7 Things To Know Before Visiting Dubai

Dubai is one of those mystical cities that you hear so much about, but still never really know what to expect before travelling there. This was certainly the case for me last year when I made my first ever trip to Dubai.  After spending a total of 3 weeks in the city, I feel as if I have come back with a good understanding of how Dubai works, and I picked up some great tips along the way. Here are the things to know before visiting Dubai, and the things I wish I knew before my first trip…

Things To Know Before Visiting Dubai - Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina

Things to Know Before Visiting Dubai

1. What to Wear in Dubai

One of the most important things to know before visiting Dubai is what to wear. I’ll state the obvious first. Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, which is a Muslim country, so it’s especially important to think about bringing clothes that will allow you to dress modestly in certain areas. When it comes to dressing appropriately in Dubai, the first thing is to distinguish the difference between public and hotel spaces.

Public Areas

In public areas (e.g. malls, cafes, the airport, public transport), men and women are expected to dress modestly. Shoulders should be covered and too much leg, boob or bum is not a good look. Whilst nobody is going to call the fashion police if you’re showing too much skin, it’s far better to think like a savvy traveller and be respectful of the local culture. Pair a maxi skirt and t-shirt with some glamorous jewellery and sandals for a modest yet stylish look.

Hotels are seen as ‘international zones’ where standard holiday / beach / hot weather attire is perfectly acceptable. I wouldn’t advise you wander around the hotel lobby in your bikini and shorts, but all of that is absolutely fine by the pool and beach. There are also plenty of day beach clubs where you can lounge in your beachwear and bikinis all day.

Travelista Top Tip: Ladies, keep a pashmina packed in your bag at all times for public areas and bring some kaftans and cover ups for at the hotel.

Things To Know Before Visiting Dubai - The Travelista

Visiting The Desert

2. Book Restaurants in Advance  

Dubai isn’t the easiest place to be spontaneous. If you’re going out for dinner, pick a restaurant in advance and make a reservation. Unlike many other bustling cities, it’s not so easy to just rock up somewhere and get a table, especially to the more upmarket eateries.

Things To Know Before Visiting Dubai - Burj Khalifa

Things to Know Before Visiting Dubai

3. Where Can I Drink Alcohol in Dubai?

There are plenty of great independent restaurants in Dubai, but none of them are licensed to serve alcohol. If you’re planning to have a few drinks, make sure you’re going to restaurants and bars that sit within a hotel complex. Again, being an ‘international zone’ means that alcohol is permitted and you’ll find that all of the most well-known restaurants are all found within Dubai’s hotels. You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to eat at their restaurants,

Travelista Top Tip: Don’t be afraid to walk straight in to a hotel lobby and ask for directions to your bar / club / restaurant.

Things To Know Before Visiting Dubai - Four Seasons

The Four Seasons Dubai at Dusk

4. Nightlife in Dubai

Dubai has an overwhelming choice of stylish bars and clubs, so much so that you’ll never get round them all. Similarly to my point about alcohol, the clubs are all located within the hotels, which makes it feel like more of a ‘secret scene’. There is no main ‘strip’ or nightlife hub. If you’re planning a night out, you need to know where you’re going and exactly where it is. Chances are, it’s most likely tucked away through the lobby of a swanky hotel or on the top of a skyscraper.

Dubai Marina - Things To Know Before Visiting Dubai

Dubai Marina by night

5. How Much Are Taxis in Dubai?

Whilst prices in Dubai are similar to London standards, taxis are dirt-cheap. This makes taxis a cheap and incredibly handy way of getting around the city. There are endless taxis on the roads and it never takes more than a few minutes to flag one down. The meter starts at 5 dirhams.

Travelista Top Tip: When you get into a taxi, always make sure the driver puts on the meter and confirms he knows where your destination is.

Things To Know Before Visiting Dubai

Things to Know Before Visiting Dubai

6. The Call to Prayer

The Islamic Call to Prayer can be heard from pretty much anywhere in the city. All of the mosques are wired up to public speaker systems and the call is heard from the minaret 5 times a day. Depending on how close the nearest mosque is, you may hear calls throughout the night too. Don’t worry, it’s totally normal!

Things To Know Before Visiting Dubai7. How Much Should You Tip in Dubai?

Tipping is a custom in Dubai, but it’s not expected and is nowhere near as compulsory as the U.S.A. Take in to account the quality of service provided and don’t feel inclined to tip if something was bad. Just take it on a case-by-case basis. Dubai-based journalist @BellaKay recommends the following as a rough guide to tipping in Dubai:

Waiter /waitress: 10 to 15 per cent of the total bill, if service has been good.
Taxi driver: Round up to the nearest note, if driving was acceptable.
Food delivery man: Round up to nearest note, or AED 5 to 10.
Valet-parking assistant: AED 5 to 10.
Bellboy: AED 5 to 10.
Supermarket bag-packer: A couple of coins, up to AED 5.
Hairdresser: 10 per cent.
Beauty / spa therapist: AED 5-20, depending on amount spent.

Want to read more? Check out more of my Dubai posts:

Or get more top tips from the guys at Visit Dubai

What did you think of my 7 things to know before visiting Dubai? Are you planning a trip to Dubai soon for the first time or have you recently visited? If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please leave me a comment in the box below! x 

Jessica Ruth Gibson is the Founder and Editor of Travelista and an award-winning travel content creator of 10 years. She lives in York, UK with her son and has travelled to over 50 countries; her favourites being Italy, Canada and Vietnam.


  • Fab post… Thanks for the valuable info your tips will help me in my upcoming plans for dubai

  • Brilliant Drive

    Wonderful Article!
    Planning to Explore Dubai. Book a Driver on a weekly/Monthly/per-day/Biases
    Best Drivers in Dubai

  • Thank you for providing such a useful information.

  • While drinking alcohol is fine but you should never drive in a drunk state. The fines are quite huge. There are many designated driver service available around which you could use.

  • Mahidiea

    This is infact really a good article.

  • Some good tips for a traveler travelling to Dubai first time.The suggestions for clothing,hotel booking and how much to tip at restaurants always comes in handy.
    So thanks for sharing this post

  • Dubai and Abu Dhabi are much more progressive, Al Ain and Sharjah are more Emirati and traditional. Not sure if you did Safari but it is worth it

  • Dubai is such a nice place to stay and famous for its wonderful sightseeing’s attractions. The best trip is Dubai sightseeing’s tour and desert safari in Dubai. We had great time couple of years ago.

  • Lots of thanks to your post but you left the average whether conditions.

  • Hi I about to go to Dubai on 5th Dec 2016. Thank you for your valuable info.

  • Lovely post. I wish I had read it sooner. We just returned from Dubai and your information is spot on. When out in public, I wore my scarf around my neck as my way of showing I was quite willing to cover my head. The people there are amazing and very welcoming. I felt they respected mine and my husbands religions which are Catholic and Universalist. We had incredible conversations with people.

  • We enjoyed the Desert Safari Tour very much. It was amazing and so much fun! We also did the Dubai city tour and had lunch at the Burj Al Arab Hotel. Unforgettable stay and great memories that we won’t forget a life-time. Thank you very much!
    Professional and reliable company in Dubai that offers an excellent and personalized service and a wide range of hotels, cars and programs. Recommend http://tlt.ae 🙂

  • Thank you so much! I’m actually very nervous about doing the wrong thing so thank you !

  • I m planning to go Dubai in 2017 . For Business purpose and adventure activities . Thanks for your post. 🙂

  • thank u so much, it`s reallly helpful

  • Post been more didactic and helpful, i think this serves a good guide travelers pouring in. What a nice finished collection…

  • Christina

    Thank tou so much for this post. I’m going in October.

  • I’m heading there in one week and this post has been extremely helpful. Thanks so much! 😀

  • Thanks for the information. Going in October 2016

  • Thanks for this info!
    Is it true one can’t kiss or hold hands in public? What if you’re married?
    Also I wonder if any vaccines are necessary or mandatory to travel to Dubai?

  • Karin Altariq

    Hi dear. Thanks for your tips. This is really very important for me. As I am planning a holiday trip to this amazing city of the world on coming month I have to know something about the city. From now I am collecting some most adventures things list like Jet Ski ride, enjoy Ferrari world, dinner in dhow cruise, spending on the night in the desert etc. from my Alt Dubai travel agent. But your tips are very much helpful to me on my trip. Thank You. By the way nice photos.

  • Thank you. I am going in September, and I am so excited. Now, I have never taken an international trip. What is your suggestion about currency?

  • Ohh.. I am going there next week and really yours tips will help me to familiar in tht country.

  • Finally I have found a very informative post about Dubai. Thank you Jess, this is a great post – I am super excited to go to Dubai it seems like you had an awesome time out there. x


  • Hi Jess!
    This is an amazing post, full of pertinent information. I’m sure you don’t mind if I direct some of our potential-UAE customers here for advice once we get our Dubai section up and running? You’ve written it out so beautifully, and it’s so much easier for me to explain things – especially in terms of dress code for our female customers – and then add ‘here read this’! Thanks!

    • Hi Olwen! Sorry for the slow reply. Yes of course, feel free to link to this post (as long as no content is copied and pasted). Many thanks 🙂

  • I just came back from a week in Dubai. Such an amazing place!! Love it x
    Leonie ♥ Lo On The Go

  • Fab post… off to Dubai in two weeks! Any tips on restaurants/ bars you visited? Also who did you do the desert safari with? And the boat trip too, looks like so much fun! Thanks x

  • Love this! Thanks for the information girlfriend! 🙂

  • Love this post, it’s so helpful! I also love your shirt in the second picture, where is it from?

    • Meenu Tangri

      Thanks for the information . Planning to go in coming December2016 . Gotta visit to explore Dubai & hav an unwinding break visiting spas & catch up a friend Celebrity Chef Kunal Kapoor who is now an entrepreneur of An Indian Restaurant Patiala . Also to meet husbands cousin staying at Abu Dhabi

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