Explore Gay Dubai.

Gay Dubai.

What's it really like?

Glamorous, glitzy, futuristic Dubai is one of the first places that come to mind when you think “luxury travel”. This is the playground of the rich and famous, the stuff of A-list Instagram feeds and over-the-top excess, home to some of the best bars, clubs, restaurants, and shopping malls in the world.

With credentials like these, it’s no wonder that so many gay travelers want to get in on some of the action. However, there is a huge contradiction at the heart of Dubai’s party lifestyle, one which makes this a challenging destination for some LGBTQ+ travelers.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an extremely conservative Muslim country, with strict rules around drinking, dress, and public behavior. Homosexuality is illegal, extremely taboo, and punishable by prison. All visitors, gay and straight, have to be careful in public areas – public displays of affection, public drunkenness, and skimpy clothing are a no-no no matter who you are. That said, due to strong anti-gay sentiment by authorities, gay travelers have reason to be even more cautious.

So how does Dubai manage to be one of the wildest party destinations on earth, and also follow these rules? In one word, discretion. Visitors have to be alert to social norms and rules when in public spaces, such as malls and public beaches, but can let loose in private venues.

There are no gay bars or clubs here – although there are many gay-popular spots. Gay parties are private, discreet affairs, usually organized through word-of-mouth and dating apps. Downloading Grindr (and a VPN to protect your privacy) is your best way to find out about gay parties happening in town, usually held in international hotels. Police raids on these parties are not unheard of, so keep your wits about you – dance, drink, and be merry, but keep all PDA for your private hotel room.

Of course, there’s also all of daytime Dubai to explore. Spend a day getting lost in the Dubai Mall, one of the biggest in the world, enjoy a tasting menu at a world-class restaurant, take in the futuristic skyline in a helicopter tour, or just simply soak in the sun at Jumeirah Beach – just bear in mind that beachwear is only allowed in certain areas.

If you get tired of the gleaming skyscrapers and luxury stores, there are still pockets of traditional Emirati culture to enjoy in the busy souks of Deira and the old streets of Al Bastakiya. You can even spend the night in the desert among sand dunes and stars.

Dubai is not for everyone – what is exciting, glamorous and aspirational for some is vapid and hollow to others. However, if you are in the first camp, it’s not to be missed. Do your research, use common sense, and dress up nice  – you’re set for a trip unlike any other.

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Dubai's Gay-Friendly Hotels

Dubai is internationally renowned as a luxury travel destination, meaning that the four and five-star hotels here are among some of the best in the world. For many, a stay in a luxury hotel with Insta-worthy views of the skyline is simply an essential part of the Dubai experience. However, these stays can be very pricey, so for those wishing to save some money, there are some amazing mid-range and budget options available, including stylish apartments and cool hostels.

10 Best Gay-Friendly Hotels in Dubai

HOT LIST

Dubai's Most Luxurious Hotels

Gays and the Law

Homosexuality is illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and considered a taboo. The UAE has a strict legal system based on Islamic law, which criminalizes same-sex relationships. The punishment for homosexual acts can range from imprisonment to deportation, depending on the severity of the offense.

As a result, there are no legal protections for LGBTQ+ people in Dubai, and they may face discrimination and harassment in various aspects of their lives, including employment, housing, and social interactions. Additionally, same-sex marriages are not recognized in the UAE, and same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt children.

While there is a culture of turning a blind eye to the behavior of tourists in most hotels, bars, and clubs aimed at Westerners – after all, Dubai very much wants the money that international tourism brings – it is still advised for gay travelers to err on the side of caution. That means keeping all PDA to your private hotel room, even when invited to a gay party.

Unsurprisingly, there are no free HIV clinics in Dubai. HIV tests are available at various private clinics across the city, all of which will have English-speaking service (remember, the population of Dubai is over 90% expats). These private services are likely to be very pricey, like everything else in the city, so depending on your travel timeline you may want to wait until you have access to free or cheap testing somewhere else.

Dubai has a lot to offer and, despite what many think, it’s not all gleaming skyscrapers and man-made islands – although there is a fair amount of that. The city is best enjoyed by taking in both sides: the glitzy modern metropolis and the ancient streets and bazaars of the fishing village it once was.

Downtown Dubai is home to the iconic Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall, and offers a dizzying array of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. It’s also where Dubai Airport is, meaning transport into the city is a cinch.

Along the waterfront, you’ll find the luxurious Dubai Marina, lined with luxury superyachts, as well as Jumeirah, known for its beautiful beaches such as the popular Jumeirah Beach and for  the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, which juts out like a sail from the city skyline. Nearby is the iconic Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island shaped like a palm tree containing some of the city’s most OTT resorts.

The historic Al Fahidi district, also known as Bastakiya, features traditional architecture and a maze of narrow streets with cafés, art galleries, and museums. Meanwhile, the old city of Deira, sitting next to Downtown, is known for its bustling souks, including the famous Gold Souk and Spice Souk, where you can experience Middle Eastern market culture. These older areas are often missed by tourists keen on experiencing the glitz and glam of Dubai, but are definitely worth exploring.

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