What should you bring with you and what should you definitely leave at home when you are visiting Abu Dhabi?
There is a great balance in Abu Dhabi between modesty and respecting the local Islamic culture whilst dressing for the heat and often extreme weather conditions. And a lot of conflicting information to go with it!
To help you determine exactly what advice to follow, we have tried to be as thorough as possible in answering the question “what should I pack for Abu Dhabi?” from your clothing choices to any items you SHOULDN’T pack to keep you out of trouble.
On this packing list page, we will cover in detail:
- Different settings you should consider on an Abu Dhabi trip: Private v Public places
- The clothing you should wear in Abu Dhabi- Women’s & Men’s packing lists
- Toiletries and medicines to pack for Abu Dhabi
- Accessories and other important items you will want to pack for Abu Dhabi
- Items that are banned in Abu Dhabi and should NOT be in your suitcase
- Your downloadable “Abu Dhabi Packing List”
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Clothing to pack for your Abu Dhabi trip
Whilst there are some extreme temperature differences between the mild winters (24°C/76°F) and the sweltering summers in Abu Dhabi (45°C +/113°F+), clothing choices remain similar year-round. Slightly thicker materials and an extra layer of warmth might be needed in the winter.
You can also check out our complete guide to Abu Dhabi weather and the “seasons” such as they are over here!
What should I wear in Abu Dhabi? Dress code for tourists
In Abu Dhabi, there is a huge range of settings with different expectations on dress standard – and the line between these settings has hazed over the years. You will see tourists wearing a huge variety of different outfits that will likely make your jaw drop on occasion!
You can see our comprehensive guide to how to dress for the cultural respect in Abu Dhabi here.
To find yourself on the right side of social respectability, and the law, these are our suggestions for what is appropriate in different settings in Abu Dhabi:
- Malls, markets, hotel foyers and restaurants: These are what we will commonly refer to as ‘public places’. When in a public place in Abu Dhabi, there’s an expectation at a minimum you should look to have knees and shoulders covered, for both men and women. So no sleeveless tank tops, short shorts or overly revealing clothing.
- Religious buildings and Government buildings (e.g. visa renewal offices): All skin should be covered on the body, arms and legs. In a mosque and certain buildings, they may also require ladies to wear a Shayla or head covering; security will pull you up if this is the case and can often lend you these items – this is the case at the Grand Mosque.
- Public Beach & Water Parks – In general, beachwear from bikinis to the more conservative full-body Burkini are all very common for women. Men should wear longer shorts, but there’s no hard and fast rule. Go with what you feel comfortable with, but remember when you head away from the beach and into public areas you should look to throw something over the top. Some beaches are designated as “family” and will have stricter controls on dress standards such as men should not be topless, and women should wear a t-shirt over bathing suits.
- Private resorts beach and certain night clubs – the line here is very blurred, pretty much anything goes these days! Topless for ladies is a strict no, and well, try and leave a little to the imagination please ladies! Do check dress codes for individual bars and nightclubs though, some will have a much higher standard. Men, particularly at a nightclub, will need trousers, women the rules are more relaxed, though some DO still insist on a conservative dress standard for the ladies.
What to pack for Abu Dhabi – Essential clothing items for Abu Dhabi
We have separated this down for both men and women, as well as considerations for children below.
Don’t forget if you scroll to the end of this post we have a downloadable PDF Abu Dhabi Packing List that may help you when you get to packing day – these ideas will get you thinking in preparation and items you may need to buy in ready for your big Abu Dhabi trip!
Women’s Packing List for Abu Dhabi
- Cotton shirts or t-shirts – remember breathable material is best, avoid nylons that can cling and sweat.
- Tank tops or singlets – that you can then layer a shirt on top of, or strip down at the beach.
- A long sleeve shirt – if you plan to visit mosques or religious buildings.
- Shorts – preferably below the knee, though shorter shorts are fine at the beach.
- Jeans– in the coolest winter months December to February, for most of the year you’ll likely find your skinny jeans too hot.
- Maxi dress or skirts – these will be your best friend! The longer the better to suit all occasions but by all means, a shorter dress can work at the beach.
- Leggings – if you’re worried about dress or skirt length this can be good to throw underneath.
- Lightweight scarf or pashmina – for fierce AC or simply pulling over your head if you ever feel uncomfortable.
- Small cardigan or light jacket – similarly for fierce air conditioning in the summer or in the winter the evening air can be a little cool – only really needed December to February for outside.
- Underwear – always throw in a few extra than a normal week. It can be HOT! regular sweat changes may be needed.
- Bras – this depends on the type of activities you will be doing. Anything action you may prefer a sports bra (I thought people were joking until I did my first desert dune bashing!) If you were planning to be around the pool/beach a lot you may substitute some bikini tops, and in the hotter months do consider you may sweat through your bras fast sand want extra changes. Whenever possible, try to keep your bras protected with a travel case.
- Sleepwear -totally up to your personal style! Your hotel room is likely to be airconditioned year-round to a comfortable level so whatever you would normally sleep in.
- Swimwear – taking caution of your setting as above, cute bikini for a private beach club through to a more modest one-piece for a waterpark would be appropriate.
- Swimwear cover-up – for those dashes between the beach and the bathrooms or pool to your hotel room, a modest cover-up over your swimwear is recommended and looks lovely and stylish too.
Ladies footwear for Abu Dhabi
We recommend at least two pairs – an open toe sandal and one closed-toe trainer or the casual boot:
- Sandals – even if you are taking taxi’s between attractions, you are still guaranteed to clock up a lot of miles every day, comfort is important.
- Flip Flops – if you are staying at the beach or with a pool and can spare the space, an extra pair of rubber flip flops would be great (If they have a bit of bling too, all the better!) Just remember always keep your rubber shoes in the shade or you will burn your feet putting them back on!
- Trainers – For a desert trip, we prefer trainers and ankle socks to open toes shoes. Everything will inevitably fill with sand in the desert, but it only takes a few scorching hot sand particles between your toes to understand why trainers are more sensible. We have also found it is easier to walk in the sand with trainers. If you are wearing trainers around town too, prevent the sweaty shoe smell with sockettes.
Going out at night? Throw in your favourite little black dress and party shoes! Abu Dhabi is definitely a city where you can glam it up for ladies night, a little shorter and a little more low cut than usual you can get away with in this setting. Bring a shawl or cover-up if travelling by taxi.
Items women should really reconsider when packing for Abu Dhabi:
This will really depend on the settings as we explored above. If you are predominantly in Abu Dhabi to hang out at a beach resort, then your packing list may differ. For general sightseeing trips, however, it’s best to avoid:
- Very short shorts that show too much leg or any bottom
- Tight, clingy clothing that shows cleavage, too much midriff or leaves little to the imagination
- Transparent materials that show your underwear
Just remember the word respect. Whilst, yes, over the years it has become more and more relaxed, avoid the potential embarrassment of security needing to ask you to cover up. If you ever are challenged, the polite thing to do is apologise and offer to leave immediately or cover-up. Any remonstrating can land you in hot water with the authorities, not the way you want your Abu Dhabi trip to end.
Ladies accessories and toiletries
Abu Dhabi is a stylish city so do feel free to accessories with your outfits, but dress practically for activities too. You don’t want your fancy jewels on whilst attempting the water parks or theme parks!
- Jewellery and accessories – accessorize as you like! If there’s anywhere you can get away with a little extra bling, even just in the mall or sightseeing, it’s Abu Dhabi!
- A hair tie – ladies with long hair in the heat, you’ll know exactly why!
- Moisturisers and skincare products – especially if you are not used to the heat, take extra good care of your skin. The sun is not as penetrating as it is in Australia, for example, but you will certainly burn if you’re out in it all day.
- Make-Up – pack all your usual favourites. A foundation with built-in SPF is a great idea.
- Sunscreen – on top of normal fountains or moisturiser SPF for your face, any length of time out in the sun you will want to lather on the sunscreen. We like Sun Bum Reef Safe for all the family.
- Lip balm – our handbag essential on the plane and out in the heat.
- Hairdryers – will almost certainly be in your hotel room, but straighteners and other hair accessory items you will want to bring with you (see notes on wattage below for electronics).
- Anti-chaffing cream – try Vaseline ok anti-chafe cream – this one you will thank us for pointing out! Living in the desert for nearly a decade, we can tell you the struggle to stay neat, composed and heat rash-free in the hottest months is real!
- All your usual toiletries – although most hotels are well prepared for visitors needs, you may prefer your own items from toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, comb, deodorant, tissues, cotton buds. If you’re only travelling a few days we love Gotoob travel bottles for our toiletries.
- Sanitary products – you can purchase these readily in Abu Dhabi but your favourite brands may not be stocked, we recommend you bring your own.
- Sunglasses– take a hard glasses case, especially when travelling indoors to out you will very quickly discover sunglass fog.
- Hat – choose your style but even if you are not a regular hat wearer you will be thankful for that little extra protection on your head.
- Contact lenses, contact solution. You may find the change in climate can dry your eyes out quicker. On the flight, make sure you bring your solution (under 100ml) and case as you will want to swap out.
- Deodorant Wipes – a long hot day out exploring this can be a quick and easy way to refresh yourself when a full shower is not available, easy to slip into your day pack.
- Hand sanitiser – we can’t emphasis enough how important, anywhere you travel for good health you should be washing your hands or failing which, regularly applying hand sanitizer.
- Mosquito repellent – not a huge issue in Abu Dhabi but none the less they are around, they like the warn shoulder season coming into summer the best, and as it cools again in the fall. Mosquito wipes you can rub on your feet and ankles are a great idea and not too overpowering on the smell
What to wear in Abu Dhabi for Men
Locally, men in Abu Dhabi dress conservatively and smartly – we talk more about traditional male dress and dress standards here. That said, you will find a large number of tourists in Abu Dhabi too, so don’t be surprised to see a real range of outfits from very traditional Kanduras, through to the Sherwanis and Kutra Pajamas (popular with men from the Indian Subcontinent) and, of course, more ‘Western’ outfits – your classic jeans and t-shirt.
Our biggest tip for men’s outfits – in addition to considering your setting – is to consider how hot and sweaty you might get.
Men particularly can sweat through their shirts within minutes of being outside in the hotter months. You will likely need to pack more changes of clothing than usual to cope with the heat, even the cooler shoulder months can be brutal for the sweat rings!
- At least one t-shirt or collared polo shirts for every day – if you don’t want to be doing the laundry look for crinkle-free and breathable material.
- Nice collared shirts for going out – restaurants and bars will have a higher dress standard for men.
- Shorts – that reach at least knee-length, Bermuda style shorts are ideal for Abu Dhabi.
- Long pants/trousers – even if it’s hot and you’re a shorts kinda guy, you will want at least one pair of longer trousers with you. Jeans are acceptable, as well as no-crease materials are highly recommended, this might be the time to invest in some linen pants.
- Light jacket – only in the very coolest winter months.
- Swim trunks – longer shorts in water parks and public beaches are appropriate. Shorter trunks can be worn at private resort hotels and beaches.
- Underwear and socks – as with your shirts, maybe through in a few extra pairs for the heat.
- Sleepwear – your choice! Most hotel rooms are kept well airconditioned year-round.
Men’s Footwear for Abu Dhabi
This is the sort of trip you will want multiple types of footwear for if space will allow:
- Flipflops – for the beach and pool – just head warnings about keeping them in the shade while you’re off swimming!
- Sandals are incredibly common for men, yes with trousers too.
- Trainers – good for winter and summer, though not you will definitely want socks or sock liners to deal with the sweat-smell!
- A smarter shoe. Depending on the setting, a brunch or beach club the style of the boat men’s shoe will be fine, for a classier nightclub or hotel then a smart gents show will be needed.
Men’s accessories and toiletries for Abu Dhabi
Make no mistake, Abu Dhabi is definitely a trendy setting for the gents so feel free to accessories up and wear some of your nicer than usual travel clothes.
- All your usual toiletries – most items are provided by your hotel or accommodation but you may want to throw in your own toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, comb, deodorant, tissues, cotton buds. We love GoYoo tubes for our toiletries.
- Anti-chaffing cream – don’t be surprised how quickly heat rash can come on, you’ll be grateful to throw some vaseline or skin treatment into your backpack.
- Hat (just avoid any offensive slogans).
- Sunglasses – essential accessory any time of year, fashionable & practical for Abu Dhabi.
- Hair Care products – note most hotels come with hairdryers.
- Razors – noting voltage for electric razors.
- Handkerchief – more for the sweat than your nose! Even if you’re not normally a hanky guy you may want to consider this.
- Deodorant wipes – not just for the ladies, even gentswill appreciate these refreshing wipes in the hottest months.
Medicine kit essentials for Abu Dhabi
We talk about what NOT to include in more detail below, these are what we DO recommend you include in a toiletry kits
- Imodium – even in the best of countries it can strike us all unexpectedly.
- Painkillers – your standard ibuprofen and Panadol are great inclusions – nothing with opiates.
- Hydration salts– especially if the sun has hit you hard these are a good recovery methods.
- Bandaids – blisters, cuts you name it – especially travelling with kids!
- Motion sickness tablets – if you suffer from queasiness you will want these before a boat ride, desert dune bashing – or even theme parks! Just check if they make you drowsy.
Note that you should find a vast array of supermarkets and pharmacies in Abu Dhabi. Any forgotten items, you will almost certainly be able to pick up along the way. It’s not the cheapest city for shopping as a whole, but you will certainly get a choice and variety along with a huge array of international brands.
Tech and accessories to pack for Abu Dhabi
Now we’re really getting down to business – let’s be honest this stuff can take up half your case these days, right?
- Travel Adapter – Abu Dhabi runs on Type G Plugs (the three-pin rectangular “British” style plugs). Your hotel room may have multi adaptor plugs but certainly don’t bank on it. We always travel with a universal adaptor.
- Voltage converter – the voltage in Abu Dhabi is 230V and 50HZ. If you are coming from a country that uses 120V (eg US), you will need a step-up converter. You will find bathrooms plugs for shavers and the like may come with both 120V and 230V sockets, but any other appliance you will want a converter to protect your appliances.
- Powerboard – especially when you’re travelling with family you will be amazed how many things suddenly need simultaneously charging! We solve these arguments with a multi-board with several USB and socket points.
- Cord tidy – essential for stopping everything getting in a tangle.
- Smartphones – do we even need to mention these days? Even if you run it just on wifi and for taking photos you will find your Smartphone essential in Abu Dhabi. From ordering an Uber to maps and currency tools you will no doubt want your mobile with you at all times.
- Cameras– unless you are a pro, your smartphone will really suffice for most occasions. Action shots though you may well want a GoPro – and if you want to catch the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in one shoot you’ll find yourself wishing you had a wide-angle lens with you!
- Battery pack – almost as important as your phone these days. You may want to note that phones do use more battery in the heat so especially if you’ve been snap happy you may go through your phone battery faster than normal. Battery packs are becoming much slimmer and lighter, we recommend you pack from 10000 amp onwards. (NB these need to be packed in your carry on not stowed underneath when on the plane to Abu Dhabi).
- Headphones – for the flight over or lying on the beach always essential travel gear. You will want something voice cancelling for the plane but perhaps smaller and lighter buds at the beach.
- Laptop and charger – totally up you if you work on the road but there’s not much your smartphone can’t do these days, just take note on our comments with adaptors and wattage brining any of your electronics.
- VPN – if you are looking to make Skype or video calls home from Abu Dhabi, do note many of these applications will not work from Abu Dhabi. This can be bypassed by using a VPN, which you will need to have installed before you travel.
- Reusable water bottle – whilst bottled water is readily available, single-use plastics are slowly but surely being phased out. You will want water with you at all times to deal with hydration, so we strongly recommend you bring your own refillable bottles. Abu Dhabi water is drinkable, but if you don’t like the taste (we don’t!) then you may want to stock up on a larger water bottle for your room and decant a little each day into your re-usable water bottle. A very popular brand for travellers including water filter is Grayl – a small upfront investment but these really are the best water bottles.
Essentials you don’t want to forget in your Abu Dhabi packing
- Passports – Essential! Make sure you have six months validity. We recommend you protect your passport with a passport holder.
- Visas – if you are NOT from a GCC or Visa on Arrival country, you will need the appropriate transit or tourist visa with you.
- In Case of Emergency (ICE) contact details. Should the worst happen, travelling anywhere, you want this information to be clearly and readily available somewhere within your belongings, in English or Arabic.
- Credit card and debit cards – cash can easily be withdrawn from ATM’s (don’t pay crazy expense airport exchange rates) and credit cards are widely accepted across the city. Should you wish to use a cash exchange you will need your passport with you. You can learn more about Abu Dhabi currency here.
- Arabic phrasebook – We’ll be honest, there are VERY few occasions you will need to understand Arabic. Signposts to menus are always in English and Arabic and in the hospitality industry, English is the common language. The only time the strict use of Arabic may come up is in legal processes. If it comes to this – contact your embassy for support immediately.
- Travel insurance policy information – Because you booked your travel insurance when you booked your trip, RIGHT? Should the worst happen while you’re travelling, you want your overseas emergency phone number handy and your policy number. We recommend using World Nomads as they understand the needs of international travels, their policies are clear on inclusions and exclusions and they allow the flexibility of trip extensions if your plans change.
STILL NEED INSURANCE? You can check on an insurance quote for your Abu Dhabi trip here
- Drivers license / ID card – should you wish to hire a car you will need this. You may also want this instead of a passport to leave, for example when hiring an item to wear at the mosque. [Note the legal drinking age in bars in Abu Dhabi is 21 years old, you may be asked to prove this with photo identification].
- Copies of booking confirmations and important documents – we like to keep a backup copy in our room safe should the worst happen. Though do note, crime rates are very low in Abu Dhabi. If an item is lost or left in a taxi, for example, chances are high it’ll be handed in.
- Travelling with children? It is NOT common practice for single parents to be questioned when travelling with children through Abu Dhabi. It is very common for children to have different surnames than their parents. That said, we ALWAYS travel with a copy of our children’s birth certificates too, just in case. If you have any custody issues with children, it’s wise to travel with any custody orders or signed declarations that you have permission to travel internationally with your child.
What should I pack everything in? Luggage for your Abu Dhabi trip
The major airlines into Abu Dhabi tend to have generous luggage allowances. Unless you are taking one of the new budget airlines you can be pretty generous with your packing.
After baggage collection in AUH, there is a final customs control point where passengers luggage may be randomly xrayed and possibly opened. Make sure you have your key handy to unlock any padlocks.
Checked luggage for Abu Dhabi
We recommend you pack everything into a sturdy rolling suitcase that is lockable. We prefer those cases that can roll on 4 independent wheels. Soft sides or hard case, it’s up to your personal style.
Top suitcase recommendation for Abu Dhabi: Samsonite Omni PC Hardside expandible Luggage
- Keeping it organised – packing cubes! The best way to keep a large suitcase organised without a double is packing cubes. Great for dividing by person or separating your wardrobes for different occasions.
- Hanging Toiletry bag – regular travellers will assure you the hanging bags that can fold flat are best
- Laundry Bag – keep a bag aside for filling with your dirty clothes. Hotel laundry services can be expensive so where possible, we recommend taking all the clothing you will need with you!
Your Day Bag for Abu Dhabi
On a short stopover where you will be jumping from one activity to the next and in and out of taxies, you might like the convenience of a small, light backpack, or a crossbody bag. Just be aware even in the cooler months it can be sweaty work if you have a bag rubbing on you.
We love and recommend for travellers the CitySafe backpack by PacSafe, no matter where in the world this is an ideal traveller’s backpack with built-in safety features and comfortable enough to wear all day without looking too touristy. Pacsafe also offers stylish cross body bags good for men and women.
In your day bag for Abu Dhabi sightseeing, you will want to carry around
- Smartphone / Camera
- Battery pack
- Hand Santisier
- Deodorant wipes
- Foldable shopping bag (plastic bags are slowly being phased out across the city)
If your purpose is largely for the beach, then for ladies we recommend a smart-looking beach bag – your items will be pretty similar to the above but don’t forget to through in your book/reader, plenty of lipbalm and hydration from the sun.
If you are looking to enjoy some of the nightlife in Abu Dhabi, a cute and stylish handbag is a definite must for the ladies!
Should I wear a money belt or neck wallet in Abu Dhabi?
You will no doubt stand out as a tourist by the clothing you’re wearing anyway – but nothing screams “I’m a tourist and here’s all my valuable items” louder than wearing one of these. Crime is low but if you prefer the security and convenience, go for it.
What items should I NOT bring with me to Abu Dhabi?
This can often concern people a lot more than what they do pack, what should you avoid packing for a trip to Abu Dhabi so as not to inadvertently find yourself in jail?
Most of the big no-no’s in Abu Dhabi and the UAE are around drugs. If you are taking any sort of prescription medications it’s essential that you understand these rules and carry medical letters with you from a doctor if the item is prohibited in the UAE.
The best place to find more information on prohibited drugs is from the UAE Ministry of Health & Prevention.
As a general guide as to what is NOT allowed in Abu Dhabi:
- All kinds of narcotic drugs, including hashish, cocaine, heroin, poppy seeds and hallucination pills
- Goods intended to be imported from boycotted countries
- Crude ivory and rhinoceros horn
- Gambling tools and machines
- Three-layer nylon fishing nets
- Candy cigarettes
- Ozone-depleting materials
- Radioactive materials
- Red laser pointers
- Hazardous waste
- Authentic publication, oil painting, photographs, pictures, cards, books, magazines stony sculptures, which contradict Islamic teachings, decencies or deliberately implying immorality or turmoil )Nb Ladies, note this includes vibrators)
- Used, reconditioned and inlaid tyres
- Any other goods, the importation of which is prohibited under the authority of UAE customs laws or any other laws in the country
- Forged and duplicate currency
Can I bring alcohol into Abu Dhabi?
Yes, non-Muslim visitors to the UAE are permitted to bring in up to 4L of spirits or one case (24 cans) of beer from Duty Free. You can read more on alcohol laws in the UAE here.
Your downloadable Abu Dhabi Packing List
As promised, here it is – your very own downloadable checklist you can print out to prepare for your trip to Abu Dhabi.
Before you go…. last-minute reminders for your trip to Abu Dhabi
- Have you booked your accommodation yet? Check out our detailed guide on where to stay in Abu Dhabi for all types of travellers
- Decided on your itinerary? Pop into our itinerary planning page to see what you can fit in with the time you have available
- Looking to visit a number of Abu Dhabi’s top tourist attractions? Here’s where you should start.