Dubai Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Dubai gay travel guide to hotels, things to do, bars, LGBT safety, and using Grindr in Dubai.
The Gay Travel Experience: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Searching for Dubai gay travel information online, it’s easy understand why many gay travelers are unsure if they should go to Dubai. Some websites talk about massive sweaty gay parties, while others mention LGBT tourists going to jail for holding hands in public.
So, what’s gay travel to Dubai really like?
In this guide, I’ll help you navigate all the confusing information about gay travel to Dubai, cover essential safety tips, and mention some of the best hotels and local things to do.
Being Gay in Dubai: What's it Like for Tourists?
Dubai specifically is much less conservative than other cities in the Emirates, like Abu Dhabi. The city wants to further an image of being more socially liberal and doesn’t exactly like being labeled as anti-gay.
Dubai even recently eased various laws pertaining to things like alcohol, marriage and sexual harassment in an effort to be as progressive as other major world cities.
I never felt in danger as a gay tourist in Dubai. However, there is certainly a feeling that you must monitor and censor your actions as a gay tourist here, especially in a country where being gay is illegal and grounds for imprisonment.
I was definitely cognizant of potential safety issues (which I’ll cover in the next section), but got along fine playing it safe and respectfully obeying cultural rules.
Dubai Gay Travel Safety
The week before my first trip to Dubai, I was excited yet nervous. At the time, I was pretty worried about being whether I’d be safe as a gay tourist in Dubai.
Knowing the Middle East is generally conservative, gay travelers might not feel completely comfortable with the idea of visiting Dubai. Many ponder safety precautions like deleting their gay apps or removing personal details from social media. It’s quite understandable and I wondered these things myself!
LGBT travelers visit Dubai all the time, though. It’s completely safe as long as you follow some specific guidelines.
It’s best to avoid doing anything that may reveal the fact that you’re LGBTQ+, avoid any overt touching displays of affection toward someone of the same sex, and avoid kissing anyone at all (which is only allowed between married men and women).
Is it Safe for Gay Couples to Travel to Dubai?
Dubai is relatively liberal compared to other places in the Middle East, but LGBT people do not have any rights at all. Gay couples can still safely travel to Dubai though, even if married.
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.
Just as in 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.
With that in mind, gay couples visiting Dubai should book a room with two individual beds. This avoids any confusion at hotel check-in.
As an alternative strategy, you can always book a single bed and hope the hotel staff doesn’t mention anything about it. In this situation you would just need to have some sort of response prepared if they do ask!
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.
While you won’t find any specifically gay hotels in Dubai, choosing one of the larger international hotel chains will have a big impact on your sense of safety as an LGBT traveler.
Both of these hotels are certain to adhere to international standards, so I’d classify them as some of Dubai’s gay-friendly hotels. However you definitely have other beautiful high-end options.
For more standard hotel ideas and options, browse this custom list of highly rated Dubai hotels. Overall, just remember to consider proximity to attractions on your list.
Al Barsha is a great central neighborhood to book a hotel. The Mall of the Emirates and some grocery stores are conveniently nearby.
Dubai Vacation Rentals
Good value is easily attainable when renting a vacation apartment in Dubai. You’ll be able to get a slice of local life too, since apartment rentals tend to be available in locations where it’s harder to find a hotel.
Dubai Marina VRBO rentals are stunning. I highly recommend browsing listings in this area. You’ll have convenient access to endless bars, restaurants and shopping.
Vacation rentals in downtown Dubai are another option, which are also affordable. Just south of the Burj Khalifa, you’ll find loads of luxurious places to stay with jaw-dropping views of Dubai’s skyline.
Things to Do in Dubai for Gay Travelers
Ascend the Burj Khalifa
Views from the Burj Khalifa Observation Deck are breathtaking. Climbing Dubai’s most iconic skyscraper is an absolute must. The sunnier the day, the better.
Purchasing Burj Khalifa tickets in advance is much more convenient. You’ll be able to skip the ticket line and go straight toward the security check.
Grab Ain Dubai tickets ahead of time since they sell out far in advance. You can’t beat the views from here!
Bluewaters Island also showcased a nightly synchronized drone show in 2021 that became incredibly popular. I hope they bring this back again soon!
Dubai Shopping Malls
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.
AURA SkyPool Lounge
AURA SkyPool is the world’s highest 360-degree infinity pool, where you can experience total luxury along with some epic views of Dubai.
Perched above The Palm Jumeirah, you can make reservations to experience the AURA sky pool for the entire day or choose from a morning or afternoon/sunset pass. They also host special evening events!
Dragon Mart Flea Market
Dragon Mart is a sort of “flea market” where you can find cheaper goods, It’s a nice change from the typical glamorous shopping, I stopped by here to pick up an extra duffel bag so I could store gifts and food I bought during my trip.
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.
The Dubai Marina
Stroll along the Dubai Marina once the temperatures outside cool down. The vibe is very calm and eating outside is popular, taking in the skyline of the super-tall towers. Locals and tourists wonderfully mix here. After dinner, try some flavored shisha.
Visit Old Dubai
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 spice 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 should be incredibly skeptical when browsing misleading lists of Dubai gay bars, you can still have a fantastic time enjoying the city’s nightlife.
The gay nightlife scene in Dubai is in fact underground. Ryan Centner’s fantastic exposé on Dubai’s gay expat nightlife tells the story wonderfully. Gay locals in Dubai frequently change nightlife venues and they communicate about the subject extremely privately.
Gay Friendly Bars & Parties in Dubai
Gay locals have been known to frequent a few different parties that attract an open-minded crowd. Here are a few recommendations to try.
A party called Vibes by Madame Om is hosted every other Saturday at the Radisson Blu Dubai. Gay ex-pats and locals both typically attend.
Barbary Cocktail Club is another awesome spot known as one of Dubai’s gay bars, recommended by a friend of mine who lives in Dubai. Expect a dimly lit interior and chic vibes.
Barcode is a popular gay party spot in Dubai. While Barcode is not officially a Dubai gay club, the space is frequented by many 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 seemingly harmless gestures. All of the same rules should apply in nightlife venues as they would on the street.
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Dubai Cocktail Bars
Ruya Dubai‘s custom cocktail bar is one of the most beautiful bars I’ve ever visited. They’re located at the end of the marina strip near the Grosvenor House Hotel.
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 drink, stock up at the airport’s Duty Free store.
Dubai Gay Life
Remember that homosexuality is illegal in the UAE. LGBT people also have no rights whatsoever, and Dubai’s 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.
But if you’ve ever met a male flight attendant that works for Emirates, they’ll tell you about all the gay men living in Dubai. In such a large international city, some level of gay life must exist, right? Gay life in Dubai though, is well-hidden.
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 being overly cautious.
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 (like NordVPN) 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. I use NordVPN myself, which makes it possible to download and use restricted apps and websites.
Technically, gay apps in the UAE are not legal to use, but many LGBT people still do. Especially for travelers, there are tons of benefits of using a VPN. Make sure to download one before your trip in case it is not available once you get there.
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 giving off questionable vibes.
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 Gay Travel Tips
Bringing PrEP & Other Medications into Dubai
All travelers entering Dubai or anywhere else in the UAE should have a record of any prescription medication they are currently taking.
Traveling to Dubai with PrEP, PEP, or any other pre or post-exposure prophylaxis medication is not recommended. If you can go without these, it’s best to leave them at home.
While the government does not specifically prohibit travelers from bringing these medications into the country, you may be subject to scrutiny or face other unforeseen consequences if they are questioned.
Prepare for the Heat
Dubai’s heat and humidity will definitely make you sweat. When exploring during the day, I can’t live without these cleansing skin wipes, especially because they have an exfoliating side that helps wipe away dirt.
Consider Travel Insurance
Getting travel insurance coverage before visiting Dubai can come in extremely handy. Trip cancellation protection, lost-baggage coverage, travel delay reimbursements and medical coverage abroad are just a few reasons why you should always have some sort of insurance policy.
Travelex Insurance is one of the easiest providers to use. Their website gives you an immediate quote based on your age, trip cost and a few other factors. They then offer plans in several price tiers.
Alternatively, you can shop among the quotes from a whole bunch of different providers using a travel insurance marketplace service like Aardy.
UAE 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.
A lifeguard in the pool of my hotel shouted for a straight couple to please swim separately. They take this seriously as it’s 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 of trouble, so be responsible!
Local Dubai Men Holding Hands
During my first trip to Dubai, I encountered one of the most interesting 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.
Little did I know, two men holding hands is a symbol of affection/friendship in Arab culture. It is a quite beautiful way of expressing a bond among the same sex. This is not to say that westerners should follow suit, but I must say this was remarkable to me. I had no idea at the time.
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.
If you’re headed to the UAE, I suggest comparing airlines with Expedia. You can filter not only by airline but also according to how much luggage you’ll bring.
Many flights connect in Dubai, so a one-day stopover is doable. If you’ve enjoyed this Dubai gay travel guide, share it with a friend!