Travel Etiquette 101: United Arab Emirates

by Emma Hackwood
Dubai Burj Al Arab

After being inspired by Sepideh’s time in the UAE, we asked our Etiquette Guru to shed some light on the Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to visiting this beautiful country. From how to dress, to proper food etiquette, Adam shares his tips: 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven Middle Eastern ‘sheikhdoms’ or states, which borders Saudi Arabia and Oman. Located on the Persian Gulf, the UAE is renowned for its hot climate, beautiful beaches, record breaking buildings and duty-free shopping opportunities. The country is continually developing and attracting more travellers’ interest as a destination.

When meeting and greeting each other in the UAE, men will shake hands. Make sure you greet each man individually. Here handshakes should be gentle with a smile and eye contact. Only shake hands with a woman if she offers her hand first. In more relaxed situations, women will kiss each other on the cheek.

Tourists in the UAE, unless inside a holiday resort, should dress moderately. Men should avoid walking around topless or wearing shorts or sleeveless tops. Men when packing for your trip, pack long, light, cotton trousers as well as T-shirts and shirts.


For the women, the proper etiquette is to cover up as much as possible. Leave your skimpy tops and short skirts at home as these do not fit within local etiquette guidelines. Tops should cover your shoulders and the tops of your arms. In public wear loose fitting pants and long skirts. These standards are extremely important if you intend on visiting a mosque. Remember also, that the proper etiquette is to remove your shoes before you enter a mosque as not doing so would be regarded as extremely rude, offensive and ignorant.

Speaking of mosques you should never enter a mosque without first being given permission. When observing the happenings it is rude to stare at someone praying and do not walk in front of them or step on prayer mat.


When it comes to dining it is best to follow your host’s lead. Always eat with just your right hand as the left hand is considered unclean. If you are using utensils, after you have finished the meal leave them facing upwards in the centre of your plate. Most UAE nationals do not drink alcohol so be wary who you offer it to. If you just need a quick snack while you are exploring the city, do not eat, drink or smoke in public during Ramadan.

When sitting keep your feet firmly on the ground and do not cross your legs. Do not show the soles of your feet or shoes. People here consider this gesture as implying that you take the other person as equivalent to ‘dirt’.

With all the magnificent sights to see it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the happenings around you. As long as you keep in mind your actions, you can be confident you won’t become an unattractive sight to see.


Looking for more information on travelling in the UAE or need assistance planning your next trip? Contact a Travel Consultant at 1-877-967-5302 or visit your closest store.