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Dubai Gay Travel

wolfyy’s Dubai gay travel guide covers it all, from hotels and gay bars to LGBT safety and using Grindr in Dubai.

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The Dubai Gay Travel Experience

Do an internet search for Dubai gay travel and you’ll easily understand why many gay travelers are unsure if they should go to Dubai. Some sites talk about prostitution and “underground” gay party scenes, while others mention gay tourists getting arrested for holding hands in public. So, what’s gay travel to Dubai really like?

Dubai gay tourists
Dubai gay tourists

In this Dubai gay travel guide, I’ll help you navigate confusing information and reassure you that LGBT travelers can definitely go to Dubai and enjoy a wonderful, culturally thrilling holiday. Below I’ll cover some safety tips, and later mention things to do and where to stay.

Dubai gay life

Dubai Gay Safety: Common Worries

The week before my first trip to Dubai, I was excited, yet nervous. I was giddy in anticipation of the culture shock and the luxury life, yet worried about being a gay tourist in Dubai. Safety was a huge concern.
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Knowing the Middle East generally is very conservative, gay travelers might not feel completely comfortable with the idea of visiting Dubai. Many ponder safety precautions like deleting Grindr application or removing personal details from social media. It’s quite understandable. I wondered them myself!

gay travel to old Dubai
gay ally dubai LGBT
Dubai gay life

LGBT travelers visit Dubai all the time. Dubai gay travel is completely safe, as long as you follow some specific guidelines. Some precautions I’ll mention could seem dramatic. However, in an area of the world without any LGBT rights, it is best to refrain from engaging in behaviors that would seem questionable to a local. 

Being Gay in Dubai: What's it Like for a Tourist?

Dubai specifically, is less conservative than the rest of the UAE and Middle East. There is a large international presence and it’s not uncommon to see westerners walking about. Locals are used to it.

I never felt in danger as a gay tourist in Dubai. There were definitely looming thoughts about potential dangers, but I respectfully obeyed cultural rules.

Gay visitor to Dubai
Gay visitor to Dubai
Dubai marina

My friend Joey and I were roommates for out entire UAE journey. It felt amazing to have a gay travel companion for this trip, because I was culture shooketh! I will say—two well-dressed gay men did not attract any negative attention. We expressed ourselves freely (within reason), and dressed as we wanted.

Dubai gay tourist safety

Especially in a country where the death penalty is the punishment for sodomy, Joey and I slightly felt as though we needed to hide our true selves. We never felt like we were being monitored or anything, but as 21-year olds, the thought came naturally. All in all, we didn’t have a single issue. Our UAE exploration was without a hitch.

Is It Safe For Gay Couples to Travel to Dubai?

Overall, Dubai is a very liberal city compared to other places in the Middle East. Legally however, LGBT people do not have any rights at all. All relations outside of a heterosexual marriage are deemed criminal.
gay dating apps Dubai
Police are not patrolling the streets looking for pairs of 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 display any affection, there is absolutely nothing to worry about in my opinion.
dubai gay friendly
gay events dubai
dubai gay friendly
With that in mind, you should book a room with two individual beds when traveling to Dubai with a boyfriend or same-sex partner. This avoids any confusion at hotel check-in. Just as any other country, people have a range of viewpoints and opinions. In a country without granted rights, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
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Gay Dubai: Hotels & Where to Stay

Since Dubai is quite a large city and attractions are spread out, location is important. The city has two main centers, so I recommend staying somewhere between them. For instance, the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Frame are at the north end of the city, while The Palm Jumeriah and Burj Al Arab are to the south.

Dubai hotel
Dubai hotel

Al Barsha is a great centrally located neighborhood to book your Dubai hotel. It’s also convenient since the Mall of the Emirates and some grocery stores are within walking distance. For budget-friendly options in this area of the city, check out the Flor Al Barsha or Auris Boutique Hotel.

gay friendly hotel dubai

 If you’ve got some hard earned money saved, then you may want to check out Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf luxury villas. Or, if you fancy an epic stay on the manmade Palm Jumeriah island, take a loot at One & Only The Palm.

If you’re looking for more hotel ideas and options, check out this custom list of 3 to 5-star Dubai hotels. Overall, just remember to consider proximity to attractions on your list. 

Dubai Airbnb Stays

There is certainly value to be found in renting an Airbnb in Dubai. You’ll be able to get a slice of local life too, since Dubai Airbnb rentals tend to be available in locations where it’s harder to find a hotel.

Dubai Airbnb rentals
Dubai Airbnb rentals

If you’re open to it, I definitely recommend looking at Airbnb rentals in the famous Dubai Marina. This area will afford you convenient access to endless bars and restaurants.

Alternatively, you can also find killer deals with Airbnb rentals in downtown Dubai. Just south of the Burj Khalifa, you’ll find loads of luxurious rentals with jaw-dropping views of Dubai’s skyline.

Dubai Experiences for the Gay Traveler

Absolutely go to the Burj Khalifa Observation Deck. Views from the mega-tower are breathtaking, and don’t forget your camera! The sunnier the day, the better. If it is foggy, it may be hard to see as far as you’d like.

is dubai safe for gays
old Dubai port visit
is dubai safe for gays

Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates are beautifully enormous. Take note of how spotless they keep these buildings as you peruse designer brands. There is a ski slope in the Mall of the Emirates called Ski Dubai. It’s a great way to get a leg workout in! They rent everything you’ll need.

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Cool off at Aquaventure Waterpark if waterparks are your thing. The park is liberal and relaxed, mostly filled with westerners. Women can wear western bathing suits without any issue. I’m a thrill seeker, so naturally I was screaming at the top of my lungs going down the Shark Attack and The Leap of Faith slides.

old Dubai
old Dubai

Once the temperatures outside cool down, take a stroll along the Dubai Marina. The vibe is very calm and eating outside is popular, taking in the skyline of the supertall towers. Locals and tourists mix here. After dinner try some flavored shisha. Locals love it!

old Dubai port visit
Lastly, check out Old Dubai and the Dubai Port. I recommend going in the evening before sunset, when temperatures are lower. Here you can learn more about Dubai’s history. This area of town is less shiny and new, where relics of the humble city’s past are still around today. You can find tons of space markets too.

Dubai Gay Bars & Nightlife

You probably already know that there are no official gay bars in Dubai. That doesn’t mean that a gay scene doesn’t exist here though! While you won’t find any sweaty circuit parties like you would in Barcelona or New York, you definitely still have some fun options.

gay life Dubai travel

Gay-Friendly Parties in Dubai

Gay locals frequent a few different parties that are known for attracting an open-minded crowd. Here are a few recommendations to try.

Every other Saturday at the Radisson Blu Dubai, there is a party called Vibes by Madame Om. Gay ex-pats and local gays typically attend. Another awesome spot, recommended by one of my friends who lives in Dubai, is Barbary Cocktail Club. Expect a dimly lit interior and chic vibes.

gay life Dubai travel
dubai bars

Another popular gay party in Dubai happens at Barcode. Barcode is not officially a Dubai gay club, but the space is frequented by may gay men. Check out the Barcode Instagram page.

dubai best hotels LGBT friendly

I recommend taking the phrase “gay-friendly” loosely. Gay men and transexual individuals have been detained and prosecuted in Dubai before over swimmingly harmless gestures. All the same rules should apply in Dubai gay-friendly bars as they would on the street.

Dubai Nightlife: Cocktail Bars

The most beautiful bar I’ve ever visited was in Dubai. It was a custom cocktail bar called Ruya Dubai, which I visited during my second visit to the city. I went with my best friend Taylor and we had a blast.

marina boat ride Dubai
dubai best hotels LGBT friendly
marina boat ride Dubai

Ruya Dubai is located at the end of the marina strip near the Grosvenor House Hotel. We went there after dinner at Iran Zamin, a fantastic Persian restaurant. I highly recommend both of these! Another higher-end option is BiCE Ristorante if you love Italian food.

gay travel Dubai
Upscale bars are found mostly in hotels. From what I could tell, there are no bars that open directly onto the street. It may also be useful to know that there are no “liquor stores” on the streets in Dubai. Only bars and some restaurants serve alcohol. So, if you like to imbibe, stock up at the Duty Free store at the airport.

Dubai Gay Travel Tips

Respect for the culture and locals is also of utmost importance. Dubai is much more relaxed than other Middle Eastern cities or other areas of the UAE. You still must respect certain customs in public areas, especially outside of western establishments.

old Dubai
old Dubai
Remember that homosexuality is illegal in the UAE. LGBT people also have no rights whatsoever. Dubai authorities will certainly not tolerate gay public displays of affection. It would be dangerous to hold your partner’s hand while walking down the street.

So what do you make of the contradictory information online? How are these “pulsing gay nightclubs” in existence while a couple of gay tourists face arrest for holding hands?

dubai dress code for men
best winter gay travel destinations
dubai dress code for men

The answer really comes down to two things. There is always the case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you upset the wrong person, perhaps someone who has a connection to the authorities, you may just end up in an unfortunate situation. This is the reason why everyone recommends to be overly cautious.

dubai skyline
Underground Dubai gay-friendly parties surely exist. However, as you can imagine, a large group of individuals will take on a group mentality. IF there are 100 people doing something in a group, and that group keeps everything private, then the overall risk of someone deciding to run to the police is low.
dubai bars
dubai skyline
gay events dubai

If you’re headed to the UAE, I suggest comparing airlines with Skyscanner. They have an awesome interface and make it super easy to optimize your route. Plus, they offer flexible ticket options in light of the pandemic.

Using Grindr in Dubai: Are Gay Apps Allowed?

Gay men do interact on dating apps in Dubai, typically via a VPN connection. You must use a VPN connection in order to access most gay dating apps in the UAE. This is because the government blocks gay apps from operating with a standard UAE IP address. 

Dubai gay meetup
Dubai gay meetup
Technically, gay apps in the UAE are not legal to use, but many LGBT people still do. You can find VPN apps on any application store. Make sure to download one before your trip in case it is not available once you get there. I recommend using NordVPN for a stable and reliable VPN connection.
gay events dubai

Using gay apps like Grindr or Scruff in Dubai is done at your own risk. It is not uncommon to use these apps. In fact, there are many profiles. You must be vigilant with your use, however. Be careful about who you give personal information to or who you meet. 

gay dating apps Dubai
UAE gay things to do
UAE gay things to do

Never disclose your address or give specific details about your location until you feel you have fully vetted the individual. You should be able to tell if the other individual is an ex-pat, or is giving off sketchy vibes. There are hundreds of international gay expats living in Dubai. 

Also, keep in mind that there are many escorts trolling Grindr in Dubai. Don’t mistake conversations with these profiles as authentic. If you do decide to meet someone on a gay application, make sure you’ve completely vetted them. Always meet in a public place, too. 

Dubai Cultural Travel Tips

It’s imperative that women always wear clothing that completely covers the body from knees to shoulders while outside of your hotel. While you technically can get away with showing skin, women who show too much attract harsh stares. It will be a very uncomfortable experience, especially after dark. I have seen it happen to both friends of mine as well as other women walking on the street.

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resorts in dubai
gay travel tomosque Abu Dhabi
A lifeguard in the pool of my hotel shouted for a straight couple to please swim separately. They take this seriously as its part of their culture. Appropriate conduct, especially in relation to consuming alcohol, is important. Appearing intoxicated out on the sidewalk or in other public areas is asking for a lot trouble, so be responsible!
resorts in dubai

Local Dubai Men Holding Hands

During this first trip to Dubai (when I was 21), I encountered one of the most shocking cultural phenomenons of my life up to that date. In the Mall of the Emirates, two traditionally dressed Arab men passed by while holding hands. My initial reaction? JOEY! LOOK! Mouth dropping open, Joey responded with his classic wide-eyed gasping face while covering his mouth.

Gay Dubai safety concerns
Dubai gay tourist safety
Gay Dubai safety concerns
Little did I know, two men holding hands is a symbol of friendship in the Arab culture. It is a quite beautiful way of expressing a bond among the same sex. This is not to say that westerners should join suit, but I must say this was remarkable to me. I had no idea.
Dubai marina

Don’t be Nervous! Dubai is Awesome.

Aside from these precautions, Dubai is an amazing city that very much welcomes millions of tourists every year. Some parts of this guide may have you a bit nervous. It is understandable. Relax, follow the cultural guidelines and you will be fine. Always of course check with your local government’s travel guidelines.

skyline of Dubai

Many travelers feel much more at ease booking travel to unfamiliar countries when they insure their trip. A provider like Travelex Insurance can offer protection in case of medical issues abroad, theft and even delays or cancellation of your trip! They have multiple plan tiers starting at $20.

For the Americans, don’t forget to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Many flights connect in Dubai, so a one-day stopover is doable. If you’ve enjoyed this Dubai gay travel guide, share with a friend!

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Also visiting Abu Dhabi? Read the Abu Dhabi Gay Travel Guide. If you have more time on the road, read the Kuwait City Gay Travel Guide.

Need more ideas for gay vacations? Explore wolfyy’s full list of gay travel destinations.

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