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Dubai, one of the most visited destinations in the world, is a city that is home to some of the most luxurious and sumptuous attractions you’ll probably ever see, along with mega malls, waterparks, incredible beaches and a thriving nightlife. It’s pretty much up there with London, New York and Paris as one of the top bucket-list worthy travel destinations.

So you’ve got your trip all planned out to Dubai and you’re ready to go right? You’re ready to land down the busiest international airport on Earth, live like a celebrity for a few days and embark on a luxurious adventure? Well, before visiting Dubai, there’s a few misconceptions that needs to be cleared and a few things you need to know so you can have a well-rounded trip and enjoy all the glitz and glamour of this Gulf emirate without any hassles.

The best thing about Dubai is that while other countries have cultures trying to overlap each other, all cultures in Dubai live in perfect harmony to create this global tourist hub. If you want to go to Dubai to meet locals, then you’re probably better of somewhere else; there are very few locals in the emirate and you probably won’t stumble upon the ones who live there. You’ll hear all languages being spoken, all cultures melting together, and an array of different nationalities, so your trip is bound to be interesting in all ways.

Here are some of the top things you need to know before traveling to Dubai.

What you need to know before traveling to Dubai

Dubai’s Culture

You’ve probably heard the misconception that Dubai has no culture, and while that may be true for the main attractions, which include shopping malls and skyscrapers, there is a rich cultural heritage that is a mixture of Bedouin, Arab and Islamic traditions and culture. So despite the first impression you might get about Dubai, with its glossy Western veneer, and huge influx of international people – Dubai is still an Islamic state that abides by Islamic sharia (law), and visitors are not only expected but also obliged to respect and comply with the cultural norms and religious rules.

Do not fret though, as strict as this sounds, all you need to do is to adapt to the culture and embrace it and you’ll be okay.

Here are a few of the rules you generally need to abide by:


Although Dubai is an Islamic country, and drinking alcohol or being drunk in public is extremely illegal, it’s perfectly fine to do so in hotel bars or clubs. There is an overwhelming number of bars and clubs all over Dubai, that all offer all types of alcohol, and you can drink to your heart’s desire there and as long as you don’t go outside and look drunk you’ll be fine. You also have to be 21 to drink, and there are all types of champagne brunches, happy hours, and hundreds of parties going on all through the week offering alcohol.

Friday Bruch at The Westin Dubai, Al Habtoor City

However, any public display of drunkenness (even in taxis) outside any of the licensed venues is extremely frowned upon and you might end up going to jail, so be careful and responsible and you’ll be okay.

Public Displays of Affection

Like any place you travel in the world, respecting the local culture is important. A lot of people have heard of the couple that got arrested for having public sex on the beach, but little do tourists know that any form of public affection is not only frowned upon but also illegal. Do not kiss, cuddle, or be too overly touchy in public and you’ll be fine. If you’re going to Dubai for your honeymoon keep the displays of affection in private since a simple public kiss can get you in trouble.

Offensive Gestures

Even though PDA and alcohol cause the most problems amongst tourists, offensive hand gestures can also get you in trouble. Try to remember not give another person the finger (which would be unnecessary anyway) or swearing out loud and you’ll be okay.

How To Dress

Public places: There are a lot of questions surrounding how to dress in public, and while there is a dress code, you’ll soon come to realize that a lot of people don’t abide to it. Especially in the main touristic areas, you’ll find all sorts of outfits from super short skirts to women covered from head to toe.

However, to stay on the safe side, try not to dress too inappropriately or indecently and keep a modest dress code in mind – don’t show too much cleavage, and make sure your skirt isn’t too short or your outfit too provocative.

In more public areas (other than malls and touristic attractions), try not to show too much leg, or your shoulders, and guys are expected not to wear shorts that are too short. You’ll see abayas (long black dresses worn by women) and dishdashas (loose white robes worn by men) everywhere worn by the khalijis as well.

Hotels: You can practically wear whatever you want in hotels and clubs, so here you can be more free in the way you dress without thinking of what consequences this might have.

Beach: In beaches and pool parties, you can also wear whatever your heart desires, and bikinis are perfectly okay, just try not to attract too much attention (i.e.: thongs) and you’ll be fine.

Mosques and the souq: If you’re visiting any of these places, make sure to cover yourself from head to toe and respect the Islamic culture. It is extremely frowned upon to show any skin if you’re going into a mosque (sometimes you’ll need to loosely cover your hair as well) and if you’re walking in a souq (more traditional places) you’ll need to blend in and not attract too much attention.

When is the weekend?

You might find yourself wondering why all the brunch spots are filled to the brim on Friday mornings when everyone should be at work – when in fact, Friday is a weekend and the holy day for Muslims. The weekend is usually on Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday is a work day.

Even though that may take some time to get used to, you’ll find that the huge brunch buffets and the crazy nightlife will make up for this.

When is the best time to visit Dubai?

At the Top of Burj Khalifa in October

There are two seasons in Dubai: hot and hotter. The desert weather is prominent all year long, and it is not advisable to visit in the summer months where the temperatures can easily reach 50C and the humidity reaches up to 90% making breathing outdoor almost impossible. Going to the beach would also be a very uncomfortable experience.

Dubai in February

From October – April, you should be able to enjoy all attractions and the beach with beautiful blue skies up ahead, and the perfect beach weather. However, this is when prices are usually the highest and you’ll need to book a bit in advance since this is the high season.


There are over 33 countries that can issue a visa on arrival in Dubai, while other countries would need to issue it at least two weeks before arrival. You will need to check where your country falls in this spectrum to know.

Is this your first time to Dubai? We hope that our list of the  things to know before traveling to Dubai is useful. If you have any questions just drop us a line.


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Elena Sergeeva has an accomplished career in tourism marketing and has worked for top Greek and international tourism brands. Elena has worked with luxury hotel brands managing business development and foreign market opportunities in lucrative markets including Russia. Elena is the founder of several professional blogs including Passion for Greece, Passion for Hospitality and Passion for Dubai. Her website development and blogging work has been featured in travel industry and Greek major media outlets.

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