You want a sunny UAE vacation, but you’ve heard a lot of everyday things are forbidden, and now you’re confused about what NOT to do in Dubai? Don’t worry; while the shiny emirate is a Muslim state, it’s also used to foreign tourists and expats, so the rules there are way milder.
And while there are plenty of regulations no one enforces or even cares about, there are others you better follow to stay out of trouble. Since I’m a cool guy, I’m gonna tell you about both of them. Some no-nos come from personal experience (unfortunately), others I heard from locals and friends, but they are all legit, and I’m sure will help you prepare for your trip.
Ready to learn what NOT to do in Dubai?
Don’t go in The Summer
I know this one is counter-intuitive for most of us. I mean, we are used to associating vacations with summer, right? But going to Dubai in June, July or August is a big no-no.
Why? Because Dubai is located in the desert and the summer temperatures average 45°C (113°F) and even 50°C (122°F) days are not rare. Yes, you’ve read that right. Dubai is hotter than hell!
All locals stay at home, expats go back to their home countries, and there are no outdoor activities. All you can do is stay inside your hotel or go to the mall – not the most exciting vacation.When it comes to Dubai, winter is the season.
Mind the photos you take
This one should be kept in mind not only in Dubai but in all Muslim countries. Most locals don’t like their pictures taken, especially the women, so don’t stick a camera in their face without asking.
If you unintentionally catch a local while taking photos of some landmark, it’s not that big of a problem. They are aware the city is full of picture-hungry tourists.
Don’t go to the mall unprepared
Dubai Mall is huuuuge. It’s so big that exploring it unprepared will undoubtedly lead to one thing – getting lost. The first time I visited, It took me more than an hour to find the correct exit.
The only way to navigate this monster is to download the Dubai Mall app. You can even do it inside the mall since they have pretty good free wi-fi. The app has a virtual map that will guide you wherever you want to go, store, food court, or exit. It’s free and saves tons of time.
See Also: What not to do in Marrakech
Don’t skip Burj Khalifa and its fountains
Visiting Dubai and skipping Burj Khalifa is like visiting Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower, visiting Rome and skipping the Colosseum, visiting New York and skipping the Statue of Liberty – you see where I’m going with this. The skyscraper symbolizes the new Dubai culture, and the view from the top is seriously out-of-this-world.
Next come the fountains that are probably the best free show on the planet. This one can’t be accurately described with words, so trust me and check it out. From 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM every 30 minutes, you get a different show. For more details, check my huge Dubai itinerary guide! Seriously, no better way to prepare for your trip!
Mind your manners on the road (and off it)
The first thing I say when people ask me “What not to do in Dubai” is this – don’t be rude, especially on the road. Telling someone to go f* himself while driving may lead to a severe fine or even jail time.
Even if some rich kid in a Ferrari cuts you off, control your emotions, restrain from cuss words or rude gestures, and your vacation won’t be ruined.
The thumbs-up sign is also not ok since, in the Arab world, it’s the equivalent of a middle finger. The ok sign is not ok either.
Don’t walk on tram rails
This one is from experience. It turned out walking on the tram rails is something NOT to do in Dubai unless you want to risk a 2000 AED fine.
While trying to reach the tram station, I went through the tram corridor and even took a photo of the rails. In my defense, it was a pretty large corridor, and I didn’t see any signs. Unfortunately, a policeman saw me, and I had to spend an hour explaining I was just stupid and didn’t see the signs. Thankfully I paid no fine, but I wouldn’t do it again.
Walking on tram lines – definitely, something NOT to do in Dubai.
Be prepared for Ramadan
Ramadan is the holy month when all Muslims are fasting during the day. Don’t worry about it, though. No one expects that from tourists, and restaurants and shops are still open.
What is expected from you, however, is not to do it in public. From dusk to dawn, no eating, drinking, or smoking in public. Restaurants have special zones where non-fasting guests are hidden, so it’s not a problem (now that I think of it, why would they have fasting guests?).
The Ramadan rule is not only something NOT to do in Dubai but is also taken very seriously by the locals so try to follow it.
See Also: What not to do in Thailand
Don’t mock or criticize the Royal Family or Islam
Again, this rule is something you should follow in all Muslim or monarchy states. No matter your personal views on their laws, politics, or religion, keep them to yourself or comment on them privately.
All those topics lead to arguments anyway, and their place is not during your vacation time.
Be careful what you have in your luggage
Besides the usual things you shouldn’t have in your suitcase (weapons, pointy things, and stuff), there are a few more things you should be vigilant about.
Any books with adult images are forbidden (including fashion magazines), products made in Israel (although no one will go through your luggage looking for the Made in Israel mark), and pork products. So yes, bringing bacon is something NOT to do in Dubai, but why would you have bacon in your bag anyway?
No alcohol in public
Drinking alcohol in public is not only offensive but also illegal in Dubai. Nope, not even a beer is allowed unless you want to risk penalties. Now, Dubai has been a heavy touristic country for a long time, and you would most likely get away with only a warning, but don’t risk it.
Drinking beer in public – something NOT to do in Dubai (sorry, guys).
Don’t do drugs
Ok, this is something you shouldn’t do anywhere, but the potential consequences of doing it in Dubai are much more severe than in your home country. Fines are enormous, and just for possession, you may land in jail. If it’s a large quantity, it may be jail for life!
I’m not joking. If there is one top answer to “What NOT to do in Dubai”, it’s drugs. It may ruin not only your vacation but your entire life.
See Also: What not to do in Paris
What Not to do in Dubai But we All do Anyways
While researching this ‘What NOT to do in Dubai’ article, I stumbled upon many weird rules. In this section, I’ll list the ones that are technically still active, but either no one cares about, or they won’t land you in trouble land.
Stay in a hotel unmarried
This is one of the weirdest NOT to do in Dubai things I stumbled upon.
Do people really believe Dubai would’ve been a top travel destination with a regulation like that?
This rule may have been enforced 20 years ago, but the current rulers are not stupid, and they are aware that you can’t have a world travel hub with something like that.
I haven’t heard of a single hotel that enforces it and judging by the Instagram photos of unmarried girls on the beach; most visitors are unaware that something like that exists. No worries here; Booking a room with your girlfriend is NOT something NOT to do in Dubai.
See Also: What to do in Penang
Display of public affection
Displaying public affection is strictly forbidden in Muslim states, but Dubai is very lenient about it. Now I don’t mean you can kiss passionately for 15 minutes on the square; this one would probably offend a lot of people, so don’t do it.
However, holding your SO had or hugging them won’t be an issue, so don’t worry about it. Couples and newlyweds are Dubai’s most frequent visitors.
In Dubai, you may see a lot of men holding hands. It’s a sign of friendship completely normal for Middle Eastern countries.
First, let’s clarify inappropriate clothes. For example, if you want to wear see-through shirts or belt-size skirts, you may be asked to change. I mean, this is not something you should wear in public anywhere.
However, wearing shorts, flip-flops, or any summer clothes is not a problem. Only if you want to go to a mosque, but I guess you’re aware of that. Unless your wardrobe is pretty extreme, this rule is not something you have to worry about.
Using your left hand
Using your left hand has been seen as offensive in the middle eastern countries and India because once upon a time before toilet paper was a thing, the left hand was used to ‘clean yourself’.
You can’t shake hands with your leftie or even open doors; this is what they say. Cmon, this is such a bull*hit. Toilet paper has been a thing for a looong time, and no one cares which hand you use to open the door. If you have a meeting with some big-shot sheik or something, you may want to use your right hand just in case, but regular visitors really shouldn’t care which hand they use.
No loud music and dancing
Maybe I had to specify here – loud music and dancing in public are forbidden in Dubai due to being a provocation. Provocation to do what? Have fun? If you hear a song and you get this desire to start dancing on the streets, rest assured, no one will have a problem with it.
I think this rule is mostly against street artists and loud teenagers. You can’t spend the night dancing on a square for cash or walk around booming music from your wireless speaker. Shame for the street artists, but definitely not something you should be concerned about.
Minding your shoe soles
This is the most ridiculous question I’ve got – should I not cross my legs when I’m seated in Dubai? Why? Because in Dubai, people get offended when your shoe sole is pointing their way.
Yes, in Arabian countries, the shoe is something dirty, and this may have been offensive if you do it on purpose to someone, but these people are not some barbarians living in the past, quite the opposite. No one would even notice if you cross your legs and your shoe sole is pointing at them.
Dubai is a Muslim state, and being such a lot of people are afraid their culture would be so different, you have to constantly be vigilant about minor details. However, in reality, Dubai is a very modern place, and just acting like a normal human being is enough to avoid any troubles. So don’t burden yourself thinking all the time about what NOT to do in Dubai and just enjoy your sunny vacation.
That’s all from me, now you know what NOT to do in Dubai.
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Saturday 10th of December 2022
Actually, I have been there in July and August, at The Palm and at Jebel Ali, and liked it. Actually preferred it, because February can get chilly at night, unlike some other tropical destinations.