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Gay Dubai Guide 2019: safety tips, bars, clubs & hotels – LGBT travel Dubai

Gay Dubai Guide 2019: safety tips, bars, clubs & hotels – LGBT travel Dubai

Dubai is regarded as the Vegas of the Middle East. Just like Las Vegas, it's a loud, glitzy, super touristic and very modern city, with plenty of things to do. It's also a major transport hub, making it the perfect stopover to break up long trips.

We visited Dubai several times, mainly to visit some of our gay friends living there. Before visiting for our first time, we had serious concerns about our safety because of the harsh anti-gay laws. Despite this, we've always had a great time in Dubai, albeit taking extra care to avoid all public displays of affection.

In this article we set out our practical tips for gay travellers to Dubai, as well as information about the (underground) gay scene, best places to stay and things to do.

We explore whether Gay Dubai is safe for gay travellers
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Don't forget…

Gay dating apps such as Grindr or Scruff are blocked in Dubai. Before heading off, make sure you get a VPN which will not only give you full access to all your favourite apps and websites, which are otherwise blocked in the UAE, but you will also be surfing the Net anonymously.

Gay rights in Dubai

Being gay in Dubai is not easy. It is a massive taboo for society and not accepted. Homosexuality is illegal across the entire United Arab Emirates, punishable by death. As a slight silver lining, each Emirate also has its own legal system running alongside the UAE Federal law, and Dubai's are generally less severe. For example, in Dubai you will “only” be punished with imprisonment (and fine) instead of death.

We're not going to lie, being openly gay in Dubai is dangerous, whether you're a local or a foreigner. But for gay tourists to Dubai, you are unlikely to encounter any problems as long as you avoid all public displays of affection with the same sex. Previous arrests of gay tourists in Dubai happened as a result of public occurrences. For example, in 2008, a Lebanese/Bulgarian lesbian couple were arrested for kissing on a public beach. They were sentenced to 1 month imprisonment and subsequently deported.

Gay travel to Dubai

Whilst gay life in Dubai is hard, it shouldn't stop you visiting. It's a fascinating place, with one of the largest malls in the world, the highest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa), many excellent beaches, exciting busy traditional souks and even a 7 star hotel. It's also extremely safe with very low levels of crime. As a major transport hub, it's also a useful stop over for breaking up long trips.

Dubai has a reputation in the Arab world for being a liberal urban haven, largely because there is a large international expat population. For example, out of the total 9.5 million population, almost 8 million are expats mainly from South Asia, North America and Europe.

There are however, a few practical safety precautions that gay travellers to Dubai should take into account:

  • avoid all public displays of affection with people of the same sex
  • unless staying in a hotel you know welcomes gay travellers, book a room with 2 single beds (whether it is 2 queen beds or one king bed and a twin)
  • be careful with who you hang out with, especially when meeting people on Grindr
  • take care with what you post online before and during your trip, perhaps consider setting your social media channels to private if posting anything obviously gay
  • invest in a good VPN service so you can use the internet and the gay dating apps safely and anonymously

Gay bars in Dubai

Whilst homosexuality is a crime in Dubai, there still exists an active underground gay scene thanks to the large expat population. Remember, this is where over 20,000 flight attendants call home, so you know there's going to be a few raucous gay parties taking place somewhere…our advice is to use Grindr or Scruff to connect with locals/expats to find out exactly where!

In terms of outright gay bars in Dubai, there are none! There are however a handful of places which are liberal-minded, attract an international crowd and can therefore be regarded as being “gay friendly”:

  • Level 43 Sky Lounge: this was our favourite bar in Dubai. It's a large, trendy, blue-lit rooftop lounge. It is located 155m in the air on the 43rd floor of the Four Points by Sheraton hotel. The 360 degree views across the big city below are spectacular. It's the sort of place we felt comfortable to visit as a gay couple for a romantic cocktail, obviously cautious of avoiding public displays of affection!
  • Bar 44: really elegant and classy lounge, located on the top floor of the Grosvenor House. We love their cocktails and thought they are one of the best in Dubai. It gets busy around sunset, attracting quite a chic crowd.
  • Gold on 27: grab your wallet and all your bling and come hang out at this opulent gem! We discovered Gold on 27 after visiting the Burj Khalifa. It's located on the 27th floor of Dubai's star attraction (so that's around 200m high). People dress up and come here to be seen!
  • 101 Lounge and Bar: high end lounge bar with gorgeous views of the Dubai Marina. They do good tapas and cocktails here, which are a bit on the pricey side! We recommend their ceviche and fois gras, which are delicious! To reach the 101 Lounge, you need to take a short boat ride from the the Jetty Lounge.
  • Pure Sky Lounge: one of our favourite bars in Dubai for brunch on weekends. It is located on the 35th floor of the Hilton Dubai The Walk Hotel, with impressive views over the Palm Jumeirah and the Arabian Gulf. Sunset is the best time to come, not only for the views, but also for the daily 6-8pm Happy Hour.

Gay Clubs in Dubai

Gay parties in Dubai are usually only publicised via social media and word of mouth. Grindr is your best starting point for researching them. The following are the main gay clubs in Dubai to check out, which may either host a gay event during the week, or will have a relaxed and liberal atmosphere. Just remember, always avoid public displays of affection to be on the safe side!

  • Barcode Dubai: one of the most famous unofficial gay clubs in Dubai. Every Friday or Saturday it has a Mykonos or Ibiza night which attracts a large LGBTQ crowd. It takes place at a different location each week, usually in one of the large international hotels. For the latest information, check out their Instagram profile.
  • Fantasia Dubai: another notorious unofficial gay party in Dubai, taking place at different locations every Friday. Put it this way, when Britney and Beyonce came to perform in Dubai, it was at Fantasia! Check out their Facebook page for more information.
  • White Dubai:  is one of the most the most famous clubs in the world and certainly one of the most popular in Dubai. It's super trendy, set on an outdoor rooftop. Whilst this is not a gay club, it will always attract a large LGBTQ crowd. Check out their Events Calendar for the latest information.

Note that gay apps are blocked in Dubai, as are any blogs/websites that depict “immoral” things(!). You can however get around this by getting a VPN which allows you use the apps anonymously. We used ExpressVPN, a reliable and inexpensive service which was easy to install and use.

Is Dubai safe for gay travellers underground gay scene
Discovering the underground gay scene of Dubai

Gay hotels in Dubai

Due to the harsh anti-gay laws of the UAE, you will not find any outright gay hotels in Dubai as you would in Fort Lauderdale or Key West for example! In Dubai, some hotels may even require two men sharing a room to have an extra mattress added, or they will only allow you to book a room with twin beds.

Yes it's sad that in this day and age there exists places where you can't be yourself and sleep with your partner in the same bed. However, the large international brands are more likely to allow gay couples to share a double bed, in particular the following:

We've listed our 3 favourite gay friendly places to stay in Dubai. If you're looking for more inspiration, be sure to check out our article about the top gay friendly hotels to stay in Dubai.

1. THE SOFITEL DUBAI PALM RESORT & SPA ★★★★★

Our favourite hotel to stay in Dubai. Overlooking the Persian Gulf, the Sofitel Palm Resort and Spa is ideal hotel for couples looking for a romantic hideaway in Dubai. Built in a Polynesian style, the hotel features low rise constructions and villas set amongst lush tropical gardens. The staff treated us with the upmost respect, without questioning our choice of a double bed.

  • Romantic and gay friendly
  • Lagoon style swimming pool
  • Friendly staff
    Gay friendly hotel Sofitel dubai

    STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL

    Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.

    2. THE HILTON DUBAI JUMEIRAH ★★★★★

    The Hilton is an international American chain, which is used to hosting gay travellers. The Hilton Jumeirah is a convenient and sophisticated hotel, located in the heart of “The Walk” shopping street, alongside Jumeirah Beach. The complex offers a private beach area, 15 on-site restaurants and bars, including the award winning Italian restaurant, “BiCE”. 

    • Private beach
    • Direct access to “The Walk”
    • Sky Lounge Bar with stunning views
    The Hilton Dubai Jumeirah is a great gay friendly hotel

    3. ALOFT ME'AISAM ★★★

    Aloft is an Urban-inspired design hotel, bringing high comfort and high tech at an affordable price, ideal for the Millennial traveller. The rooms are spacious, offering a choice of different pillows and very comfortable beds. The pool is a great place to relax, with live DJs playing music every Monday and Thursday. 

    • Trendy and affordable
    • Excellent location
    • Live music with DJ by the pool
    Aloft Aisam is a great gay friendly hotel in Dubai

    Best things to do in Dubai for gay travelers

    There are so many amazing things to do in Dubai that you could easily spend weeks having the time of your life. These are our top ten favourite most romantic, exciting and can't miss experiences for gay travelers in Dubai.

    Helicopter Tour in Dubai

    A helicopter tour over the city is an amazing experience for gay travellers to Dubai.

    Can you think of anything more exciting and romantic than taking a helicopter ride over an amazing city like Dubai? There are so many stunning things to see in Dubai anyway, but seeing it from the sky on your own private helicopter ride is even better! It’s also surprisingly affordable to book your own short ride along the Persian Gulf Coast, taking in views of the Burj Al Arab, the Palm Islands and more. This is definitely an unforgettable experience that will make you feel like a rockstar!


    Desert Safari

    Gay travel to Dubai - Spend the night in the sand dunes with camels or 4WDs!

    You can’t visit Dubai without experiencing a desert safari, especially if you go at night! Experience ‘dune-bashing’ in 4WD vehicles and/or camel-riding and even sandboarding depending on which company you use. This is also a great way to become acquainted with Arabian culture through food and dance. We recommend this safari since it includes everything mentioned above as well as pick-up and drop-off from your accommodation, a makeover and photo with a falcon, and possibly even quad-biking!


    Burj Khalifa

    Gay Dubai - Make sure you check out the views over Dubai from the Burj Khalifa during your visit.

    The Burj Khalifa is one of the most amazing and famous skyscrapers in the world, and a must-visit when exploring Dubai. It’s the tallest building in the world so of course, the views are incredible. We think it's a good idea to book a tour which skips the lines so you can enjoy your time on the observation deck and learning about the history of the Burj Khalifa.


    Dubai Fountain Show

    Gay travellers to Dubai shouldn't miss the stunning fountain show.

    When visiting the Burj Khalifa make sure to stop and experience the breathtaking fountain show that is located in the Dubai Lake. This is the largest choreographed fountain show in the world, with lights and water shooting up to 500 feet into the air. The show is accompanied by a mix of classical, contemporary and Arabian music. There are performances at 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. during the day, and every 30 minutes at night. You can even watch the fountain show from a boat on the lake!


    Dubai Mall

    Gay travellers will enjoy shopping up a storm at the huge Dubai mall.

    Next to the Burj Khalifa and surrounding park (as well as the fountain) is the massive Dubai mall complex. This is the second-largest shopping mall in the world and definitely a must-visit if only to marvel at the shops and attractions. Of course, with over 1,200 shops you could also do some serious retail therapy. The Dubai Mall is also home to cinemas, an indoor theme park, a haunted house, aquarium and lots of cafés and restaurants.


    Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

    Gay travel to Dubai - Make sure you marvel at the ocean life during a visit to the Dubai aquarium.

    If you do visit the Dubai Mall you definitely need to explore the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. There are over 300 marine animals on display, including sharks, a massive Australian crocodile and manta rays. As well as being able to walk through tunnels and see shark and ray feedings, you can even go diving with the sharks! Or perhaps you might prefer to simply feed them and have a behind-the-scenes tour with this day-pass.


    Dubai Miracle Garden

    Gay Dubai - Explore the stunning designs at the Dubai Miracle Garden.

    If you are visiting Dubai between November and May then the amazing floral creations of Dubai Miracle Garden are another not-to-be-missed attraction. You may have seen photos on Instagram of this stunning garden, but nothing can prepare you for seeing (and smelling!) its 150 million flowers arranged in fantastic displays. Highlights include a floral castle, an Emirates A380 aeroplane and lots of figures such as Mickey Mouse and a giant teddy bear; all made from flowers!


    Palm Jumeirah

    Gay travelers to Dubai will have a ball exploring the Palm Jumeirah man-made island.

    You could easily spend a whole day exploring the Palm Jumeirah; the artificial archipelago built in the shape of a palm tree. This island is home to many hotels and resorts such as the famous Atlantis the Palm, and also houses a boardwalk, mall, clubs and lots of restaurants. Even if you’re not staying there, you can visit Atlantis the Palm to swim with dolphins, eat at Nobu restaurant or just enjoy the huge Aquaventure Waterpark!


    Aquaventure Waterpark

    If you enjoy waterparks then the huge Aquaventure Waterpark Dubai is a must-visit for gay travellers.

    The Aquaventure Waterpark is one of the most popular attractions in Dubai, and it’s easy to see why. This massive waterpark has some thrilling water-slides and activities for adults. One of the slides even goes through a shark tank, but you can just relax on the beach if you’re not a thrill-seeker! You can also purchase combined tickets to explore the Lost Chambers adventure, which is based on the story of the city of Atlantis.


    Day Trip to Abu Dhabi

    If you have time during your Dubai visit then a day-trip to Abu Dhabi is a must. Both cities are safe for gay travellers who are careful to avoid PDAs!

    Since it’s less than two hours away, you should also visit Abu Dhabi for a day while you’re staying in Dubai. This beautiful city is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and home to some stunning sights; such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Emirates Palace and the Etihad Towers.  If you’d like to visit the capital city without worrying about public transport, book this day-trip and learn about the history of the UAE as you explore! Check out our travel guide to Abu Dhabi for more inspiration.

    So…is Dubai safe for gay travellers?

    Let's call a spade a spade…it's illegal to be gay in Dubai, so any public displays of affection between same sex couples, even accidental ones, are likely to get you into trouble. As a general rule, we don't avoid visiting a destination just because it has anti-gay laws as we believe boycotting such places is counter-productive. We wrote about this at length in our article about gay travel in Iran.

    Having said that, thousands of LGBTQ travellers visit Dubai every day, whilst others reside here without any problems at all. Obviously this is not in any way like San Francisco or Madrid, but if you don't flaunt your sexuality in public and take care with you who you hang out with, and where, you'll be absolutely fine. It goes without saying you should be astute and aware at all times, and stay in the closet when in public for your own safety!

    With all this in mind, we think that Dubai is safe for gay travellers, but obviously with basic common sense being applied at all times. Also, ensure you have a VPN set up on your phone beforehand so you can use Grindr/Scruff to connect with locals without problems.

    Gay map of Dubai

    This is our gay map to Dubai to show you where everything we've mentioned in this article is located. Use it to find out where all the best gay friendly hotels, bars and activities are for your own visit to Dubai!

    Our map of the best gay friendly accommodation, bars and activities in Dubai.

    OUR FAVORITE TRAVEL RECOMMENDATIONS

    ⭐️ TRAVEL INSURANCE — We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

    ⭐️ SAFETY & SECURITY — All travelers (gay or not) can sometimes encounter danger when traveling. CloseCircle is your “virtual body guard” mobile app which provides security alerts and support wherever you are in the world. They have a 24/7 emergency response team monitoring their users who will contact you immediately if the SOS swipe button is activated. Support can include anything from practical advice, to free evacuation from areas with extreme weather or security risks. You can read more about CloseCircle in our article about how to stay safe whilst traveling.

    ⭐️ ONLINE ANONYMITY — A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a must in many countries: it allows you to surf anonymously and maintain your privacy whilst traveling. You'll particularly need it in countries where gay dating apps are blocked by the government. We recommend ExpressVPN, a reliable and cost effective service which we used and loved during our travels.

    ⭐️ HOTELS or APARTMENTS — When we plan a trip, we always look for the best hotel deals. We love Booking.com because not only do they have a comprehensive listing of accommodation options, they also offer the best prices. Added bonus: they provide 24/7 support and free cancellation for most listings.

    ⭐️ SIGHTSEEING and ADVENTURES — When we travel somewhere, we like to seek out the best experiences, whether it is cooking with locals in Bangkok, hiking on a glacier in Patagonia, or going on a wildlife safari in Sri Lanka. Our favorite place to look is GetYourGuide because they have over 30,000 highly rated activities, a user-friendly booking process with free cancellation and a 24 hour customer support.

    This article contains affiliate links. If you click on them, we may receive compensation which keeps our website alive and helps us bring you to more destinations.

    14 Comments

    1. Headed to Dubai for a few days with my partner, we’d like to stay downtown can you recommend a gay friendly hotel/apartment in the area?
      Thx in advance

      Reply
      • Definitely one of the places we recommend above in this article 🙂

        Reply
    2. Hey, I’m a gay teenager living in Dubai. I would be lying if it wasn’t scary. However, I’m very lucky to be surrounded by supportive people. I know that I can’t openly be myself here, and it does hurt. Articles like this give me hope, though. They remind me that I can be who I am without too much fear of deportation or arrest, if I’m careful. Thank you for making this article. 🙂

      Reply
      • Thanks Sophia! 🙂

        Reply
    3. As American, my husband and I visited both Dubai and Abu Dhabi about 6 years ago before marrying. We had no problems. Stayed at the Hilton Jumeirah in king bed with out any comments. While not my favorite destination, I’m glad we went. Had a rent car and drove extensively throughout the country. I prefer Abu Dhabi and only wish that the two museums existed when we were there. I enjoy your articles and insight tremendously.

      Reply
      • Thanks Tim 🙂

        Reply
    4. Hey.. thanks for the super helpful article! Am planning a trip there soon.
      Quick question (and sorry if it sounds dumb) – if you’re using a VPN & Grindr; then how exactly do you find other people in the locations near you in Dubai?

      Reply
      • Thanks for the comment Jules. So Grindr uses the GPS for location so it has nothing to do with VPN. In fact the GPS signal is completely independent from your internet connection. Hope that helps 🙂

        Reply
    5. I appreciate the sincerity of this post. I may visit some gay friends who live in Dubai at some point in the near future, but I would do it with great trepidation. Despite your assurances, I’m very conflicted about visiting Dubai. Your admonition to “stay in the closet” offends my core values. The notion that any human being would have to live in fear that a simple gesture of love or affection could land them in jail is disgusting. My motivation to visit Dubai would be to support my friends, and learn about Dubai’s culture. But the notion of handing any of my money to an oppressive regime that enforces Sharia Law runs counter to everything I hold dear. This is a complex issue, and I don’t believe innocent, individual citizens like my friends should be held responsible for the actions of an oppressive monarchy. But I also think that, without international pressure on the monarchy to rescind its draconian laws and fully respect the human rights of all people, nothing will ever change.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the message. We totally agree with all of this. The only thing we’d say – when you talk of spending money there, other than what you pay for visa and a few other admin things, where does your money actually go? It’s to local businesses right? In these instances, we always try to spend our money on local gay friendly places (where we find them of course in places like Dubai!)

        Reply
    6. I loved your travels. I have a dream of going to Dubai, I’m Brazilian.

      Reply
      • You’re going to love it but of course be careful 🙂

        Reply
    7. Hey, it’s nice to see more article like this, good job on writing it. I’ve been to Dubai to visit my brother and his boyfriend a few weeks ago and did not know that I need a vpn to take with me.

      Reply
      • Thanks buddy 🙂

        Reply

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