“Don’t judge until you have experienced it.” You may have been led to believe that countries in the Middle East are extremely strict and if you do not comply, you’ll be thrown in prison... Or maybe you just watched Sex and the City 2 too many times. Well, some of them are partly true, but Dubai is considered to be one of the more modern ones (compared to the other UAE countries). 

Although, to be safe and respectful to their rules/beliefs, we would like to share with you some things you should know before going to Dubai.... and Abu Dhabi (We have been to Abu Dhabi for just 1 day, but I believe these also apply to their country).

1. Their culture is rooted in Islamic traditions.

Even if you do not have the same beliefs as they do, it is highly important that you respect and behave suitably because they are very protective over their culture and traditions. (you don’t want to end up like Sam in Sex and the City 2--being kicked out of the country!)

2. Parties and alcoholic drinks are allowed

You may have seen in Fast and Furious 7 that parties and alcoholic drinks are allowed, but keep in mind that it is illegal to drink in the street or in public places. Keep it in a private area, such as a hotel, bar or nightclub. (Take note: residents are only allowed to drink in their homes if they have an alcohol license issued by the municipality)

And just like any other country, driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal.

3. Dress appropriately

You do not need to wear their traditional clothing such as the abaya (for the women) and the dishdasha or khandura (for the men). As we’ve mentioned earlier, Dubai has become more modern now so you are free to wear trendy clothes. However, make sure that your garment reaches at least just above the knee and shoulders are covered. For the ladies, bring a scarf to cover your head; this is important especially if you plan to visit the mosques.

There are a few exemptions:

  • You can wear whatever you want when you are in a hotel, bar or club
  • It is ok to wear your swimwear in the pool area or at the beach

But of course, to be safe, always dress conservatively.

4. No PDA

It is considered unlawful to show affection in public. This means no kissing, no cuddling, and no holding hands (even if you are just in the mall, or even if you are related to each other).

They are extra strict when you are inside the mosque. I remember when we visited the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, I was taking a photo of my mom and her brother when the officer called our attention because they were standing too close to each other (my uncle’s shoulder was touching my mom’s shoulder).

5. Ramadan 

Ramadan is considered to be the most religious time of the year in Dubai. During this time, eating, drinking and smoking is not permitted in public during the day. Also, they do not serve alcohol before 7pm.

Important note: Visitors must abide by Ramadan in public areas. If you are not willing to do this, avoid visiting Dubai or the UAE in general during Ramadan.

6. Taking photographs

I know Filipinos love to do this, but it is illegal to take photos... nah, just kidding! Don’t worry, it is allowed! (I needed to put it in bold just in case you’re panicking already, haha.) Dubai is a beautiful country and I’m sure you want to take photos everywhereeeee, but you cannot take photos of government buildings, military installations, ports and airports.

Also, before taking photos of other people, make sure to politely ask for their permission (esp. an Emirati woman)

Well, that’s about it! If we missed an important rule/belief that tourists should know, feel free to leave a comment below.

Discover the wanderer in you.