What to pack for Dubai

Packing for Dubai: how to be respectful, stylish and comfortable in the desert

Precision packing is key to any overseas vacation and often begins weeks before your planned departure. To make things a little easier for you we have put together our best tips and tricks for what to take and what to leave at home.

Melinda HealyJournalist and travel writer
13 October 2022

There is a lot of planning that goes into any foreign adventure. Packing is a bit like a Rubik’s cube: In order for everything to line up, there are several things to consider. Baggage weight restrictions are one thing and then there’s ensuring you cover all the possible bases in terms of clothing, electronics, medicines, shoes, etc. Not only is it important to consider the essentials, it’s also imperative that you leave yourself some room for the purchases you’ll make on your travels.

General style tips for visiting tourists

Dubai has many different faces and with more than 200 different nationalities blended together, diversity reigns supreme here. As vibrant and fun as this emirate is, we must remember that the UAE is a Muslim nation and as such cultural sensitivities and respect apply.

Exposing too much flesh is a big no-no here, which counts out short shorts, tops that are more cleavage than coverage, and even bearing your shoulders might be frowned upon at times.

It’s best to err on the more conservative side, and I’m talking knee-length shorts and T-shirts or kaftans. If you’re going anywhere near a mosque or prayer area, always have a scarf or shawl with you.

During the holy month of Ramadan, it is always best to dress with the locals in mind, as this is a period of sacrifice and religious dedication, so don’t flaunt yourself or you may well find yourself spoken to by the authorities.

How to handle the heat

Combatting the heat is another consideration when choosing what you’ll take with you to Dubai.

Loose, breathable fabrics are best during the height of summer. You’ll want wash-and-wear options as you will definitely perspire and won’t be able to wear an item of clothing more than once without needing to wash it.

There is a place for glitz and glamor

Keeping the above in mind, high heels and party dresses, dinner jackets and bow-ties all have their place.

Emirati women are some of the world’s most fashionable and while they may wear traditional clothing, like abayas and shaylas, their footwear, handbag and make-up game is on-point, so don’t be shy when it comes to these.

The evenings in Dubai call for glamorous threads and blinged up accessories, but do remember to take a pashmina or shawl, because as hot as it can be outside, when the air conditioning is going full tilt it can get a bit chilly.

The brunch scene is another occasion where you can get away with dressing to the nines, and of course if you’re in the emirate for the Dubai World Cup – held annually at the end of March – you’ll need a fascinator and your finest fashions.

Type of shoes to bring

Traveling often means hours on end on your feet, which is why comfortable walking shoes are a must. Do be aware that not only can long-haul flying cause swelling, but if you’re in Dubai during the summer you may also find your feet expanding.

Keep the heels for the evenings, and the flip flops for the beach, and if you’re heading out to the desert and plan on climbing to the top of the dunes, you’ll need some ankle support as it’s pretty tough going in sand.

Equipment for sports & activities

The diversity of the landscape provides plenty of opportunity for activities like swimming, hiking, desert safaris, camping, snorkeling and even skiing.

Possibly the most important consideration in this regard is to ensure you pack a hat, sunscreen and a reusable water vessel. On that note, many of the hotels provide water, but it’s best not to use water from the faucet as it’s not desalinated.

Swimming costumes and a quick-dry towel are a good idea too – most hotels and resorts will provide you with a swimming towel, but it shouldn’t be taken off-site. A light shirt is helpful; something you can throw over your bathers for modesty.

Medicines & related things

If you are required to take regular medications be sure to get a letter from your doctor to that effect. It’s also helpful to verse yourself on what is and isn’t acceptable to bring into the UAE in terms of medication as the rules are a bit different here.

Mosquito repellant is always a good item to take with you, as is hand sanitiser and panadol, and perhaps a gastrostop style medication. Bandaids are always in my toiletry bag as blisters are a given when you’re walking around a lot.

Products for hair & skin, toiletries


If you’re looking to buy moisturizer in Dubai, do be aware that there are quite a lot of ‘whitening and lightening’ creams on the shelves, so if you’re fair like me, you don’t want to choose the wrong one!

The water in Dubai can have a negative effect on your hair, so if you use a particular product and don’t know if you’ll get it there, perhaps just pack some in a travel bottle and use it sparingly. Hotels and resorts do provide amenities, so if you are having trouble with weight, that’s an option.

Moisturizer is a necessity in the desert as the heat dries out your skin – again, most hotels have some, or you can buy it at any supermarket.


A universal travel adaptor is a handy inclusion for any traveler. The UAE uses C, D and G power plugs and sockets, the voltage is 220 V, so check that out before you venture into the desert and consider purchasing what you need before you get to the airport – everything is more expensive at the airport.

When it comes to your cell phone, Wi-Fi is widespread throughout the Emirates, but make sure you turn your cellular data off or you’ll risk some serious bills. Tourists can purchase local SIM cards at the airport, often an easier and cheaper way of remaining connected.

Even a couple of kilograms over your luggage allowance can cost you dearly, so carrying a portable scale with you is recommended. You can get compact ones for not too much.

A good quality camera and even a portable tripod is a must here, as there are plenty of great photo opportunities. That being said, do ask before pointing a camera in the face of any locals.

Not many of us carry wads of cash around anymore, in fact the best idea when traveling is cash passport cards from AMEX or other such providers – they’re easy to load and most vendors accept cards these days.

What not to pack

Skimpy revealing clothes are not acceptable here, so leave them at home.

Perfume – by all means bring your own, but this part of the world is all about its ‘scent-sational’ perfumes.

Banned medications – as mentioned above, if in doubt about what is and isn’t allowed here, go online and do some research, the last thing you want is to get fined for ignorance https://u.ae/en/information-and-services/health-and-fitness/drugs-and-controlled-medicines

Drones are not permitted in the UAE, so just don’t even bother, since you risk having it confiscated if the authorities find it.

Printed CVs. Like most countries, if you’re arriving in the UAE on a tourist visa, the authorities do not want any indication that you’re actually on the hunt for a job.

About the author

Melinda HealyAlthough born in PNG, Mel is an Aussie-made journo who's always been more interested in passport stamps than possessions. A whiz with words, Mel spent a number of years living and working in the United Arab Emirates, it was here that she shared insight into Dubai and Abu Dhabi with the world. Mel believes travel is a privilege and an educator.