Dubai – What You Need to Know Before You Go

11 Feb 2022 By Matt French

First off, your visit to Dubai should be an enjoyable one, and you’ll want to relax, shop and enjoy everything this fantastic city has to offer.

But It’s important to remember that Dubai is not like a western destination, and there are a couple of rules to follow. That’s why we’ve put together a few handy hints to prepare you for your trip and make your time in Dubai worry-free.

Please check the latest UK government and Dubai requirements for travel vaccinations, covid testing and face masks. Some airlines may maintain their own rules which could differ from official government guidelines, so please check your airline for details. The Emirates website provides the latest updates.

Visa on arrival

As a UK citizen, you won’t need a visa in advance of your Dubai visit. You are simply provided with one on arrival, where your passport will be stamped, giving you 30 days to enjoy the city. This visa on arrival is free of charge, but just make sure you have two free pages in your passport for visa stamps, and at least 6 months remaining on your passport.

Clothing

Woman in Dubai market

You’re certain to see people wearing all kinds of clothing in Dubai, but we recommend erring on the side of caution. When out and about, it’s best to cover shoulders and upper arms (T-shirts are fine) and wear either trousers or skirts that fall below the knee. On the beach, it’s fine to wear swimsuits, but these should not be worn back to the hotel or in other public areas. Men are fine to wear knee-length shorts when out and about, but restaurants may require long trousers. Loose, lightweight clothing is advisable throughout the year.

Drinking

The legal age for alcohol is 21, and drinking is permitted in licensed hotels, bars and clubs. Being intoxicated in public is not allowed, and drinking in public areas is strictly prohibited. While you are allowed to drink on the plane, we would recommend keeping this to a minimum, as appearing drunk upon arrival could cause issues.

Culture

Public displays of affection are not the done thing in Dubai, and this includes holding hands, hugging and kissing. On the same subject, you might have heard that unmarried couples are not allowed to stay in the same hotel room. In reality, this is not a problem, especially in more established and upmarket tourist hotels.

For budding photographers, it is important to know that taking photos of people without their consent in not allowed in Dubai. For selfies, try to avoid capturing members of the public in the background. Also out of bounds are government buildings, military sites, courts, airports and aircraft.

Best time to visit Dubai

Beach in Dubai with two sun loungers and parasols with the city in the far distance

Most tourists prefer to visit between the months of November and April when lower temperatures make being outside more enjoyable, and the city plays host to a number of lively outdoors events such as concerts, shopping festivals and desert tours. This is also prime beach time, so don’t forget to bring your swimsuit and tanning lotion when packing for Dubai holidays!

Summers in Dubai are extremely hot, and routinely hit the mid-40s in August. That said, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy the city at this time, since everywhere indoors, including taxis and busses will be well air-conditioned (you might even need a jacket!). While beaches and the outdoors will be too hot to enjoy, many hotels chill their pools in the summer months, making swimming possible outside of the hottest parts of the day.

Another consideration is visiting during the month of Ramadan. During this month, fasting is observed from sunrise to sundown, so there will be more restaurants and bars closed than usual. Despite this, most established hotels have food and drink readily available for tourists at all hours, so you shouldn’t find the restrictions too much of an inconvenience.

What to pack

Woman packing for summer holiday
  • We recommend comfortable trainers/shoes for the malls and sightseeing, and sandals and flipflops for the beach or pool. It’s best to bring light, cotton clothing for the daytime to cope with the heat, and avoid nylon and other synthetics. Hats and sunglasses are a good idea too.
  • Some restaurants have dress codes, so if you plan to dine out in the evenings, pack a few smarter options when it comes to shoes/shirts/dresses etc.
  • Sunscreen is advisable, since some of your time will be spent outdoors, whether that’s sightseeing, at the beach or in the hotel pool.
  • A reusable water bottle is a smart choice. You’ll need to stay well hydrated when you’re out and about for the day.
  • A standalone camera is the best way to capture the true scale of the buildings in Dubai. While smartphone cameras are catching up, there’s no substitute for the real thing.
  • For calling home, make sure you have a VPN installed on your phone or tablet. Certain applications like Skype and Facetime are currently blocked by the UAE government.
  • When it comes to medicines, Ibuprofen and paracetamol are perfectly OK, but for anything prescription-based, you will need prior approval from the Ministry of Health. The Emirates website carries updated advice.

Enjoy

View of Burj Khalifa Dubai at night

Most visitors to Dubai pay a visit to the astonishing Dubai Mall, where you could spend days without seeing and doing everything on offer.

While the mall is perhaps best known for its world-class shopping experience, you can also find over 150 restaurants offering specialities from all over the world. For entertainment, the mall boasts a cinema, VR amusement park, and even an ice skating rink, so there’s plenty for all ages to enjoy.

Another top Dubai attraction is the Burj Khalifa, the word’s tallest building. Standing at a height of 830 m, and with 160 floors, this incredible building needs to be seen to be believed. Reaching the observation deck on the 124th floor takes a mere 60 seconds, and gives you an impressive birds-eye view of the city. For tickets, we recommend booking ahead of time to avoid lengthy queue times.

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