Top 14 Do's & Don'ts in Dubai
Ok, so we've all heard the horror stories of people being jailed for all sorts of things in Dubai (caught with marijuana, drunk in public, pre-marital sex). Here are the top 14 activities that I did on my trip and what you should avoid, in order to make your vacation memorable, and not land you in any mess. The thing that you have to keep in mind about visiting other countries is that culturally it might be very different from what you're accustomed to.
For example, in the United States, folks bounce checks all the time and get hit with that $30.00 NSF fee (no biggie), in Dubai, it's against the law to write a bad check, and it can land you in Jail. In some US, and European cities such as Amsterdam, pot use is entirely legal, in Dubai it's illegal. So keep in mind that any place that you want to visit, always research and have an understanding of their culture, beliefs, customs, and legal system. If you do this, you'll always be okay!
14 Do’s in Dubai
1| Do check out Dubai Opera House. Before arriving in Dubai, take a look at their schedule! You'll be amazed at the various types of shows offered each week. While I was there, they had the Nelson Mandela story as well as a symphony night. Click here to view current schedule.
2| Do get out of the city and go on a desert safari! I went through Platinum Heritage, and they were phenomenal. They had a driver pick me up from my hotel, take me to the camp and drop me back off at my hotel. Platinum Heritage offers many different packages. Click here to view their packages. If you do have time, I also recommend the hot air balloon ride. Click here to see a video highlight of the activities that I did. They make it so easy to book online. I will say that they are one of the best and most professional desert safari camps in Dubai.
3| Go to Box Park, this place is pretty cute! The décor and design of each building are made out of freight containers. Here, you'll find plenty of unique boutique stores, cafes, places to eat and great coffee. You can make this a morning or evening excursion. It's very relaxing and close to all of the other neighborhoods in Dubai.
4| Do visit Kite Beach. Whether you're traveling solo, with friends or family, this place is pretty sweet! The beach is impeccably clean; they have a changing and washroom area, they offer umbrellas and beach chairs, cute little shops, places to eat, food trucks and of course a kite show! You can walk further down and sign up for some water activities too. It's also a fantastic place for a photo-op with the Burj Al Arab in the background.
5| Do visit Souk Madinat. This place consist of outdoor and indoor shops and restaurants! You can spend half the day here. If you're considering hotels in this area, I would say yes! You'll find one of a piece type clothing, jewelry, fabrics, home décor and so much more! A lot of the shops will even ship internationally or have the items dropped off at your hotel. Do take the time to enjoy some outdoor eating. I would usually come here after my morning and evening activities. I found this place to be perfect for a nightcap! It's also very family friendly too. Do check out Segreto Italian Restaurant & Bar, amazing Italian food and one of the best happy hours in town. They even offer gluten free and vegetarian options. Click here to view menu. Also, reservations can be made online prior to arrival in Dubai.
7| Do visit Dubai Gold Souk & Spice Market. This part of town is considered Old Dubai; you'll find plenty of jewelry stores, great spice shops and so much more! I spent half the day here, walking around site seeing and picking up a few things that I know are hard to come by in the States. I even made time to get on a boat ride, which only cost 1 dirham! Best Dirham spent! If you have time, be sure to go on the Al Fahidi Walking Tour. You'll get to walk through the alleyways of Dubai's earlier settlers. Here you'll find museums, cafes, and SMCCU.
7| Do visit Grand Jumeirah Mosque. If you're willing to have an open mind, I do recommend that you visit this place. Do book in advance and arrive on time! This activity includes a tour of the mosque, an overview of Middle Eastern culture and what it means to be a Muslim. The tea and dates were delicious! Make sure to dress modestly and wear a scarf over your head and loose clothing. Here is what I wore, I know it's so extra, but I wanted to be cute in my pictures! I'm glad that I did this, it was an excellent experience and my very first time going to a Mosque. I met some fantastic travelers along the way, sharing travel stories and what all brought us to Dubai. Oh, one last thing, the carpet in the Mosque was so soft and comfortable! I sat down rested and even said a few prayers. #Mashalla!
8| Do visit the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world! I opted to sit down and enjoy the view from Atmosphere Lounge on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa. Do make reservations before arriving. You can go for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is a bar side and also a restaurant side, where children are allowed. If you're a cigar connoisseur, they even offer a smoking area with all sorts of fantastic cigar selections! I did enjoy their seafood options, and the rose was terrific! They also provide coffee, tea and, mocktails (for those that don't drink). They even have live music. The day that I went, they had a fantastic violinist playing. The music was spectacular and the view priceless. Click here to view their menu, and their online reservation app.
9| Do visit the Dubai Marina and enjoy a nice evening walk or run! This area has so much to offer. Whether you want to visit morning, day or night, there are tons of things to do. You'll find some fantastic places to eat, live music or you can even charter a boat. You can't go wrong with this place. It's also very close to JBR and other parts of Dubai neighborhoods. If you're thinking of staying in the Marina, I would say yes! It does get a little bit touristy, but you'll have a blast!
11| Do visit The Palm Island! It's so magical, beautiful beach shores, great places to eat, and the gaudiest hotels one can ever imagine. There are so many options of hotels to choose from, although it's not that centrally located to the city, it's still worth the extra drive. You'll find fabulous shops, and fun nightlife. I went to the Palm on an evening, took a cab from Jumeirah Lake Towers. Grabbed dinner outdoors (the weather was fantastic) and walked along the beach and with all of the great hotels, some of them offer evening events, such as live music. Do make this part of town a girls night out!
13| Do visit Etihad Museum-Want to learn more about Dubai? Do make this place a part of your visit. Brand new state of the art museum designed by Canadian architects Moriyama & Teshima. Here you'll find fantastic stories on the history of Dubai and the treaty that brought all of the seven Emirates together, the ideas behind the fast-track development of this city, beautiful photos and film of its people and leaders. Click here for more information.
14| Do visit Pier 7 Dubai Marina. If you are a foodie, this place was made for you, perfect to visit during the day or evening! What I loved about this place, were the seven-floor options for food. Yes, seven floors and each floor has a unique themed restaurant/lounge. On Tuesday it's ladies night in Dubai, free drinks, and food! Add this to your list if you're on a girls trip, but make sure to go on a Tuesday and check out each floor! Just make sure not to get too saucy.
14 Don’ts in Dubai
1| Don't be drunk in public! Yes, in the states or most countries of the world, if you got a little too tipsy nothing would happen to you. But, in Dubai, that is not ok. If to anyone's gaze you appear to be drunk, the cops will be called on you. So just be careful with the number of libations that you decide to indulge in.
2| Don't do drugs! In the States, marijuana, for example, is legal, but in Dubai, it's not. Dubai has zero tolerance for any drugs and some prescription. Even if you had a pipe in your bag with residue, this would still land you in jail. So please, don't bring any pot, cocaine, molly, pills or any of those party drugs, this will surely ruin your trip. If you do have prescription medication that you have to bring with you, please be sure to check this with the UAE embassy before arriving.
3| Don't swear at anyone! I heard a story where this gal pulled out the middle finger on someone, a few hours later she was arrested and detained at a local precinct. Dubai has zero tolerance for any disrespect! So think twice before you decide to flick someone off or call them all sorts of B***ch words and don't even think about fighting in public either, this is not ok, regardless of whoever started the fight.
4| Don't drink and drive! In Washington State, the drinking limit is .08, in Dubai, it's .00. Even if you had one beer or wine, if its' proved that you consumed any amount of alcohol, you will be arrested. Dubai has zero tolerance for drinking and driving. So please, do not consume even one beer behind the wheel. Just take a taxi or call Uber!
5| Don't wear clothes that are too revealing. This applies to both men and women. Keep in mind that the UAE and most of the Gulf nations are conservative. Leave the daisy dukes at home! You don't have to wear all black or even a hijab, just be mindful of not being too revealing. Women cover your chest and butt, and men cover those abs.
6| Don't leave the public beaches in your swimwear! Yes; you can wear one piece or two pieces at the public beaches. You just can't be naked or topless (women). But, when you're done and ready to leave the beach, do put on a cover-up or change into something that is conservative. Dubai is not Miami, where you can walk up and down the boulevard with shorts and a bikini top.
7| Don't have Sexual Relationships or Cohabitate if you're not married. This one is a little tricky! Ok, so here is the tea. Technically, in the Gulf, it's illegal to have pre-marital sex or cohabitate before marriage. In the high-end hotels in Dubai, they usually turn the other cheek and usually won't tell. So if you're planning a trip with your bae and you're not married, don't refer to each other as fiance or boyfriend and girlfriend. Either way, it's your call. I would recommend that you book separate rooms, but hey you're going to do what you want to do. I would say that if you decide to take this route, just be extremely careful. People do go to jail for stuff like this. I've WARNED you!
8| Don't drink or bring alcohol in a dry hotel-What does this mean? In the dry hotels, no liquor is offered or allowed. Again, you're in a Muslim country. Muslims don't drink alcohol. So if you find yourself in a dry hotel, don't bring outside alcohol. If you know that you're going to have beer, wine or liquor on your trip, make sure to book a non-dry hotel. Most hotels will say that on their website. But, do be careful if you're booking from such sites as Expedia, Kayak, Hotels.com, etc. Because, some booking information is not up to date or accurate. So if you found a fantastic deal, be sure to check the hotel website to validate if they have a liquor license before booking.
9| Don't display affection in public, especially if you're not married to that person. While holding hands as a married couple is ok, make out sessions, or kissing, in general, is not ok. So be mindful of this while gallivanting through the city. When you're in hotels, it's okay. It's in the public areas that it's frowned upon.
10| Don't dance in public. While dancing at the nightclubs, hotels or the privacy of your house is ok, but in public, absolutely not! So don't try it! This falls into Dubai's indecency laws.
11| For the love of God, don't bounce a check or have any unpaid bills from your visit to Dubai. This city will not let you skip out on any unpaid bills.
12| Leave the pornography at home! Don't think for one second of trying to watch something on your phone, tablet or laptop! Dubai has strict laws when it comes to porn, zero tolerance!
13| Be mindful during Ramadan. Don't drink, eat or dance in public. Muslims will fast for 29 to 30 days from sunrise to sunset. Each year the time of Ramadan changes because it's based on the lunar calendar. You won't starve, your hotel and some businesses will still serve you food, just don't do it in public areas such as malls, beaches, etc. Also, don't play loud music. This month is considered very holy for Muslims, and it's a time of self-reflection and being a bit more still. So just be courteous.
14| Don't disrespect any religion or any person. The Gulf countries take this very seriously. This is not the place where you would insult someone because of their beliefs or culture.
Important Tip: When it comes to photos, videos and social media and your mouth be mindful of what you post. Even if you don't agree, don't say anything disrespectful while you're in Dubai. Don't take pictures and videos of government buildings, or anyone else without their permission. Remember, paparazzi are not allowed in the UAE. Also, don't touch or harass anyone. This is not the city where you want to be too friendly as far as touching goes. One type of gesture, touch or stare can be viewed differently. Keep your hands to yourself and don't touch anyone that you don't know. Even if it's a tap on the shoulder or a hug, just be mindful of this type of behavior.