Etiquette – Dubai

This fall and winter, I will begin an Etiquette Series on 20 countries!

I became intrigued by this subject as I always want to be respectful while traveling, and I meet people from all over the world in business and casual settings. 

So today’s country is the United Arab Emirates, the city of Dubai.

Dress Code 

Photo credit: Visit Dubai Ru

Ladies opt for a more conservative look. Keeping shoulders covered, wear skirts below the knee, no cleavage, no tight clothing at all.  Bikini’s should be worn on beaches and around the pool areas. NEVER wear a G string. It is illegal to go topless! 

Be on Time 

Punctuality is essential. In Dubai, punctuality is considered a sign of respect.


Handshakes with Arab clients should be gentle and not firm or dominant. Initiating handshakes with women should be avoided to demonstrate your respect.

When a woman meets an Emirati or Arab man, do not offer to shake his hand, unless he extends his hand towards you first.

Public Displays of Affection 

Photo credit: Burberry Resort 2019, Vogue

Public displays of affection should be minimal – holding hands is acceptable but kissing and hugging in public is not ok.  Couples who are caught could be fined or imprisoned.

While you are out socializing 

Being loud, noise disruptions, foul language, making obscene gestures, and showing disrespect in any way to Dubai’s religion or its leaders are all forbidden and may land you in legal trouble. Also, best not to bring up political subjects like the Palestinian and Israel conflict.  

Swearing at someone in Dubai is also illegal- whatever happens, keep your cool and don’t use that potty mouth- it could get you in serious trouble! 

Take care when swearing over social media, the Internet or via popular instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp, too- if a person is found swearing online to another person, and they take offense and complain, they could be fined AED 250,000 and jailed, while expats could also face deportation under a federal law governing Internet users.

Keep your hands to yourself 

Photo credit: JanceJoostemaa

Hand gestures in Dubai can cause you to be fined, put in prison or deported– depending on who you flick the bird too! So no matter how crazy the driving do NOT be tempted to use a rude hand gesture.

Don’t get too boozy

It is actually illegal to be drunk in public in Dubai, and this can also lead to fining imprisonment, or deportation. 99.9% of the time all will be fine, but you really need to keep your wits about you. Also, there is a zero tolerance for drinking and driving. Don’t even try it.

Prescription Medication 

Valium and Xanax are prohibited ingredients that are illegal in the UAE and should not be casually packed in your luggage. Here is a link to all banned drugs in the UAE.

Hands and feet 

Use your right hand for drinking and eating as the left hand is regarded unclean by Muslims as it is used for hygiene purposes.

Refrain from showing the soles of shoes, this would indicate to an Emirati that you think they are ‘dirt’ Keeping feet flat on the ground and not crossing legs is a great way to avoid offending anybody. 

However, Emiratis are fully aware that expats and visitors may slip up from time to time and will not take any offense.  Mostly it is the traditional areas where etiquette should be followed more closely.

Did I miss anything?   Let us know in the comments below. 

Sending wanderlust vibes!  💋

Feature photo credit: Andaslife


  1. Esther Lackie

    I don’t think you missed anything. These sound a tad bit harsh, but in reality, for those of us who’ve lived in Dubai for years have fallen in love with the place. At the end of the day, it’s all about respecting different cultures. And just in case you plan on dropping by, give me a shout, we could grab a glass or two of grape 😉 Well written!!!!

    1. IngridMadisonAve

      Thank you! I would absolutely love to meet you. I maybe coming in December as my fiancé’s family lives in Dubai & Abu Dabi. xx 💋

  2. ayrgalaxy

    Jeez it sounds a little strict but I totally understand that they have a different culture. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to America too much because people dont care about anything here lol. Lucky for me I was brought up in Mexico in my early years so I did learn a few ways to show respect.
    Thanks for writing this. I will keep this in mind whenever I go there since it’s on my bucket list.

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