Home Visit Dubai The simple guide to the female dress code in Dubai

The simple guide to the female dress code in Dubai

by Danni B

Okay so you’re planning your trip to Dubai and you’re pretty excited but what on earth do you wear in Dubai? I’m going to cover everything from the basics about what to wear where and what will happen if you don’t follow the rules. Plus the one golden rule of Dubai that no one else will tell you! So you’ll know exactly what to wear and fit in with the locals. The female dress code of Dubai!

If you look online you get many different answers about what to wear in Dubai as a woman. You might be worried about it being a Muslim country. However as I’ll explain below, there really isn’t any reason to be worried about visiting a Muslim country. Especially one like Dubai!

I first moved to Dubai in 2013, so I’ve seen a lot of different situations over the years and lots of different fashions! So do not worry, I’ll give you all the actual accurate inside information!

Looking for the dress code for men? Not to worry, check out my other article here for men!

Is there a dress code in Dubai?

Officially yes there is a modest dress code and this applies to the whole of the UAE, not just Dubai. By dressing modest means, shoulders covered and skirts or shorts to below the knee. However! Despite the official law, Dubai doesn’t enforce this rule except in a select few locations.

These locations are:

  • Mosques
  • Government buildings and offices
  • Police stations

Female dress code in Dubai summary:

Despite being a Muslim country, Dubai is extremely liberal and a global luxury tourist destination. In pretty much all places and situations, what you would wear in any other warm tourist destination is perfectly acceptable in Dubai. That’s bikinis on the beach, cute summer dresses when you go out and t-shirts with short sleeves for wandering around the city.


Want to know more about Dubai, check out my other articles:
What country in Dubai in? Plus other facts about Dubai you need to know before you go!
The ultimate guide to visiting the Burj Khalifa and At The Top alternatives

The best restaurants with a view in Dubai you won’t want to miss!
How to get between Dubai and Abu Dhabi plus tips for visiting Sheikh Zayed Mosque


Commonly asked questions about the female dress code in Dubai

Do tourists have to wear hijab in Dubai?

Wearing a hijab (or shayla as it’s called in Dubai) is not mandatory anywhere in Dubai. There is only one exception to this rule and this is if you visit a Mosque such as Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. This is the only place where hijab MUST be worn.

For what to wear exactly depending on the location, check out my section below that covers what to wear in different places and what you need to be aware of too!

If you’d still like to take some modest outfits just in case, ASOS has a modest fashion section with a good mix of choice including low cost and affordable modest clothes plus they deliver worldwide!

Can you wear swimwear in Dubai?

The simple answer is yes! Do not worry, you do not need a burkini or modest swimwear! You can wear your bikini. Whether it’s a public beach, a hotel pool or a private villa beach. Swimwear is acceptable in those areas. However, once you enter areas away from the beach or pool you must put on clothes over your swimwear.

For instance, if you are at Kite Beach, if you walk towards the shops or promenade then you will need to put clothes on that cover your swimwear. This can be a t-shirt and shorts or a dress.

Workers on the local beaches will normally politely tell you to put something over your swimwear if you do walk into an area of shops or cafes close to the beach.

Another thing to note, you’ll usually find in hotel resorts there is a bit more freedom. For instance, if you prefer wearing a smaller bikini to limit the tan lines! Hotel beaches and resorts are your best option rather than public beaches. If you go into the hotel lobby, the same rule applies that you should put clothes over your swimwear.

If you want cute affordable swimwear and outfits for the beach, I really love Pretty Little Thing as they have lots of colours and styles to suit every body shape

What to wear in Dubai in December or Winter

Dubai Skyline view with Burj Khalifa from Dubai Creek

The typical climate in Dubai during winter is between 16 and 26 Celsius. The coldest month is January where it typically ranges between 14 to 24 degrees Celsisus and February is similar to the two. Making Dubai a nice warm destination for winter.

So now you know the temperatures! What should you wear in December in Dubai?

It’s best to pack a mixture of summer clothes with a few light jackets for the evening time. The temperature doesn’t drop suddenly on the night like you may have experienced in other countries. I also recommend taking swimwear, sun hats and some dressy outfits for the evening.

The light jackets also come in handy for malls where there is air conditioning. If you plan to go to the cinema for example, it can sometimes be a little bit chilly!

What do Emirati locals wear in Dubai?

Emirati women, also known as “Locals” wear a traditional outfit, typically in black, called an Abaya. This a thin outer coat, similar to a very long jacket that buttons up and covers the woman. The piece of fabric that covers the hair is called a Shayla.

Emirati men wear a long piece of white fabric called a Kandura with typically a white cloth on their heads held in place by a black band. This is called a ghutra and the black band is an igal. This is the traditional dress of the UAE, not just Dubai.

I’ve covered more about this in detail in my article “What is the traditional dress of the UAE?

Is it okay for tourists to wear local dress?

Yes, there isn’t any issue with tourists wearing a kandura or abaya. In fact, Emirati locals love sharing part of their culture and you will frequently see tourists wearing Emirati clothing after visiting a Khandura shop. Typically in Dubai Mall or around the Downtown area.

This is me wearing an abaya and shayla below:

What happens if you dress inappropriately in Dubai?

In the event that someone approaches you about your outfit in Dubai, typically the security of a building or location, they will inform you what needs correcting about your outfit. This may result in either you being denied entry or asked to leave. There are fines and penalities for breaking the law but it is extremely rare for these to be enforced.

The best thing to do is apologise and find somewhere to change your outfit. This is extremely unlikely to ever happen in any public places with the exception being mosques, government buildings and police stations.

The golden rule for dressing in Dubai & what to pack for Dubai

No this is not, dress modestly. Like many other travel bloggers tell you! The number one rule for visiting Dubai is to dress up! Pack your best clothes, your blingiest outfits and if you have any designer items. Pack them! Dubai is a city where more is more.

Even when going to the mall, you will see women with full make up as if they are going for a night out and lots of smart casual outfits. Dubai is very fashionable and it seems like almost every woman has a designer handbag matched with designer heels.

What to wear in different places in Dubai

What do I wear in a Dubai Mall?

So while there are signs as you enter the mall saying you must dress modestly, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen hot pants or very short dresses in Dubai Mall! Gone are the days when security would come up to you and tell you off for not dressing modestly!

My main tip for Dubai Malls – Don’t be afraid to get dressed up! You will see the locals and residents are always dressed nicely to go to the mall, as malls are treated like a place to go out rather than just picking up a few bits of shopping. Also, it gets pretty cold due to the air conditioning. So always take a jacket or shawl with you!

What to wear when going out for dinner in a Dubai restaurant

Nearly all of the restaurants in Dubai have a smart casual dress code. This means no vest tops, no flip-flops and no shorts! Which might surprise you for a beach holiday destination. So if you’re planning to spend all day outside, it’s best to either dress up or take a change of clothes just in case!

For example, if you plan to visit a nice restaurant close to the Burj Khalifa after walking around Downtown all day, then you’ll need to dress up before going! Most places are smart casual dress code but higher end restaurants can be smart elegant which means dinner jackets and cocktail dresses.

What do I wear in a Dubai hotel or resort?

Dubai hotels are very similar to what you should wear on the beach. The swimming pools and beaches are fine for bikinis or other types of swimwear to be worn. You will need to cover yourself when you head into the lobby and other parts of the hotel. Again a t-shirt and shorts are fine.

Also, you may find some beach clubs or places where after a certain time, typically at sunset, they request people to get dressed. So you may get approached by security even though it’s a beach bar or club at this time.

Most hotels in Dubai are giant complexes with bars, restaurants, entertainment and more! So here you’ll find more liberal policies for what’s acceptable to wear. You may still see signs that state modest clothing but again it is rarely enforced.

Years ago, Dubai women used to take a modest dress or even an Abaya to wear over their clubbing outfits. You’d then take it off once you got to the hotel resort. Though these days, a lot of women go out and get a taxi in their clubbing outfits.

I want to visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, what do I wear?

For men and women you both must dress modest to visit! For women this includes covering your hair and an outfit that covers your legs and arms fully. For men, this is a top which covers the shoulders and shorts that are to the knee or lower. It is a place of worship after all!

If for any reason you forget to take a modest outfit to Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, then you can get an abaya for free from the visitor office. You just give your ID and then return the abaya after you’ve finished visiting.

Insider tip – The Abayas you hire are not the most glamorous and if you want a fabulous Instagram photo, I highly recommend to buy an abaya and shayla set. Mondanisa offers high quality affordable Abayas made in Turkey and delivered globally! I love their styles plus the fact they’re made in Turkey (yay human rights) and affordable. Triple yay!

For more on Mosque (Masjid in Arabic) etiquette check out my previous article about visiting a mosque for the first time!

What to wear when going to a Dubai government office or police station?

For all official Dubai buildings such as Government offices or police stations, you must dress modest or you will be denied entry to the building. This is shoulders covered and skirts or shorts below the knee. This applies to men too.

I was personally denied entry when wearing an office dress that reached to the knee but not below the knee. I had to quickly buy some leggings to put under the dress so I could gain entry.

You will need to visit government offices when you do your visa process as a Dubai resident. So that is why it’s important to know the rules!

What do I wear for going out, clubbing and other nightlife?

The majority of women going out to a bar or restaurant, wear exactly the same kind of outfits they would wear back home. The dress code is decided by the venue. You’ll see women in dresses and skirts of all varieties. Most clubs do require women to wear heels and be dressed up.

More casual venues may not have such a strict dress code for women. Higher end clubs can even be funny if you aren’t decked in designer gear. So choose your venue wisely!

Areas like Dubai Marina are beach holiday orientated so this area tends to be more casual generally where as Downtown and Trade Center as the city part of Dubai tend to have more rigorous dress codes as a general rule.

What do I wear for Dubai Brunch?

So like the rest of Dubai, people get dressed up when it comes to going for a Saturday Brunch. That’s women typically in dresses and heels with men in smart casual attire. Again most of the restaurants have a smart casual door policy.

A cute summer dress with wedges is something I’d wear to a brunch where there is an outdoor element and if it’s inside something more dressy but not as dressed up as you might go to a club.

Are there any other dress code rules I should know as a woman?

In certain areas and attractions, it’s more common for Emiratis and people from the Gulf to go to these areas. In these areas, it is better to be more respectful of the dress code. It is unlikely for you to get into trouble but I have before seen a woman being told what she is wearing is not appropriate and that she should respect the country she is in.

These areas are; Jumeirah Beach Walk (JBR), Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, Deira, Mall of Emirates, Al Barsha, City Walk, La Mer, Downtown, Dubai Mall & Global Village.

Other areas where you will probably get stared at if you don’t dress modestly:
Satwa, Garhoud, Gold & Spice Souqs, Naif, Jebal Ali & Deira

I’d definitely recommend if you’re planning to visit the more historical places to dress modestly such as the Gold & Spice Souqs. Not that you’ll get into trouble, just that you may get a lot of stares and more attention than you thought!

The most relaxed areas, in general, are Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah, although JBR and JBR The Walk are very popular for gulf nationals. It tends to be more Gulf nationals who are on holidays themselves along with expatriates. So while other parts of the Marina are pretty liberal, for JBR I always recommend being more modest due to the volume of Gulf nationals typically staying in the area. Though there are a lot of hotels here and you really will see a mix of fashion!


Make sure to read these before you go! :
What country in Dubai in? Plus other basic facts about Dubai you need to know before you go!
What is the climate of Dubai? Average temperatures, weather and more

What are the traditional clothes of the UAE? What do Emiratis wear?
The best restaurants with a view in Dubai you won’t want to miss!


Conclusion

So I hope that cleared up the Dubai dress code for you and what to wear or not wear as a woman in Dubai! Many women visit Dubai every year and Dubai is such a safe city for women so don’t let it being a Muslim country or worrying about dressing modestly put you off!

Despite what you read online, the modest dress code is rarely enforced in public places in Dubai. So you really can just enjoy the beach and the sunny all-year-round weather!


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3 comments

Noor October 25, 2020 - 4:21 pm

Fantastic article, even as someone who wears a hijab I often worry if I’m covered enough when visiting certain places in UAE, this breaks it down perfectly!

Reply
Marcella October 25, 2020 - 1:14 am

Lovely article with very honest and great information for first time travelers to the Emirates!

Reply
Elina October 24, 2020 - 11:22 pm

Thank you for sharing the tips! I visited Dubai early this year and I was trying to find this type of information beforehand. It is always useful to know how not to attract unnecessary attention.

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