What to wear in Dubai brings up a few questions, what to wear for the hot weather in Dubai, what to wear in Dubai to be culturally appropriate, and what can you REALLY wear in Dubai?
In this Dubai travel blog, I am going to cover the different angles of how to dress in Dubai to help you plan your Dubai holiday outfits and I’m going to be honest!
I love Dubai! I’ve been a few times over the years. I am Muslim now so you’ll see me dressed modestly and in a hijab in this article but I first went to Dubai before I became Muslim to visit my friend who was working for Emirates Airline which was a lot of fun and I wore different clothes then!
Now, there are a lot of posts on what to wear in Dubai with advice for tourists but in this post, I am going to give you a much more PRACTICAL and UP-TO-DATE look at how to dress in Dubai because since my first visit in 2015 and my last in 2023, SO much has changed!
I was actually so surprised by the number of women I saw in short shorts and short dresses in Dubai this year and these were not tourists who didn’t know any better, they were people living and working in Dubai so we can assume that they are okay to dress like that as they wouldn’t risk getting in trouble by what they are wearing because of their visa and job would they?!
At the end of the day, it’s all about what to wear in Dubai at the RIGHT TIME and in the RIGHT PLACE. What you wear to a club and to the beach in Dubai is not the same as what you’d wear to the mall, a restaurant or a tourist attraction and that’s what I’m going to cover!
What to Wear in Dubai
Firstly, like in all of my ‘what to wear’ posts that I currently have for Abu Dhabi, Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Istanbul and India, it’s important to cover the legal aspect as many people think countries like the UAE and therefore cities like Dubai have a legal dress requirement, which isn’t actually the case…
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What is the Dress Code in Dubai
There is no set dress code in Dubai. Legally, you do not have to wear anything or not wear anything in Dubai (aside from the standard of underwear and covering of private areas as you do everywhere in the world!).
However, it is recommended and preferred to dress conservatively / modestly / covered meaning shoulders, knees and mid-drift are covered.
This doesn’t mean you can wear whatever you want wherever you want in Dubai as certain tourist attractions, certain areas, restaurants, bars etc will have dress codes, but that’s just like everywhere in the world!
What not to wear in Dubai these days is common sense and what you would or wouldn’t wear in other cities in the world too!
What Do Locals Wear in Dubai?
Modesty and conservative dressing are because the UAE is a Muslim Country and therefore Dubai is a Muslim City and Muslims dress modestly with women generally covering their legs, shoulders and most of their arms, plus sometimes their hair and men covering their legs and chest areas too.
Whilst the majority of people you’ll see in Dubai are holidaymakers or foreign workers, Emiratis make up about 11% of the population and you’ll most commonly see men in White Kandoras and women in Black Abayas.
Tourists do not need to dress like the locals in Dubai though… unless you want to. As a man, the Kandora is very comfortable and breezy to wear and I was pleasantly surprised to see so many male tourists in Abu Dhabi Grand Mosaque wearing the traditional long Kandora.
And I love wearing Abayas as they are so elegant!
What Do Foreigners Wear in Dubai?
It’s likely you’re not going to Dubai to look like an Emirati, so let’s look at the people in between the Emirates and the holidaymakers.. the nearly 90% of the population that live in Dubai but are not from the UAE!
What makes Dubai so amazing is the huge diversity of people who live, work and visit there and this is why the dress code for Dubai is actually not that strict because you’ll see women from many different countries like the Philippines, Pakistan, U.K., USA, all wearing different clothes and in many cases, clothes that are very similar to what they wear at home.
I love following DXB_HUN on Instagram, a Brit who has been living and working in Dubai (teaching in a school and now a full-time content creator) for a few years and you’ll see despite the usual advice to cover legs below the knee, she most often wear shorter dresses out for Brunch, the Mall, Restaurants and more.
However, you’ll also notice this is paired with a long sleeve or t-shirt sleeve rather than a strapless as when you have one part of the dress that is covered it still provides an overall more modest outfit.
This is also what I mean by how much has changed over the years in Dubai! When I first visited in 2015 my friend who lived in Dubai at the time would wear whatever she wanted to a club in Dubai but she wouldn’t wear a short dress to the mall. Now, it’s much more common and accepted and you’ll see lots of women wearing outfits like this around Dubai now.
However, it’s worth noting that if you live in Dubai and work there, you know what to wear in each area.
Workers in Dubai are not going to tourist attractions and are generally staying in their ‘ex-pat areas’ of Dubai or Downtown Dubai. Whereas, tourists wanting to visit the Souks in Old Dubai will need to dress more modestly in this area of Dubai than Downtown.
So that takes us to what can you wear in Dubai!
I will give you some examples of places to visit in Dubai that will require different outfit choices…
Below that, I’ve touched on the dress code in Dubai for children if you plan a trip to Dubai with kids!
Dubai Dress Code for Tourists
What to wear in Dubai and especially what to wear in Dubai as a woman depends on where you’re going and you’ll need to choose differently for different situations, but let’s be honest, that happens anywhere in the world!
What to wear to the mall in Dubai
Firstly, the malls in Dubai are super air-conditioned so you’re bound to get a bit cold if you are wearing very little clothing so modesty or not, it’s a good idea for women to have a light extra layer to put over their shoulders or a shawl and wear something longer in the legs like a long skirt or maxi/midi dress.
Same with men, they shouldn’t wear vest tops and should wear a t-shirt to cover their shoulders and shorts that are not too short.
For what to wear to be culturally appropriate, shopping malls in Dubai are not the same as being by the beach or Dubai Marina. You’ll see many locals in the malls dressed in their traditional wear and tourists stick out like a sore thumb when they are wearing very little clothing inside as well as it not looking respectful.
What to wear to tourist attractions in Dubai
There is no set dress code for the tourist attractions in Dubai but many will mention even on their websites like Dubai Frame that ‘appropriate clothing is required’ which means you are dressed in a nice way.
Most guides on what to wear in Dubai as a woman will say you need your shoulders covered but honestly, if you go to Dubai Frame in a dress with small straps and your shoulders out, you shouldn’t have a problem, as long as the dress is modest in other areas like the chest and legs with the top part of your legs covered at least and ideally past the knees if you have your shoulders on show.. It’s all about balance!
In regards to mid-drift, if you have some of your stomach showing, this shouldn’t be a problem as long as your trousers/shorts/skirt are not super tight or short and the rest of your top covers your shoulders.. again, balance!
Men should wear a t-shirt, not a vest top and not wear shorts that are too short.
The Burj Khalifa’s conversation deck is the same as Dubai Frame, no set dress code but clothing must be appropriate.
However, there is a dress code for the Burj Khalifa At.mosphere restaurant because it’s a restaurant, the same as the Burj Al Arab. Dubai Tickets advised the dress code is:
At the lounge, a smart/casual dress code is expected, while at the restaurant a smart/elegant dress code is required. Here’s what’s not allowed: caps, t-shirts, shorts, trainers, sports clothing, flip-flops for women and open-toe shoes for men.
What to wear to the beach in Dubai
There are 2 types of beaches in Dubai, Private and Public Beaches.
Private Beaches are those attached to hotels or require a fee to be paid to enter. Private beaches are for foreign visitors on holiday and therefore there are no rules on what to wear at the beach in Dubai aside from obviously needing to be fully covered.. no topless sunbathing here.
Bikinis are allowed and even thong bikini bottoms are allowed (they used to be against the law).
Pubic Beaches are public that anyone can enter. In countries like Qatar you need to be conscious of what you wear on a public beach since many locals go and generally modest dress is required, this is the case with some beaches in Dubai but generally these days, all of the best public beaches in Dubai you are likely to go to as a holidaymaker like Jumeriah, La Mer, Kite Beach, you can also wear ‘normal’ swimwear of a bikini, swim costume, swim shorts for men.
The main 2 things to be aware of at the beaches in Dubai are:
- Do not leave the beach in just a bikini/costume, you should put a cover-up on to go into any shops, cafes or even toilets where you need to leave the sand of the beach.
- Use the changing rooms nearby, don’t try to get changed in or out of swimwear on the beach which could cause you to show some nakedness if the towel slips.
What to wear to a restaurant in Dubai
If you are going to a relaxed restaurant inside a mall or a fast food type of place, as long as you are dressed modestly in something that covers either your legs or your shoulders and is not swimwear, you will be ok to eat there, you can wear flip flops for example.
If you are going to a fancy restaurant in Dubai the dress code will be along the lines of this: a smart/elegant dress code not allowing caps, t-shirts, shorts, trainers, sports clothing, flip-flops for women and open-toe shoes for men. This just requires common sense and is the same as a dress code all around the world in nice restaurants.
If you are going to Dubai Marina which is a great place to visit in the evenings in Dubai, it will depend on where you plan to go.
You’ll see people at Dubai Marina at night time in clothes from the day time maybe because they were at the beach and didn’t get changed. This is okay as long as you are not in swimwear or a sheer beach cover-up and you plan to dine somewhere casual or just walk around.
If you plan to dine casually at Dubai Marina, you can wear flip-flops for example and sports clothing as long as it’s not too short/small.
There are many of the top restaurants in Dubai at Dubai Marina which are fancy places to go, for these, you will need to follow the dress code of smart/elegant as mentioned above.
What to wear to a bar or club in Dubai
The bars and clubs are a totally different side of Dubai and since Muslims do not drink, locals do not visit these places. Therefore, the dress code is far more relaxed and there are not really any rules…
Of course, like all around the world, you need to dress smartly to enter a club or bar but generally, there are no set rules and what you can wear in the clubs in Dubai is like anywhere else in the world.
It’s worth noting that ‘going out out’ in Dubai doesn’t always mean at night, Brunches are a big deal in Dubai and this doesn’t mean a sit-down meal in a cool cafe with avo on toast, it means a full-day party at a hotel! Here’s a break down of what to wear in Dubai for brunch and in the clubs at night!
What to wear to a mosque in Dubai
To be honest, there isn’t one ‘Grand Mosque’ in Dubai that is for tourists to visit. Instead, most tourists to Dubai take a day trip to Abu Dhabi to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, easily the top thing to do in Abu Dhabi!
When visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, you’ll need to be covered, this includes men and women with shoulders covered, legs covered and a good amount of your arms. Plus hair for women, however they are not strict on all the hair being covered as it is hard to keep a head scarf in place.
The mosque used to give out Abayas for tourists to wear but they changed this a few years ago. Now, you will need to bring your own modest clothing. However, if you don’t have anything, there is a mall called the New Visitor Center & Plaza at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque underneath the mosque that sells clothing for tourists to wear at the mosque including well-priced traditional Kandoras for men and Abayas and dresses for women.
What Should Children Wear in Dubai?
If you are planning a family trip to Dubai, don’t worry about what should children wear in Dubai as there are no expectations for children to cover (aside from the normal covering they do everywhere in the world).
Even for Muslims, until girls and boys hit puberty there is no need for them to cover. You will see Muslim girls in summer dresses in the malls and at the beach just like everywhere else in the world.
Locals may choose to dress their children in swimwear that is more covered like a child’s rash vest or all in one piece, this isn’t something you NEED to dress your child in Dubai however the sun is hot and strong in Dubai so covered kids swimwear like all in one suits and rash vests are great sun protection too and something to keep in mind.
What Do Men Wear in Dubai?
A lot of this post has been aimed at what to wear in Dubai as a Woman because, I am a woman, so let’s touch quickly on what should men wear in Dubai.
Whilst many posts will say men shouldn’t wear shorts, realistically, these days, shorts are fine for men to wear in Dubai in most casual situations, just ensure the shorts are closer to the knee rather than high up the thigh.
Linen trousers for men are a good option if they want to dress more conservatively and like local men do without getting too hot.
Men can wear t-shirts with their arms showing in Dubai in most casual situations too without any issues. Vest stops with shoulders showing should be avoided.
Linen shirts are great for covering more whilst also looking smart and not getting too hot.
What Dresses to Wear in Dubai
I’ve said how it’s best to dress more modestly and covered up in Dubai but how do you do that?
I think dresses are the best way because they are light and airy even when they are longer in length.
There are so many maxi and midi dresses available online right now and I love that on many clothing websites like ASOS, Marks & Spencer, H&M and Next you can filter by the dress length and choose maxi or midi.
A long maxi dress to the floor / your ankles or a midi dress past your knees and to your calves that isn’t too low in the chest with either 3/4 length sleeves, t-shirt sleeves or even sleeveless with a chunky strap is a perfect dress to wear in Dubai to keep you covered and modest whilst not causing you to get too hot.
Why Dress Modestly in Dubai?
If you can’t get told off and there are no rules anymore… why should you bother wearing more covered clothing in Dubai?
Firstly, it’s respect to the culture. Emirati people really respect tourists who dress more even though its not the law and you will feel this in your interactions with people there.
Secondly, whilst you will feel safe in Dubai wearing less clothing because Dubai is such a safe city, you will feel more comfortable in modest clothing because a lot of people around you will be doing the same too.
It’s actually funny people watching in Dubai because you can tell who lives there and who is visiting by how little some tourists are wearing.
Thirdly, it’s part of the experience of visiting the Middle East. As I said in my post on what to wear in Saudi Arabia, so many times, we want to travel and experience countries as a local wearing local clothing and in countries like the UAE and cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi we can do that by wearing a traditional Kandora for Men or long flowing dress for women or simply just dressing more modestly,
And if this isn’t something you want to do, Dubai isn’t the place for you, at the end of the day, there are plenty of other holiday destinations around the world where you don’t need to worry about what to wear.
What to Wear in Dubai to Stay Cool
You may have clicked on this post looking for what to wear in Dubai in December, November, January and February as these are the peak months for tourism in Dubai because the weather is hot but the coolest it gets all year round.
My main tips for how to dress in Dubai to stay cool are:
- Bring clothes that are a light material. Linen and Cotton and good for this over Polyesta.
- Don’t bring clothes that have a lot of layers. Some summer dresses have a lot of layers and are not good in high heat.
One big thing to note is that there is so much air-con in Dubai. Pretty much everywhere inside is air-conditioned and it actually gets quite cold. This is another reason to carry a shawl or extra light layer with you, not just to cover yourself for modesty but in case you’re shopping or eating and you feel cold.
Museums, Malls, Restaurants, and attractions like Dubai Frame once you’re inside, they’re all air-conditioned!
Plus, in winter it does get cooler at night, especially in January. You’ll see locals and people who live in Dubai in jackets and their ‘winter clothes’. As a tourist, especially from the UK and Europe, you won’t feel it’s that cold but you may get a bit chilly so bring a light layer.
In regards to what to wear in Dubai in the summer, I was in Abu Dhabi in July this year which has a similar temperature and oh wow, it was hot and humid outside.. but it was extra cold inside everywhere because of the air con!
I thought I’d live on Frozen Yogurt whilst there because it would be so hot but once I’d been in a mall for 10 minutes, I felt too cold to eat something cold too!
Going to Dubai in the Summer? Here are 50 activities with A/C!
I hope this guide on what to wear in Dubai has been helpful and you understand more about what to wear as a tourist in Dubai!
- For more of my related posts see:
- How To Visit The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque from Dubai!
- 40 AMAZING Things To Do in Abu Dhabi
- What To Wear in Abu Dhabi & Dress Code in Abu Dhabi For Tourists
- 8 Things To Do In Al Ain | Day Trip From Abu Dhabi or Dubai!
- 10 Things To Do in Dubai on a Girls Trip to Dubai!