Things Not to Do in Dubai City

16 Essential Things NOT to Do in Dubai

Things Not To Do In Dubai

Are you planning a trip to Dubai? Fantastic! Dubai is a city of marvels, bursting with spectacular skyscrapers, luxurious shopping, and vibrant nightlife. However, it’s also a place with unique laws and customs that might differ significantly from what you’re used to back home. Knowing what not to do is crucial to help you enjoy your visit without any hitches. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential don’ts, ensuring you stay respectful and trouble-free during your stay. So, let’s dive right in and explore these essential guidelines.

Things not to do in Dubai

1. Do Not Neglect to Respect Religious Practices

Do Not Neglect to Respect Religious Practices

First and foremost, respecting local religious practices is essential when you’re in Dubai. As a city deeply rooted in Islamic traditions, certain behaviors that are commonplace in other parts of the world can be seen as disrespectful here. For instance, during the holy month of Ramadan, eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours is frowned upon. It’s important to show your respect by abstaining from these activities in public view until sunset.

Moreover, always listen attentively and comply when you hear the call to prayer. It’s best to pause any loud activities and allow the moment to pass respectfully. Similarly, when visiting religious sites, such as mosques, ensure you’re dressed appropriately. This means covering your shoulders and knees, and for women, wearing a scarf over your head is also a respectful gesture.

Understanding and respecting these practices not only shows your respect for the local culture but also enriches your travel experience, letting you see and appreciate the deep cultural nuances of Dubai.

2. Do Not Dress Immodestly

Next up, let’s talk about dressing right. In Dubai, how you dress says a lot about your respect for local culture. The city is quite modern, but it still holds dear to its traditional values, especially regarding clothing. When you’re out and about in public places like malls, restaurants, or walking down the street, it’s a good idea to keep it modest. For everyone, this means avoiding outfits that are too revealing. Specifically, try to cover your shoulders and knees.

Women, in particular, should consider wearing tops with sleeves and avoiding tight clothing. Meanwhile, men should skip wearing shorts that are too short and instead opt for knee-length or longer. This doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish—Dubai is a fashion hub, after all! Just keep it classy and conservative.

If you’re hitting the beach or a pool, swimwear is acceptable, but remember to cover up when you leave these areas. Carrying a lightweight scarf or shawl can be very handy for quickly adapting to different situations.

By dressing appropriately, you’ll blend in better, feel more comfortable, and show that you respect the local customs. It’s a simple act that can make your visit smoother and more enjoyable.

3. Do Not Engage in Excessive Public Displays of Affection (PDA)

Moving on, let’s chat about something that often catches visitors by surprise: public displays of affection, often referred to as PDA. In Dubai, it’s important to keep your affections under wraps when you’re in public. Holding hands is generally okay if you’re married, but kissing, hugging, and other forms of affectionate touching should be kept private, behind closed doors.

This rule isn’t just about following local law; it’s about respecting the cultural and social norms of the city. Dubai welcomes people from all over the world, and part of visiting such a diverse place is respecting the values that might be different from your own. Keeping PDA to a minimum ensures that you don’t unintentionally offend anyone or attract unwanted attention from law enforcement.

So, when you’re out exploring the beautiful sights of Dubai, remember to keep things professional and polite. Save those special moments for more private settings.

4. Do Not Consume Alcohol Irresponsibly

Let’s talk about enjoying Dubai’s nightlife and social scenes responsibly, especially when it comes to alcohol. Dubai offers a plethora of glamorous clubs and bars, but it’s crucial to handle your alcohol consumption with care. The city has strict rules about where alcohol can be consumed: you can only drink in licensed venues such as hotels, bars, or private clubs. It’s illegal to drink alcohol in public places, and you should never carry alcohol with you on the street.

Another important point is to avoid becoming overly intoxicated. Public drunkenness is a serious offense in Dubai and can lead to fines, imprisonment, or even deportation. Always know your limits and respect those around you by maintaining decorum.

If you plan to drink, it might be wise to stay at or near your accommodation to avoid the need for transportation while under the influence. Most importantly, always ensure that your behavior remains respectful and mindful of the local laws and customs.

By following these simple guidelines, you can enjoy the vibrant nightlife of Dubai while staying safe and respectful of the city’s regulations.

5. Do Not Disregard the Observance of the Month of Ramadan

Now, let’s discuss something significant: respecting the holy month of Ramadan. The atmosphere might be slightly different if you find yourself in Dubai during Ramadan. During this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, refraining from eating, drinking, smoking, and even chewing gum in public. As a visitor, you are also expected to follow these rules in public spaces during daylight hours.

What does this mean for you? But, you should avoid eating or drinking in public during the day. Many restaurants and cafes curtain off their windows or even close during the day to support this practice. However, they usually open in the evenings, and that’s when the city comes alive with Iftar meals — the meal Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan. Participating in an Iftar can be a wonderful cultural experience.

This respect also extends to music and entertainment. Playing loud music or dancing in public during Ramadan is considered disrespectful. It’s a time of reflection and peace, and respecting these sentiments is important.

By observing these customs, you show a deep respect for the culture and beliefs of the local community, enhancing your experience and understanding of this significant religious observance.

6. Do Not Involve Yourself with Drugs

This point cannot be stressed enough: steer clear of drugs in Dubai. The UAE has extremely strict anti-drug laws that apply to everyone, including tourists. Possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs is taken very seriously and can lead to severe penalties, including long prison sentences, hefty fines, and even the death penalty in the most severe cases.

Even small amounts of illegal substances can lead to these severe consequences. Additionally, the UAE’s definition of possession can include having drugs in your bloodstream, so consuming drugs before arriving in Dubai can also lead to trouble if you are tested.

It’s also worth noting that some prescription medications that are legal in other countries might be considered controlled substances in the UAE. If you need to take prescription medication during your stay, check the UAE’s list of controlled substances and ensure you carry a prescription and a doctor’s note explaining your need for the medication.

In short, the best approach is to avoid drugs altogether while in Dubai. Staying away from drugs not only keeps you safe legally but also ensures that your trip remains enjoyable and stress-free.

7. Do Not Disregard Traffic Rules

In Dubai, it’s crucial to pay attention to traffic rules, whether driving or just crossing the street. Dubai is known for its well-maintained roads and highways, but traffic can be heavy, and driving styles may differ from what you’re used to. Respecting local traffic laws is critical to avoiding fines and staying safe.

If you decide to drive, remember that the driving seat is on the left, and you must drive on the right-hand side of the road. Speed limits are strictly enforced in Dubai and can vary significantly from one road to another, so keep an eye on the road signs. Also, all passengers must wear seat belts, and using your phone while driving is prohibited unless you have a hands-free system.

For pedestrians, always use marked crosswalks and follow traffic signals. Jaywalking can result in hefty fines, and more importantly, it can be hazardous, given the speed of vehicles.

By following these rules, you contribute to the safety and orderliness of Dubai’s roads, ensuring a smooth experience as you explore the city.

8. Do Not Violate Photography Etiquette

Capturing memories with your camera or smartphone is a big part of any vacation, but in Dubai, there are important rules about photography that you need to follow. Respecting photography etiquette here is not just about being polite; it’s also about adhering to local laws.

Firstly, always ask for permission before taking photos of people, especially local women. It’s considered very disrespectful to photograph people without their consent, and doing so could land you in trouble with the law. This is particularly important in more traditional areas or any places of worship.

Additionally, avoid taking pictures of government buildings, military sites, and other sensitive infrastructure. These areas are often clearly marked, but if you’re unsure, it’s best to keep your camera packed away.

Using your camera responsibly also means being mindful of what you share on social media. Avoid posting pictures of people without their permission, and be cautious about sharing content that could be misinterpreted or seen as disrespectful.

By following these simple guidelines, you can enjoy photographing this beautiful city and its attractions without any issues, ensuring your memories are captured safely and respectfully.

9. Do Not Misbehave in Public Places

When you’re out exploring Dubai, it’s important to maintain good behavior in all public spaces. This includes malls, parks, restaurants, and streets. Dubai prides itself on being a family-friendly destination, and the local culture greatly values decency and public order.

Avoid any actions that could be considered rude or disruptive. This means no loud shouting, rowdy behavior, or offensive gestures. Such actions can disturb others and might attract attention from local authorities. It’s also wise to avoid playing loud music in public areas unless it’s a designated event or location that permits it.

Being considerate also extends to following local customs and rules. For example, many public places have specific smoking zones, and smoking outside these designated areas is not allowed. Always look for signage or ask if you’re unsure about the rules in a particular place.

By keeping your conduct respectful and appropriate, you ensure that both you and the people around you can enjoy the public spaces Dubai has to offer without any complications.

10. Do Not Use Social Media Irresponsibly

In today’s digital world, it’s common to share experiences on social media. However, when you’re in Dubai, it’s essential to use social media wisely and responsibly. Dubai has specific laws about what is acceptable to post online, and not following these can lead to serious consequences.

Firstly, avoid posting pictures or comments that might be considered disrespectful towards the local culture, religion, or political system. This includes any content that could be seen as offensive or derogatory. Remember, what might be acceptable in one country can be taboo or even illegal in another.

Also, be cautious about sharing photos of people without their consent, particularly when it comes to local residents and especially women and children. Privacy is highly valued, and violating it can get you into legal trouble.

Furthermore, spreading rumors or false information can also land you in hot water. Ensure that what you share is truthful and not harmful to anyone’s reputation or well-being.

Using social media respectfully ensures that you stay out of trouble and helps maintain the friendly and respectful atmosphere that Dubai is known for.

11. Do Not Misunderstand Gender Dynamics

Understanding and respecting the gender dynamics in Dubai is crucial for a smooth visit. Dubai is a cosmopolitan city with a mix of traditional Islamic values and modern influences, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings if you’re not aware of the local customs.

In social and public settings, it’s important to approach interactions between genders with respect. For example, it’s customary for men and women not to engage in physical contact unless they are family or close friends. This means that men should refrain from offering handshakes to women unless the woman extends her hand first.

Furthermore, when in conversation, it’s polite to maintain a respectful distance and avoid personal topics unless you know the person well. This is especially significant in professional settings or when interacting with government officials.

It’s also important for women to be aware that some areas, like certain cafes or sections of the mosque, might have gender-specific rules. Paying attention to signage and local cues can help you navigate these spaces respectfully.

By being aware of and sensitive to these gender dynamics, you contribute to a respectful and comfortable environment for everyone.

12. Do Not Use Your Left Hand To Greet Anyone

In Dubai, as in many parts of the Middle East, the left hand is traditionally used for personal hygiene and is therefore considered unclean. It’s important to remember this cultural norm to avoid any social faux pas.

When meeting someone, always use your right hand for greetings like handshakes. The same goes for when you’re giving or receiving something, like a business card or a gift. Using your right hand shows respect and awareness of local customs.

Also, if you’re invited to dine in someone’s home or even in a local restaurant, make sure to use your right hand for eating. If you’re not used to this, it might take a little practice, but it’s well worth the effort to show your respect for local customs.

Paying attention to these details not only shows respect but also helps you connect better with the local people, making your visit more enjoyable and enriching.

13. Do Not Cuss In Public

Maintaining polite and respectful language is essential when you are in Dubai. Using offensive language, including swearing or making rude gestures, is frowned upon and can lead to legal consequences. Such behavior is considered highly disrespectful in the local culture and can disturb the public peace.

Whether you’re frustrated in traffic, having a disagreement, or just joking around, keeping your language clean and polite in your gestures is important. This rule applies everywhere, from crowded markets to quiet streets, even in a dispute’s heat.

If you are in a situation where tensions are high, it’s best to stay calm and communicate respectfully. Losing your temper and using bad language can escalate the problem and might even involve the police, leading to fines or worse.

By keeping your speech respectful, you ensure that interactions remain pleasant and that you leave a good impression on those you meet in Dubai.

14. Do Not Eat-In Public During Ramadan

Ramadan is a significant and sacred month for Muslims in Dubai and worldwide. During this time, Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset, which means they do not eat, drink, or smoke during daylight hours. Out of respect for those who are fasting, it’s important that visitors also refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in public during these hours.

Many restaurants and cafes might be closed or have altered operating hours during Ramadan, and those open during the day often have screened-off areas for non-fasting individuals. Using these facilities is advisable if you need to eat or drink during the day.

The evening brings the daily fast to a close with the Iftar meal, which is often a community event. Participating in an Iftar can be a wonderful experience and a chance to enjoy fantastic local cuisine in a festive, communal setting.

Remembering not to eat, drink, or smoke in public during the day shows respect for the local culture and religion. It also helps ensure that you avoid inadvertently offending anyone who is observing the fast.

15. Do Not Disrespect The Royal Family In Public

In Dubai, as in many countries with a monarchy, the royal family is highly esteemed. Publicly criticizing or disrespecting the royal family or any government officials is frowned upon and illegal. Such actions can lead to serious legal consequences, including fines or imprisonment.

This extends to conversations, comments on social media, and even casual discussions. It’s best to avoid any political discussions or comments about the royal family if you are very sure of the context and the company you are in. Even then, it’s advisable to speak with respect and caution.

Moreover, it’s important to respect any national symbols, such as flags, national holidays, and other public symbols of the UAE’s heritage and leadership. Participating respectfully in national events and showing interest in the country’s culture and history can enhance your experience.

By respecting these boundaries, you help maintain the dignity of the traditions and governance of the UAE, ensuring a trouble-free stay in Dubai.

16. Do Not Dance In Public

In Dubai, public dancing is generally not permitted. This includes dancing in open areas like parks, beaches, or streets. Dubai’s local culture and laws prioritize decorum and modesty in public spaces, and public dancing performances can be seen as disruptive or disrespectful.

Dancing is usually acceptable if you’re at a venue such as a nightclub or a private party within a hotel. These places are designed for entertainment and are appropriately equipped to host such activities without offending local sensibilities.

It’s also wise to be mindful of the music volume when hosting private events or in your personal space. Keeping the noise level down helps ensure you do not disturb your neighbors or attract unwanted attention from authorities.

By respecting these guidelines, you ensure that your enjoyment does not disrupt the local community, allowing residents and visitors to appreciate Dubai’s diverse and vibrant environment.


Absolutely! Dubai is one of the safest cities for solo female travelers. Just adhere to local customs and dress codes.

A simple “Salaam Alaikum” (Peace be upon you) is a courteous greeting.

-Are tattoos allowed in Dubai?

Yes, tattoos are allowed in UAE.

Certainly! With a valid international driving license, you can rent a car and explore the city at your own pace.

It’s essential to show respect by not eating, drinking, or smoking in public during the fasting hours.

Avoid public displays of affection, disrespecting religious practices, dressing immodestly, consuming alcohol irresponsibly, and using offensive language in public.
Avoid engaging in any illegal activities such as drug use, violating traffic rules, and ignoring local customs and laws.
Dubai does not allow drug possession, public intoxication, swearing or making rude gestures, and unauthorized photography of certain government buildings and local residents.
Strict rules include no tolerance for drug offenses, mandatory respect for Islamic practices, conservative dress codes, and severe penalties for public indecency.
Clothing that is too revealing such as short shorts, miniskirts, halter tops, and transparent garments are not allowed in public.
WhatsApp voice and video calls are blocked in Dubai; however, texting over WhatsApp is allowed.
Content that is critical of the UAE government, pornographic materials, and promotion of gambling sites are banned.
Items not allowed include all drugs (including prescribed narcotics), e-cigarettes and vaping devices, pornography, and Israeli currency.
Tourists are not allowed to drink alcohol in unlicensed public places, engage in unmarried cohabitation, and dress inappropriately in public areas.
Elina Shaukat
Grumpy but gorgeous.