Dubai is one of the undisputed jewels of the Middle East and is a country we consider to be a bucket list item for serious travelers. But knowing when to visit Dubai is crucial to enjoying your trip and avoiding wasting money (it’s expensive, after all).
You’ll also want to keep local customs and traditions in mind as you navigate the new landscape. We’ll help you learn when it’s best to go, what to do when you’re there, and how to avoid both crowds and sweltering weather.
If you’ve been on the fence about or are reluctant to visit Dubai, this guide will help you make an informed decision and maximize your time there. So let us help you to have the vacation of your dreams in amazing Dubai.
Why You Should Visit Dubai
Dubai is one of the top places to visit in the Arabian desert. It’s a lovely, cosmopolitan city full of charm and plenty of things to do; it also has countless outdoor activities and sports for the adventurous traveler to enjoy.
Although Dubai can be sweltering hot during the summer, it does cool off during the winter months, and shoulder season, so you can explore both indoor and outdoor things to do.
Dubai has some distinctive architecture, including sky-high buildings and excellent infrastructure. If you love photography, you’ll want to score some snaps of Dubai’s incredible skyline rising above the desert.
It also has an astonishing marina and tons of shopping opportunities at its sprawling mega-malls. There’s no doubt that you’ll return home with some fabulous souvenirs. Shopping is just one thing on the agenda in Dubai.
There’s also an artificial ski slope right in the heart of the desert and a great food scene. You can find plenty of traditional Arabic foods, plus Persian and Japanese cuisine. If you love beaches, there are plenty of those to luxuriate on – indeed, Dubai has it all.
Overall Best Time to Visit Dubai
If you want to spend some time outside, it’s good to avoid Dubai during the summer. The so-called “shoulder season,” or the time between peak and off-peak seasons, is a great time to spend a week or two in Dubai.
April and September tend to be excellent months with seasonably good weather and reasonably-priced plane tickets. You’ll still be able to spend time on Dubai’s beaches and enjoy the sunshine, but you won’t get heat exhaustion from a simple walk outside.
The summer months between May and August tend to be extremely hot in Dubai, although there are still indoor things to do. The malls are air-conditioned and packed during the summer, and you can still have an excellent time.
Winter is the coolest time in Dubai, but it’s still relatively warm. Many people visit during the winter months, so you might have to compete with crowds for major attractions. As a result, many people prefer to visit during the shoulder season.
Cheapest Time to Visit Dubai
Although summers are hot in Dubai, they are the cheapest time to visit the country. According to Skyscanner, June is the least expensive month to fly there. You can also find plenty of deals on accommodations and discounted prices on tourist activities during the summer.
If you opt to visit Dubai during the summer, be prepared for massive heat waves. It’s a good idea to plan plenty of indoor activities and avoid being outside as much as possible.
However, if you’re interested in doing a lot of shopping or enjoying in Dubai’s famous food scene, the summer months might be the best time for you. If possible, have flexible dates for travel.
You can generally use apps like Skyscanner and Google Flights to search within a date range. Flights with multiple legs or layovers also tend to be less expensive. Book your accommodation well in advance for the best rates.
Least Busy Time to Visit Dubai
While summer is the least busy time to visit Dubai, you can also avoid crowds by traveling during religious holidays. For example, Ramadan, which goes between April and May, tends to be reasonably quiet in Dubai.
Remember that Dubai is a religious city, so observing customs during highly religious times like Ramadan is even more essential. Although Ramadan itself is a less busy time to visit Dubai, Eid al Fitr, which comes at the end of Ramadan, can get very busy.
Eid lasts for three days and is a celebratory time when many people will be out and about in Dubai. On the other hand, it could be fun to observe an authentic Eid al Fitr for yourself.
Although the summer months are far less busy, you still might run into crowds at night when the sunsets. Dubai’s nightlife tends to be reasonably robust at any time of the year.
Worst Time to Visit Dubai
The worst time to visit Dubai depends on what you want to do when you’re there. If you’re participating in outdoor activities and don’t like the heat, avoid visiting Dubai during the summer or even late spring and early fall.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer to spend a lot of your vacation indoors, you can certainly take advantage of summertime deals. Avoid the winter months when hotels and excursions go up if you want to save some money.
Reasons to travel during the winter:
- You can partake in outdoor activities as it’s much cooler
- There are more things to do
- All indoor activities are still open
Reasons to travel during the summer:
- It’s more cost-effective
- Indoor attractions, including malls, are open
- You can still visit the desert and go out in the evenings
Things to Consider
Although Dubai is a cosmopolitan city, it’s still a highly religious place. There are several things that you need to keep in mind when you visit. These tips and tricks will help you make the most of your time in Dubai and avoid any cultural miscommunications.
- Be very mindful about your alcohol consumption; while alcohol is legal for tourists, being publicly drunk is a big no-no.
- Don’t be too affectionate with your significant other in public.
- Understand and respect local traditions and customs, even if you disagree.
- Avoid smoking, drinking, or eating in front of local people during Ramadan.
- Dress conservatively, especially if you’re a woman.
- Don’t photograph local people without their permission.
- If you think the service is good, make sure that you tip.
- Learn a few basic Arabic phrases like “hello” and “thank you.”
- Book your hotels and flights in advance.
- Leave beach attire on the beach.
A little bit of respect certainly does go a long way, and keeping these tips in mind will help you remain respectful of your hosts while still having a fantastic time.
Frequently Asked Questions
These frequently asked questions and their answers will help you make the most of your time in Dubai.
Can you eat pork in Dubai?
In a short answer, yes, you can eat pork in Dubai if you’re not a Muslim. Although you might not see pork readily available at every shop, and certainly not in much street food, you can find it at bigger supermarkets.
You can also ask your hotel where you can find pork products, and many larger international hotels have in-house menus that feature pork.
Is Dubai family-friendly?
Dubai is highly family-friendly and a great spot to go if you’re craving a little bit of beach and fun in the sun without dealing with people who are partying. Since excessive alcohol consumption is frowned upon, even for tourists, you’re less likely to find a “party” vibe in Dubai.
Also, there are tons of family-friendly things to do right in the city’s heart. The city has a fantastic aquarium, LEGOLAND, and tons of outdoor attractions like sandboarding in the desert.
Will people speak English?
Although you should be polite and learn a few essential words and phrases in Arabic, the vast majority of people who you come across will speak English.
This fact is especially true for those working in the tourist industry. If you travel outside of the city, you might have a bit more of a problem, but generally, you should be able to get by with a few phrases and your standard English.
What money do they use in Dubai?
The local currency is the dirham, although you may discover that you can use U.S. dollars in plenty of tourist places. It’s good to have a little bit of both on hand just in case.
You can also use internationally recognized credit cards like Visa and Mastercard, although you might need physical currency for markets and street vendors.
To be safe, leave some of your cash in your hotel safe and only take what you really need. Although Dubai is a very safe city, there is still some petty crime. So watch your wallet or purse in densely crowded areas and use discretion.
Can I drink in Dubai?
The short answer is yes; you can drink in Dubai, although you should avoid being visibly drunk in public. Practicing, devout Muslims don’t drink alcohol, although Dubai understands that as a tourist destination, it should provide some kind of libation for those who want them.
If you’re staying in an international hotel, there’s almost certainly a bar there. Under no circumstances should you drink and drive in Dubai. The fines for driving under the influence are very steep and pertain to tourists.
Dubai has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving, so if you’re going to sip on a boozy beverage, make sure that you do it in your hotel or a legal bar.
These additional tips will allow you to enjoy your vacation in Dubai, have a cocktail or two, and maintain proper respect for your hosts:
- Only people 21 years or older can drink in Dubai – don’t give alcohol to minors
- Don’t drink on the street or at a non-licensed place
- If a restaurant has signs that say “family” or “dry,” it does not serve alcohol
- Alcohol is expensive in Dubai – you’ll pay about three times what you would in the U.S.
- Never get drunk in public
- Don’t pressure a non-drinker or devout Muslim into having a drink with you
When you’re in Dubai, it’s best to walk the line between having a good time and respecting the culture. These tips will help you to do both.
How can I get around inside the Country?
Dubai has a fantastic infrastructure, so there are plenty of ways to get around right inside the country itself. One of the best ways to do it is through public transportation. There are both local buses and sightseeing tours that show you the best of the city.
These tours are outstanding during the summer months when you can see significant parts of Dubai without walking around. Taxis are abundant right in the center of Dubai too.
You can even talk to your hotel to figure out how to negotiate a taxi trip outside the city if you’d like. There are many additional ways to get around, such as private or guided tours and Dubai’s famous water taxis.
What should I wear in Dubai?
Dubai is a conservative place, so you should always err on the side of dressing a little bit more covered up than you usually would. Tourists get a slight pass, especially in more beachy areas, but you still should be respectful.
String bikinis or daisy dukes for women or speedos for men are not allowed. If you’re a woman, avoid showing off too much skin. Don’t wear spaghetti straps or plunging necklines, and try to keep your shorts or skirts below the knee.
If it’s very hot, you can wear lighter-colored airier fabrics that allow your skin to breathe while still staying appropriately covered. Men have a little bit more leeway, but not much.
Men can wear shorts, although they should be to the knee, and avoid going shirtless anywhere but the beach. You should avoid Tee-shirts or clothing with rude sayings, swear words, or sexual innuendos completely, even if they’re in English.
Many common vulgar phrases are well-known worldwide, and you could insult local people without meaning to.
Dubai is an easygoing, fun city with a few rules that you should follow. So keep these frequently asked questions and answers in mind, and it will be smooth sailing for you and your family when you visit beautiful Dubai.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Dubai?
If you’ve never considered visiting Dubai, what are you waiting for? It’s a great place to see the desert, get some incredible shopping done, and experience a new culture. Planning your vacation strategically is the key to success.
The best time to visit Dubai comes down to your preferences. If you’re interested in a more economical vacation and want to spend a lot of time indoors, go for the summer. If you’re going to see the desert during the day, plan your trip for the winter months.