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Dubai Gay Travel

Is Dubai safe for gay travelers? Have doubts about visiting? Read on for answers to all your Dubai gay travel questions! Discover Dubai gay parties, LGBT safety and how gay tourists should behave.

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Is Dubai Safe for Gay Tourists? The Gay Travel Experience

Do an internet search for Dubai gay travel and you’ll certainly understand why many gay travelers are unsure if they should go to Dubai. 

gay dating apps Dubai

On one hand you learn about prostitution and “underground” gay party scenes, while on the other hand you hear about gay tourists getting arrested for holding hands in public. It’s easy to see why everyone is so confused!

Dubai gay life
In this Dubai gay travel guide, my goal is to help you navigate the confusing available information and reassure you that gay travel to Dubai is not only possible, but thrilling.

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.
gay ally dubai LGBT
gay tourist visit UAE
Dubai gay life

Knowing the Middle East generally is very conservative, my natural first thoughts were “I wonder if everything is going to go smoothly. I don’t exactly feel 100% comfortable being a gay guy in a conservative country in the Middle East. I have heard some bad stories.”

gay travel to old Dubai

Should we hide our “Interested in” Facebook sexual preferences? Should we delete our Grindr before going to Dubai? These were questions my roommate and I were pondering before our journey.

Dubai gay tourist safety
Some anxiety was quelled by the fact that my gay roommate and I were traveling under the wing of my university. Even still, most of the trip we were on our own. We were as cautious as possible, being two gay Americans traveling to the UAE.
Dubai gay tourist safety
Gay Dubai safety concerns

The precautions I’ll mention in this guide may seem to be a bit over the top. However, in an area of the world without any gay rights, it is best to refrain from engaging in behaviors that may get you in trouble. Dubai is completely safe for gay tourists, as long as you follow some specific guidelines.

gay tourist visit UAE
In the next few sections, I’ll get into more detail about being a gay traveler in the UAE. You can find answers to many common Dubai gay travel questions here. Overall, I believe that if you dont do anything risky and are not looking for trouble, you will not find it. Aside from that, I truly had the time of my life!

What’s it Like for Gay Tourists in Dubai?

My good friend Joey and I were roommates the entire journey. It felt amazing to have a gay travel companion for this trip, because I was culture shooketh! All the opulent attractions in Dubai kept us plenty busy. No… two well-dressed gay men did not attract any negative attention; we expressed ourselves freely and wore the clothes that we wanted.
Gay visitor to Dubai
Gay visitor to Dubai
Dubai marina

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. Of course, there were always looming thoughts about potential dangers, but I stuck to the rules and respected the local culture.

Gay Dubai safety concerns
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 didn’t feel as though we were being watched or anything. It was probably a result of knowing we were in a place where we were not legally allowed to be ourselves, even though we weren’t doing anything against cultural norms.
gay travel Dubai
gay ally dubai LGBT
gay events dubai

A Shocking Cultural Lesson

During this first trip to Dubai (when I was 20), 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.

dubai gay friendly
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.

I want to visit Dubai with my boyfriend. Is this an issue?

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 friendly hotel 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.
resorts in dubai
dubai gay friendly
resorts in dubai
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.

Using Grindr in Dubai: Are Gay Apps Allowed?

Gay men do interact on dating apps in Dubai. They do this via a VPN connection. You must use a VPN connection in order to access gay dating apps in the UAE because the government blocks them. Technically, gay apps in the UAE are not legal to use. You can find VPN apps on any App Store. Download before your trip.

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. Never disclose your address or give specific details about your location until you feel you have fully vetted the individual.
gay dating apps Dubai
UAE gay things to do
UAE gay things to do

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.

Dubai marina
If you do go so far as to meet someone on Grindr, make sure you’ve completely vetted them and always meet in a public place. For Dubai travel tips regarding local culture and UAE gay life, check the final two sections of this guide!

Gay Dubai: Where to Stay

I stayed at the CityMax hotel near the Mall of the Emirates on Al Barsha Road. It’s conveniently located near the Mall of the Emirates which has a nearby food court for quick meals.

skyline of Dubai
For those on a budget, check out the Flor Al Barsha or Auris Boutique Hotel. If you’ve got hard earned money saved, then check out One & Only The Palm or Jumeirah Dar al Masyaf.

Dubai Experiences for the Gay Traveler

Absolutely go to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa. 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.

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

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.
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Dubai Gay Bars & Parties

You probably could have guessed there are no official Dubai gay bars. Although many western expats live in this city, there are no gay-specific establishments. Gay locals do frequent some monthly or bi-weekly parties.

gay life Dubai travel
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.
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.

Even though some bars and clubs may be gay-friendly, that does not mean it is ok to act any differently than you would on the street. Gay men and transexual individuals have been detained and prosecuted in Dubai before, even for something as small as touching another man’s hip. All the same rules apply in Dubai gay-friendly bars.

More Dubai Nightlife

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.

dubai bars
Ruya Dubai is located near the Grosvenor House Hotel and the end of the marina strip. 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 best hotels LGBT friendly
marina boat ride Dubai
dubai best hotels LGBT friendly
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.

marina boat ride 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.
spice market in old dubai
spice market in old dubai
dubai skyline

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.

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.

UAE Cultural Tips

It is imperative for women to always wear clothing that completely covers the body from knees to shoulders while outside of your hotel. While you technically can get away with this, women who show too much skin attract harsh stares. It will be a very uncomfortable experience. I have seen it happen.
gay travel tomosque Abu Dhabi
sheikh Zayed mosque ceiling dome
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!

Don’t be Nervous!

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.

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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In 2018, I quit my job to travel the world. My mission is to provide authentic, local gay travel information to gay travelers everywhere.

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