“What should I wear in Dubai?” is the question I get asked the most by people who are going to Dubai following my recent trip there. It is also what concerned me the most prior to our trip. I had never visited an arab country before and was unsure how conservative it would be. Do you need to wear head scarf? What parts of my body need to be covered? What the heck do you wear swimming? Should I be packing a wet suit? How hot will it be?
Well I plan to answer some of those questions here, with some examples of things that I wore whilst there. I also think that most of the internet’s current advice regarding dress code is not up to date, as Dubai grows and changes at a rapid pace. I mean the city wasn’t even there 30 years ago – things are constantly changing here and this includes dress standards, especially as Dubai becomes a hub for international flight stop overs and international trade.
What to wear about the streets
As you can see above, I wore long pants and short sleeve t-shirts the most. This seemed completely appropriate. If you were going in summer, I think it would be appropriate to wear knee-length shorts or a knee-length summer dress like this one:
Although I don’t have any photos, some days I wore a sleeveless top and there was no problem there. I would avoid going out in public in a spaghetti strap singlet though – this is a little bit too – ‘look at me’ (perhaps for the Australian we might even say ‘look at moooiiiiiii’ – any other Kath & Kim fans? lol).
What’s the weather like? Will I need a jacket?
When we went it was winter and the days were similar to Brisbane weather – in the 30’s (pretty awesome winter if you ask me). The summer however can get up to 50 degrees Celsius. HOT HOT HOT! I would avoid travelling there in this time. Although in saying that, everywhere is air conditioned – even the train stations, so you won’t exactly die. The only place you may not enjoy as much is the souk markets, no air con there I’m afraid.
I bought this little white cotton blazer and it was perfect whilst we were there. It was light to carry and light to wear in the heat if I felt I needed to cover up. If you’re going hot air ballooning (which I highly recommend) then take a warmer jumper. It was the only time in Dubai that I was FREEZING!!
What to wear on a dessert safari
See this post for my dessert safari outfit . My biggest tip is something you don’t mind getting sandy and sitting on the ground in for dinner, viewing the falcon show and camel riding. Take a jacket to this it also gets quite cool in the dessert at night. The sand is very cold by the end of the night so keep your shoes on!
They will give you the awesome head scarfs which keep your hair in place, sand free and head warm!
How conservative do I need to be? Do I need to wear a head scarf?
It’s always good to have a jacket or scarf with you in case you feel you want to cover up. Sometimes you will just feel you are being looked at and it is nice to have that as a ‘security blanket’. Whilst I never once felt I ‘needed’ to wear a head scarf or that locals expected it, I did wear one through the souks as it seemed to draw less attention to me (hiding most of my blonde locks).
Did you feel safe in Dubai?
Yes, I felt very safe in Dubai. In saying that, I did have my husband with me all the time and we travelled most places in a group. I think I would feel comfortable there on my own too, however would take the usual precautions – not go out at night on my own and only go to relatively public or well known places.
The people on the streets will pester you to come to their stores but just say ‘no, thank you’ if you do not wish to look at their goods. They will keep trying to get you to buy things but just be stern and polite if they do not leave you alone. Sometimes I would say nothing and they would pester Reis after he said no thanks and then I would pipe up if they continued and it was if ‘boss lady’ had spoken and they left us alone, haha.
What should men wear?
This is a picture of Reis when we were lost in old Dubai, but it shows his outfit quite well. Guys can pretty much wear the same as what they do in Australia. Although that doesn’t mean stubby, singlet and thongs! Things like shorts, t-shirts, jeans, collared shirts, closed in shoes are all okay.
What should I wear out at night?
Unfortunately i don’t have pictures of my dinner dresses, but I wore long maxi or knee length dresses and heels or sandals to dinner. If you’re going to check out the night life scene, you can glam it up a little. We went to Pacha and this was my outfit for the evening:
You can see another picture of me at Pacha with the dancers on my instagram. Their feathered costumes were AH-MAZING!
What can I wear swimming?
No wet suit is required! In your hotel and at the beach it is totally acceptable to wear a bikini or board shorts as you would at home. You MUST cover up when you leave the pool or the beach. This is not like Cronulla Mall in Sydney.
Have you experienced a cultural difference in dress code in your travels? I would love to hear about it, please comment below!