When travelling to the United Arab Emirates, you probably have a lot of questions about what to pack, what to expect of the UAE dress code and what sun screen to use in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general. To help you pack for your trip to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE, I have made a packing list printable which you can download here. In this article you can find out more about what you need to take and why.
What is the weather like in the UAE
As you might expect, the weather in the UAE is hot – very hot. In summer the temperatures can go up to 48 degrees. In winter however, the most popular tourist season in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, temperatures go down to a nice 26 degrees Celsius. In the mountains you can even expect some snow every now and then.
Winter is the best season to visit the United Arab Emirates. Temperatures in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the other emirates will most likely be in the mid-twenties. There often is a small breeze and you might wake up with a bit of fog that disappears near midday. Winter is the perfect season to visit the United Arab Emirates as you can sit outside and really enjoy the weather. It is, however, also the most expensive season to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
When visiting Dubai and Abu Dhabi in spring, you can still expect nice weather with temperatures in the high 20’s and low thirties. Spring is great because a lot of tourists will have left which means prices are more reasonable and places are less busy. Great weather to enjoy a fresh drink by the pool of your hotel!
Summers in the UAE are hot. A lot of locals will head up to the mountains, to Hatta, Al Ain or even their home country to find some respite from the ever-present sun. In Summer you will need to plan a lot of indoor events. Sure – you can lie on the beach or by the pool in your hotel. It will, however, be very warm so finding a shady spot is advisable. In Summer people head to malls or plan things to do indoors where there is aircon present.
In Autumn, people will be looking out for cooler weather already. The start of the autumn will still be hot with temperatures in the low 40’s. The closer you get to winter, however, the more palatable it gets. If you are trying to avoid the crowds and the high prices but want a bit of nice weather on your trip to Dubai, you can always come in November when the temperatures are high 20’s and low 30’s.
What is the UAE dress code for tourists
As temperatures in the UAE fluctuate between 20 degrees in winter and 45 degrees in summer, the weather is great all year around. But the United Arab Emirates is a rather strict Muslim country where you will need to follow a handful of rules when heading outside – especially when it comes to clothing.
Dress code in Dubai
When it comes to dress codes, the dress code in Dubai has to be one of the more western ones in the country. In Dubai it is advisable to cover up your shoulders and knees when in public – so when you are in the streets, in the mall or out grocery shopping.
Some malls like Mall of the Emirates will have special signs on the doors to ask you to wear respectful clothing.
This does not mean that everyone does cover up their shoulders and knees. In fact, a lot of Westerners who live in Dubai still wear tank tops and skirts to the mall.
When you are in a bar, a Western restaurant or a club, however, you can wear clothing that is more revealing.
Dress code in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is a bit more conservative than Dubai and it really is advisable to cover your knees and shoulders when not in private, at a bar, a club or a restaurant to not get any disapproving stares.
When visiting the great mosque, you should cover your hair (not a strand can show, a warden will look to that) and an abaya which will be offered to you at the mosque.
Dress code in Sharjah
Sharjah is the most strict and conservative emirate in the United Arab Emirates.
In Sharjah it is forbidden to show your shoulders and knees. In doing so you might get fined or taken into custody if you resist.
If you head into Sharjah I would recommend wearing long trousers for the men, and taking a cardigan or scarf with you for the ladies.
Dress code in the other Emirates
Want to venture outside of Dubai and Abu Dhabi? Then you should make sure to wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders.
Sure, the other emirates are not as strict as Sharjah, but they aren’t as open-minded as Dubai either.
What to wear in malls in the UAE
When you are in a mall, you are in a public place. It is always advisable to cover your shoulders and knees. Some malls such as Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, will have signs up on their doors asking you to dress respectfully.
However, special rules count for Dubai Mall where they are not too fussy about what you wear as long as it is not over the top.
What can you wear in restaurants in the UAE
What to wear in restaurants in the UAE globally depends on what restaurant you are visiting. If you are heading to a local cheap or mid-range restaurant, I would adhere to the shoulders and knees rule.
If you are, however, heading to an expensive restaurant, or to a restaurant in a hotel, you can wear whatever you like – from short skirts to plunging necklines.
This obviously does not count for Sharjah, where covering your knees and shoulders is demanded by law.
Can you wear a bikini in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE?
You can wear a bikini on a private beach or by the pool of your hotel or home in the UAE (bar Sharjah).
When you are heading away from the beach or pool – even when it is to go back to your room or the lobby, it is advised to cover up with a robe or a sun dress to respect local customs.
Can men wear shorts in the UAE?
As long as you stay in tourist areas, men are allowed to wear long shorts in the UAE. If you head off into more local territory, however, there might be some stares and looks in malls and on the streets. It is advised for men to bring at least a pair of long trousers when heading to the United Arab Emirates.
Can you bring alcohol into the UAE?
You are allowed to bring up to 4l of spirits per person into Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I would be more careful when flying into Sharjah as this is a dry emirate and they scan both hand luggage and checked luggage in the airport.
UAE Packing list for women
Shirts – I would recommend bringing enough shirts and T-shirts. Try to go for cotton T-shirts and linen shirts. You will need 1 shirt per day you are spending in the UAE if you do not have access to a washing machine.
Long Sleeve Shirt – Bring at least one long sleeve shirt in case you would want to visit one of the many museums in Sharjah.
Long trousers – again, for when visiting places where you will need to cover up with long trousers.
Anti-Chafing trousers – you will sweat a lot in the UAE which means you might need some good anti-chafing trousers.
Sleepwear – some light sleepwear
A nice dress – Bring a party or coctail dress for restaurant dates.
Leggings – Bring leggings so you can wear them under nice dresses that might be a bit too short.
Sandals – wear comfortable sandals like Birkenstocks when out and about in the UAE.
Sneakers – Don’t forget to bring some sneakers when you are planning on a shopping trip or an outing to the museum.
Heels – If you are planning on eating at fancy restaurants or going to the club, you can’t forget a pair of heels!
UAE Packing list for men
Long Trousers – You need a few pairs of long trousers for going to local restaurants and malls.
Shorts – Also pack a pair of shorts for in the hotel.
Cardigan or Sweater – in winter it can get quite nippy at night, taking a cardigan or sweater is not a bad idea.
Dress shirt – Pack a dress shirt for date nights in posh restaurants.
Toiletries to take to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE
Sunscreen for your face – buy separate high SPF sunscreen for the face.
Spray sunscreen – this sunscreen is for when you head out. Easy to apply and with a high spf.
Aftersun – pack some aftersun to moisturise your skin after tanning and to preserve your tan.
Makeup – Don’t forget to take your favourites!
Deoderant – It is very hot and you are likely to sweat a lot so you need to pack deoderant.
Chafing Cream – as you are going to walk a lot you might want to bring chafing cream.
SPF 30 Lip Balm – burning your lips is very painful. Please bring SPF 30 lip balm as your lips can burn quickly.
Mosquito Spray – although in Dubai I did not have a lot of problems with mosquitos, there are other emirates where mosquitos are a real pest. Bring mosquito spray.
Medication to take to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE
Imodium – you never know when you might eat something that won’t agree with you. Pack at least 1 strip of Imodium.
Painkillers – Painkillers in the UAE are not cheap. Bring your own.
Bandaids – bring bandaids just in case.
Allergy pills – in winter it is advisable to bring allergy pills when you suffer of hayfever.
Before you pack your medication, please read the post about what medication you are allowed to take into the UAE.
SOME KINDS OF MEDICATION ARE BANNED AND CAN GET YOU INTO TROUBLE
Important tech accessories to take to the UAE
Things that are illegal to bring into the UAE
When packing, you should know that there are a number of things that are forbidden to take into the UAE
- Certain Medicines
- Drugs and Narcotics
- Sex toys