection to that at all. But there’s a limit.

You may also like our guide, what to do in Dubai in December.

Miracle Garden Hearts Dubai

Why Does Dubai Have Clothing Rules

A lot of people ask what can you wear in Dubai.

When it comes to finding the right clothes to wear in Dubai, it’s not the Sha’aria law that solely determines the dress codes. 

Dubai is a very family-friendly city.

The government expects Dubai clothing to be modest to protect families and their children.

A lot of kids are raised in conservative homes.

They don’t want to see people wearing speedos or bikinis at the mall, no matter how lit your summer bod is. 

That’s the main reason behind the clothing rules in Dubai.

When you’re packing outfits for your trip, think about what’s appropriate enough for children to see you wear in a public place.

Blonde women wearing sunglasses posing near a Dubai boat

What Should Tourists Wear in Dubai?

It depends on where you are planning to go, a tourist in Dubai may need to alter their wardrobe when out in public but wear close to their home fits in private hotels.

Some areas of Dubai are more conservative than others.

If you are in Jumeirah or Downtown Dubai, you’ll see people dressed more casually. 

If you go to some parts of old Dubai, such as the Spice Souk, it’s wise to dress more modestly. 

The summer months in Dubai can reach up to 55C/121F.

The heat can be very overpowering, making it difficult to breathe.

It’s best to wear light and airy cotton clothes because you will sweat a lot! 

Shorts/tops co-ords like this light outfit are ideal or flowy co-od pant suits like this.

Since it’s so hot outside, all the indoor spaces have air conditioning on full blast, and it can feel very cold and this has always been a problem for people in Dubai.

You might be a little sweaty in a sleeveless summer dress while watching the fountain show, and then suddenly wish you had long sleeves when you step inside Dubai Mall. 

Take a look at this light cardigan in a variety of colors, cute blazer or shorter Bolero which is a nice match for summer dresses.

Next we’re going to discuss tourist rules in Dubai for specific public places so you can pack confidently and feel comfortable while sightseeing and being social.

We’ll also consider Dubai fashion for private events such as brunches and pool parties so you can get past the door staff and have a fun time.

Note: It is likely you will use taxis to get between parties so you won’t be out in public in short or tight outfits.

Dubai Skyline Woman Taking Photos

Dubai Women’s Clothing: What you CAN wear in public

Dubai Women’s Clothing: What you CANNOT wear in public

  • Dresses that are too tight and fitted
  • Clothes that are see-through
  • Swimsuits and bikinis
  • Tops where your bra can be seen
  • Any clothes that reveal too much cleavage
  • Shorts or skirts that are too short (no bums hanging out please)
  • Clothes that do not cover the midriff area
  • T-shirts with inappropriate slogans or jokes – they might be funny to some but also offensive to others.

Dubai Men’s Clothing: What you CAN wear in public

  • Cotton Pants
  • Jeans
  • Trousers
  • Shorts knee length
  • Any shirts and t-shirts
  • Singlets/tank tops/vests such as this classic by Adidas as it’s not too low
  • Suits – if you dare to in the summer months – read Two Scots Abroad’s guide to travel pants
  • Any shoes, sandals, flip flops, etc.

Dubai Men’s Clothing: What you CANNOT wear in public

  • Singlets that hang too low, no nips
  • Any shirts or pants that might be see-through
  • Tight pants – no one cares if you have a good-looking backside like David Beckham
  • Shirts that are too small and reveal your tummy, soz Dad bods
  • Swimsuits
Man sandboarding in desert

Shopping at the Mall

In the malls in Dubai, you can wear anything that makes you feel comfortable and dress respectively.

Local families are often shopping at malls across Dubai so you’re going to want to dress appropriately.

You can wear shorts in Dubai and even skirts, if they are at knee length and not shorter than that. 

Just be mindful of the fact that there are a lot of families and children there. 

Do not wear swimsuits or bikinis at a mall.

Do not walk around shirtless even if you have just come from the beach. 

If you have any tattoos that might offend someone, please make sure your outfit covers them properly. 

Here are more detailed tips for public outfits.

Going to the Beach

There are public and private beaches in Dubai.

Many popular hotels have their own private beaches and swimming pools. 

They are more open to letting tourists wear anything they want to.

Families and children in hotels are often on holiday themselves so the atmosphere is different. 

Public beaches, on the other hand, are where local families go to.

A lot of them can be conservative. 

On Fridays, a lot of local laborers spend time at the beach as well and they’re mostly men.

That’s why it’s wise to dress appropriately to avoid getting stared at.

It was reported that just under 300 people had been caught taking images of women on beaches in Dubai.

Dubai beach with skyline

Dubai Women’s Clothing: What you CAN wear on Private Beaches

  • Any and all kinds of bikini tops and bottoms
  • Any swimsuit – no see-through material or G-strings

Dubai Women’s Clothing: What you CAN wear on Public Beaches and Waterparks

  • One-piece swimsuits
  • Sports suits
  • Wet suits
  • Burkinis

The Dubai dress code for males at beaches is simpler.

They can wear any swimsuit on BOTH private and public beaches and waterparks except for bottoms that are white in color. 

White swimsuits become transparent and see-through when you come out of the water.

Please be mindful of other people on the beaches. 

Here’s an example of a modest yet stylish suit from Nordstrom and swimsuit from ASOS.

Watch out for burnt heads!

Protect your hair with a cute bucket hat or hair scarf.

Also check out our beach packing list for essentials.

Beach at Jumeirah District Dubai with skyline

Clothes to Wear in Dubai for Brunch or Dinner

Brunch in Dubai

Restaurants that host all-you-can-eat brunch buffets in Dubai are mostly in hotels because they are licensed venues allowed to serve alcohol. 

Each hotel has its own dress code, so it’s always best to check their website when you’re booking a table. 

Please don’t wear a swimsuit even if you have just been to the hotel pool.

Always make sure you’re wearing shoes because they do turn people away for arriving barefoot after a swim. 

Some brunches also have certain themes during the year.

For example, on Halloween, hotels around Dubai might host a brunch and encourage you to wear a scary costume. 

A few brunch restaurants have had The Great Gatsby theme, where people had to dress in character.

Let your imagination run wild and just make sure you’re not close to being naked. 

A typical Dubai brunch sells all-you-can-drink alcohol packages.

It’s very easy to get inebriated in no time.

Make sure you choose an outfit where you will still look respectable by the end of the day. 

Do not wear anything that might fall and expose any private parts.

If you have any tops with straps around the neck, make sure they are tied properly. 

It is likely that you will take a taxi from your accommodation to the brunch and back again.

There are also brunch spots that aren’t geared up around drinking like the cool 2D Forever Rose, which is owned by Ebraheem Al Samadi from the Netflix show, Dubai Bling, or Walnut Grove.

Dinner in Dubai

If you are planning to have dinner at restaurants that aren’t in hotels, the dress code for both males and females is mostly casual. 

You can wear dresses, t-shirts, tops, pants, jeans, shorts, or skirts.

Any shoes are acceptable as long as you’re not barefoot.

Make sure you are not wearing anything see-through or revealing.

If the restaurant is in a nice hotel such as Skyview Bar in Burj Al Arab or Atmosphere in Burj Khalifa, the dress code would be either smart-casual or formal attire.

Here you can wear evening dresses, skirts, dress shirts, pants, suits, etc. 

The top hotels won’t allow you to enter in shorts, and tank tops.

Even if some of them do, it will feel uncomfortable to stick out because most people in Dubai love to get glammed up for a nice dinner. 

They might not allow flip-flops either, so it’s always better to have some closed-dress shoes. 

Most restaurants and hotels in Dubai will state their dress code rules on their website or social media pages.

Make sure to have a quick read when you’re booking a table.

You can also phone them before your reservation to ask about the dress code, and they’ll be happy to clarify any questions. 

You may also like our long-term female packing list,

Burj Fireworks Dubai New Years Eve

Nightlife in Dubai

Most clubs in Dubai are in hotels.

The dress code for both men and women in Dubai clubs is smart casual to glam. 


Clubbing in Dubai is very expensive.

A pint of beer can cost upwards of $20 each unless they have Ladies Nights where women get free drinks. 

Bouncers can be very judgmental and analyze each person from head to toe to determine if they should be let in or not.

The more you dress up and the richer you look, the better chances you’ll have of getting in.

The famous clubs such as White Dubai and Club Boudoir want a very specific clientele and judge people’s outfits most harshly.

Both men and women are expected to get glammed up and look like social media influencers to fit in. 

Most women wear bandage dresses, body con dresses, wrap dresses, strapless dresses, etc with high heels.

Although heels are very uncomfortable to dance in, a lot of women get turned away if they’re not wearing them.

They can also wear smart casual tops and pants, as long as they have the right heels as well. 

Men are expected to wear dress shirts and pants.

Never wear sports trainers because they won’t let you in.

Make sure to have proper dress shoes for clubbing. 

These kinds of clubs have strict rules for entry and they’re very expensive, but they also host live concerts with famous celebrities and international DJ’s.

So, it’s worth a visit if you want to see Tiesto or Armin Van Buuren perform live. 

Pubs and Bars

A lot of hotels also have cozy pubs and sports bars.

These have a much more casual atmosphere and are easy to get in. 

Women can wear any tops, jeans, pants, dresses, skirts, shorts, and casual shoes like sandals or trainers. No flip flops or bikinis. 

Men can wear any shirts, t-shirts, jeans, pants, shorts, and casual shoes such as trainers.

No flip flops or singlets. 

Barasti is a popular bar on the beach so people can also wear flip flops there if they want to.

A lot of people also wear swimsuits and go to the restaurant with a towel around their waist. 

This is fine to do in the afternoon, but when the bar is packed in the evening the atmosphere changes and people are expected to get a little more dressed. 

Going on Tours in Dubai

Since all the tourist hotspots are in family-friendly areas, it’s important to dress semi-conservatively. 

The safest thing to do is wear casual outfits as if you were going to Dubai Mall.

This is because most tours are in the new part of Dubai, and there are fewer conservative people there. 

Women can wear dresses, shorts, t-shirts, skirts, tops, jeans, pants, etc. 

Men can wear shirts, t-shirts, pants, shorts, jeans, etc. 

Make sure nothing is too revealing or too short. Nothing that is see-through at all.

For other tours that are in the old part of Dubai such as Deira Spice Souk and Dubai Museum, people are more conservative.

There are also more mosques in these areas so it’s important to dress modestly.

Here’s a guide to the most popular Dubai tours.

Souq Al Bahar Dubai

Dubai Dress Code for Female Tourists Visiting Souks and Museums

Women should not wear shorts, short skirts, or sleeveless tops. Otherwise, you will get stared at by a lot of the locals.

It’s better to wear t-shirts and jeans, or pants.

A summer dress is fine if it’s not sleeveless, see-through, or too short.

Make sure everything is at least knee-length.

Long dresses are the best option.

If you want to get a little bit more cultural, you could purchase a Salwar Kameez. 

A Salwar Kameez US / UK is very comfortable, especially in the heat.

Don’t be put off by the foreign-sounding name, they are essentially just long dresses with loose pants. 

There are many beautiful and colorful options to choose from. It consists of loose cotton trousers called “Salwar,” and a knee-length tunic called “Kameez.”

Some of them also come with a shawl called “Dupatta,” US / UK  to wrap around.

If you have seen the Shahs of Persia, you might have heard about Caftans US / UK.

A Caftan is a loose and flowy long gown, and you can choose some very beautiful designs.

You are probably familiar with caftans as they are popular over-beach wear in Europe like this stylish version by Elan.

These are some examples of what can women wear in Dubai and typical uae clothing for some locals.

If you forget to buy one before your trip, a lot of shops at the souks sell them. But the problem is that you will have to barter hard, to get a good price.

The prices for these outfits can vary between $20-$70, depending on your bartering skills. 

Shopping with a friend who can speak Arabic or Urdu, will lead to an automatic discount. 

Since you’ll need to walk a lot to explore the souks, the best shoes to wear are trainers and sandals. Flip flops are also allowed for both men and women. 

Men can wear anything in these areas. Even shorts and singlets. Just be mindful to never walk around without a shirt no matter how hot it is. 

If men want to also feel a little cultural, they can wear a “Kurta Pajama” US / UK.

This consists of a top tunic called the “Kurta,” and loose cotton pants called “Pajama.”

Desert Safari Dubai Dress Code

When you’re going for a desert safari in Dubai, it’s important to dress as comfortably as possible.

This is because you will spend an entire day there, and it’s going to be very hot.

You will also get covered in sand.

Make sure you wear clothes that are loose so that you can move about more easily.

The desert safaris are run by locals, and your driver might be conservative.

You don’t have to be completely covered up, but women should avoid wearing short skirts, short shorts, and any revealing or see-through dresses.

It’s okay to wear sleeveless tops if the neckline isn’t too low.

It does get chilly in the desert after sunset, so it’s better to wear a bit of sleeve. Shorts need to be knee-length. 

The best outfit for women in the desert is a Caftan.

Or any long dress, pants, shirts, and t-shirts.

Jeans are also allowed but you might feel very uncomfortable in them when it’s hot. 

Men can wear shirts, t-shirts, shorts, and any pants.

They can also wear singlets, but it gets cold at night, so it’s better to wear a shirt over the singlet. 

Sandals are the best to wear in the desert. Try not to lose them in the sand, or you can buy sandals that have a strap around the ankles. 

Flip flops are very easy to lose because they will slip off your feet when you’re walking on a sand dune. 

You can also wear trainers, but then you’ll have to keep dusting the sand out of them. 

You may also like: How to choose the best desert safari tour in Dubai.

Happy man in Dubai desert wearing head scarf

Dubai Airport Dress Code

Dubai airport is a place where you want to make a good impression because you’ll meet Emirati immigration officers.

If they feel that you are not dressed appropriately, it will give them a bad impression about letting you into the country. 

Tourists don’t have to be fully covered up at the airport. 

There isn’t a particularly strict Dubai airport dress code.

Women can wear long dresses, tops, shirts, t-shirts, pants, hoodies, sweaters, and jeans. 

It’s best to avoid wearing any sleeveless shirts, sleeveless dresses, mini-skirts, and short shorts. 

Most women wear smart jogging pants or gym pants and a hoodie for comfort.

There’s a lot of walking in Dubai airport because it’s so big.

It’s best to avoid any high heels and wear comfortable trainers or sandals instead.

Even flip-flops are okay. 

Men can wear shorts, t-shirts, shirts, hoodies, sweaters, pants, and jeans.

Avoid wearing any singlets. 

Men can also wear trainers, sandals, regular shoes, or flip-flops. 

If you have a lot of tattoos, even if they might not be offensive, it’s better to cover them up as much as possible.

Some immigration officials might frown upon seeing too many tattoos.

Tattoos aren’t illegal, but it’s better to cover them up out of respect. 

Dubai metro railway

Packing for Dubai Outfits

A lot of flights on Emirates Airlines offer 20 kilos per passenger, which is a generous amount.

But it’s always better to pack less on holiday.

Here’s what you should take with you to Dubai.

Dubai Packing List for Women

  • Vests, tanks
  • Tops and t-shirts
  • Skirts
  • Dresses
  • Co-ords
  • Cardigan or hoodie – it’s freezing inside malls
  • Shorts
  • Comfy pants
  • Jeans
  • Salwar Kameez or caftan 
  • Sandals
  • Trainers and socks
  • Flip flops, siders or Crocs
  • Heels for clubbing
  • Evening dresses – for clubbing or fancy dinner
  • Bathroom products – toothpaste, toothbrush, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, sanitary products, etc.
  • Makeup
  • Sunscreen
  • Phones, phone chargers and Anker battery pack US / UK
  • Cameras and chargers
  • Passport and visa documents
Girl in pretty white Caftans on desert sand

Dubai Packing List for Men

  • Shirts
  • T-shirts
  • Pants – like the stylish travel pants by Bluffworks
  • Jeans
  • Shorts
  • Suit jacket
  • Sweater
  • Hoodie
  • Trainers and socks
  • Sandals
  • Flip flops
  • Bathroom products (toothpaste, toothbrush, shaving cream, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, etc.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Phones, phone chargers and Anker battery pack US / UK
  • Cameras and camera chargers
  • Passport and visa documents

General Dubai Packing Tips

Most hotels will have soaps and towels etc.

That way, you won’t have to pack a lot more things to take to Dubai. 

Bringing medication is difficult from overseas.

You will need to have a doctor’s letter for all your medication.

Some medications are completely banned in Dubai, such as Tramadol. 

If you do need to bring banned medicine into the country, the customs officer might make an exception for you depending on your doctor’s letter and medical condition. 

Discuss any prescription concerns with your airline.

It might also help to have a printout of some of your bookings.

This is just in case you have difficulty getting an internet connection to access them later. 

Dubai has now started offering free SIM cards for tourists when they arrive at the airport.

Feel free to grab one and activate it on your phone.

This is perfect for emergencies because it will have 3 minutes of talk time, 20MB of data, and 5 SMS. 

If you want more minutes and data during your trip.

All the malls have Etisalat and DU shops that you can go to.

Both companies have special offers for tourists to stay connected during their stay. 

Read all of our Dubai tips here.

Dubai Sunset Beach People

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Have to Cover Up in Dubai?

Not in an extreme way. Dubai is not like Saudi Arabia or Iran.

Everyone is free to wear anything they like over here if it’s decent enough.

People can wear sleeveless tops and shorts too. The only exception is the conservative parts of Dubai.

The police won’t arrest anyone, but you might get stared at, which is an uncomfortable experience. I

f you go to a government building such as the Dubai court, then it’s better to wear long sleeve tops over pants, or any long dresses that cover the shoulders and chest well. 

What Not to Wear in Dubai?

Anything that is too short, or see-through.

Avoid wearing sleeveless outfits in old parts of Dubai, such as the Spice Souk.

Don’t wear trainers to go to clubs.

Also, avoid any tops or dresses that might show too much cleavage.

Don’t wear t-shirts that might have any rude jokes, as they might offend someone. 

What Clothes to Wear in Dubai?

Tops that cover your shoulders and have half sleeves.

Long sleeve shirts, jeans, pants, shorts (up to knee length), summer dresses, caftans, salwar kameez, and skirts that are also up to knee length. 

Can You Wear a Bikini in Dubai?

Yes! Bikinis are allowed on most beaches.

The only problem is that on a public beach such as the one next to Burj Al Arab, a lot of local families and laborers go there.

They might feel uncomfortable and stare.

On private beaches which are attached to many hotels, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear bikinis since a lot of other tourists will too. T

hen you won’t stand out as much. 

Dubai Skyline Woman With Hat in Pool

What to Wear in Dubai in December?

December is the most pleasant month in Dubai. It can also be very windy during this time and a little cold.

Most people wear hoodies and sweaters over any jeans or trousers. 

What to Wear in Dubai in January?

January is one of the colder months.

But cold in Dubai is around 20-30 degrees Celsius. A light cardigan or a hoodie would be best. 

What to Wear in Dubai in February?

February is also one of the cooler months in Dubai. It’s also a very rainy month with a few sandstorms.

Bring an umbrella with you and a scarf to wrap around your face, in case you do get caught outside during a sandstorm.

A sandstorm in Dubai is nothing like the one they showed on Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

It’s gentle, but still annoying having little bits of sand get inside your eyes, ears, and mouth. 

What to Wear in Dubai in March?

March is when the weather starts getting much warmer. There might still be a few rainy days but not as much as February. It still isn’t hot enough to wear summer clothes. Any tops or t-shirts with pants, skirts, or shorts will be enough.  

What to Wear in Dubai in October?

October is when it just starts getting cooler in Dubai, but it’s still a little warm. You should wear light clothing and carry a sweater or hoodie with you. 

Can Women Wear Shorts in Dubai?

Yes, they can. As long as the shorts aren’t too short.

If they are knee-length or a little above the knees, it’s fine.

Women should refrain from wearing shorts in parts of old Dubai. 

Can Men Wear Shorts in Dubai?

Yes. Men can wear shorts too.

The only time they should avoid wearing shorts is if they are visiting a mosque or government building (courts). 

Can You Wear Flip Flops in Dubai?

Yes, you can wear Flip Flops anywhere you go in Dubai.

The only time you shouldn’t wear them is if you’re at a really nice hotel. It’s also best not to wear them in the desert because they’re very easy to lose in the sand dunes. 

What to Pack for Dubai?

Dubai is all about the shopping experience, so you don’t want to bring too much with you.

Just pack enough clothes and shoes. Prepare to buy some new ones too when you get here.

Most hotels offer toiletries and other amenities. In case you forget to bring sunscreen, there are many shops and pharmacies to buy it from.

Burj Khalifa Dubai Skyline

Dubai Practical Travel Information

Getting to Dubai

There are two main ways to fly to Dubai to Dubai International Airport or to Abu Dhabi and take a bus to Dubai.

The metro from Dubai International Airport to Downtown takes around 30 minutes to the Burj Khalifa stop.

If you have lots of luggage you can hire a local taxi, Careem or Uber.

A taxi from the airport to Atlantis the Palm costs around $30 USD. It is not advised to take a taxi during rush hour. Be wary, Al Maktoum International in Dubai is actually closer to Abu Dhabi. 

Christmas tree in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai

Get Around Dubai

Everyone uses taxis in Dubai which you can hitch or schedule at +971 4 208 0808. Dubai has its own Uber service called Careem.

It also works from an app, just like Uber and Uber is also available. For cheaper options, there is a regular air-conditioned bus service in Dubai.

Dubai also has a metro. You can use the journey planner app, Wojhati, to make the most of your Dubai itinerary.

The Nol smart card will save you money on public transport.  

Dubai’s tram stops at top attractions like Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Lakes Towers and more.

Finally, there is also a monorail in Dubai that runs from the trunk of the Palm to the iconic Atlantis The Palm.

The Dubai tram is connected to The Palm monorail station.

Dubai Marina

Where to Stay in Dubai

Read our extensive guide on the best Dubai districts to stay in.

Deira District hotels Dubai

Best Tours in Dubai

  • Desert Safari: dune bashing on a 4WD, sunset and BBQ dinner. Book here.
  • Abu Dhabi Day Trip From Dubai: see all the Abu Dhabi highlights in one day! Reserve here.
  • Dubai Helicopter Flight: incredible 25 min ride. Inquire here.
  • Hop-On Hop-Off Bus: See Dubai in a day in comfort. Reserve a ticket.

Keeping reading about tours in our guides; the best tours in Dubai and how to choose a safari tour

Dubai quads on desert sand

Travel Insurance

For travel insurance check out True Traveller Insurance, which Two Scots Abroad personally uses for bigger trips. Many others use the popular World Nomads Travel Insurance

Save for future planning

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Final Words

The dress code in Dubai for tourists is very relaxed compared to other cities in the region. The only condition is that people should be considerate of families with children in public places. 

There are plenty of private hotels and beaches that allow tourists to wear bikinis, but then people should put on a top and pants before going to the mall. Some parts of Dubai are a little more conservative. In those areas, it’s better to cover up the shoulders and legs a little more. 

Police in Dubai does not arrest people for their clothing unless they are publicly in the nude, which is extremely rare. Even if you wear something a little too revealing, the most trouble you will get is a few bad looks and warnings from others. 

My sister saw a woman in Dubai Mall wearing a swimsuit top and shorts. Even though that isn’t technically allowed, she was more concerned about the woman catching a cold, rather than wanting to tell her off. 

That’s how cold malls in Dubai are with so much air conditioning. The locals become more sympathetic about tourists getting sick than what they are wearing. 

Author Bio: Shipra has lived in Dubai for over 30 years and has always been dressed appropriately the entire time. She enjoys how relaxed Dubai is when it comes to clothing. She has never seen anybody get arrested for wearing shorts.  

12 Best Tours in Dubai: Desert Safaris, Abu Dhabi + Line Skips

Old Dubai boat, skyline

On vacation and looking to build your itinerary with the best tours in Dubai, or are you short on time and need quick tips during a stopover?

This guide details exciting Dubai excursions for every budget including time-saving skip the line tickets, thrilling desert tours and an Abu Dubai day trip.

You may also like: how to spend 1-3 days in Dubai, where to stay in Dubai, and how to dress in Dubai.

Dubai Tours for Every Budget

1. Burj Khalifa Levels 124 & 125 Observation Decks ‘At the Top’ $$

The first attraction a tourist needs to see in order to believe that they’re in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa.

Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world which stands proudly in the middle of Downtown Dubai, right beside The Dubai Mall.

It is approximately 828m tall and can be seen from almost any part of the city. Tourists who are brave enough to go ‘At the Top’ will be rewarded with breath-taking 360-degree views of the entire city.

The main observation decks are located on levels 124 and 125 and if you’re willing to pay more, you can even go all the way up to level 148. This experience isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Just picture yourself being on top of the world while every other building in the city looks like it’s a center for ants. The best time to visit the top is around 5-6pm.

That’s when you’ll enjoy the beautiful sun setting over the Arabian sea as all the city lights start to come alive.

Even though you can purchase ‘At the Top’ tickets in the lobby, it’s much better to book them online in advance to choose the perfect time slot before it gets sold out.

You can then pick up tickets at ‘Will Call’ as soon as you arrive.

Try to get there early because the lines can be intense, especially for those who have booked the sunset slots.

You won’t get bored while waiting because, through interactive displays, you’ll get a very rich history lesson about the architecture of the building.

You’ll also get to hear a lot of fun facts.

Did you know that the weight of all the concrete used to construct the Burj Khalifa is equivalent of 100,000 elephants?

As soon as it’s your turn to go to the top, get ready to experience the fastest elevator ride in the world. When those elevator doors open and your heart barely stops pounding, you’ll be greeted by the staff with a warm smile saying those delightful words, “Enjoy the view.”

You might even see Tom Cruise scaling the building again on a top-secret mission.

You can easily get to Burj Khalifa by metro, but it’s a very long walk just to exit the station alone! Taxis are inexpensive in Dubai so it’s better to just hop into one.

Make sure that your driver takes you through Sheikh Zayed Road. That way, you will see the futuristic stretch of the Dubai skyline along the way, especially Emirates Towers, where Star Trek was filmed.

This will surely build up a lot more excitement as you finally approach the Burj Khalifa. 

  • Pros: Jump the line, choose a specific time
  • Cons: Audio tours additional fee
  • Duration: 1.5 hours
Burj Khalifa Dubai Skyline

2. Evening Desert Safari Dubai $$-$$$

A desert safari is one of the best tours in Dubai. Once upon a time, Dubai was nothing but a vast and empty desert.

That’s why it’s worth going back in time to experience where it all began and treating yourself to a delicious Dubai desert dinner, underneath the stars.

There are many tour companies that provide competitive rates for a standard desert safari with BBQ dinner.

In order to choose the right desert safari company in Dubai, make sure to read some online reviews from previous customers.

You can book your own four-wheel drive if you’re traveling together in a group or share one with other tourists to make some new friends.

A standard evening desert safari begins around 3-4pm, which gives you plenty of time for other activities in the morning. A very spacious and comfortable air-conditioned land cruiser will pick you up from your hotel.

After an hour’s drive, you’ll briefly stop at an old service station with souvenir shops, for a chance to stretch your legs while your driver removes air from the tires.

The friendly shopkeepers will offer to sell you a ‘Ghutra,’ which is a traditional Arabic headscarf worn by local Bedouins to protect against dust and sandstorms. It also helps keep your head cool on hot days and it’s fun to watch how skilfully they tie it for you.

A stop there only lasts 20 minutes and then it’s time to go bashing through the Lehbab desert dunes.

Dune bashing in Dubai is such an exhilarating experience and can even be a little scary for some people. You’ll be safely strapped inside a 4×4 Land Cruiser as your driver expertly speeds you up and down the giant sand dunes.

You’ll see lots of great views of the desert but get ready for some serious butterflies in your stomach! Your driver might also be adventurous enough to tilt the cruiser over the edge of a massive dune to make you feel as though you’re about to fall.

Dune bashing is such a thrilling rollercoaster experience in the desert, and you’ll love every moment of the adrenaline rush. One member of our group was extremely nervous, but our driver’s great sense of humor really helped put everyone at ease.

The drivers are friendly and knowledgeable, feel free to ask them any questions and they’ll be happy to engage with you.

Don’t worry about not getting good photos from inside the cruiser, your driver will stop at a beautiful spot for a photo op with the magnificent sunset in the background.

Most Dubai desert dinner tours start early afternoon and last approximately 5-7 hours. They also provide full transport, so you don’t have to worry about hitching a ride in the middle of the desert.

There are many different desert tours in Dubai for all the popular activities that you’d like to experience.

  • Pros: Sunset, BBQ, dune bashing
  • Cons: No camel experience
  • Duration: 6-7 hours
Desert Safari Dune Bashing Tour 4WD on san

3. Red Dune Safari with Sandboarding and BBQ $$

Instead of just stopping for a sunset photo op, with this tour, you’ll also get to hop on a board and go surfing down the sand dunes.

It’s great fun to have a race with all your friends and having a good laugh whenever someone falls on the sand.

Because the sand is very soft, sandboarding is a very safe and fun activity even for children.

There will also be a great opportunity to experience riding a camel. It’s a short ride, but still great for a few photos.

After building up a strong appetite on the dunes, you’ll be taken to a private oasis called Lahbab camp to have an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner. You’ll be seated around a large stage area and enjoy various musical shows such as belly dancing.

The buffet options are plentiful consisting of bread, rice, salads, Arabic meats, and sweets.

Be sure to try the typical Arabic sweet called ‘Luqaimat.’ It’s like a warm and soft deep-fried marshmallow that just melts in your mouth.

You’ll want 50 of them for sure!

You’ll also get unlimited coffee, tea, water, juices, and soft drinks. Alcoholic drinks aren’t free but it’s still worth splurging a little on a cold beer in the desert.

There’s a separate area where everyone can gather around and smoke some delicious shisha.

You can either have your own shisha or share one with two different pipes. Unfortunately, all the free shishas are the same flavor so if you want to try different ones, you’ll have to pay extra for it.

You can also get a temporary henna tattoo from a professional artist and pose with a real falcon. Make sure to get the henna done after dinner because it takes a while to dry and peel off. After all, the best way to experience true Arabic cuisine is by eating with your hands!

  • Pros: Same as above tours + camel experience
  • Cons: Charges for additional options
  • Duration: 4-7 hours

4. Bike the Red Dunes, Sandboard and BBQ with Shows $$

This safari tour has most of the activities (minus dune bashing).

Instead of a 4×4 cruiser, you can fulfill your need for speed by riding your own quad bike for 45 minutes through the desert.

You’ll get all the safety tips on the day, so don’t worry if you’re not an experienced rider.

Just make sure that you choose a reputable Dubai tour guide for this safari.

This is very important because some use very old quad bikes and a tourist was hospitalized

That was a very rare case but it’s still wise to do some research when you’re booking any Dubai safari tours.

  • Pros: Quads for thrill seekers
  • Cons: No dune bashing
  • Duration: 6 hours

6. Morning Safari with Quad Bikes and Sandboarding

This Dubai desert safari tour is like the ones in the evening, but you’ll have to wake up early for it. It’s much shorter for just 4-5 hours and is perfect for those who don’t want to spend an entire day in the desert.

You can go dune bashing, camel riding, quad biking, sandboarding, and enjoy a picnic at Jumeirah Beach after you’re done. Pro: Shorter, great for those on stopovers Con:  Duration: 4-5 hours

7. Overnight Dubai Desert Safari Trip $$

In case you can’t get enough of a desert safari in Dubai, why not stay longer and camp overnight with this tour?

The desert is very quiet and peaceful at night.

You’ll get a lot more privacy because most tourists leave right after the evening tour.

There are many fun activities to do at night, and the desert is the best place to look at stars since there’s no light pollution.

Each person gets their own tent with sleeping bags, cushions and mattresses so you don’t have to bring any camping equipment with you at all.

Some light snacks and drinks are also provided through the night.

It’s a great way to sit around a fire and meet new people. A local guide will be there to tell you all about the history of Dubai.

Some older guides have very interesting stories about what it was like to live in the desert before the city of Dubai was built.

Then you’ll get to watch the most beautiful sunrise when you wake up in the morning.

You’ll get to enjoy a traditional Arabic breakfast before your drive back to the city.

They don’t do any dune bashing on the way back from the desert because everyone’s full from breakfast.

An overnight desert safari in Dubai is extremely safe.

The guides work hard to make sure that everyone can sleep peacefully. You can leave your belongings in the tent and no one will steal anything.

There are shared male and female bathrooms in the campsite which are very clean. Click here to find out more.

  • Pros: Less touristy, stargazing 
  • Cons: Expensive
  • Duration: 24 hours

» » Read the full guide to Dubai’s safari tours here

Woman walking in white dress in Dubai desert

8. Abu Dhabi Full-Day Sightseeing Tour from Dubai $$

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and well worth a visit for at least a day.

It’s only a 90-minute drive from Dubai and there’s barely any traffic on the way via Sheikh Zayed Road.

You can catch a public bus to Abu Dhabi.

Tickets are very cheap at 25 AED from Al Ghubaiba bus station but when you arrive at Abu Dhabi central station,  you’ll need a taxi to get around. 

Alternatively, you can prearrange a trip with a popular tour company who arrange all transportation from Dubai and back.

Tours are also great at managing time because there’s a fair bit to see in Abu Dhabi.

Things to do in Abu Dhabi 

The most iconic tourist attraction is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It’s one of the largest mosques in the world and has an open-door policy for all non-Muslims.

You will be utterly captivated by the impressive architectural styles which represent different Muslim civilizations.

Women are required to wear an Abaya at the mosque. There’s no reason to bring your own because they let you borrow one in different sizes for free.

Everyone must also take their shoes off and walk barefoot. Don’t forget to bring a pair of sunglasses because the bright white building is blinding on a very sunny day.

After the Mosque, you can check out Yas Island and Ferrari World.

Yas Island is famous for hosting many concerts. You can even rent a sports car and race laps around at Yas Marina Circuit where Formula One is held each year.

Ferrari World has some rides, a museum and plenty of merchandise for sale. It does get slightly boring unless you’re really a hardcore Ferrari fan.

It’s worth trying out the fastest rollercoaster in the world but if you’re not into rollercoasters or Ferraris then it’s not worth the high price.

Some tours do a photo stop at Ferrari world so you can have a quick pose to say you were there.

If you’re a Fast and Furious fan, then you’ll want to see Etihad Towers and Emirates Palace.

Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, it’s still worth seeing anyway.

Emirates Palace is breathtakingly grand and perfect to walk around to take some incredible photos. If you want a unique souvenir, you can purchase some gold from the UAE’s first ‘Gold ATM’ which is on the ground floor.

Make sure you leave some time to walk down to the Corniche Beach and dip your feet in the water.

  • Pros: All transport included, highlights visited
  • Cons: Limited by tour itinerary
  • Duration: 8-9 hours
Abu Dhabi Skyline, trees, buildings, water fountain

9. Dubai Helicopter Flight from The Palm to The Burj Khalifa $$$

There’s always a lot of traffic on the streets of Dubai, so the fastest way to do a Dubai day tour is by flying in the air.

Experience all the tours of Dubai in a much shorter time with a complete aerial view.

With a helicopter tour of Dubai, you’ll get to see the entire magnificent shape of the Palm Islands and the crystal blue water surrounding it.

You’ll also get to see the World Islands in case you feel like fantasizing about which private island you’d like to save up for.

The helicopter will also circle close to the Burj Al Arab which is the only 7* hotel in the entire world.

You’ll get to see the helipad that Tiger Woods shot a golf ball from. This is an expensive experience but worth doing at least once in your life.

Make sure to get a window seat if you want to take a lot of photos and videos without having to lean across another passenger.

It’s also important to book a helicopter tour at the start of your holiday in Dubai because the weather can be unpredictable.

If there’s a sandstorm, your flight will get postponed due to poor visibility. So, it’s better to give yourself plenty of time to reschedule the tour rather than canceling it.

  • Pros: Bird’s eye view
  • Cons: Expensive
  • Duration: 12-25 mins
Dubai Helicopter Ride Tour

10. Dubai Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour 24, 48 or 72 Hours $

For a relaxing Dubai day trip, the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour is the best experience.

When the weather is nice, it’s a lot of fun to sit on the top deck and wave to all the other cars passing by.

The lower deck is fully air-conditioned so you can still do the bus tour during the summer months.

The bus stops at all the major landmarks so you can get down explore as much as you like. Reserve and download your instant ticket.

  • Pros: Multi-stops for sightseeing, audio guide
  • Cons: Traffic impacts on duration
View of skyscrapers in Downtown Dubai - the UAE

11. Dubai Speedboat Tour: Marina, Atlantis, Palm & Burj Al Arab $

A speedboat tour is one of the best day activities in Dubai and takes you up close to the Palm Islands.

You’ll enjoy the sea breeze and the great views of the Dubai Marina. Your speedboat driver will make you feel very special throughout the trip and even take photos for you.

On the weekends, you might also see some of the luxury yachts that belong to members of the royal family. 

  • Pros: Fun tour, up close to the Palms
  • Cons: Weather dependent, can be windy 
Palm Islands Dubai

12. Dubai Fountain Show and Burj Lake Ride by Traditional Boat $

After your visit ‘At the Top,’ you should go back to Dubai Mall and walk down from the Apple store escalator and exit through the swiveling doors.

You’ll see the majestic Burj Khalifa standing proudly to your right and this is where you can catch the famous musical fountains that come on every 30 minutes.

It’s very tricky to capture the building’s entire length in photos, so you might see a lot of people squatting down to the ground while trying to take pictures.

And before you know it, you’ll suddenly hear a blast of music and a loud gush of water thundering towards the sky.

Make sure you have your camera ready to record the free show!

The best time to see the free fountain show is after sundown to enjoy all the lights.

You can see it from the bridge between Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar or reserve an outdoor table at any of the restaurants facing the fountain. 

The fountain area gets extremely crowded, so there’s a new floating platform which is much closer to the water and you’ll get a much better view.

It’s called the Dubai Fountain Boardwalk, and tickets for the are only 25 AED per person.

You can also go on a 30-minute traditional Abra cruise and get even closer to the fountain. Don’t forget to pick up physical tickets beforehand because the Abra driver won’t accept any e-tickets.

It’s a very heartwarming experience to watch the beautiful dancing fountain up close, especially when Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Time to say goodbye’ comes on.

You might get sprayed with water the closer you get to the fountain, especially if it’s windy. It helps to carry a small hand towel in your purse.

Dubai Fountain Show at night, birds eye view

13. Dubai 5-Hour Tour with a Professional Photographer Guide $$

This is one of the best tours in Dubai because it allows people to live in the moment.

Now you can truly enjoy being a tourist and the photographer will take all your candid shots for you.

You won’t have to deal with blurry selfies anymore because you’ll get professional high-quality shots to show off on social media.

Don’t forget to use #MyDubai when you upload photos on Instagram. The best photos get displayed on the Burj Al Arab! Check out the best rates here

  • Pros: Feel like a celeb while seeing the sights
  • Cons: Quite a long day if not used to being a model!
  • Duration: 5 hours
Dubai Fountain Show at night, birds eye view

Final Words

Dubai can be expensive but there’s always something for everyone. 

Since there’s so much to do and see in Dubai, you should plan your stay for at least 3 days.

This will give you the best chance to visit all the landmarks, learn the history and take a few of the best Dubai tours. 

Oh, and make sure you don’t forget to eat delicious shawarmas from a local cafeteria and grab a saffron tea from Filli.

Pin to your Dubai board for future planning

Dubai day tours, Dubai day trips, Dubai, Dubai United Arab Emirates, Dubai Travel, Dubai Things to do, Dubai Vacation, Dubai itinerary, best things to do in Dubai, Dubai travel tips, how to plan your Dubai itinerary, How to visit Dubai on a budget, Cheap Dubai tips, Dubai luxury, Dubai safari desert, Dubai desert

About the Author

Shipra is a digital marketer who was born and brought up in Dubai and has lived here for over 30 years. Thanks to all her friends who constantly keep visiting from abroad, she has been on a desert safari 25 times.

Read next: Where to stay in Dubai (best districts and hotels). 

Free 5-Day Dubai Itinerary: Morning, Afternoon & Night Activities

Souq Al Bahar Dubai

This free 5 day Dubai itinerary explains how to see all of Dubai’s tourist attractions, where to eat close by to help save time and what to do in the evenings when night falls and the city lights up!

Each day covers what to see in Dubai during the morning, afternoon and evening.

It also includes pre-book tickets so you can just turn up and enjoy Dubai when you arrive!If this is your first time visiting, check out our Dubai travel guide and packing list too.

Dubai Skyline Woman Taking Photos

Itinerary for Dubai 5 days

Day 1: Hit the Beach, Shop & Burj Khalifa

Morning: Relax at the Beach

Since this is your first morning in Dubai you deserve some R&R before kicking off this fun itinerary!

Either spend time at your resort beach or the public Jumeirah Beach opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) which is packed with entertainment so if the sun gets too much you can go for a wander and get your bearings.

Brunch/Early Lunch

You will find a variety of casual cafes, delis and restaurants on and around The Walk.

Dubai travel tips - Jumeirah District Dubai Beach with skyline

Afternoon: The Dubai Mall  

In the afternoon, head to the Dubai Mall at Downtown Dubai to shop at over 1200 outlets.

If visiting with family, keep the kids entertained at KidZania Dubai, Dubai Ice Rink, VR Park Dubai or Ekart Zabeel.


There are over 200 dining options at Dubai Mall.

Evening: Visit Burj Khalifa & Watch Dubai Fountain Show 

Before the sun sets, make your way to Burj Khalifa At the Top Observatory.

Pre-book your Burj Khalifa tickets for access to its two or all three observation decks (at 124th, 125th and 148th levels).

Following one of the swiftest elevator rides, you’ll see views of Dubai’s skyline, desert, ocean and beyond.

Watch multimedia presentations on Dubai’s past as well as the development of the tower’s structure and then enjoy the Dubai Fountain show.

Set on Burj Lake (outside Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa), this is a choreographed water show in sync to music.

Dubai Mall Light Show


One of our top suggestions is to dine at a restaurant or café in the Downtown Dubai area, which directly overlooks the fountain show.

Dubai Sunset Beach People

Day 2

Morning – Burj Al Arab and The Palm

Visit the luxurious, sail-shaped hotel, Burj Al Arab, without shelling out a fortune.

Once only available to paying guests, now visitors can experience it too.

See the largest-of-its-kind atrium, make a tour of its Royal Suite (complete with choicest comforts), relax at UMA lounge and be part of several immersive experiences. 

After this, find your way to the View at The Palm which is less than 20 minutes by taxi.

It is the first and only vantage point that gives you a full display of the palm-tree-like, man-made island of Palm Jumeirah.

Located on the 52nd level of Palm Tower, you’ll see 360 degree views of the island and its stunning surroundings from a height of over 240 meters.

Book your observation tickets here.


Both Burj Al Arab and the View at the Palm have some amazing dining choices but it can be costly.

Double check the dress code if you plan to dine at one of the restaurants inside Burj Al Arab. 

See our Dubai packing list too.

Palm Islands with blue oceanDubai

Afternoon: Atlantis & Aquaventure Water Park

Atlantis, The Palm, nestled on the crescent part of Palm Jumeirah, is a five-star resort and the next suggestion on our Dubai 5 day itinerary.

Luckily for you, you don’t need to stay at the resort to visit its Aquaventure Water Park.

If you don’t fancy a water park, consider a Dubai yacht cruise instead.

Late Lunch

Atlantis, The Palm has a variety of restaurants and cafes.

But, if you are looking for cheap eats, the food trucks along the Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk don’t disappoint. 

Evening: Palm Fountain Show 

Located at the Pointe, Palm Jumeirah, you are about to experience the world’s largest fountain show, bigger than the Dubai Fountain at Dubai Mall!

A must on your five days in Dubai itinerary.


Dine at one of the restaurants that directly face the Palm Fountain. 

Day 3: Old Dubai & Dubai Creek

Morning: Dubai Creek Cruise

Start your day on this Old Dubai tour which includes a cruise on Dubai Creek in a traditional abra.

The tour also covers Dubai’s biggest and oldest Gold souk and the opportunity to try local tea and snacks like shawarma, falafel and Arabic desserts.

Afternoon: The Dubai Frame

In the afternoon, head to Zabeel Park to see the largest frame in the world and views over to the old city of Deira.

Day 3 Alternative: Bluewaters Island, Ain Dubai & Dubai Marina

Morning: Madame Tussauds Dubai  

Madame Tussauds Dubai is the first of its kind in the Middle East.

Displaying life-like wax models, you can take pictures with your favorite celebs and iconic personalities.

Not fussed for Madame Tussauds?

Bluewaters Island has a variety of stores if you prefer to do more shopping.


There are a variety of dining options such as Havana Social Club and Keventers in the vicinity. 

Afternoon: Ain Dubai 

Ain Dubai is the world’s largest and highest observation wheel at over 250 metres.

It takes about 40 minutes to go round Ain Dubai so you have plenty of time to enjoy the views across Bluewaters Island, JBR and Dubai Marina as you relax in your private or shared air-conditioned cabin.


You can sign up for beverage-inclusive Ain Dubai experience or buy food and drinks from the outlets.

Evening: Dhow Cruise at Dubai Marina 

End the day with a 2- hour dhow cruise and diner on Dubai Marina.

The cruise includes a tour of many Dubai attractions all lit up and live entertainment (like Tanura).

Dinner is served buffet style and includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. 

Day 4: Desert Safari

Chill out in the morning to prepare for a seven hour, jam-packed desert safari tour!

Ride 4X4 in sand dunes, go sand boarding, watch the sunset and enjoy a traditional belly dance show.

BBQ food is also included in the tour.

Reserve your ticket here or read more about desert tours here.

Dubai quads on desert sand

Day 5: Theme Parks, Gardens & Museums

Morning: Visit a Theme Park 

Whether you are a theme park lover or not, your Dubai visit is not complete without visiting one of its world-class theme parks.

You can choose to visit the snow-themed Ski Dubai, the largest-of-its-kind IMG Worlds of Adventure or one or two of the parks within the huge Dubai Parks and Resorts. 


Whichever theme park you choose, every park in Dubai has restaurants or cafes.

Alternatively, visit Dubai’s Miracle Garden and set aside 3-4 hours for your visit.

Morning: Dubai Miracle Garden

You’ve probably seen Dubai Miracle Garden on social media!

This is where the floral heart is located.

The gardens look like something straight out of a fairytale book or Disney movie!

Miracle Garden Hearts Dubai

Afternoon: Museum of the Future 

This is another must-see on your Dubai holiday.

True to its name, this museum walks you straight into 2071.

Apart from its super futuristic exhibits and high-tech galleries, you will be amazed by its architecture that appears like a giant silver oblong river in the heart of the city.


From Leen’s Emirates Towers and Tashrifat Restaurant to La Cantine du Faubourg, there are a variety of restaurants nearby Museum of the Future.


Neha is a travel writer whose whole world revolves around traveling and exploring new places, cultures, and attractions. When she is not traveling, she reads books and takes delight in cooking healthy food or trying new cuisines. As she grew up and has worked most part of her life in Dubai, she is well aware of Dubai and the UAE. 

Dubai in December: 10 Festive Things to do in Winter

Dubai in December. Christmas tree in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai

Thinking about visiting Dubai in December? Go for it! Winter season is the ideal time when temperatures are bearable, shops are packed with discounted gifts and winter events take place throughout the month so you can step into Christmas while catching some rays. 

This guide will detail what to do in December in Dubai, offer tips for Christmas Day and recommend where to celebrate New Year’s Eve, 31st December, in style.

Note: A decision about Dubai Christmas events has not been made yet.

Things to do in Dubai in December

Dubai Weather in December

In December, the weather in Dubai is perfect because it is the winter season and temperatures range between 15-30 degrees Celsius.

This is a stark difference from the summer months when the temperatures are burning around 40-50 degrees Celsius, and the intense heat makes it impossible to plan for most places to visit in Dubai during the day.

However, December is also one of the most expensive months to book flights and hotels because it is the peak tourist season. 

You should book months in advance and avoid waiting on last-minute deals.

Beaches, gardens, desert safari tours, many of the top Dubai attractions are actually outdoors, hence why so many tourists visit Dubai in winter. 

As always, we’ll provide budget tips to help keep your trip to Dubai affordable!

» Others also liked | How to plan the perfect Dubai vacation

Christmas tree in the center of Dubai

1. Madinat Jumeirah Festive Market

Even though the UAE is an Islamic country, many tourists and residents celebrate Christmas in Dubai, and the holiday season kicks off at the start of December.

Nearly every mall will have a giant Christmas tree with decorations, and Santa attends all of them to take photos with families. 

One of the most anticipated activities for Dubai in December is the Madinat Jumeirah Festive Market.

This is the perfect time for you to dig out those matching Christmas sweaters and flex your carol-singing vocal cords. 

The market runs for only sixteen days every year, and visitors can enjoy live music, traditional food, and drinks.

This is a family market, so there might not be any alcohol available at Ford Island where the festivities are. 

However, Madinat Jumeirah is an Arabian souk market that is attached to luxury hotels, like Mina Al Salam and Al Qasr.

There are walkways connecting the souk to these hotels, and they have their own bars where you can pop in for a beer or two before returning to the main market. 

If you want the best view of the seven-star hotel Burj Al Arab to wow everybody on social media, follow the signs from Madinat Jumeirah to Al Qasr and head upstairs to Koubba Bar.

The bar’s outdoor terrace is the perfect vantage point where you can see the world-famous hotel and the sea with all the surrounding palm trees. This is also a very relaxing spot to have a drink while watching the traditional Abra boats pass by. 

The festive market is one of the best places to buy last-minute presents for Christmas in Dubai.

Just make sure you do not attend the market with the gift recipients or buy them discreetly when your loved ones are busy riding the Abra boats with Santa. 

Aside from food and drinks, there is a massive snowball zone, gingerbread house, and other play areas if you are traveling with kids and want them to be entertained while you shop. 

The Madinat Jumeirah Festive Dubai Market runs from 3pm until late and opens earlier at 12pm on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 

Christmas tree in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai

2. La Mer

Another exciting choice for your Dubai trip and one of the best places to visit in Dubai is La Mer.

La Mer is the ultimate beach and shopping destination that makes winter in Dubai feel more spring break than hibernate. 

You can easily spend an entire day on this Dubai beach sipping on delicious drinks and taking part in watersports.

Around the beach, you will find breezy beachside restaurants and graffiti-filled urban streets with art murals and boardwalks to explore.

The street art murals and La Mer’s Brighton-style pastel-coloured beach huts bring all the Instagram fans to the yard! Work on your pose and angles then tag La Mer Dubai for re-share. 

Even though La Mer is in the city center, it is a great place to get away from all the noise if you want a relaxing Dubai Christmas holiday. 

One of the best Dubai waterparks is in La Mer, called Laguna Waterpark.

You can go jet skiing, flyboarding, wake surfing, paddle boarding, and so much more.

Otherwise, you can hire inflatable floaties and drift around to enjoy a lazy afternoon and get that holiday tan to give those Love Island stars a run for their money.

» Save for later | How to spend 3 days in Dubai

3. Burj Khalifa At the Top

Even though the weather in Dubai is heavenly at this time of year, it is only natural that you might want to do some indoor activities as well. 

After all, you cannot spend Xmas in Dubai without going to the tallest building in the world that the city is famous for.

Otherwise, how will anyone believe that you have been to Dubai without a selfie inside the Burj?

For the best Dubai tour of the Burj Khalifa, you should plan a few months in advance because the winter season is usually packed with tourists.

You do not want to arrive at the lobby only to be told that there are no tickets available, and your only option is to see the Burj Khalifa from afar or on YouTube.

The main observation decks are on levels 124 and 125.

From here, you will be approximately 450 meters above the ground, so this Dubai attraction is not for the faint-hearted and those who are afraid of heights.

The observation decks are surrounded by floor to ceiling glass, where you can enjoy a complete 360-degree view of the entire city.

While taking photos and learning about the magnificent structure, you can also stop by for a luxury meal at Atmosphere restaurant and bar.

Sunsets are the most popular time slots, and you might miss out if you do not book tickets in advance.

Dubai Burj Khalifa: Levels 124 and 125 tickets will secure your sunset spot at the top, and you can also use the free Wi-Fi and viewing telescopes for just $40.

This price is significantly lower than buying on-site, and you will not risk having to settle for another time slot if you really want those picturesque Arabian sunset views over the horizon. 

After a visit to the observation decks, don’t forget to stop by for a delicious meal at Dubai Mall and catch the dancing fountains, which may be playing your favorite Adele song with the colorful night lights and backdrop of the Burj Khalifa for a great photo op. 

If you want to sit by the fountains rather than stand among the sea of tourists, you can grab an outdoor table at Five Guys, Nando’s, Texas Roadhouse, Starbucks, and many more restaurants that are facing the Burj.

Another option is to go up the escalator to the second floor and catch the fountain away from the crowds from the Apple shop’s balcony. 

Burj Khalifa Dubai Skyline

4. Desert Safari

If you want those Aladdin fantasies to come true during the Dubai winter season, you cannot miss a trip to the desert to ride four-wheel drives on giant sand dunes. 

A trip to the desert is a huge part of Dubai’s culture, which is why all tourists are encouraged to spend a day.

This trip is not a boring one, and you will be left with butterflies in your stomach after dune bashing, sandboarding, dune buggy rides, camel rides, and so many more thrilling activities. 

By booking tickets in advance, you can save a lot of money because the prices do increase during the winter months.

You will not have to worry about transportation because a local driver will pick you up from anywhere in the city. 

The drive to the desert is approximately an hour, and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the breathtaking views as you race up and down sand dunes on Land Cruisers or dune buggies like you’re in a Mad Max movie. 

Your driver will tell you all about the history of Dubai and answer any questions you may have.

They have lived here for a very long time and can provide recommendations on what to do in Dubai if you have run out of ideas. 

After sunset, you will be taken to a luxury Bedouin campsite where you will be treated with an all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet dinner with local and international cuisines.

When you are done with dinner and drinks, you can sit back and watch a belly dance and Tanoura show. 

Then you will be driven back to the city after a long and exciting day of fun.

The evening safari is the best because you get to spend the perfect amount of time in the desert so that the trip is not too long or rushed. 

If you want to stay in the desert much longer, you can book an overnight camping safari where all the tents, mattresses, pillows, blankets, food, and drinks will be provided. The only thing you need to pack is a sense of adventure. 

For Dubai in December, the most top-rated desert safari tours get sold out very quickly, so you should always buy tickets in advance instead of living life so close to the edge, hoping to buy them after arrival. 

The best Dubai tour that provides everything for an upfront payment is the Dubai Desert Safari Red Dune: BBQ & Sandboarding.

This hot ticket includes transport to-and-from anywhere in the city, all your meals, dune bashing, camel rides, and sunset photo ops from the tallest sand dunes for just $35, which is a steal compared to regular Dubai winter season prices.

You should carry some warm clothes in the desert for evening trips because it is a lot colder than in the city.

Even though the Dubai desert will never be Arendelle, the temperatures can drop to 10-20 degrees Celsius, especially after sunset. 

Your trip will be a lot more comfortable if you pack a hoodie, light coat, or even a Christmas sweater knitted by that family member whose gifts you hate.

Some safaris might provide blankets if you request them in advance, but there is no way of knowing where they have been, so it’s always best to bring your own. 

The buffet includes a lot of barbecued meats, rice, Arabic bread, salad options, desserts, tea, coffee, soft drinks, juices, etc.

There is also alcohol available at the camp, but those beverages are not included in the overall package and must be paid for separately. 

The campsite will not have any ATM machines because you are in the middle of the desert.

Therefore, you should always bring some cash in the local currency (Dirhams) to purchase alcohol and souvenirs. 

» Read more | How to choose the best safari tour in Dubai

Dubai quads on desert sand

5. Miracle Garden

If you love a colorful life and are not prone to allergies, a visit to Miracle Garden while in Dubai in December is a must.

This gorgeous Dubai attraction is the largest natural flower garden, with over 50 million flowers and 200 million natural plants.

This is a little further from the city center, but worth a visit if you want some breathtaking photos for social media. 

A ticket to the Miracle Garden is only $14 for adults and $10 for children and provides a lot of fun for the entire family.

If you have always dreamed of being an Instagram influencer, this is the place to be for the best shots that you won’t even need filters for. 

The Miracle Garden is only open from November until May every year, so you should take advantage of the winter season to enjoy this stunningly unique display and extravagant outdoor tour in Dubai. 

Since the park covers over 72,000 square meters, it might take approximately two or three hours to cover the entire place, depending on how many times you stop for a selfie.

The garden has already gotten four Guinness World Records just for being so incredible. 

These are not flowers in pots or vases, you will literally see an actual Emirates Airlines’ A380 plane covered in colorful flowers. There are many other sculptures and twinkling lights that enhance the experience if you want the most visual treat for Christmas in Dubai. 

Aside from the Insta-worthy flower displays on steroids, you can also check out the Amphitheatre for live entertainment, street performers, costume parades, and even catch a Zumba session if all that walking is not burning enough calories. 

Some of the most prominent displays are 3D shapes of life-sized animals, the aerial floating lady, the Emirates plane, cartoon characters, and many more.

Every year the garden adds several new floral exhibits and has become a very special place for a lot of tourists and residents of Dubai. 

» You may also like | Dubai’s best tours

Miracle Garden Hearts Dubai

6. Global Village

If you ever promise to show a loved one the entire world but have a very limited budget, Global Village is the best solution to your problems.

This is often a running joke amongst Dubai residents. 

Global Village is one of the most iconic Dubai attractions that has been running every winter season for many years, and people never get enough of it. 

This is the world’s biggest multicultural amusement park with pavilions selling goods from different countries, a ton of street food from every cuisine, and carnival-style Dubai theme park rides for both adults and kids. 

You can go shopping at the Indian pavilion and then visit Iran, Egypt, China, and then Europe, etc.

It takes an entire day to visit all the pavilions because there is so much to see.

You might also struggle to walk after eating a lot of food because you will see vendors everywhere selling delicious local and international treats. 

Some of the best things to eat at Global Village are pasta in a wheel of cheese, shawarma sandwiches, roasted corn, Turkish ice cream, Indian biryanis, American burgers, and hopefully still have room for dessert. 

Global Village has daily fireworks at night and even a water fountain show.

They also host famous international artists, Bollywood stars, and Arabic singers for free live entertainment on the mainstage. 

If you want to take an epic panoramic selfie with the Burj Khalifa, Eiffel Tower, The Big Ben, and Sydney Opera House together, make sure that Global Village is on your itinerary while visiting Dubai in December. 

Dubai Skyline Woman Taking Photos

7. Dubai Nightlife

There are plenty of clubs in Dubai that are open almost every night of the week.

Alcohol is very expensive in Dubai, and a pint of beer might cost around $15 each because of all the taxes, but you can always find special deals. 

If you purchase Zomato Gold, you can get 1-for-1 free drink deals.

Another popular drink app is “Moonshine,” where you can find tons of deals for cheaper drinks or get free ones if you spend over a certain amount. 

Dubai is famous for the best ladies’ nights in clubs and bars.

Women can benefit from free entry and free drinks until late at night.

A lot of dinner buffet packages also include free-flow house beverages, such as champagne, wine, beers, and some spirits. 

Women wearing long dress with Dubai skyline

8. Ahoy! Dine on the QE2

Never mind decking the halls, you can dine on the deck of Queen Elizabeth 2 in Dubai.

Choose from a buffet meal with alcohol at The Lido (indoor) or The Pavilion (outdoor).

This books up fast.

9. Christmas Day in Dubai

Chrismas Day (25th December) is not a public holiday in Dubai. However, lots of places celebrate the holiday.

You can expect the metro, shops and attractions to run like any other day.

Madinat Jumeirah Festive Dubai Market is open on Christmas Eve (24th) and Christmas Day too. 

Top hotels serve western traditional meals as well as local options on Christmas Day throughout the city.

Looking for something boozy? Dubai’s infamous party brunches can be booked on the 25th too. 

For more civilized Christmas dining experience check out the revolving restaurant at Hyatt Regency Dubai, Dubai.

Although the 25th is not a public holiday, there are three other dates to note which won’t have much impact on your trip.

Throughout the UAE, the 1st is Commemoration Day and the 2nd-3rd is National Day.

Christmas tree in the center of Dubai

10. New Year’s Eve in Dubai

Dubai is an expensive city to visit, but it becomes even more pricey on New Year’s Eve.

If you are planning to celebrate New Year’s while visiting Dubai in December, you might have to overstretch those wallets to have the best party. 

Nearly every hotel, club, yacht, or mall in Dubai throws an event for New Year’s Eve.

The midnight fireworks take place at the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, and The Palm Island.

The best fireworks are held at Burj Khalifa, where they literally shoot out of the building.

The fireworks, light show, and fountains are all synchronized on New Year’s Eve. Which is why everybody wants to be there, and crowds become too hectic. 

A yacht party is the best way to see the fireworks on the water. 

However, a ticket for an all-inclusive drink and food package can set you back $500 per person.

This is worth the money because you get to set sail on a luxury yacht from Dubai Marina and drink as much alcohol with a buffet dinner from 9pm until 3am. 

If you want to visit Dubai in December to celebrate New Year’s Eve with Burj Khalifa fireworks, you might want to plan early.

The boardwalk closest to the fountains and Souk Al Bahar gets closed off because there isn’t enough space for everybody to stand.

Only restaurants along the promenade allow people to sit there and wait for the fireworks. 

However, restaurants capitalize on this opportunity hardcore.

Regular food chains, such as Nando’s, Texas Roadhouse, and Five Guys Burgers, have a cover charge of at least $200 per person to reserve a seat for New Year’s Eve.

Imagine eating peri-peri chips for $10 on a regular day and then forking out hundreds of dollars. 

They justify this inflated cost by including all-you-can-eat in the cover charge, so you can get prime seating for the fireworks while eating as many burgers as possible until midnight.

The only entrance to the promenade is through Dubai Mall.

Mall security stops people from going near the Burj Khalifa and fountain unless they have a restaurant reservation. 

The free public viewing area is a little further down at Burj Park.

This is a green open space to fit loads of people who arrive very early to wait for the fireworks.

You will also find public toilets and food carts that make it easier to spend the evening.

A DJ will also be performing with other musical acts to get everyone partying for the night. 

A lot of people get to Burj Park as early as 2pm to get the best spot in the front.

This is because when the fireworks begin, everybody crowds around, and it is challenging to see the complete synchronization with the fountain as well. 

If you are a short person stuck in the back, you might have a better chance of seeing Aquaman levitate out of the fountain and fly with a Superman cape into the smoke-filled sky instead of the show. 

Many clubs will host New Year’s Eve parties with a cover charge.

Such as Barasti and Zero Gravity which are trendy beach bars where you can watch fireworks and dance the night away with live music. 

Traffic on New Year’s Eve is an absolute nightmare because the police shut down the roads leading to Dubai Mall. This is for everybody’s safety.

In the past, a lot of people got stuck in standstill traffic for hours and started walking on the flyover pass to get to the mall. 

To catch the Burj Khalifa fireworks, you will have to arrive with the Dubai Metro.

When you get off, there will be signs or security personnel to guide you to the viewing area if you do not have a Texas Roadhouse reservation. 

The metro also shuts early because of the crowd. The latest you should take the train is 6pm.

Otherwise, you should abort the plan for Burj Khalifa and go on an exciting yacht party instead. 

Some people manage to drive to the mall early morning and shop around until they can go to the fireworks area.

However, this seems like a good idea until the show ends, and then people are stuck for eternity trying to get out.

You should either only take a taxi if you plan on getting there in the morning or use the metro if you are arriving after around 2pm. 

Alternatively, you can also go to Dubai Festival City Mall for fireworks, fountains, and an epic light show too.

It is not as grand as the show at Burj Khalifa, but the outdoor area is less stressful to get to, and they also have a wide range of restaurants you can book tables at. 

Many hotels in Dubai have a beautiful view of the Burj Khalifa.

You can splurge on a room with a balcony or terrace facing the fireworks to enjoy popping open that champagne away from the crowds.

The Address Hotel is the closest to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. 

It does require a lot of effort to see fireworks in Dubai because of all the crowds.

However, it is always worth doing at least once because the city continuously pushes itself into making every year’s show the very best.

Dubai always wins awards for New Year’s Eve.

No matter how much you spend or go through the hassle to be there, you will enjoy every moment. 

Burj Fireworks Dubai New Years Eve

What to Wear for Dubai Winter Months?

This depends on your tolerance for cold temperatures.

You might be a tourist from Florida who wears a puffer jacket or a Scandinavian warrior walking around in shorts. 

Most people wear light sweaters and hoodies because Dubai does not get as cold as European countries.

At times it even feels colder inside the malls from air conditioning than it does outside by the dancing fountains. 

You will not need scarves, hats, or gloves at all. Long pants and a light cardigan or shawl should be enough unless you are going to the desert for the night.

Then you might need a thick hoodie or sweater because the temperatures are lower among those beautiful sand dunes. 

Many tourists do not feel cold and are less dramatic than the residents, so they usually wear t-shirts and shorts as if it is summer. 

» Read the full guide | What to wear in Dubai

Dubai travel tips -Blonde women wearing sunglasses posing near a Dubai boat

Where to Stay in Dubai

Many hotels in Dubai remain unoccupied throughout the year and suddenly fill up during the winter months because it is peak tourist season.

If you are planning a visit to Dubai in December, you should prepare to pay higher prices even if you book in advance. 

The further you are away from downtown, the more hotel rooms will be available because everyone wants to stay as close to the Burj Khalifa as possible since that is where all the action is. 

You can book luxury hotels, such as the Armani Hotel, Emirates Towers, W Hotel, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, and many more.

Or you can pick some slightly more affordable options in areas such as Dubai Festival City, Karama, Bur Dubai, Deira, etc. 

Either way, you will have no choice but to deal with inflated prices because the winter months are when Dubai attracts the most tourists, and all the hotels make up for the lower occupancy from the summer months. 

» See all recommendationsWhere to stay in Dubai

Girl in red dress with Dubai skyline

Best Month to Visit Dubai

December is the best month to visit Dubai. This is because of the fun festive atmosphere where everyone comes together to celebrate Christmas in Dubai. 

You can visit the Madinat Jumeirah and Festival City Christmas markets that are only held during this month.

A lot of malls, such as Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall, and Wafi, have the best Christmas decorations and events with Santa for the kids that you won’t get to experience during any other month. 

The Dubai climate in December is very pleasant with a soothing chill in the evenings rather than the rainy season around January and February that makes headlines because roads get flooded, road traffic comes to a standstill, and deliveries get delayed.

In January 2020, the airport got shut down for a day as well because of the flooded runways.

If you are traveling to Dubai in January, it might be best to check the weather reports closely before booking flights in case there are delays or cancellations.

According to Gulf News, Dubai is actively engaging in cloud seeding, which is apparently causing a lot of unexpected rainfall in the region. 

Unless you want Pizza Hut to take three hours to deliver those chicken wings and garlic bread to your hotel room, you might want to visit Dubai in December rather than mid-January. 

The cheapest time to visit Dubai is around June till September.

These are the hottest months in the city where your face will feel like it is melting, which is why many tourists avoid the summer season because it hinders your ability to enjoy all the amazing outdoor activities, such as the souk markets, beaches, and desert safaris. 

Hotel occupancy during this time is lower, so you can often find a lot of great deals at much cheaper rates than the Dubai winter months.

Many theme parks also experience less footfall during this time and might offer two-for-one deals on tickets. 

Dubai travel tips - Jumeirah District Dubai Beach with skyline

Pin to your Dubai planning board

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Final Words

There are many incredible outdoor activities in Dubai that you would miss out on if you do not visit during the winter months.

Therefore, the prices for flights and hotels get higher because every tourist wants to see the world at Global Village, sip hot chocolate at Madinat Jumeirah, pose for photos in front of a flowery A380 aircraft, and sit by the beach without regretting life. 

If you want to have the best holiday while visiting Dubai in December, you should start planning as early June or July.

Many hotels offer an early bird rate if you book and pay in advance. This will help you save money without paying twice as much closer to winter. 

Our Dubai Travel Guides

Author’s Note

Shipra has spent many winters in Dubai, and always looks forward to December every year because she loves riding an Abra with Santa. 

Dubai Travel Tips: 10+ Things to Know Before You Go

Dubai travel tips -Blonde women wearing sunglasses posing near a Dubai boat

Dubai is an enigma to those who have not experienced the ultramodern wonder before! However, there is advice that travelers should be aware of while planning their trip to Dubai as well as a few myths that should be addressed. This guide to Dubai travel tips will fully prepare you for the best time in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) City of Gold, whether you are here on a stopover or visiting for an extended vacation.

Travel Tips for Dubai

1. Getting to Dubai

The majority of visitors enter Dubai via Dubai International Airport which is in the Deira district and is the closest airport to the city.

From here you can take the metro into the center, the Burj Khalifa stop is around a 30-minute journey.

If you must, you can use the taxi, Uber or Careem service in Dubai but be aware that it is not advised to take a taxi during rush hour. A taxi off-peak from Dubai International Airport to Atlantis the Palm will cost approximately $30 USD.

A lesser-known way to get to Dubai is to arrive in Abu Dhabi and take a bus. If you find affordable flights to Abu Dhabi International Airport, this is an option. 

If fact, Dubai’s second airport, Al Maktoum International, is actually closer to Abu Dhabi than the city center of Dubai.

2. Getting Around Dubai

Dubai is a small city. It is easy to get around because there are taxis, public buses, and the Dubai metro.

Dubai Metro

The Dubai Metro only runs until 10pm or midnight on weekends. It doesn’t cover the whole of Dubai, with most stops being located on Sheikh Zayed Road, Deira, and Karama.

The Metro stops at the malls and the stations are linked to the malls, so you don’t have to walk outside in the heat.

You can buy tickets for the Metro at the stations or get the NOL card which is similar to a top-up Oyster Card in London.

There are two kinds of NOL cards, silver, and gold.

The silver card allows you in the regular metro sections whereas the gold card allows you in ‘Gold Class’ which is less crowded.

Otherwise, simply ask the cashier at the stations for a single or return ticket in either regular or gold class sections. They will issue you one on the spot, and these are priced according to which zone you want to travel.

Here is a link to the Dubai Metro map explaining each zone.

The Metro also has a separate section for women. Women can go in any section, but men cannot enter the ladies’ area, or they will get fined.

Always keep your ticket close because the road transport authority officers do travel on the Metro to scan everybody’s tickets. If you have lost the ticket, they might fine you unless they feel sympathetic.

All Metro station announcements are made in both Arabic and English.

The Metro becomes extremely busy during rush hour, and many people forget proper etiquette. Please avoid rushing in as soon as the doors open and allow people to exit the train first.

If successfully push past the crowd to hop inside, please do not stand close to the door. Walk further inside to make room for more people to enter.

The gold class section has a large window where you can take photos of the famous Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road skyline.

Dubai Metro is completely airconditioned because you cannot crack open a window.

Some stations also have Wi-Fi if you need to Google a location etc. Instead of “Mind the Gap,” they say, “Stand Clear.”

Dubai Buses

Buses are extremely slow because they stop very frequently, but they cover more extensive areas of Dubai. The bus stops are all air-conditioned enclosures with seats inside so you can cool off while waiting for a ride.

These rooms also have small screens to let you know the bus timings.

However, never rely on the timings of the buses because they often end up stuck in traffic.

You can also book the Dubai hop on/off bus to see lots of the Dubai attractions without sweating too much! Here’s our guide on which Dubai passes are worth it, including the bus passes.

Taxes, Uber and Careem

Taxis are incredibly cheap in Dubai compared to other tourist destinations. You can either use a standard yellow government Dubai Taxi or use ride-sharing apps such as Uber or Careem.

Both these apps are top-rated, and you can quickly get a discount code for your first ride.

Dubai metro railway


Giving directions in Dubai can be a nightmare. There are no unique postcodes to identify places like the United Kingdom.

Most taxi and delivery drivers know all the famous landmarks and hotels.

If they do not know a location, you might have to guide them by telling them where to turn and which roads to take.

This is very challenging for tourists who are traveling to Dubai for the first time. That is why it’s better to use Uber or Careem. That way, you can use the hotel Wi-Fi to enter your destination on the map.

Traffic in Dubai can be very hectic and almost standstill for hours if you are on Sheikh Zayed Road or going from Dubai to Sharjah.

There are many memes online about people ageing behind the wheel while waiting for a signal to turn green.

Usually, it’s very jam-packed in the mornings and late evenings when it’s peak time. However, a lot of road accidents happen due to cars speeding, and you can easily get stuck in traffic at any time.

Always plan to leave as early as possible, especially if you are going to the airport or the Dubai Opera. They always frown the most at latecomers.

3. Dubai Districts

Just like New York has neighboorhoods and Edinburgh has areas, Dubai has districts and each district is unique!

  • Zabeel (aka Downtown) is known for the main attractions
  • Jebel Ali District is where you will find Dubai Marina
  • Jumeirah District is the place for beach lovers who want to mix with locals
  • Deira District is Old Dubai and is affordable
  • Bur Dubai is also known as Al Karma, a hip district

Before booking your accommodation, read our guides on where to stay and the best Airbnbs.

Most Visited Places in Dubai

Dubai’s top attractions are:

  • The Burj Khalifa – 125th viewing platform, reserve your tickets as it is busy
  • Dubai Mall – it’s not just about shopping!
  • Dubai Fountain – light and water show
  • Jumeira – marina with plush boats
  • Dubai Marina – food, relaxing walks, views
  • Deira Souk – Old Dubai
  • Karama Meena Bazaar – haggle
  • The Dubai Frame – the biggest picture frame on the planet!
  • Dubai Desert – click to read how to choose the best Dubai tours, including safari

Find out more, don’t miss our 1-3 day Dubai itinerary 

Burj Khalifa Dubai Skyline

4. Dubai Shopping

Peru has trekking, Dubai has shopping! There are dozens of malls across the city with popular big brand stores.

If you are shopping in Dubai, prepare to get exhausted because the malls are massive requiring a lot of walking.

But don’t worry because Dubai Mall now has sleeping pods (!) for you to have a quick nap in between purchases.

The longer you stay in the mall, the better it is for corporations, so they want you feeling refreshed without going home.

The prices for items in malls are slightly higher than in other countries. If you buy a dress from Zara, it will be cheaper to get it in England than in Dubai.

This is due to import fees and costs big brands such as Zara add to the price tag.

Dubai shopping also means a lot of sales. If you come during summer, the Dubai Summer Surprises sale is the best.

Most products get marked down by fifty percent. This is also the right time to buy winter clothes to take back home.

You might also see a store called Pierre Cardin, offering ninety percent discounts. They have been doing this every single day since the dawn of time. It is a marketing gimmick, and all the locals make fun of it.

5. Food

Not eating shawarma in Dubai is the most severe crime. That is almost the same as a tourist, never touching fish and chips whenever they visit England.

Shawarmas are beef or chicken sandwiches wrapped in Arabic bread with hummus, garlic tahini sauce, pickles, French fries, and some lettuce and tomato.

If you do not eat meat, you can opt for a falafel wrap instead. Dubai has some of the best falafels, and you will fall in love with every bite. Don’t forget to ask for a Karak or Zafrani tea to have with the sandwich.

Affordable meals can be bought in Dubai Marina.

Ramadan in Dubai

Ramadan is the holy month of fasting, and you are not allowed to eat or drink in public during the day.

This rule applies to all Muslims and Non-Muslims. However, many restaurants are open as usual, and food courts have covered areas for people to eat if they are not fasting.

If you are caught eating out in the open before sundown during this month, you will incur a small fine or a warning not to do it again.

That is why the best time to visit Dubai is from December to March. The weather is perfect during these months, and there are plenty of fun outdoor activities, especially desert safari adventures.

Ramadan is usually in the summer months, especially June or July. This is when the weather is hottest, and tourists should always stay inside to prevent getting a heat stroke or sunburn.

» Read next | Dubai in December – what not to miss


Almost every hotel restaurant hosts Friday brunch. This is because alcohol is costly in Dubai, but during brunch, you can buy a heavily discounted all-you-can-drink package with a full buffet meal.

Brunches alone are one of the best reasons why you should visit Dubai. Imagine sitting in a luxury hotel like Atlantis and indulging in free-flowing alcoholic drinks with a lavish spread of international cuisine and a giant chocolate fondue fountain in the center for the kids.

Friday brunch can also get messy because of how much everybody drinks. Try your hardest not to get too drunk and don’t cause a scene. If you do let go and have a lot of fun, just make sure to get in a taxi and go home right after instead of being drunk on the streets.

Is Dubai Expensive?

Some parts of Dubai are more expensive than others.

If you go to Downtown Dubai where the tallest building in the world Burj Khalifa is, you can expect to pay more because that area is packed full of tourists.

Other expensive areas in Dubai are Jumeirah, and Dubai Marina.

These are places that tourists visit the most, and the locals call it the “Shiny part of Dubai.”

Rent is much higher in this area, so businesses have to charge more to keep their doors open.

» You may also like: Where to stay in Dubai without breaking the bank

A souvenir in Dubai Mall can cost three times more than one purchased from Karama or Deira. Souvenir shops in the expensive areas have price tags so you must pay what it says.

Whereas in other places such as Deira Souk, you can haggle with sellers and successfully reduce the price.

You might also want to try appearing less touristy because the moment sellers in Deira realize you’re from abroad, they often add an extra zero at the end of a price tag.

If you have a friend who speaks Arabic or Hindi, that will automatically warrant a generous discount.

6. Dubai Currency + Exchange

The local Dubai currency is called “Dirham” or AED.

One dollar equivalent will buy you a one-hour parking ticket in Downtown, or a delicious shawarma sandwich in the cheaper parts of Dubai.

While planning a trip to Dubai, make sure to budget according to the activities you want to do and the areas you want to visit.

If you do not have cash, most places accept credit, debit, and travel cards. There are no language barriers when it comes to the words “Visa” and “Mastercard.”

Except for desert safaris, unless they are paid in advance, your driver will ask for cash, and there are no ATMs in the desert.

You can spend the first few days in the Downtown area splurging. Then save all your souvenir shopping for the end and buy them from Deira or Karama souks.

The best currency to take to Dubai is the Dirham.

Otherwise, you can easily exchange British and Scottish Pounds, or American, Australian, and Canadian Dollars. There are many currency exchanges at the airport and all the malls.

You can also find them in every residential neighborhood.

UAE Exchange is the most popular one you will see everywhere. When you go to exchange your money, ask the teller to give you their “Best Rate.”

Dubai currency

Tipping in Dubai

Unlike the United States, tipping is not required in Dubai, but it is always appreciated.

A lot of the servers, waitstaff, and taxi drivers are from low-income countries, and their salaries are meagre.

When you give them a tip, it shows that you were pleased with their service and puts a big smile on their face. These workers also return most of their income to support families in their home country, and your tip could be precious even if it is a small amount.

If you are tipping in Dubai, there isn’t a set percentage that you should give. It can be any amount as low as five percent of the bill.

Most people usually leave anywhere from ten to twenty percent.

Make sure to tip in cash because all the card payments go straight to the business and there is no guarantee whether the owner passes the tips onto the workers or not.

Just be smooth like James Bond and slip a crisp note in the bill folder. You will really brighten that person’s day and motivate them to continue delivering an excellent service.

7. Dubai Laws for Tourists

Dubai laws for tourists and residents are relaxed compared to Sharjah or Abu Dhabi. But there are still many things to be mindful of to avoid getting into trouble.

Alcohol in Dubai

Alcohol is available in clubs, restaurants, and hotels. Drinks are costly here, and a pint of beer can cost nine pounds depending on where you go. They also have a lot of ladies’ nights, where women get free entry and drinks.

There is a loose requirement to have an alcohol license that permits you to drink. It allows you to buy alcohol from shops such as MMI, as regular supermarkets won’t have any in stock. But you do not need one to drink in bars.

It used to be difficult for tourists to get an alcohol license because you had to show proof of residency and get a supporting letter from your employer or landlord. Now they have recently introduced an exclusive permit for tourists as well.

The alcohol license for tourists is straightforward to apply for, but if you do not get one, you can still drink. All licensed venues in Dubai are privately owned and allow drinking without licenses.

You can simply walk into any bar and buy anything you want.

Whether you have a license or not, you cannot be drunk outside. When you leave the doors of a club, you are already in breach of this law because you have alcohol in your system.

The local authorities turn a blind eye because they expect you to go straight home after a night out. You can have all the fun you want in a club but as soon as you leave, make sure to hop into a taxi directly.

Since most clubs are in hotels, you will find a line of taxis waiting outside the lobby. This makes it easy to get into one. Do not hang around the hotel while drunk for long because if any altercation happens, you will be charged for having alcohol in your system.

Technically on paper, there is a six-month jail sentence and a fine of 5000 Dirhams, which they rarely enforce unless you are involved in a difficult situation.

Most likely, they will give you a warning and insist that you go home immediately.

If you are too drunk and do not have anyone to help you, the hotel staff or police might take you to a hospital or the station overnight. That is why it’s best not to get blackout drunk.

Dubai Sunset Beach People


Drugs are strictly illegal in Dubai.

Never consume or carry any because you can get sentenced to at a minimum of four years in jail followed by deportation. The local authorities are very unforgiving when it comes to drugs and have a zero-tolerance policy.

Even having drugs in your system that are considered illegal here, such as marijuana, can land you in jail. It does not matter if you had smoked or eaten an edible in another country.

If you do have some traces in your system, never draw any attention towards yourself or tell anyone because people might report you.

If you are traveling from another country such as Amsterdam, avoid coming directly to Dubai and wait a few days until your system is clean.

This is a very urgent warning because a lot of places have legalized it, but Dubai’s laws are very strict regarding this. It’s not worth taking the risk at all. They have locked up people in jail for drug possession, and your holiday can suddenly turn into a nightmare if you are not careful.

Keep all your CBD vapes, edibles, and all paraphernalia back in your home country and do not have any trace of it in your suitcase or body when you arrive in Dubai.

8. Is Dubai Safe?

TimeOut Magazine ranked Dubai as the 6th safest city in the world. This ranking is based on feedback from both tourists and residents in Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates has annual themes to promote safety, and 2019 is the Year of Tolerance. This makes Dubai one of the most welcoming cities.

Is Dubai Safe for Women?

Dubai is exceptionally safe for women. It is one of the few cities in the world where a woman can walk by herself in a dark alley in the middle of the night and still be safe.

Laws in Dubai are stringent, and people are very fearful of going to jail or getting deported. They wouldn’t dare touch a woman without her consent even if she is walking alone in the dark at two in the morning.

Like any other city, it is always advisable not to speak or accept rides from strangers. This applies to both men and women. Most of Dubai’s streets are well-lit, and you can find taxis quickly.

People are very helpful and will go out of their way to give you directions if you are lost.

As a woman, you can flaunt the most expensive handbag in the middle of the night, and no one will risk their lives to steal it.

Women wouldn’t get catcalled on the streets, but a lot of men might stare. Even if you are wearing appropriate clothing, they still do it. This only happens in the more conservative areas of Dubai.

There is no crime against staring, but it does feel uncomfortable. It’s always best to ignore it because these kinds of men will never talk to or harm a woman. All they do is stare from a distance.

Taxi drivers can be chatty and overly friendly at times, but it’s usually harmless. If you are alone in a taxi, always sit in the backseat and never the front.

This is just for your own protection. Even though they will not harm or touch anyone without consent, it’s still wise to be cautious, especially if you are traveling to Dubai alone.

If you are drunk and need to get home, ask a friend to help rather than attempting to go in a taxi by yourself. This is just a precaution, but most of the time, nothing will happen.

I had passed out in a taxi once, and the driver used my phone to call my sister and ask for directions. They do get annoyed by drunk people but always try and stay professional.

Do not accidentally try to pay them the fare in a different currency like a friend of mine did. Taxis only accept Dirhams in cash. If you do not have any cash, ask the taxi driver to stop by an ATM.

Blonde women wearing sunglasses posing near a Dubai boat

9. What to Wear

Even though Dubai has very relaxed laws when it comes to clothing, it is always good to dress appropriately in public.

When you are choosing an outfit to wear, ask yourself if it is decent enough for children to see you in.

This is because Dubai is a very family-friendly city, and the clothing rules exist to make families feel comfortable. It has very little to do with Sha’aria law.

In clubs or private beaches, you can wear the shortest dresses or bikinis. But in malls and tourist attractions where families visit, you should dress comfortably without revealing too much cleavage and shoulders.

» Read our extensive guide on what to wear in Dubai for women and men

Girl in red dress with Dubai skyline

Weddings and Honeymooning in Dubai

If you use Instagram, you will have noticed that Dubai is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations. All hotels have weddings and honeymoon packages, and they love putting together swans made from towels or hearts with rose petals on the beds.

Depending on when you are planning to get married, you should book a package at your favorite hotel in advance.

A lot of tourists visit Dubai specifically to host their weddings because the hotels are picturesque with luxury ballrooms, and the staff members are very talented when it comes to planning an event.

A Dubai Honeymoon is very romantic. You can organize a private dinner in the middle of the desert or treat yourself to the most luxurious holiday with spa sessions.

→ Dubai loves to host and entertain married couples, but make sure you do not engage in any public displays of affection.

Always keep it for the hotel room and never outside.

If you want the ideal moonlight kiss, a lot of hotels have spacious balconies with outdoor seating. Order some room service champagne and keep it all behind closed doors.

In the touristy parts of Dubai such as Downtown, Dubai Marina, and Jumeirah, it is safe to hold hands. You can share a kiss in clubs because they are private property, but it’s still better to keep all kinds of PDA indoors as much as possible.

Women wearing long dress with Dubai skyline

10. Staying in Hotels

Hotels are private businesses. Despite the laws against unmarried couples staying in a room together, many turn a blind eye if you don’t cause any problems.

Upon arrival, they will take photocopies of your passports while checking you in. Then you are free to stay in the same room with your partner if you keep to yourself and don’t draw unwanted attention.

Most people (except hotel staff) will not even know that you are a couple. They will often assume you are just two friends unless you start kissing in front of them.

There was an unfortunate case last year where a British man and his girlfriend were arrested together while staying in a hotel. Police swooped in on them because the hotel alerted them, saying that a couple checked in using a fake credit card.

Using a fake credit card is a serious crime. The police arrested the girlfriend as well.

Rumors were saying that she was arrested for sharing a hotel room with her boyfriend, but that wasn’t the case. She was taken because the police thought she was an accomplice to credit card fraud.

When the British man admitted that he committed the crime on his own, his girlfriend was released. The local authorities and the hotel staff were more concerned about the fake credit rather than the couple being unmarried.

Hotels will never call the police if you are just staying with a boyfriend or girlfriend if you do not commit a crime such as using a fake card to book a room. Keep to yourself and don’t do anything to draw negative attention. Check out our tips on the best districts to stay.

View of skyscrapers in Downtown Dubai - the UAE

Additional Laws

Touching People

Be mindful of walking in crowded spaces because some people can take offense if you touch them.

A Scottish tourist was arrested in Dubai for accidentally touching another man on the hip. This was a very unfortunate case because it genuinely did seem like an accident as he was in a crowded club trying to move through a sea of people.

The other man took offense and called the authorities. Homosexuality is illegal in Dubai, and the Scottish man got accused of sexual assault, which is a severe crime.

Even though he claimed it was an accident, the authorities could not believe him because he was under the influence of alcohol.

If he had not been drinking, it could have been a different situation entirely.

When police take statements from both parties, they tend to give more respect to a person who was sober the whole time.

Some people do not drink alcohol, but they still visit a club for dinner or consume non-alcoholic cocktails.

When the police came, they had to choose between believing a sober or a drunk person. This made things difficult for the Scottish man because there was evidence of him drinking, and he admitted it himself.

Luckily, the case was finally dropped, and the Scottish man was free to go home. To avoid that from happening you should be mindful of who you touch, even in crowded places.

While walking through clubs or tight spaces, keep your hands to yourself and simply ask people to move aside or say, “Excuse me.” Then there is no risk of touching anybody.

At the same time, this case shocked residents as well because a little accidental touching does not offend everybody. Most people let it slide since they understand these things happen. However, the Scottish tourist was unlucky to have met someone who did take offense.

Even if others might laugh it off, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Excuse yourself and be careful about who you touch, especially if you are drunk.

Having alcohol will not do any favors to prove your innocence because alcohol does affect judgment, and it’s difficult for the police to believe an intoxicated person.

Taking Photos of Others

It’s normal for tourists to take photos while visiting Dubai. You should still be careful not to take any pictures of people you don’t know. Unless they are celebrities.

In Dubai, people can take offense to being photographed, and it’s always better to ask their permission first.

If you are in a touristy area and taking pictures of the Burj Khalifa or other attractions that is perfectly fine, provided you do not specifically focus the camera on somebody you don’t know.

Never take photos of women in abayas (black Emirati dress) without their permission, or of any government buildings.

A British woman was arrested because her boyfriend and his friends took mocking selfies with a man who was asleep on the couch, in a hotel lobby.

Everybody immediately fled Dubai except her because she was a resident. The man pressed charges against her for being involved.

During the commotion, she had picked up his glasses and put them aside. This prompted the man to also accuse her of theft.

Some media reports said she put those glasses in a bin.

Always make sure you have a person’s consent before photographing them. And do not put someone’s belongings in a bin without informing them.


Swearing and cursing are illegal in Dubai, especially if you do it online. Many people still joke with friends, but if somebody gets offended, they can get you arrested.

Avoid sending someone the middle finger emoji on your smartphone.

Dubai has stringent cybercrime laws, so be careful about the messages you send to others and do not use any “Insulting words” or “Inappropriate emojis.”

Bonus Dubai Tips


Celebrities love coming to Dubai. Many of them even live here, such as Lindsay Lohan. There are always many concerts and events where stars come and perform. Alicia Keys has probably been here a hundred times.

To appeal to tourists from the United Kingdom, venues in Dubai recently started inviting old-school bands such as Westlife, S Club 7, and Boyzone. If you want to say Nothing At All with Ronan Keating, make sure to fly Emirates and get here ASAP.


Dubai is full of luxury cars. You will immediately see them all over the city, and they are hard to miss.

If you specifically want to see the police supercars, they are in the Downtown area. Usually, a few of them would be parked outside Dubai Mall near the fountain.

The police with the supercars are very friendly. They let tourists take photos of their Mustangs, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, etc. Just smile and ask them if you can take a quick snap of their ride.

If you have bottomless pockets, you can also rent a supercar yourself. There are plenty of rent-a-car businesses offering luxury vehicles.

Make sure to drive them safely and do not speed the way a British tourist did in 2018. He racked up fines of nearly 40,000 pounds by racing in a rented Lamborghini.

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Final Words

It is very safe to travel to Dubai compared to any other city in the world. The laws are very strict here, which is what makes people feel safe.

You can leave the front door of your house unlocked or leave car keys in the ignition, and no one will steal anything.

There have been many cases of people losing their wallets and getting them back with the cash still inside.

Some laws might be more extreme than others. Staying close to trustworthy friends and not getting too drunk is always a good idea, no matter where you go.

These are some of the most important Dubai tips for tourists. Following these rules will keep you safe. Then you can enjoy your holiday and fly back home with plenty of fun stories to share.

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Author: Shipra was born and brought up in Dubai. She has lived in the city for most of her life and has always felt safe to walk alone with earphones no matter how late at night. She loves meeting tourists and will always greet you with a big smile.