Abu Dhabi Gay Travel
Is Abu Dhabi gay travel safe? Tips for LGBT safety, hotels, gay life & things to do in wolfyy’s Abu Dhabi gay guide.
The Gay Travel Experience: Abu Dhabi, UAE
You may find yourself wondering: should gay travelers visit Abu Dhabi? You may question if it is safe, or if it’s worth your vacation time. In this wolfyy gay travel guide, I’ll give you answers to these completely valid questions.
I visited Abu Dhabi during the summer of 2013 with my gay college roommate and a few friends. Without a doubt, we had an absolute blast. Gay tourists in Abu Dhabi must obviously take certain precautions, as I’ll explain later. In general however, you will be perfectly safe as long as you don’t look for trouble.
My gay best friend in college and I found no shortage of things to do in Abu Dhabi. The city is constantly building one new glitzy attraction after another.
We experienced things we never before imagined. The fastest roller coaster in the world, water sport parks, F-1 racetracks…the list goes on. No matter what you like, Abu Dhabi has it.
The United Arab Emirates gay community has no rights or protections, which I’ll cover below. You may ask why I would want to visit such a place. Many travelers struggle with the issue of balancing exploration with supporting states that oppress the gay community.
My answer is that I love Arab culture and their language. Although it is sad that LGBT people cannot express themselves freely in UAE, this does not mean that there are not kind and open-minded people in the country.
In a way, I am supporting the government of a country that would never support me. However, I still prefer the experience of meeting locals and understanding gay life in the United Arab Emirates.
Gay Abu Dhabi: Hotels & Booking Safety
Before booking a place to stay in Abu Dhabi, two questions typically come to mind: what is the best area to stay? And what kind of hotel should I look for?
The exact location of your hotel is not super important since the city isn’t that dense. Generally, hotels in the downtown Abu Dhabi area are most popular.
As an Abu Dhabi gay traveler however, the specific hotel you choose is very important.
Safe Hotels for Abu Dhabi Gay Travelers
Remember that Abu Dhabi is not the safest place in the world for LGBT travelers. Choosing the right hotel can have a huge impact on your sense of comfort and safety.
The most suitable options are well-known international hotel chains. Western hotel chains especially will surely adhere to the highest of standards.
If you’re traveling alone and you’re not so worried about issues related to being identified as LGBT, then by all means, go for the local hotel experience. Be cautions however, with your appearance and mannerisms to avoid any potential issues.
Gay Couples Sharing a Bed in Abu Dhabi
Many gay men visiting Abu Dhabi or Dubai with their partner wonder if it is ok to share a bed as a gay couple. As explained above, this again depends on the type of hotel you book.
In my opinion, you can share a bed with your boyfriend/husband are girlfriend/wife in the internationally known chains. The staff should have enough cultural training to have no issue with two gay individuals sharing a bed.
Conversely, if you choose a local hotel, the same does not apply. They may not have international standards. These types of places may not be safe to book a single bed with a gay partner in Abu Dhabi. In this situation, it is best to book two single beds.
Remember that police are not patrolling hotels, searching for LGBT people to arrest. I have however heard stories of uncomfortable or threatening encounters with other hotel guests (as recently as 2020). For this reason, I recommend the trusted, however typically more expensive, hotel chains above.
The UAE, especially Abu Dhabi, is quite conservative. So it’s best to adhere to the local customs regardless of where you’re staying. You’ll likely be among locals no matter which hotel you’re in, and they will appreciate respect for their culture.
Is Abu Dhabi LGBT Travel Safe?
In adition to the guidelines about where to stay in the sections above, there are a few other things you can do to stay safe in Abu Dhabi.
Familiarize yourself with local customs before traveling to the UAE, or any Middle Eastern country for that matter. It’s crucial to understand local customs and mannerisms. To start, learn a bit about how to dress properly in the UAE.
Keep in mind that Abu Dhabi is much more conservative than neighboring Dubai. Many common western behaviors thats are overlooked in Dubai will not be tolerated in Abu Dhabi.
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Abu Dhabi Gay Travel Experiences
Abu Dhabi has some pretty legendary attractions. Here are some of the best things to do and see during your visit.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque as soon as you can, and bring your camera. This pristine place of worship is one of my favorite structures on the planet. You can lose yourself among the plentiful jewels and gold, and the massive domes will make you feel like the smallest spec in the universe.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an absolute must if you’re in Abu Dhabi. Make it a priority! Also, note the mosque is closed to tourists on Fridays.
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.
Consider checking out Masdar City if you have more time, 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.
Dragon Mart Flea Market
If you want a break from glamorous shopping, Dragon Mart is a sort of “flea market” where you can find cheaper goods. I stopped by here to pick up a duffel bag so I could store gifts and food I bought.
Although things at Dragon Mart are not high-quality, it can be a cheaper and entertaining place to visit. Since it is not a major tourist destination, you can embrace a little more of the local life.
Abu Dhabi Bus Tours
Abu Dhabi Gay Travel Tips
Without a car, Abu Dhabi may be difficult to navigate. The city is a bit spread out, so if you prefer not to spend money on taxis, it’s helpful to rent a car.
Summer temperatures are brutally high, so I would travel during spring of fall. If it happens to be hot during your travels, you will notice locals avoid the outdoors during the middle of the day. Not to worry in Abu Dhabi though! There are plenty of air-conditioned attractions.
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.
For men, avoid any graphic t-shirts that could be misconstrued as something offensive.
Traveling to unfamiliar countries can be a little nerve-wracking for some. Insuring your trip with a provider like Travelex Insurance can offer protection in case of medical issues abroad, theft and even delays or cancellation of your trip!
Just $20 can get you started with their lowest tier option.
Abu Dhabi Gay Bars - Do They Exist?
The United Arab Emirates, and specifically Abu Dhabi is a very conservative Muslim state. As you may have guessed, there are officially no gay bars in Abu Dhabi.
Many travelers ask around for 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 in Abu Dhabi, stay on the safe side and conform to the local customs. Save that for Dubai, if anything! As you will read in the section below, Abu Dhabi gay life and being LGBT in the UAE is quite difficult.
Gay men and women need to shield their sexuality so they can conform to societal norms. The UAE certainly has a long way to go.
Lastly, 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. An app like this will allow you to download and use restricted apps and websites.
Can You Drink Alcohol in Abu Dhabi?
Local Muslims that strictly follow religious teachings do not drink. Instead, you will see local Emiratis smoking flavorful Shisha, as is common in Muslim countries in the Middle East.
In the UAE, you will not find street-front bars and pubs. Instead, alcohol is typically served inside of 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 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.
United Arab Emirates Gay Life
Legally, LGBT persons do not have any rights in the Emirates and all relations outside of a heterosexual marriage are deemed criminal. Police are not patrolling the streets looking for gay men, but it bears to mention that the law remains archaic in disallowing any gay rights.
If you keep to yourself and do not overtly display any affection, there is absolutely nothing to worry about in my opinion.
I’d like to remain hopeful that modern leaders and their royal families in Middle Eastern countries will begin to strive toward providing basic human rights to the LGBT communities in their respective countries.
We can do our part as fellow LGBT citizens of the world to hold these leaders and governments accountable for their actions or lack thereof.