Packing for Dubai can be tough because there’s so much conflicting advice out there about what women should pack for a trip to the UAE! When I visited Dubai I was searching for a straightforward Dubai packing list and they all seemed to give different advice.
I’m sure most women visiting Dubai realise you need to dress fairly conservatively as it is an Islamic country and it would be so disrespectful to wear revealing clothing in many situations. But more than 80% of the population in the UAE are non-citizens so this does impact the way women dress in Dubai.
And let’s not forget that it’s HOT in Dubai so you definitely won’t want to be wearing heavy layers.
I tweeted the question, asking what women should wear in Dubai and the responses were so different! Some people replied telling me I could wear whatever I wanted while other people told me that women should be covered from knee to elbow at all times.
After spending a week in Dubai on a family holiday, I found it to be somewhere in the middle and, at the risk of causing even more confusion, it really depends on where you are and what you’re doing. There are different dress codes depending on what you’re doing.
So I’ve split this post into:
- What to wear in Dubai on the beach and by the hotel pool
- What to wear in Dubai around a hotel resort or theme park
- What to wear when you’re out and about
- What to wear when visiting religious sites in Dubai
- The Dubai dress code for nights out
Here are my Dubai packing tips and advice for what women should wear in Dubai. I hope you find it useful and please do add any more helpful suggestions in the comments below.
What women should wear in Dubai at water parks, beaches and swimming pools
When you’re visiting the water parks, beaches and swimming pools in Dubai you can really wear whatever you like once you’re there.
Just keep in mind that it wouldn’t be appropriate to walk through your hotel lobby in a bikini or in a see-through cover-up. If you’re at the beach, it wouldn’t be appropriate to walk to a shop in a bikini so make sure you have a light dress or a maxi skirt you can pop over the top when you’re walking around.
There will be women in bikinis and women who are completely covered and no one will bat an eyelid either way.
I wouldn’t go for super skimpy the bikini (I wouldn’t wear a thong and you defo can’t go topless!) but a normal bikini is fine.
I wore a full swimsuit but that’s mostly because I’ve recently has c-sections so it’s to cover my scar. I would have also felt comfortable in a bikini that offered quite a lot of coverage.
What women should wear in Dubai around a hotel, resort or theme park
As the majority of people at a hotel or resort will be tourists or non-citizens living in Dubai, you can again wear almost anything. Again, I wouldn’t go super skimpy or show too much skin. I have a pair of rather short shorts that I wore around my hotel one day and I did notice people looking at me – not angry stares or anything but people noticed.
Basically, if you think your dad would give you a ‘Are you really going out in that!?’ kind of look then don’t wear it.
Shorts, skirts, dresses and vests are all absolutely fine but avoid super short or super low cut items.
Maxi skirts and dresses cut just above the knee are perfect.
What women should wear in Dubai when out and about
If you’re going out into the city, visiting local markets, attractions and the malls then you really need to think about dressing appropriately in Dubai. This is where you need to cover up a bit more than you might at home.
I recommend women dress modestly and cover their shoulders and chest and wear something to the knee. Think a t-shirt rather than a vest and a midi skirt or maxi skirt rather than a mini skirt.
You do see signs suggesting women cover their shoulders but it doesn’t seem to be enforced. You’re not going to get arrested or anything, but it is disrespectful and people will stare.
Travel hack tip: if you’re finding you have lots of strappy tops or dresses then simply wear a T-shirt underneath. I love this trend anyway and it can make a simple outfit look bang on trend. If you’re worried about getting too hot, search for a crop top to stay a bit cooler.
When visiting religious sites
This is when you’ll want to be properly covered with loose clothing. If you’ll be visiting mosques then you’ll need a head scarf or something to drape over your head and shoulders.
Pack loose trousers or a long skirt or dress and a loose top with sleeves.
It’s always worth taking a large scarf in case you need to cover your head or to drape over your shoulders whenever you’re out and about. It’s also hand as protection from the sun.
Long, linen trousers are perfect too.
What to wear for a night out in Dubai
The dress code for nights out in Dubai is generally very glamorous so it’s time to dress up and put your best dress on! There are so many fancy bars, stylish restaurants and amazing clubs in Dubai.
I noticed that many women looked very glamorous and work very skimpy dresses, but would also wear a loose scarf draped across their shoulders. It makes a sexy outfit look effortlessly stylish and ensure they stick to the rules about covering up.
Take a look at a site like Never Fully Dressed for really glam dresses but they have nice options that can keep you covered up too.
Men need to take note here because many places won’t allow men entry if they’re wearing trainers, shorts or a top with no collar.
Women can wear tightly fitted clothing but if you’re wearing a short-sleeve or sleeveless top then I’d recommend taking a pashmina or light jacket or scarf to cover your shoulders during the journey.
So what should you pack for Dubai?
A Dubai packing list for women
Here’s a brief Dubai packing list for some of the important things you’ll need to pack for Dubai.
A glam sun hat, sunglasses, suncream and a water bottle – It is HOT!
I’d go for a big, glamorous sun hat because you can get away with being a little extra in Dubai!
Comfortable footwear – I did a lot of walking in Dubai so I highly recommend you wear comfortable shoes! A pair of comfortable sandals are a must. I have the Barbour Gabbie Sandals from Sandal Shop and these are perfect.
High heels – This isn’t something I normally recommend packing for holidays but Dubai is glamorous and you can’t get too dressed up for a night out
Swimwear – There are lots of great waterparks in Dubai and most hotels have amazing pool areas so pack your swimwear and something suitable/safe for waterslides that isn’t going to slip off
White t-shirts – If you’re finding you have a lot of strappy clothing that reveals your shoulders, chest and cleavage then I recommend packing a couple of white t-shirts to wear underneath. This saves you buying a whole new wardrobe
Knee length skirts – Loose fitting midi skirts are perfect for Dubai. They’re super stylish, keep you cool and cover your knees. M&S have some great midi skirts! Pair them with light t-shirts or a blouse and you’ve got a simple, modest and stylish outfit.
A scarf – or pashmina or light cardigan to cover up. Not only to cover your shoulders but I found a lot of the bars and restaurants were quite cold in the evenings
FAQs around what women should pack for Dubai
Can women wear shorts in Dubai?
Of course! Just make sure they aren’t the skimpy type that skim your bum cheeks or tight, cycling style shorts. Loose shorts that sit 2 inches above the knee are perfect.
What kind of winter clothes would I need in Dubai?
It really depends what your definition of ‘winter’ is. Temperatures in winter still reach around 25 degrees C and will rarely drop below 15 degrees C. I live in the UK and that’s a hot summer’s day for us!
Realistically, you don’t really need to think about ‘winter clothes’. You may wish to pack a light jacket to your Dubai packing list for the evenings, but this country is hot all year round.
Can women wear short dresses in Dubai?
You do see lots of women wearing short dresses for nights out. I’m not saying it’s absolutely OK but it seems that skimpy clothing is more acceptable in the evening. You would also be fine wearing a short dress around the pool or on the beach.
Can I wear jeans in Dubai?
You could but you’re going to be hot! I wouldn’t bother packing any jeans so leave them off your Dubai packing list! You could wear them in the evening but as nights out are generally quite glamorous, you might feel underdressed in jeans.
Is there air conditioning everywhere?
Yes, you’d be right in thinking that there’s air conditioning everywhere when you’re indoors in Dubai. So you don’t really need to worry too much about dressing to keep cool when you’re in bars, restaurants or malls.
Can I wear leggings in Dubai?
I would wear leggings in Dubai with a long top. Choose a top that skims your bum and they’d be fine.
Of course, you’d be fine to wear sports leggings if you’re visiting a hotel gym or something.
The same applies to tight pants. If you want to wear super tight trousers or tight pants then I’d just make sure your top is slightly longer and skims your hips and bum.
What should I wear on a desert safari in Dubai?
Something like a long, flowing dress is perfect for a desert safari. I’d choose a bright maxi dress as they look beautiful in photos!
You don’t need to worry too much about wearing something practical for a safari because you won’t be doing any hiking, maybe just a bit of running up and down sand dunes! Desert safaris are all about the photo opportunities so don’t be afraid to dress up for the occasion.
Can women wear bikinis in Dubai?
Yes, it’s fine for women to wear bikinis around hotel pools. Like I said above, I’d just avoid anything super skimpy because people will stare.
How do you dress modestly and account for the hot weather in Dubai?
The trick is to wear loose fitting clothing and you’ll actually feel cooler than you would in short shorts or skirts. A long skirt that flows in the breeze is lovely!
Choose wide legged jumpsuits and long dresses with little sleeves. If you’re struggling to find tops that cover your arms, shoulders and chest then make sure you’ve always got a scarf with you to cover up.
Do many women wear traditional dress in Dubai?
Yes, you’ll see lots of women wearing an abaya.
Dubai is a wonderfully multicultural country and I personally loved to see women wearing full abayas next to women wearing power suits or beach wear.
Do I need to wear closed shoes in Dubai?
Men will need to wear closed shoes for many bars and restaurants but footwear is a little more relaxed for women. I wore open-toed sandals everywhere I went in Dubai.
Is it OK to wear flip flops?
It’s OK to wear flip flops during the day around the pool, hotel, resort, theme parks and beaches. I’d wear something a little more formal for everywhere else and definitely wouldn’t wear flip flops for nights out in Dubai.
Can women wear tank tops in Dubai?
Yes, women can wear tank tops in Dubai in touristy areas but I’d make sure you’ve got a scarf or pashmina with you so you can cover your shoulders and chest if needed. If you’ve got particularly big boobs then I would be conscious about showing too much cleavage so a high necked tank top would be more appropriate.
You would not be able to visit a religious site wearing a tank top but for casual tourist attractions you would be OK.
What’s the dress code for nights out in Dubai?
Glamorous!! Always glam!
The dress code will be different for many different establishments but Dubai is one of the most glamorous places I’ve ever visited. I’m sure you can find lots of casual eateries but this really is the place to dress up!
Can women wear dresses in Dubai?
Yes, of course! Dresses are probably the best thing to pack for Dubai as they’re stylish, keep you cool and can easily be modest without feeling like you’ve got lots of heavy layers on!
If you’re by the pool or beach you can wear whatever kind of dress you like. Choose a longer dress if you’re going out around the city and opt for an ankle skimming dress with loose sleeves if you’re visiting religious sites.
What should you wear in Dubai Mall and other shopping malls?
I think it’s the malls that can be the trickiest places to dress for in Dubai because you really do see everything – but that doesn’t mean everything is OK!
This is where I’d recommend being covered from the knee to your upper arms. Wear a knee-length skirt or dress and make sure your shoulders and cleavage are covered.
The picture below was taken in Morocco but something lie this would be absolutely fine!
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