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.
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?
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 Safety: Common Worries
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Dubai Gay Bars & Nightlife
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!