Got a stopover in Dubai in your plans? Well, time it for a Friday or Saturday to hit the weekend and make the most of Dubai’s party scene.

Here’s a quick guide to enjoying nightlife in Dubai.

Dubai cityscape at night

Line your stomach

Dubai isn’t your average Brit city on a bank holiday weekend; there are strict rules here to be obeyed. It’s not about starting the night on Jägerbombs and ending it in a police cell.

Eat something before you go out, pace yourself, and be sensible when enjoying Dubai nightlife.

Keep your desires to yourself

The UAE is an Islamic country, and Dubai is a dry city for locals, meaning alcohol is either non-existent or very expensive, unless you know where to look. There are so many expats that drinking is allowed for non-Muslims. Be warned: laws may prohibit behaviour you would consider normal, and you can be punished.

Be careful. Don’t drink too much and, if you’re not married to them, keep an arm’s length from the opposite sex. Never drink on the beach, or outside of restaurant, hotel or bar walls either.

Don’t let the above put you off. Dubai is a great city for nightlife.

Chicken machboos

Pre-party food in Dubai

Cheap and tasty, Shawarma is one of the most popular dishes in the UAE, and can be served high end in Dubai restaurants or simple and easy as street food. This is a great option for anyone on a budget.

Casseroles (known as machboos) are popular, as is grilled marinated chicken (diyai mashwi) and meat or fish cooked in the rice – the infamous biryani.

For dessert try the esh asarya. It’s a sort of cheesecake with a cream topping. Known in Dubai as the ‘bread of the harem’ it feels like it melts in your mouth. It’s one of the most popular desserts in Dubai.

You could also hit the chain restaurants at the mall. The food courts here are super popular and a great way to get a quick and easy bite. Remember, as a Muslim country you’re going to need to leave any dreams of pork dishes at home.

And if none of that takes your fancy, there’s always hummus and falafel!

Hotel restaurants

Hotel restaurants are where you’ll find alcoholic drinking in Dubai, as they’re the only exception to the no-alcohol rule. And seeing as it’s Dubai, restaurants really go for it. Some of them, literally, put on a show. Expect theatre, wide reaching views from skydecks and pricey cocktails.

Some bars in Dubai will post a minimum spend amount on the walls, especially for the guys – the UAE has a very patriarchal society. Girls, you could be in for a free ride.

Dubai skyline

Top places to go in Dubai

1. The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, so if you have the cash to splash a trip up there is well worth the views.

2. Located on the 40th floor of the H Hotel, every seat at the rooftop lounge up at 40 Kong is a great one. Get a drink in here and you’ll feel like a boss, guaranteed.

3. The Tamanya terrace rooftop bar at the Radisson Blu Hotel covers up for the summer with an air conditioned tent, designed so you can still see out to admire the view.

4. There are many, many great selfie spots in Dubai, but one of the best has to be The Edge at the Hilton on the Creek. Visit this stunning rooftop pool to get the all important ‘casually sipping a Mojito on the edge of the pool’ shot by day and the ‘look at the night time skyline’ shot by night.

5. For somewhere a little more casual for your Dubai drinks, Garden on 8 has picnic benches on fake grass under a large sail. The informal atmosphere is quite rare for Dubai, as is the fact the bar is made from recycled materials. They also serve English-style fish and chips with a side of ale. I think this is the one for backpackers.

6. Closer to the ground the Dubai Fountain has a light show every 30 minutes from 6pm until 11pm. Get a drink and sit around to enjoy the performance.   

7. The Umm Suqeim Open Beach is one of the best places to watch the sun set. You can enjoy the excellent views of the Burj Al Arab and hear the waves crashing as the soundtrack to the sundown. Just remember, beers on the beach aren’t allowed.

8. The weekend champagne all-you-can-eat brunches are one of the most popular things to do for anyone visiting Dubai. I’d suggest you don’t leave without giving one a go.

The hangover

And in the morning, thanks to coffee being the drink of choice in Dubai over alcohol, you’ll find excellent varieties throughout the Emirate. Sit and enjoy with friends, like the locals do.

Visiting Dubai on a gap year

Dubai is known as one of the most luxurious tourist destinations in the world – yes, it’s going to be at least three times the price of your average South East Asian country. Don’t let that put you off popping in for a night or two, as there are more affordable options available. Just limit your drinks, relax, and let Dubai put on a show.