Visiting a new city or town requires you to look up all the potential information you need for itineraries, amenities, hotels, or accommodations, as well as the transportation services you might require for your trip.
Part of traveling to a new area is also making sure that you’re not disrespecting the locals or disobeying the laws implemented in the location. If you’re planning to visit Dubai, here’s a short guide on the dos and don’ts while visiting the city!
What am I allowed to do in Dubai?
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Visitors to the city can go around the city and visit tourist spots and other establishments provided that they also adhere to the different rules implemented within Dubai.
They can use public transportation services, drink alcohol, and dress nicely if they follow the corresponding rules behind these activities.
Scroll down below to learn more about what you’re allowed to do while in the city!
Do Use Public Transportation
Dubai has a wide range of transportation services for travelers. Some of them are even included in a tour package, and can easily guide or take you to the popular sights within the city.
Since Dubai has a very harsh climate, staying inside air-conditioned vehicles can help you avoid heatstroke or fainting while going around the city.
For public transportation, Dubai has a metro system, which has two main lines that you can take. Additionally, the trains will drop you in multiple locations near tourist spots in the city.
Note that if you plan to ride the Dubai Metro, it’s open as early as 5:00 AM and runs as late as 2:00 AM. What’s great about the system is that there’s a separate section for women and children, which can be found at the end of the train.
Another option for transportation are the buses going around the city. They are slower than the metro system as they make more frequent stops in other areas of the city, but are great if you’re planning to reach a specific area the train can’t reach.
If you want a more exclusive trip around Dubai, there are taxis all around, especially near the Dubai Airport. There are also special exclusive vehicles for women, called pink taxis, which are vehicles driven by women.
Do Follow Dubai’s Dress Code
Even if the city is highly-urbanized, don’t expect that you can wear the common and non-conservative trendy clothes popular in Western countries.
Dubai is still highly conservative, and you might be arrested for public indecency if you fail to adhere to their dress code.
Women are required to cover up or dress modestly. For Muslim women, they are required to cover their hair, faces, and heads with scarf in line with their beliefs.
Tourists do not need to do that, but they have to cover their hair and bodies if they plan to visit a Mosque. In terms of casual wear, we recommend wearing skirts that are just below the knee level.
The shorter your skirt will be, the more likely it will be for you to be reprimanded or even arrested for public indecency.
Women can also wear t-shirts, as long as they have sleeves that cover at least the upper arm. Avoid wearing strappy or tank tops that have plunging neckline, as those are considered offensive.
Additionally, when it comes to swimwear, it should only be worn in private pools and beaches.
In general, we recommend wearing clothes that cover your shoulders and legs. Avoid prints and designs that can be deemed vulgar and offensive.
Do Drink Alcohol In Licensed Establishments
What is life if you can’t have a bit of fun, right? Yes, you can drink alcohol during your travels to the city.
If you plan to drink on your own you will have to apply for a temporary license from the government so you can purchase alcohol from retail stores.
Do Take Care While Walking Around the City
Even if the city provides access to different options of transportation, there will be instances in your trip when you will want to walk on foot.
Whether it’s to experience and immerse yourself in the culture or the life of the city, or if it’s due to a more logistical issue, such as buses or trains not being able to reach the place you want to go to– you will have to walk.
We recommend to take care of yourself while going around the city. Bring some water with you to keep yourself hydrated, especially since Dubai can be reach temperatures of up to 45 °C.
Make sure to be protected from the sun as well. Put some sunscreen on as you walk around, and bring an article of clothing or accessory, such as a hat to cover your face.
Do Take Care While Driving
Driving is an option for those who are quite familiar with the city and would want to avoid the constraints of public transport or the strict tour schedules offered by companies.
You can certainly rent some vehicles in Dubai if you want to go around on your own. However, we recommend that you take care while driving.
The city has a very high speed limit, ranging from 100 to 140 km per hour. We recommend actually not reaching this speed range so you can avoid any accidents.
What am I not allowed to do in Dubai?
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Now that we’ve talked about essential things to do in Dubai, what about the things you shouldn’t do?
Essentially, you should avoid disobeying the rules and laws implemented in the city. However, there are culture-specific things that you should refrain from doing, especially in Dubai.
Don’t Be Drunk in Public!
You can drink in Dubai provided that you have a license to buy the alcohol in their stores. Likewise, you should choose an establishment that is licensed by the city government.
If you get drunk though, head back to your accommodations immediately so you can rest and sober up. Spending time drunk on the streets can lead to unwanted attention, putting you at risk to act disorderly in public, which is illegal in the city.
You can be fined up to AED 20,000 or be imprisoned if you get caught sowing chaos in the streets while you’re drunk.
Don’t Take Photos of People Without Their Permission
It is rude to take photos of random people without their consent. If you are a photographer, we recommend making sure to ask people beforehand that you want to take a picture.
Also, heads up: it’s actually illegal to do so. The UAE Penal Code clarifies that this will be an invasion of privacy.
If you get caught taking and using photos without consent, you can be fined for up to AED 500,000 (which is quite a lot) or can also be jailed.
Don’t Do Public Displays of Affection
This applies to both straight and LGBTQIA+ couples. The city frowns upon any form of public displays of affection (PDA) that goes beyond the scope of hand-holding.
For LGBTQIA+ couples, the restrictions are more intense. Any form of affection between them is illegal in the city, and if authorities catch them, it could land couples in big trouble, such as facing up to 10 years in prison.
Don’t Room Together With Your Partner If You’re Not Married
Speaking of couples, rooming together with a member of the opposite sex is illegal if you’re not married.
Some hotels, especially those catering to foreigners, are quite relaxed in enforcing this rule. This is because hotels will actually automatically assume that you are married unless you outright state it.
If you’re planning to room together, make sure to run with your accommodations’ assumptions, and avoid getting the attention of authorities for some other reason.
Don’t Use Your Left Hand
This is something we recommend not doing while you’re talking to locals or residents. This might seem weird, but it is a rule that is backed up by cultural context.
In Muslim culture, the left hand is considered unclean as it is used for maintaining your body’s hygiene.
Don’t shake hands or greet people using your left hand. Also, don’t use primarily use your left hand while eating in a public area.
Visiting a new area provides a lot of excitement and wonder as you will get a chance to explore and relax as you travel.
While enjoying yourself is the primary goal, it’s important to take note and consider the possible things that you can and cannot do to avoid any untoward incidents during your travels.