Woman walking through downtown dubai with a backpack - guide to what to pack for a holiday in dubai

What to Pack for Dubai: Ultimate Dubai Packing List

by Dubai Travel Planner

What should you bring with you, and what should you definitely leave at home when you are visiting Dubai?

There is a delicate balance to be struck in Dubai between modesty, respect for local Islamic culture, and dressing for the often-extreme weather conditions.

To help you determine exactly what advice to follow, we have tried to be as thorough as possible in answering the question “What should I pack for Dubai?” from your clothing choices to any items you SHOULDN’T pack to keep you out of trouble.


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Clothing to Pack for Your Dubai Trip

Whilst there are some extreme temperature differences between the mild winters (24°C/76°F) and the very hot summers in Dubai (45°C +/113°F+), clothing choices remain similar year-round. Slightly thicker materials and an extra layer of warmth might be needed in the winter.

You can also check out our complete guide to Dubai weather and the “seasons” such as they are over here!


What Should I Wear in Dubai? Dress Code For Tourists

Dubai has a diverse range of settings with varying dress standards, which have become blurred over the years. Tourists can be seen wearing a wide range of outfits that may surprise you. However, there is conflicting advice online regarding whether to follow the rules strictly or to ignore them based on others’ behavior.

You can see our comprehensive guide to how to dress for the cultural respect in Dubai here

To find yourself on the right side of social respectability and the law, these are our suggestions for what is appropriate in different settings in Dubai:

  • Malls, markets, hotel foyers, and restaurants: These are what we will commonly refer to as ‘public places.’ When in a public place in Dubai, there’s an expectation, at a minimum, you should look to have knees and shoulders covered (for both men and women). So this means no sleeveless tank tops, short shorts, or overly revealing clothing.
  • Religious buildings and Government buildings: (eg visa renewal offices): All skin should be covered on the body, arms, and legs.  In a mosque and certain buildings, they may also require ladies to wear a Shayla or head covering. Security will pull you up if this is the case and can often lend you these items or may send you away to come back in something more appropriate.
  • Public Beach & Water Parks: When it comes to beachwear in Dubai, women can commonly be found wearing anything from bikinis to full-body Burkinis. Men are advised to wear longer shorts, but there are no strict rules. Choose what you feel comfortable with, but keep in mind that when leaving the beach and entering public areas, it’s best to cover up. Some beaches are designated as “family” and have stricter dress codes, such as no topless men and women wearing a t-shirt over bathing suits.
  • Private resorts beaches and certain nightclubs: This is where the line starts to get very blurred; pretty much anything goes these days! Topless for ladies is still a strict no, and well, try and leave a little to the imagination, please ladies! Do check dress codes for individual bars and nightclubs, though, as some will have a much higher dress standard. Men, particularly at a nightclub, will need trousers, women the rules are more relaxed, though some DO still insist on a conservative dress standard for the ladies.
  • Desert Safari and rural UAE: Heading beyond the city, we always suggest dressing a little more conservatively and dressing for the conditions. A desert safari in Dubai can involve some strenuous physical activity so casual and sportswear you don’t mind getting sandy and sweaty is appropriate. If you’ll be visiting any smaller village on a tour, think more covered and conservative, similar to a mosque – we have a detailed guide on what to wear for a desert safari here.

What to Pack for Dubai – Essential Clothing Items for Dubai

We have separated this down for both men and women, as well as considerations for children below.

Don’t forget if you scroll to the end of this post, we have a downloadable PDF Dubai Packing List that may help you when you get to packing day – these ideas will get you thinking in preparation and items you may need to buy in ready for your big Dubai trip!

Women’s Packing List for Dubai

  • Cotton shirts or t-shirts – remember breathable material is best, avoid nylons that can cling and sweat.
  • Tank tops or singlets – that you can then layer a shirt on top of or strip down at the beach.
  • A long-sleeved shirt – if you plan to visit mosques or religious buildings.
  • Shorts – preferably below the knee, though shorter shorts are fine at the beach.
  • Jeans – appropriate in the coolest winter months December to February; for most of the year you’ll likely find your skinny jeans too hot.
  • Leggings – if you’re worried about dress or skirt length, comfy leggings can be good to throw underneath, and great for the plane journey, too.
  • Lightweight scarf or pashmina – for fierce indoor AC, sun protection, or simply pulling over your head if you ever feel uncomfortable, a pashmina is easy to fit in your Dubai day bag.
  • Small cardigan or light jacket – similarly for fierce air conditioning in the summer or in the winter, the evening air can be a little cool – you only really need an additional layer from December to February for outside.
  • Underwear – always throw in a few extra than a typical week. It can be HOT! Regular sweat changes of all layers may be needed.
  • Bras – this depends on the type of activities you will be doing. For anything action, you may prefer a sports bra. (I thought people were joking until I did my first desert dune bashing!) If you were planning to be around the pool/beach a lot, you may substitute some bikini tops, and in the hotter months, do consider you may sweat through your bras fast and want extra changes. Whenever possible, try to keep your bras protected with a travel case.
  • Sleepwear – totally up to your personal style! Your hotel room is likely to be airconditioned year-round to a comfortable level so whatever you would usually sleep in.
  • Swimwear – taking caution of your setting as above, cute bikini for a private beach club through to a more modest one-piece for a waterpark would be appropriate.
  • Swimwear cover-up – for those dashes between the beach and the bathrooms or pool to your hotel room, a modest cover-up over your swimwear is recommended and looks lovely and stylish too.


Ladies’ Footwear For Dubai

We recommend at least two pairs – an open-toe sandal and one closed-toe trainer or a casual boot:

  • Sandals – Even if you are taking the Metro or taxis between attractions, you are still guaranteed to clock up a lot of miles every day. It’s a big city, and everything about Dubai is large! Comfort is essential.
  • Flip Flops – If you are staying at the beach or with a pool and can spare the space, an extra pair of rubber flip flops would be great. (If they have a bit of bling, too, all the better!) Just remember, always keep your rubber shoes in the shade, or you will burn your feet putting them back on!
  • Trainers – For a desert trip, we prefer trainers and ankle socks to open-toes shoes. Everything will inevitably fill with sand in the desert, but it only takes a few scorching hot sand particles between your toes to understand why trainers are more sensible. We have also found it is easier to walk in the sand with trainers. If you are wearing trainers around town too, prevent the sweaty shoe smell with sockettes.

Going out at night? Throw in your favourite little black dress and party shoes! Dubai is definitely a city where you can glam it up at night, a little shorter and a little more low cut than usual you can get away with in this setting. Bring a shawl or cover-up if travelling by Metro or taxi.

Items Women Should Really Reconsider Packing For Dubai:

This will really depend on the settings as we explored above. If you are predominantly in Dubai to hang out at a beach resort, then your packing list may differ. For general sightseeing trips, however, it’s best to avoid:

  • Very short shorts that show too much leg or any bottom
  • Tight, clingy clothing that shows cleavage, too much midriff or leaves little to the imagination
  • Transparent materials that show your underwear

Just remember the word respect. Whilst, yes, over the years, the Dubai dress code has become more and more relaxed, avoid the potential embarrassment of security needing to ask you to cover up. If you ever are challenged, the polite thing to do is apologise and offer to leave immediately or cover-up. Any remonstrating can land you in hot water with the authorities, not the way you want your Dubai trip to end.

Ladies’ Accessories and Toiletries

Dubai is a stylish city, so do feel free to accessories with your outfits, but dress practically for activities too. You don’t want your fancy jewels on while attempting the water or theme parks!

  • Jewellery and accessories  – accessorise as you like! If there’s anywhere you can get away with a little extra bling, even just in the mall or sightseeing, it’s Dubai!
  • A hair tie – ladies with long hair in the heat, you’ll know exactly why!
  • Moisturisers and skincare products – especially if you are not used to the heat, take extra good care of your skin.  The sun is not as penetrating as it is in Australia, for example, but you will certainly burn if you’re out in it all day.
  • Make-Up – pack all your usual favorites. A foundation with built-in SPF is a great idea.
  • Sunscreen – on top of normal fountains or moisturiser SPF for your face, any length of time out in the sun you will want to lather on the sunscreen. We like Sun Bum Reef Safe for all the family.
  • Hairdryers – will almost certainly be in your hotel room, but straighteners and other hair accessory items you will want to bring with you (see notes on wattage below for electronics).
  • Anti-chaffing cream – try Vaseline or an anti-chafe gel. This one you will thank us for pointing out! Living in the desert for nearly a decade, we can tell you the struggle to stay neat, composed and heat rash-free in the hottest months is real!
  • All your usual toiletries – although most hotels are well prepared for visitors’ needs, you may prefer your own items, from toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, comb, deodorant, tissues, and cotton buds. If you’re only travelling for a few days, we love Gotoob travel bottles for our toiletries.
  • Sanitary products – you can purchase these readily in Dubai but your favourite brands may not be stocked, we recommend you bring your own.
  • Sunglasses – take a hard glasses case, especially when travelling indoors to out you will very quickly discover sunglass fog.
  • Hat – choose your style but even if you are not a regular hat wearer you will be thankful for that little extra protection on your head.
  • Contact lenses, contact solution.  You may find the change in climate can dry your eyes out quicker.  On the flight, make sure you bring your solution (under 100ml) and case as you will want to swap out.
  • Hand sanitiser – we can’t emphasize enough how important, anywhere you travel for good health you should wash your hands or failing which, regularly applying hand sanitizer.
  • Mosquito repellent – not a huge issue in Dubai, but nonetheless, they are around. They like the warn shoulder season coming into summer the best, and as it cools again in the fall.  Mosquito wipes you can rub on your feet and ankles are a great idea and not too overpowering on the smell


What to Wear in Dubai Men

Locally, men in Dubai dress conservatively and smartly – we talk more about traditional male dress and dress standards here. That said, you will find an abundance of tourists in Dubai too, so don’t be surprised to see a real range of outfits from very traditional Kanduras, through to the Sherwanis and Kutra Pajamas (popular with men from the Indian Subcontinent) and, of course, more ‘Western’ outfits – your classic jeans and t-shirt.

Our biggest tip for men’s outfits – in addition to considering your setting – is to consider how hot and sweaty you might get.

Men particularly can sweat through their shirts within minutes of being outside in the hotter months. You will likely need to pack more changes of clothing than usual to cope with the heat, even the cooler shoulder months can be brutal for the sweat rings!

  • At least one t-shirt or collared polo shirts for every day – if you don’t want to be doing the laundry look for crinkle-free and breathable material.
  • Nice collared shirts for going out – restaurants and bars will have a higher dress standard for men.
  • Shorts – preferably that reach at least knee-length, Bermuda-style shorts are ideal for Dubai.
  • Long pants/trousers – even if it’s hot and you’re a shorts kinda guy, you will want at least one pair of longer trousers with you.  Jeans are acceptable, as well as no-crease materials are highly recommended, this might be the time to invest in some linen pants.
  • Light jacket – only in the very coolest winter months.
  • Swim trunks – longer shorts in water parks and public beaches are appropriate. Shorter trunks can be worn at private resort hotels and beaches.
  • Underwear and socks – as with your shirts, maybe through in a few extra pairs for the heat.
  • Sleepwear – your choice! Most hotel rooms are kept well airconditioned year-round.


Men’s Footwear for Dubai

This is the sort of trip you will want multiple types of footwear for if space will allow:

  • Flipflops – for the beach and pool – just head warnings about keeping them in the shade while you’re off swimming!
  • Sandals – incredibly common for men with all types of outfits, yes, with trousers too.
  • Trainers – good for winter and summer, though not you will definitely want socks or sock liners to deal with the sweat smell!
  • A smarter shoe -depending on the setting, a brunch or beach club, the style of the boat men’s shoe will be fine, for a classier nightclub or hotel, then a smart gents show will be needed.


Men’s Accessories and Toiletries for Dubai

Make no mistake, Dubai is definitely a trendy setting for the gents, so feel free to accessories up and wear some of your nicer-than-usual travel clothes.

  • All your usual toiletries – most items are provided by your hotel or accommodation, but you may want to throw in your own toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, comb, deodorant, tissues, cotton buds. We love GoYoo tubes for our toiletries.
  • Anti-chaffing cream – don’t be surprised how quickly heat rash can come on, you’ll be grateful to throw some vaseline or skin treatment into your backpack.
  • Wristwatch
  • Hat – just avoid any offensive slogans.
  • Sunglasses – essential accessory any time of year, fashionable & practical for Dubai.
  • Hair Care products – note most hotels come with hairdryers.
  • Razors – noting voltage for electric razors.
  • Handkerchief – more for the sweat than your nose! Even if you’re not normally a hanky guy you may want to consider this.
  • Deodorant wipes – not just for the ladies, you will appreciate these refreshing wipes in the hottest months


Medicine Kit Essentials for Dubai

We talk about what NOT to include in more detail below, these are what we DO recommend you include in a toiletry kit:

  • Imodium – even in the best of countries, it can strike us all unexpectedly.
  • Painkillers – your standard ibuprofen and Pandaol are great inclusions – nothing with opiates.
  • Hydration salts– especially if the sun has hit you hard, these are a good recovery method.
  • Bandaids – blisters, cuts you name it – especially travelling with kids!
  • Motion sickness tablets – if you suffer from queasiness, you will want these before a boat ride, desert dune bashing – or even theme parks! Just check if they make you drowsy.

Note that you should find a vast array of supermarkets and pharmacies in Dubai. Any forgotten items, you will almost certainly be able to pick up along the way. It’s not the cheapest city for shopping as a whole, but you will certainly get a choice and variety along with a huge array of international brands.


Tech and Accessories to Pack for Dubai

Now we’re really getting down to business – let’s be honest, this stuff can take up half your case these days, right? When thinking about things to pack for Dubai, don’t forget:

  • Travel Adapter Dubai runs on Type G Plugs (the three-pin rectangular “British” style plugs).  Your hotel room may have multi-adaptor plugs, but certainly don’t bank on it. We always travel with a universal adaptor.
  • Voltage converter – the voltage in Dubai is 230V and 50HZ. If you are coming from a country that uses 120V (eg US), you will need a step-up converter. You will find bathroom plugs for shavers, and the like that may come with both 120V and 230V sockets, but for any other appliance, you will want a converter to protect your appliances.
  • Smartphones – do we even need to mention these days? Even if you run it just on wifi and for taking photos you will find your Smartphone essential in Dubai. From ordering an Uber to maps and currency tools you will no doubt want your mobile with you at all times.
  • Cameras–  unless you are a pro, your smartphone will really suffice for most occasions.  Action shots though you may well want a GoPro – and if you want to catch the Burj Khalifa in one shoot you’ll find yourself wishing you had a wide-angle lens with you!
  • Battery pack – almost as important as your phone these days.  You may want to note that phones do use more battery in the heat so especially if you’ve been snap-happy you may go through your phone battery faster than normal.  Battery packs are becoming much slimmer and lighter, we recommend you pack from 10000 amp onwards. (NB these need to be packed in your carry-on, not stowed underneath, when on the plane to Dubai).
  • Headphones – for the flight over or lying on the beach, always essential travel gear. You will want something noise-cancelling for the plane but perhaps smaller and lighter buds at the beach.
  • Laptop and charger – totally up to you if you work on the road, but there’s not much your smartphone can’t do these days; just take note of our comments with adaptors and wattage bringing any of your electronics.
  • VPN – if you are looking to make Skype or video calls home from Dubai, do note many of these applications will not work from Dubai. This can be bypassed by using a VPN, which you will need to have installed before you travel.
  • Reusable water bottle – While bottled water is readily available, single-use plastics are slowly but surely being phased out. You will want water with you at all times to deal with hydration, so we strongly recommend you bring your own refillable bottles. Dubai water is drinkable, but if you don’t like the taste (we don’t!) then you may want to stock up on a larger water bottle for your room and decant a little each day into your reusable water bottle. A very popular brand for travellers including water filter is Grayl – a small upfront investment but these really are the best water bottles.


Essentials You Don’t Want to Forget in Your Dubai Packing

You’ll also want to consider essential documents and things to carry while travelling to Dubai.

  • Passports – Essential! Make sure you have six months of validity. We recommend you protect your passport with a passport holder.
  • In Case of Emergency (ICE) contact details. Should the worst happen, travelling anywhere, you want this information to be clearly and readily available somewhere within your belongings, in English or Arabic.
  • Credit card and debit cards – cash can easily be withdrawn from ATMs (don’t pay crazy expense airport exchange rates), and credit cards are widely accepted across the city. Should you wish to use a cash exchange, you will need your passport with you. You can learn more about Dubai currency here.
  • Arabic phrasebook – We’ll be honest, there are VERY few occasions you will need to understand Arabic. Signposts to menus are always in English and Arabic, and in the hospitality industry, English is the common language. The only time the strict use of Arabic may come up is in legal processes. If it comes to this – contact your embassy for support immediately. We help you with a bit of Dubai lingo and jargon-busting over here.
  • Travel insurance policy information – Because you locked in your travel insurance when you booked your trip, RIGHT? Should the worst happen while you’re travelling, you want your overseas emergency phone number handy and your policy number. We recommend using SafetyWing as they understand the needs of international travellers and digital nomads, their policies are clear on inclusions and exclusions, and they allow the flexibility of trip extensions if your plans change.
  • Driver license / ID card – should you wish to hire a car you will need this.  You may also want this instead of a passport to leave, for example, when hiring sports equipment at the beach as well as proof of age. [Note the legal drinking age in Dubai is 21 years old, you may be asked to prove this with photo identification]. You can learn more about driving in Dubai over here and whether you will need an international driver’s permit.
  • Copies of booking confirmations and important documents – we like to keep a backup copy in our room safe should the worst happen. However, do note that crime rates are very low in Dubai. If an item is lost or left in a taxi, for example, chances are high it’ll be handed in. (NB the lost and found phone number for Dubai transport is 800 90 90)
  • Travelling with children? It is NOT common practice for single parents to be questioned when travelling with children through Dubai. It is very common for children to have surnames different from their parents’. That said, we ALWAYS travel with a copy of our children’s birth certificates too, just in case. If you have custody issues with children, it’s wise to travel with custody orders or signed declarations that you have permission to travel internationally with your child.

Do make sure you check out our guide to apps to download before you go to Dubai.  We have plenty of advice on the best map apps through to Metro information and food delivery services, as well as online ticketing and specific apps to help you navigate large attractions and currency conversion.


What Should I Pack Everything in? Luggage For Your Dubai Trip

The major airlines in Dubai tend to have generous luggage allowances. Unless you are taking one of the cheaper airlines into DWC or Air Arabia into neighbouring Sharjah, or you have onward travel plans, you can be pretty generous with your Dubai packing for all occasions.

Note travelling through DXB you will pass through a hand luggage x-ray immediately after passport control and before the baggage carousels. There are ample free luggage trolleys available at the baggage carousels or you can hire a porter from 30 AED to help you to your transport outside.

After baggage collection in DXB, there is a final customs control point where passengers’ luggage may be randomly x-rayed and possibly opened. Make sure you have your key handy to unlock any padlocks.

Checked Luggage for Dubai

We recommend you pack everything into a sturdy rolling suitcase that is lockable.  We prefer those cases that can roll on 4 independent wheels. Soft sides or hard cases, it’s up to your personal style.

Top suitcase recommendation for Dubai: Samsonite Omni PC Hardside expandible Luggage

  • Keeping it organised – packing cubes! The best way to keep a large suitcase organised without a double is packing cubes. Great for dividing by person or separating your wardrobes for different occasions.
  • Hanging Toiletry bag – regular travellers will assure you that hanging bags that can fold flat are best
  • Laundry Bag – keep a bag aside for filling with your dirty clothes. Hotel laundry services can be expensive so where possible, we recommend taking all the clothing you will need with you!

Your Day Bag for Dubai

This will largely depend on your purpose for visiting.  On a short stopover where you will be jumping from one activity to the next and in and out of taxis or the Metro, you might like the convenience of a small, light backpack, or a crossbody bag.  Just be aware that even in the cooler months, it can be sweaty work if you have a bag rubbing on you.

We love and recommend for travellers the CitySafe backpack by PacSafe, no matter where in the world this is an ideal traveller’s backpack with built-in safety features and is comfortable enough to wear all day without looking too touristy. Pacsafe also offers stylish cross-body bags good for men and women.

In your day bag for Dubai sightseeing, you will want to carry around

  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Wallet
  • Smartphone / Camera
  • Battery pack
  • Hand Sanitiser
  • Deodorant wipes
  • Foldable shopping bag (plastic bags are slowly being phased out across the city)

If your purpose is largely for the beach, then for ladies, we recommend a smart-looking beach bag – your items will be pretty similar to the above, but don’t forget to throw in your book/kindle, plenty of lip balm and hydration from the sun.

If you are heading to Dubai to enjoy the nightlife, a cute and stylish handbag is a definite must for the ladies!

Should I wear a money belt or neck wallet in Dubai?

Look up to you. You no doubt stand out as a tourist by the clothing you’re wearing anyway – but nothing screams “I’m a tourist, and here’s all my valuable items” louder than wearing one of these. Crime is low, but if you prefer security and convenience, go for it.


What Items Should I NOT Bring With Me to Dubai?

This can often concern people a lot more than what they pack. What should you avoid packing for a trip to Dubai so as not to inadvertently find yourself in jail?

Most of the big no-nos in Dubai are around drugs.  If you are taking any prescription medication, you must understand these rules and carry medical letters from a doctor with you if the item is prohibited in the UAE.

The best place to find more information on prohibited drugs is from the UAE Ministry of Health & Prevention.

As a general guide as to what is NOT allowed in Dubai:

  • All kinds of narcotic drugs, including hashish, cocaine, heroin, poppy seeds and hallucination pills
  • Goods intended to be imported from boycotted countries
  • Goods from Israeli origin or bearing Israeli trademarks or logos
  • Crude ivory and rhinoceros horn
  • Gambling tools and machines
  • Three-layer nylon fishing nets
  • Candy cigarettes
  • Ozone-depleting materials
  • Radioactive materials
  • Red laser pointers
  • Hazardous waste
  • Authentic publications, oil paintings, photographs, pictures, cards, books, magazines, and stony sculptures, which contradict Islamic teachings, decencies or deliberately imply immorality or turmoil (Nb Ladies, note this includes vibrators)
  • Used, reconditioned and inlaid tyres
  • Any other goods, the importation of which is prohibited under the authority of UAE customs laws or any other laws in the country
  • Forged and duplicate currency

Can I Bring Alcohol into Dubai?

Yes, non-Muslim visitors to the UAE are permitted to bring in up to 4L of spirits or one case (24 cans) of beer from Duty-Free. You can read more on alcohol laws in the UAE here.


Your Downloadable Dubai Packing List

As promised, here it is – your downloadable Dubai travel checklist you can print out to prepare for your trip to Dubai.

Dubai Travel Planner Packing List Printable - What to pack for Dubai
This Dubai travel checklist is © Copyright of Dubai Travel Planner and must not be reproduced without express permission

Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai

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