Abu Dhabi Local Laws, Customs and Culture

First time to Abu Dhabi? This cultural capital is brimming with authentic customs and a unique Emirati heritage to discover during your holiday. 


Whether you’re wondering what dress code is suitable for your Abu Dhabi holiday or you’re fascinated by Ramadan and want to learn more, we’ve put together a handy guide about the etiquette, customs, traditions and regional laws to keep in mind when visiting this Arabic country.


Local laws and customs in Abu Dhabi for tourists – What you need to know 

There are a few dos and don'ts to be mindful of during your stay to ensure you enjoy your holiday in Abu Dhabi, while staying respectful of the local culture. Here, we've answered some frequently asked questions about customs and laws in the city, to ensure you're in the know before you arrive. 


Can I drink alcohol in Abu Dhabi? 

You can definitely enjoy a cocktail or two by the pool or a bottle of wine in your resort's restaurant, so if you like to have a drink on holiday you shouldn't have any problem. However, be aware that public consumption of alcohol is illegal and alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed outside of hotels. 

Are there rules regarding how I should dress when on holiday in Abu Dhabi? 

Abu Dhabi is a Muslim city and so it’s advisable to dress modestly and respect the local customs at all times – particularly during Ramadan (this differs slightly every year, so it’s best to check before you go). 

You may see other tourists dressing like they're in sunny Spain, but it's a good idea to copy the locals and dress respectfully, especially when outside your resort. You'll receive a warmer welcome from local people too! 


How female tourists should dress in Abu Dhabi 

For women, we recommend that you wear loose clothing that covers the shoulders and the knees and keep your favourite swimsuit for the beach and hotel pool. 

You should also avoid wearing tight-fitting or revealing clothing outside of your resort, such as leggings or cut off shorts and spaghetti strap tops. 

We also recommend that you carry a shawl or light scarf around with you, outside the resort, that you can use to cover up if needed – especially if you're visiting a religious site. 

It also doubles up as great lightweight protection from the sun and dust, ideal if you're staying at a desert-based resort such as the Al Wathba Resort & Spa, where you'll likely sit out in the open after dark around a crackling fire. 


How male tourists should dress in Abu Dhabi 

For men, full-length trousers are typically worn by those who live in Abu Dhabi even during the height of summer so it's recommended that you play copycat during your stay. Some lightweight chinos are a good call when venturing outside your resort. Or, if you can't bear to part with your shorts simply ensure they're knee-length. 

It's also a good idea to keep your shirt on when outside the hotel. While most European tourist destinations don't mind men walking around with their tops off, it's not something that's done in the UAE, no matter how hot it is. Time to embrace that t-shirt tan! 


How children should dress in Abu Dhabi 

If you're taking the kids along for an epic holiday in Abu Dhabi, they are free to wear what they like but we recommend dressing them in lightweight clothing that covers them to protect them from the heat. 

Is there anything I shouldn't do when outside my resort in Abu Dhabi?


  • Avoid public displays of affection – It’s wise to refrain from public displays of affection. This means if you are travelling with your partner, you must be careful when interacting in public. 


  • Do not take photos without people's consent – While this is something you shouldn't do anyway, it's important that you don't take photos of anyone without their knowledge or permission and definitely don't post them on social media. This is an offence punishable by law in Abu Dhabi. 


  • Don't smoke electronic cigarettes – Electronic cigarettes are also illegal in the UAE so leave yours at home or it may be confiscated when you enter the country. 


While these rules may be strict they shouldn't impact your stay. Embrace them and take the time to soak up the culture of Abu Dhabi. This exciting location is brimming with enriching delights just waiting to be discovered. 

When is Ramadan in Abu Dhabi? 

The dates for Ramadan change every year, there is no set month or season, but generally lasts for approximately 29 to 30 days. It's timing lines up with the sighting of a crescent-shaped moon and this is why it varies from year to year when it comes to exact dates. 


Also known as the Holy Month, it's a time for prayer and contemplation when Muslims fast and abstain from eating and drinking between dawn and dusk. 


During this time, the city is quieter during the day with shops and offices working fewer hours but evenings are social once the fast is broken, with lively meals taking place after sunset.


What does Ramadan mean for tourists? 

Ramadan shouldn't impact your holiday too much but it's worth noting that alcohol will only be served in hotels after sunset – however, this rule has been relaxed over the last few years in major hotels. As no live music is allowed, nightclubs are often closed during Ramadan and bars tend to close early. 


While travelling during Ramadan can be a challenge for tourists, it is also an interesting time to be in Abu Dhabi. There are usually great value offers at hotels and Ramadan shopping sales to take advantage of, with extended shopping hours at major malls. 


After Ramadan ends, the festival of Eid Al Fitr begins. This is a three-day celebration and a time for family. During this festival, families traditionally exchange gifts and there are a wide range of public events taking place where local people come together to celebrate. 

Arab man visiting the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi wearing kandora

Yas Marina usually puts on an impressive fireworks display for all to enjoy while the malls offer activities for kids of all ages, from face painting and henna designs to arts and crafts. There's also usually offers and discounts to take advantage of at the theme parks so you can enjoy a day out with family while respecting the local customs and traditions. 


Discover your perfect Abu Dhabi getaway – with direct flights to the city in just 7 hours from the UK with our preferred airline partner, Etihad Airways.


Looking for more information on Abu Dhabi? Read more from our Abu Dhabi Travel Guides:


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