If you’re looking for a great destination for your first taste of the Middle East, consider a trip to Dubai. This major city is regarded as one of the most tourist-friendly in the area, and you won’t find anything like it anywhere else. Home to some of the most staggeringly tall skyscrapers, glamorous shops, and storefronts, and some of the most over-the-top attractions you can find in the world (like an indoor ski resort), Dubai is definitely worth a visit – but you need to know what you’re getting into before you go. Otherwise, you’ll be in for a pretty rude awakening.
Visiting an Islamic nation in the Middle East is definitely a different experience from planning a trip to Europe, South America, or virtually anywhere else. Fortunately, it’s not as scary as some make it out to be. Whether you’re in the process of planning a trip to Dubai or you’re merely considering it as a potential destination to visit, here are a few things you’ll definitely want to know before you go:
Alcohol is Highly Regulated
Dubai is an Islamic country, and because of this, there are lots of rules and restrictions around the consumption of alcohol – even for tourists. While liquor isn’t banned entirely, you can only consume alcoholic beverages in hotels, bars, restaurants, and clubs. You can’t drink in public, and you can get into serious trouble for public intoxication, so it’s especially important to know your limits and use good judgment.
Dress With Modesty
Even though Dubai weather can be downright hot, you’ll want to leave the tank tops and shorts at home when packing for your trip. Dubai is located in an Islamic state, and many locals abide by religious restrictions. While visitors aren’t strictly held to these rules, you should be careful about what you wear.
You can get away with keeping your shoulders and knees covered in the larger, more modern cities, like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but it’s better to err on the side of caution here. Opt for long, loose-fitting dresses and skirts if you’re worried about being warm.
Keep PDA at a Minimum
Visiting Dubai with your significant other? Public displays of affection are frowned upon, so keep the physical contact to a minimum when you’re out and about. Even kissing and hand-holding are discouraged.
Be Extra Respectful During Ramadan
If your trip to Dubai coincides with Ramadan, the Holy Month – this year, from May 5 through June 4 – you’ll need to be careful. Muslims honor the month by fasting, and while tourists aren’t strictly held to that expectation, you can’t drink, smoke, chew gum, or eat between sunrise and sunset in public areas.
Fortunately, you still have options. Many restaurants pull down blinds or set up curtains to shield non-fasting guests from others, and you can always order room service in your hotel. And as a bonus, you’ll likely find smaller crowds and shorter lines at attractions around town during Ramadan, since tourists tend to avoid the month, making it one of the reasons I would only visit Dubai during Ramadan.
As long as you know what you’re getting into, you’re guaranteed to have a great time when you visit Dubai as there and lots of cheap and free things to do. Just be careful, choose modesty, and know your limits!