When traveling to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it is vital to understand the customs and etiquette.

As a female traveler, you must also know which customs and etiquette apply to you because of your gender. Read on to learn about the social customs and etiquette every female traveler should know.

Background on UAE

The UAE has long been a hub for trading, communication, and cross-cultural interaction. Situated between India, Persia, and the Middle East, the location of the UAE has historically lent itself to economic advancement and relations across national and ethnic identities.

In 1971, the region won independence from the British. At present, the UAE has a population of approximately 9,282,410 people. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and Dubai is its largest city.

Tourism is one of the UAE’s most robust industries. The largest city of Dubai is the most popular destination for tourists in the Middle East and the fifth most popular tourist destination in the world.

Given the UAE’s investments in the tourism industry, it is no wonder you are considering a trip to the country!

Honoring Social Customs and Etiquette

When traveling internationally, it is always important to honor the social customs and etiquette of the region. As a female traveler, there are particular social customs and etiquette with which you should be familiar.

Customs for Dress

One of the first things to understand about UAE customs and etiquette is how you should dress for your trip. Indeed, you should know these customs and etiquette before departing so you can pack for your trip in an informed way.

Women traveling to the UAE should dress modestly. Keeping the expected weather in mind, plan to pack your most modest garments for your trip. Be sure to keep thighs and shoulders covered and do not wear excessively tight clothes.

There are a couple of exceptions to modest dress etiquette in the UAE. First, you can wear your regular bathing suit or bikini when visiting the beach, but don’t keep it on when you leave.

Second, if visiting bars or nightclubs, you can wear the attire you would wear back home. However, you should still dress modestly in other public spaces, so bring something to cover your body (like a scarf or shawl) when traveling between nightlife spots.

While you will find beautiful cultural garments in the UAE, plan not to wear them during your trip. Emiratis find it distasteful and impolite for foreigners to dress in national clothes.

Occasionally, Emiratis may invite visitors to try on cultural garments as part of a tourism experience, like when on a safari in the desert. However, you should not wear these garments daily and out in public.

What Should I Wear During Ramadan?

The dressing code during Ramadan is similar to the above customs. You can still sunbathe in your bikini in designated areas, like a pool, but cover yourself as soon as you leave the area.

While out and about, put on a long skirt or loose trousers to cover your legs and make sure you bring a shawl.

Etiquette When Interacting With People

Emiratis pride themselves on being friendly and hospitable. For this reason, you may expect warm greetings from the Emiratis with whom you interact on your trip. While men often embrace and kiss during greetings, this is frowned upon for female travelers.

So, plan to use your words and facial expressions to communicate greetings while traveling in the UAE.

Female travelers can extend their hands for a handshake. However, be aware that if an Emirati man you greet is currently fasting (which is common during Ramadan), he will not be able to shake your hand.

Eating and Drinking in the UAE

The food you will find in the UAE is diverse and delicious, so plan to eat your fill. There are some unique customs when dining in the UAE.

First, always take plates, cups, or food items with your right hand. Emiratis consider it disrespectful to use your left hand.

If offered food or drink from an Emirate, plan to take it. Locals generally find it offensive when visitors or guests refuse food and drink. If you have a medical reason for refusing something, please explain this to your host and expect that they will understand.

Finally, always express appreciation for a meal or snack. Remember, Emiratis pride themselves on their hospitality. Letting them know how much you appreciate this is welcome and expected.

Honor and Embrace the Culture and Geography

One of the most vital customs you can follow in the UAE is to honor and embrace the culture and geography of the country. Plan to take in all the country has to offer. We encourage visitors to visit majlis, which are social and cultural spaces.

Plan to see the unique and beautiful nature you will find in the UAE, including the country’s gorgeous beaches, sandy deserts, and scenic hiking trails.

Finally, make your way around the country, visiting as many emirates as possible. You will get the most and show locals how much you honor the UAE when you travel throughout the country.

Many visitors remain in tourist destinations like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, missing so much the UAE has to offer. We encourage travelers to venture outside of these areas.

One of our favorite emirates to visit is Ras Al Khaimah. In Ras Al Khaimah, you will find that tourism and hospitality are growing, and there are ever more exciting things to do.

When in this emirate, visit the historical Dhayah Fort, the fascinating town of Al Jazirah Al Hamra, and the stunning Mangrove coastline.


The UAE is a rich, welcoming, and beautiful country. As with all travel, it is important to follow local customs and etiquette. For female travelers, we must know how those customs and etiquette uniquely apply to us.

By following the tips above about all social customs and etiquette every female traveler should know, you will be ready to have the best possible time in the UAE.

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