What to Wear in Dubai - Best Clothing Advice & Packing Tips

Dubai, the City of Gold and the luxurious and happening hub of the UAE, is often misinterpreted for having a conservative outlook towards tourists as it houses a majority of people of the Islamic Religion. Nevertheless, Dubai is very much liberal, and you are free to wear anything, but while packing for your vacation, you must ensure to include clothes that are skin-comfortable considering Dubai weather and season. Instead of stuffing your bag with unnecessary items regardless of your travel itinerary, it is advisable to plan and organise accordingly.

Right here is everything you possibly need to know about what to wear in Dubai that will save you from paying that little extra for the excess check-in luggage.

Common Myths About Dressing in Dubai

1. Wearing a Burqa is mandatory
Wrong. It is not mandatory for tourists to dress in the traditional outfit namely, the abaya for women and the Kandura for men. Sure, dressing modestly is a no-brainer when it comes to Dubai but don’t forget that it is also a melting pot of different cultures with over 15 million tourists visiting the country every year. Expats bring in different styles and trends making Dubai quite a fashionable destination. The Emiratis are a progressive and tolerant bunch only until you don’t offend anyone.

2. Covering your head is compulsory
Wrong. Unless you are visiting a traditional/religious building, you don’t have to cover your head with a scarf. You, however, need to cover your shoulders in certain areas like Old Dubai or the souks of Deira (local markets).

3. Deserts are way too hot
Yes, they are in the daytime. But at night, it can get quite chilly so it’s best not to leave your legs, back or shoulders bare.

4. Men don’t have any restrictions
Sorry, boys. Dubai is quite equal when it comes to intolerance. There are strict dress and shoe codes for men when it comes to nightclubs and shopping malls.

5. Wearing strappy or backless outfits is prohibited
Wrong. You can wear them in nice restaurants, cafes, bars or clubs if they don’t have any specific dress code. However, cover yourself up while you're getting there or when you leave from there.

The Emirati Dress Code - Morality and Religion

Arab Woman in Abaya
Whether you are travelling alone or in a group, if you think dressing modestly is the key, you are wrong. The ideal way to go about dressing in a foreign country is to consider the moral and religious beliefs of the residents. The key lies in your knowledge of the unspoken norms of the country’s dress code. Dubai is entirely open to people of all ethnicities, it is diverse and modern, but there are specific dress codes which you should comply by if wish to mix in the crowd and enjoy your vacation to the fullest.

Celebrities and Influencers on social media post updates of their Dubai vacation dressed up in trendy fashion wear but let’s be honest those clothes do not seem comfortable even in the pictures, and not everyone can afford them. Keeping your luggage light and comprehensive is what matters.

Gendered Dress Code 
Dress code in Dubai
Most people find themselves confused while choosing from their wardrobe because they have a very unclear idea of how the locals dress. The clothing fashion in Dubai is classic and modest, which is up to date with the international trend. There are no compulsions on men to wear the Kandura and for the women to wear the Abaya, but the locals wear it out of respect for their religion and beliefs.

Dress Code for Women in Dubai

Tourist in Dubai
It is perfectly fine for women to wear short-sleeved, sleeveless or off the shoulder tops and dresses in Dubai. However, it is ideal to wear clothes that will help blend in, so you should avoid wearing revealing clothes in specific places which might be frowned upon or considered inappropriate. The basic idea here is not to constrain your personal clothing choices but to dress up respectfully and in compliance with the tradition of the local people while feeling comfortable and beautiful in your clothes.

Seasonal Clothing

There are a significant amount of options for women to choose from, but the most essential thing which you need to bear in mind is that Dubai is blistering hot almost throughout the year. Don’t forget to carry those flowy maxi and kaftan summer dresses to flaunt them in style.

Dress Code for Men in Dubai

Dress up in Style
Dubai loves dressing up, and Men in Dubai usually go by relaxed t-shirts and shorts for that funky look which are ideal for local sightseeing or hotel stay. But you need to pick some semi-formal outfits which seem appropriate considering your travel stops and rests. For instance, it’s acceptable to wear shorts at the beach or inside the hotel room but to wear it in a Mosque, without any regard to the traditions of the local people, is unacceptable behaviour.  

What to Wear in Dubai to Desert Safaris

Dubai Desert Safari
The stunning Arabian Desert witnesses one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Wear a good pair of boots and a hat on the Arabian Desert safari in Dubai. For fun experiences like camel riding, sandboarding, sand skiing and riding a quad-bike on sand dunes, it is best to put on light joggers and a casual t-shirt as they are comfortable for these kinds of activities. Carry a warm shawl or sweater as it might get chilly in the evening and also a flip-flop as your feet might feel cramped if you have boots on for longer than four hours. Cover as much of your skin as you can if you don’t wish to get tanned and to avoid blisters on your feet, wear woollen socks instead of the cotton ones. 

Dressing for the Occasion

1. Tour Clothes 
City Tour in comfy Shorts
When in Dubai, you will realise how the Emirates, as well as business men, are a fan of luxury brands. And before you go on hopping over every supermarket and mall in Dubai, make sure you have dressed appropriately. Do not go for really short shorts that are way too revealing or shirts that show plunging necklines.

2. For a Relaxed time
Most malls have a dress code chart, and the security personnel might politely ask you to leave if your clothes do not seem to fill the primary criterion of being decent. The same goes for amusement parks and local cafes, it is ideal for women to wear tight-fitted jeans or a below the knee dress and men can wear full-length trousers or jeans. Just keep the dress up casual on a city tour, comfortable and yet sophisticated.

3. Mosques 
Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Dubai
It is best to dress decently at Mosques and religious places to avoid any unwanted stares or passing comments. The mandatory dress code for Mosques in Dubai, for both men and women, is to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and legs completely. You don’t have to wear traditional outfits to show respect.
Mosques that allow people of all religions usually rent out scarves for women to cover their head. Above-knee length or deep back neck dresses and blouses are a complete no-no when visiting a mosque. Men should consider wearing long trousers with long-sleeved shirts and women can go for maxi skirts and long-sleeved tops.
While visiting a Mosque, it is advised to pair your outfit with slip-on shoes which are more comfortable to wear compared to shoes with laces or high heels. 

4. At Conservative Market Areas 
Woman in Abaya
In regions like Spice Souk, the Emirates are generally more orthodox than you would probably imagine. In market areas where the crowd includes less of tourists and more of the traditional Arab people, you must remain conscious of what you are wearing and cover your head correctly instead of roaming around in sleeveless shirts and shorts.

5. Nightclubs and Restaurants 
Restaurant in Dubai
Smart-collared shirts with a vest and linen pants are the go-to outfits for high-end restaurants, nightclubs and bars in Dubai because most of them do not allow sloppily dressed people in shorts or with sneakers on. So if you are planning to ditch the formals altogether on your Dubai vacation and enjoy the summer dressed up in sleeveless gym vests, you need to reconsider that thought.
Women Clothing
Women need to consider wearing sandals at these upmarket places. From casual sundresses to jumpsuits and skirts, you are free to wear anything you wish, make sure to carry a shrug or a light jacket with you, just in case you feel like covering up.

6. Beach Wear
Dubai Beach
Probably one of the most common questions for a person visiting this Emirate- what to wear in Dubai to the beach. Women can wear a swimsuit or bikini, according to their preference. Men, on the other hand, can sport swim shorts and tech tanks. Although it is perfectly fine to wear swimming dresses on the beach in Dubai, don’t use it as an excuse to roam around the city in them. If you have to take a metro to the beach, dress appropriately, keeping in mind that it is a public space and carry your swimwear and other essentials in a beach bag. 

Fabrics to Include While Packing

Fabrics you should avoid
Natural Fabrics, preferably, cotton, linen or bamboo, are good to go taking into account the weather of Dubai. That being said, do not forget to pack some thin warm sweaters for slightly colder evenings and lowest temperature air-conditioned rooms. 

Suggested Things To Pack When Visiting Dubai 

Here is a suggested list of clothes for which you must make a space in your travel bag. These items suit every season of Dubai and are in the list considering you have a minimum of one week vacation planned with a proper itinerary including local sightseeing as well as beach day and desert safari.

For Men
  • Polo T-shirts
  • Light Jacket
  • Semi-formal Shirts
  • Light jeans and trousers
  • Swimsuit
For Women
  • Camisole tops
  • Sundresses and Kaftans
  • Swimwear
  • Shorts
  • Warm Cardigan
  • Scarf
  • Comfortable Pyjamas
  • Loose, breathable cotton tops
  • Linen Jumpsuits

General Tips

  • Carry Sunglasses, a summer hat and sunscreen in your beach bag to avoid the UV rays. Women can also choose to sport a cute bandana with their beach look, as they are very much in fashion nowadays.  
  • At almost all the shopping malls and restaurants, the air conditioning can sometimes get slightly cold, so don’t forget to carry a light cardigan or a pashmina. Avoid denim if the weather is too sultry as they can get soggy and uncomfortable with all the sweat. Moreover, denim takes a lot of time to dry out after being washed.
  • Women should wrap themselves in a sarong after their time at the beach and avoid going back to the hotel dressed in beachwear, same goes for the men.
  • When at a Mosque, remember to cover your head. If you happen to have forgotten to carry a scarf, be respectful, and the Mosque will provide you with apt clothing.
  • Carry summer sandals, slip-ons and some regular laced shoes for visiting the local areas. However, you need to carry separate footwear for the beach and desert safari, as mentioned above.
  • In case you happen to find yourself in an unknown street where you feel uncomfortable, it is best to cover your head with a scarf.
  • Don’t forget to back your belt, handbag other accessories that go with your outfit.
  • Avoid polyester and cotton socks at all costs.
  • Carry trendy caps and hats to save from new tan lines
  • In the holy month of Ramadan, you should dress as modestly as you can out of respect and basic courtesy because it is an auspicious occasion for the locals.
  • Topless Sunbathing is not allowed on any of the beaches of Dubai. You might be legally charged for it.
Dubai Tourism
If you are visiting Dubai for business meetings or conferences, pack formals according to your schedule. But if you are a tourist wondering what to wear in Dubai, you probably have all your questions answered. So, without much ado pack your bags and head to a quality experience of the hospitable modern city of Dubai.

This post was published by Shalu Chowrasia

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