Dubai Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Dubai gay travel guide to hotels, things to do, LGBT safety, bars, & using Grindr in Dubai.
The Gay Travel Experience: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Searching for Dubai gay travel information online, it’s easy to understand why so many travelers are unsure about visiting. 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.
I never felt in danger as a gay tourist in Dubai. However, there is always the lingering reality that you must monitor and censor your actions here, especially in a country where being gay is illegal. And this brings us to the next topic: local safety!
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 about 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.
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.
Al Barsha is a great central neighborhood to book a hotel. The Mall of the Emirates and some grocery stores are conveniently nearby.
For more options browse these highly-rated Dubai hotels on Booking.
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.
More Popular Dubai Hotels
Here are a few more fantastic hotels in Dubai that are highly rated, affordable, and stylish.
Dubai Gay Travel Experiences
Climb 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.
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, too.
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!
Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark
Beat the afternoon heat with a trip to Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark—the largest waterpark in the entire world!
The park is liberal and relaxed, mostly filled with westerners. Women can wear western bathing suits without any issue. Aquaventure tickets also give you access to a private beach with views of Dubai’s skyline.
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.
Iran Zamin is a fantastic Persian restaurant in the Dubai Marina that I recommend for dinner. If you’re into exploring different types of Middle Eastern cuisine, this is the perfect place.
Dubai's Red Sand Dunes
Exploring the red sand dunes of the Lahbab Desert outside of Dubai is one of the most popular and picturesque experiences for visitors. There are a bunch of ways to experience them, too!
Top-rated red dune tours provide various options for ways to take in the scenery in addition to an air-conditioned desert safari ride. Once you reach the dunes, you can choose from activities like camel caravans, sandboarding, and all-terrain vehicles.
Longer tours will include dinner, some evening entertainment, and even a chance for some stargazing.
Half-day dune tours are better if you prefer a shorter experience without the meal component. They also tend to be much cheaper.
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
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 the few Dubai 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.
Dubai Gay Life
Long story short…Dubai gay life is not easy. Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE and LGBTQ+ individuals have no rights whatsoever.
Dubai’s authorities will certainly not tolerate gay public displays of affection, so remember that 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 Dubai gay locals living in this glitzy metropolis.
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’ll need to use a VPN connection to access gay dating apps in the UAE though, since the government blocks them.
I use NordVPN 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.
Especially for travelers, there are tons of benefits of using a VPN. Make sure to download one before your trip in case it’s not available once you get there.
Using gay apps like Scruff or Grindr in Dubai is done at your own risk. It’s not uncommon to use these apps. In fact, there are many profiles.
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.
Connect with other gay travelers! → Join wolfyy’s Gay Travel Talk Facebook group.
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.
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’s 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 welcomes millions of tourists every year. Some parts of this guide may have you a bit nervous, which is completely understandable.
Relax, follow the cultural and safety guidelines, and you will be fine.
Next, explore more of the UAE with wolfyy’s Abu Dhabi gay guide.
Or, if you have more time to spend in the Middle East, consider a trip to Kuwait City.
For more inspiration, explore wolfyy’s full collection of gay travel guides.