What to Wear on the Beach in Dubai

Travelers to Dubai often wonder about what to wear, both on and off the beach. Because of the traditional Muslim culture and strong Western influences, the line between what is appropriate and what is not can be confusing. As you plan your trip, pack clothing that will keep you cool and comfortable without insulting local traditions

Dubai Culture

Dubai has a unique cultural makeup, with more than three-quarters of the population coming from countries other than the United Arab Emirates. As a result, the standards for dress and behavior are more relaxed than in the neighboring Emirates. As a general rule of thumb, dress modestly when you are traveling in Dubai; avoid excessive displays of cleavage, midriff or leg. Women should keep their shoulders and knees covered. Despite the intense heat, you often will see business people wearing sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, which keep them warm in the air-conditioned buildings.

Private Beaches

Many of the well-kept beaches in Dubai are private; most are owned by hotels and apartment buildings. To get onto these beaches, you must be a resident, pay a daily fee or buy a membership. Most people on private beaches tend to be foreign tourists or expatriates, and beach wear ranges from the tiniest bikini to modest cover-ups. On private beaches, it is acceptable to wear whatever you wear on the beach at home; the same goes for hotel pools. Nude or topless sunbathing is not advisable.

Near the Beach

Dubai weather can get hot, particularly during the summer months, and it can be tempting to wear beach apparel to restaurants near the beach. To show respect for the local Muslim culture and to avoid unwanted attention, you should put on clothes to cover up your swim wear when eating meals or drinking away from the beach or pool. You do not need to cover up entirely; sun dresses and shorts are widely worn in Dubai. Women wearing tank tops or spaghetti-strap dresses should bring a shawl or scarf to cover their shoulders.

Public Beaches

Dubai has several free public beaches that are mostly used by locals and expatriates who cannot afford private membership fees. If you visit public beaches, bear in mind that the majority of beachgoers will be dressed modestly, even when swimming; wearing a swimsuit for women or shorts and no shirt for men may draw a great deal of attention. To show respect for the Muslim culture, it is best to cover yourself when swimming at public beaches. Shorts and a T-shirt are appropriate.

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