Abu Dhabi Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Abu Dhabi gay travel guide to hotels & where to stay, safety, things to do, & local gay life.
The Gay Travel Experience: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Gay travelers who are curious about visiting Abu Dhabi often wonder if it’s safe, or even a good idea for them to do so, considering how conservative local culture is.
The answer will vary depending on the person, but experiencing Abu Dhabi’s beauty as an LGBT tourist is certainly within reach.
It’s imperative for gay travelers to take certain precautions to stay safe in Abu Dhabi since homosexuality or any queer-presenting behavior is not tolerated.
But generally speaking, you can bet on everything going well as long as you abide by the rules and don’t look for trouble.
I visited Abu Dhabi with my gay college roommate along with a few other friends, and we had no issues. However, we did make sure to learn everything necessary about the local culture and how to behave before our trip.
If you’re wondering why any gay traveler would want to visit a place that oppresses LGBTQ people, my answer is that in addition to basic curiosity, I love Arab culture and language.
And while it’s unfortunate that LGBT people cannot express themselves freely in Abu Dhabi, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any kind or open-minded people here.
In this guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about where to stay, safety, and local culture along with recommendations for some epic luxury experiences in Abu Dhabi.
Gay Abu Dhabi: Hotels & Where to Stay
Since Abu Dhabi isn’t the most LGBT-friendly place on earth, choosing the right hotel will have a big impact on your sense of comfort and safety. Before I share some specific recommendations, let’s briefly cover some safety-related hotel basics.
Internationally well-known chain hotels are always the safest option. Staff at these properties should have enough cultural training to know how to deal LGBT tourists, or even two gay individuals planning on sleeping in the same bed.
In my opinion, same-sex couples shouldn’t book single-bed hotel rooms. While you might be able to get away with it in some hotels in Dubai, two men booking a room with a single bed in Abu Dhabi isn’t the best idea.
If you’re traveling alone and you’re not so worried about issues related to being identified as LGBT, then I’d say go for it and book a local hotel or even an apartment rental in Abu Dhabi.
Still always remember to be cautious with your appearance and mannerisms to avoid any issues.
Now, here are some of the best hotels I recommend for Abu Dhabi gay travelers.
Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche
The Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche is an absolutely gorgeous waterfront luxury hotel. It’s owned by Accor Hotels, which has a trustworthy inclusion policy. Rooms have impressive floor-to-ceiling windows with views looking out over the Persian Gulf.
Abu Dhabi’s Sofitel has two beautiful pools, a chic poolside restaurant, a fun pink-themed rooftop bar, a spa, and access to the nearby beach. And with all this, the price is decently affordable!
Al Maryah Island Four Seasons
I highly suggest the Al Maryah Island Four Seasons, which is right next to Abu Dhabi’s downtown area.
This Four Seasons hotel has a clean, elegant, and masculine style that I love. Everything about it is spectacular. Their large rooftop pool also has a marvelous seaside view.
Novotel Al Bustan
Novotel Al Bustan is at the southern end of Downtown Abu Dhabi and is also owned by Accor Hotels, so I would recommend it to gay travelers. It’s more affordable than the above-mentioned Sofitel but still offers an upscale ambiance and amenities.
Novotel is also close to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, making a trip there easy and convenient, especially if you want to go multiple times.
St. Regis Saadiyat Island
The St. Regis Saadiyat Island is another must-mention, especially if you’re looking for the ultimate luxury hotel experience. Abu Dhabi’s St. Regis is right on the beach.
The hotel is a massive, private compound containing every amenity you could imagine, a host of beautiful pools, and restaurants with upscale lounge seating.
Just about everywhere you are on this property, you’ll almost always have a wonderful view of the sea.
Is Abu Dhabi Gay Travel Safe?
While it’s not the safest place for gay travelers, Abu Dhabi isn’t the most dangerous destination either. Your safety really depends on how you present yourself and where you go.
I’ve also heard stories from fellow travelers about uncomfortable and threatening encounters with local hotel guests. But don’t let this scare you—maintaining a low profile and adhering to local customs will keep you safe.
Just remember to avoid any behaviors that may reveal the fact that you’re LGBTQ, as well as any overt touching or displays of affection.
The UAE government actively censors LGBT content, which means anything you post online may also be monitored. Even recently, searching for LGBT Amazon products in the Emirates was banned.
Abu Dhabi Gay Travel Experiences
Abu Dhabi has some pretty legendary attractions and I found no shortage of things to do. Here are some of the best attractions I recommend you visit.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque first thing. This pristine place of worship is one of my favorite structures on the planet. You can lose yourself among the plentiful jewels and gold. The massive domes will make you feel like the smallest thing in the universe.
Note the mosque is closed to tourists on Fridays, so you’ll want to avoid planning a day trip around the city on this day of the week.
If you really like cars, they have a bunch of sweet Ferraris in a small museum. The entire facility is pretty giant and kept impeccably clean. To save time, grab your Ferrari World admission ticket ahead of time.
Tour Masdar City
Masdar City is worth checking out f you have more time to spend in Abu Dhabi, the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Masdar is a small planned city being built in phases that relies on renewable energy.
Tours are available at Masdar where you can get in a self-driving magnetic track vehicle to head toward the town’s center.
Abu Dhabi Gay Travel Tips
Following the Local Dress Code
Clothing-wise, men should avoid wearing anything overly revealing while in casual environments. Lightweight chinos will help you blend in most and avoid looking like a tourist.
Shorts shouldn’t be too short and tank tops probably aren’t best unless you’re going for a run.
At the beach or pool, only swim shorts are acceptable. That means you’ll sadly need to leave your tight briefs and trunks at home. Being shirtless is totally fine, but always cover up when entering any common areas like a beach bar or the bathroom.
For women, non-revealing bikinis are okay in the water in some places, but it’s best to check with your hotel’s recommendation.
Female tourists should always wear clothing that completely covers the shoulders and knees. Any display of upper arms, chest, or thighs will attract negative attention. Bringing a lightweight shawl is a great idea if you’re nervous your sleeves aren’t long enough.
Bringing PrEP & Other Medications into Abu Dhabi
Traveling to Abu Dhabi with PrEP, PEP, or any other pre or post-exposure prophylaxis medication is not recommended because the UAE government prohibits antiretroviral medication for personal use.
If you enter the UAE with medications like PrEP, you may be subject to scrutiny or face other unforeseen consequences if they are questioned. It’s definitely best to leave them at home.
Prepare for Abu Dhabi's Heat
Summer temperatures in Abu Dhabi are brutally high. During the warmer parts of the year, you will notice locals avoid the outdoors during the middle of the day.
Grab a few sweat-proof t-shirts to wear if you’ll be visiting while it’s hot. Some elastane, polyester, or nylon material will breathe well to keep you dry.
Rent a Car
Renting a car in Abu Dhabi will make getting around much easier. The city is a bit spread out, so if you prefer not to spend money on taxis, it’s helpful to have your own vehicle.
Does Abu Dhabi Have Gay Nightlife?
The United Arab Emirates and specifically Abu Dhabi is a very conservative Muslim state. As you may have guessed, there aren’t any gay bars, clubs, or cruising venues in Abu Dhabi.
Many travelers ask around on dating apps to find underground gay parties in Abu Dhabi. They may exist or they may not, but even if you did find such an event by invitation, it would be quite risky to attend.
Instead of searching for gay events, stay on the safe side and conform to the local customs. Save that for Dubai, if anything!
Using Grindr in Abu Dhabi
If you’re seeking to connect with another LGBT individual via gay apps (like Grindr or Scruff), remember that you’ll need a VPN connection to do so. The UAE government blocks various LGBT web content and applications.
I recommend using NordVPN for a safe encrypted connection. I use this app myself, which makes it possible to download and use restricted apps and websites. They’re the fastest and most popular VPN provider on the market.
Can You Drink Alcohol in Abu Dhabi?
Yes, it is legal to consume alcohol in Abu Dhabi, however, there are a few special rules to follow.
Local Muslims who strictly follow religious teachings do not drink. Instead, you will see locals smoking flavourful Shisha, which is super common in the Middle East.
In the UAE, you won’t find typical bars and pubs. Instead, alcohol is served inside hotel bars or nightclubs that have private entrances.
Appropriate conduct, especially in relation to consuming alcohol is very important. Appearing intoxicated out on the sidewalk or in other public areas is asking for a lot of trouble, so be responsible.
If you plan to drink a decent amount of alcohol, make sure to do so in close proximity to your hotel, if not inside your own hotel bar.
Abu Dhabi Gay Life & LGBT Rights
In Abu Dhabi and the rest of the United Arab Emirates, there are absolutely no gay rights or protections. All relations outside of a heterosexual marriage are technically criminal offenses.
Local LGBT people are forced to shield their sexuality in order to conform to societal norms, especially in Abu Dhabi.
Police aren’t patrolling the streets looking for gay individuals, but it’s worth mentioning that the law remains archaic. I’m sure you can imagine how difficult gay life in Abu Dhabi can be for locals.
I’d like to remain hopeful that leaders will begin working toward providing basic rights for LGBT communities in Middle Eastern countries.
We can do our part as LGBT citizens of the world to hold government leaders accountable for their actions, or lack thereof.
Or, visit the gayest city in the Middle East, Tel Aviv!
For more inspiration, explore wolfyy’s full collection of gay travel guides.