Visiting Dubai? What to Know Before You Go

Before my first trip to Dubai, I had a lot of questions. I knew the UAE’s laws and customs were quite different to the UK, but I was still unsure what to expect.

Here’s what was on my mind as I packed my bags, and the answers I learned:

How to do I dress?

I took my pashmina off for this photo, but otherwise kept my upper arms covered

This was one of my biggest questions before my first trip to this city. My advice is to just be respectful. I love my maxi dresses and skirts anyway so I took a few of these and wore a pashmina over my arms (when you are inside that aircon is cold anyway).

At the beach and hotel pools, there’s bikinis everywhere, so just bring your normal swimming gear. I wasn’t sure what to expect and brought my one piece and almost felt overdressed. Just cover back up once you leave.

Beach and poolside wear was bikinis as usual

Part of my trip was for work, and given I mainly wear sleeveless pencil dresses that just come to just above my knees, I was concerned, but around the hotel, it didn’t matter, and I just wore a light cardigan or blazer over it.

What’s the best way to get around?

Usually when I travel, walking and the local metro are my transportation of choice. But I went for the cabs in Dubai. They were very cheap compared to London, drivers were nice, and they were fast. Uber was of the same standard.

A friend of mine swears by the metro, but I haven’t used it.

Where should I stay?

The view from my first hotel, Westin al Habtoor, there was very little around it

I stayed in the financial district, mainly at the Rose Rayaan. The hotel was nice, good pool, gym, and spa, with plenty of taxis on hand to take me where I wanted to go. I also had a huge room with a view downtown.

The view from the Rose Rayaan

While this was convenient for my last trip, I think I would choose something closer to Jumeirah Beach so I could sunbathe by the sea whenever I wanted.

Can I have a beer?

Restaurant Ninive near Emirates Tower

Dubai is one of the most liberal of the Emirates and a lot more fun than I’d anticipated. Beer and wine is served at licensed hotel bars and restaurants.

That said, there are rules: It’s an offence to be under the influence of alcohol in public and to drink alcohol in public. In other words, you are best off sticking to your hotel’s bar/restaurant and limiting your intake to just a few.

What else is off limits?

Luckily none of these applied to me, but you can’t have electronic cigarettes, anything obscene, pork products, etc. Also avoid offensive behaviour, any PDA, and don’t criticise the UAE in any way. A full guide of illegalities can be found here.

Is it safe to travel alone?

One of my many selfies during the solo part of my trip

Dubai is a safe city. I was travelling solo for half of my recent trip and never felt uncomfortable. I did stick to the main areas of town: the financial district, downtown, and beach, but that was mainly due to time constraints. I was only ever treated with respect here.

You can find some tips for women here, but I think these are overly cautious, I don’t think you need to fake a wedding ring to ward off attention!

When is the best time to visit?

Sunny days and great weather in March

I’ve only been here in March, but it was absolutely perfect. The high temperature was about 28 degrees Celsius/82 Fahrenheit, not too crowded, no religious holidays so everything was running as normal.

For non-Muslims, I’d recommend avoiding the holy month of Ramadan, which in 2018 is expected to start on May 15 and end June 14. You won’t be able to eat or drink anything during the day, which may prove difficult if you aren’t used to the heat, or are like me and super sluggish/grumpy while hungry!

Is there anyone that’s had a different experience than mine? Anything else you want to know before visiting this city? Let me know in the comments!

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