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Visiting Dubai: A Western Woman’s Perspective

When I talk about Expo 2020 in Dubai, there are inevitably questions from women: “What do I wear?  Can I go out without a male escort?  Is Dubai safe?”  Seeing Dubai from a woman’s perspective was important to me, and I recently had the opportunity do so when I traveled there alone. 

Dubai, a city of over 3 million people, is safer than a lot of major cities in the US. It is also part of the most progressive country in the Arab world. Everyone speaks English, and all signs are in English as well as Arabic. Close to ninety percent of the population is from outside the UAE, which means that there are many cultures co-existing together. There is an overall air of tolerance and acceptance. Dubai appreciates tourists who are tolerant and accepting as well.  This comes down to a few basics, including covering up when visiting mosques, and observing posted dress codes at shopping malls and other public areas.

Dubai Mall of the Emirates dress code policy for wemen

Aside from swimwear for the hotel pool, I didn’t pack anything that bared my shoulders or knees.  I carried a light shawl in my purse in case I found myself needing to cover up (I was never asked to), or as a foil for the sometimes strong air conditioning.  I saw women wearing sleeveless tops and tank tops in public, and, rarely, very short skirts and shorts.  I had heard that open-toed sandals were frowned upon, yet I saw Muslim women wearing them under their burkas or abayas. I came to the general conclusion  that, when in doubt, moderation is best.


I took guided tours, went shopping at malls and souks, navigated public transportation, went out for meals, and stopped at a couple of hotel bars. Being unaccompanied was a non-issue. One night close to midnight, I was returning back to my hotel from the Dubai Mall by taking the Metro.  Being a curious rider of the female sex and given that passengers in the other cars were packed in like sardines, I hopped onto the Women and Children car. I found the experience refreshing and was quite comfortable there. (As a side note, the Dubai Taxi Corporation offers Ladies and Family Taxis, driven by women and exclusively for women passengers of all nationalities.)

There are many restaurants on Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, several  within view of the Atlants resort.

As far as being out that late alone? There were many people out and about, and I felt safe at the mall, on the train, and on my walk back to the hotel from the station.  

If you are coming to Expo 2020 you are probably not coming alone, and there will be plenty to do all day long and after dark!  In summary, I would say have fun, be respectful, and don’t leave your common sense at home. 

Questions? I would be happy to answer them.

Joan Thompson, Expo Sales Executive
Ya’lla Tours USA

Posted on January 29, 2020