Gay Dubai: what are the travel alternatives?
Being gay in Dubai is illegal, so this larger-than-life city isn’t one of our go-to holiday recommendations. But if the big city vibe, souks, beaches and theme parks are still on your wish list, we’ve hand-picked some (more welcoming) gay-friendly holiday alternatives.
Afternoon tea in a skyscraper
Swap Burj Khalifa for The Shard in London
There may be no better view over London than from its spiky, soaring Shard – and the view is even sweeter when you pair it with afternoon tea. With the entire city spread out before you, intersected by the winding Thames, you’ll be able to spot Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and the Millennium Wheel from the comfort of your table of at one of the many restaurants inside the 310-metre-high building.
If you’ve a head for heights, choose to indulge at TING on the 35th floor – part of the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel. Champagne and crustless sandwiches await, all with a spectacular view over the English capital.
City beach life
Swap Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach for Tel-Aviv’s coastline
Forget gay Dubai – glitz and glamour seem to come naturally to Tel Aviv, so this is the place to come for beaches. The boardwalk that backs the long stretch of golden, soft sand is the place to see and be seen and it’s where the city’s cool kids come to stroll, skate or rollerblade beneath its swishing palms.
Come to play volleyball, swim in the deliciously warm Mediterranean Sea, sip cocktails at a buzzing beach bar, or simply sunbathe beneath the sweltering sun. There’s no shortage of glistening bodies on this beach in summer or winter – and the gay nightlife is incredible.
Swap Dubai’s theme parks for Walt Disney World Resort in Florida
Fun in the sun is never in short supply in Florida and Disney World Resort takes it to the next level. The flagship theme park in Disney’s global collection, it’s actually made up of six different parks each with their own theme, and it has the biggest and best rides and most spectacular shows. Hit the tracks of Space Mountain for a traditional rollercoaster ride, take an adventure in Avatar’s world in a virtual reality simulator, and don’t miss a chance to fly the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.
Head to Epcot for a view into the future, or go to the Hollywood Studios to get a glimpse of what goes into making the franchise’s best films.
Enormous shopping malls
Swap Dubai Mall for Siam Paragon in Bangkok
Dubai Mall is world-famous, sure. But Bangkok’s Siam Paragon is even bigger, with 250 stores, an IMAX theatre and vast food hall. Bring your plastic as you’ll find all the core luxury brands on the main floor, from Versace to Chanel, and if you’re after a new look, head up to the first floor to stores like Massimo Dutti and Coach.
Tech-heads will love a visit to the Samsung Experience Shop, where you can try their latest tech including VR headsets and tablets, and car enthusiasts will find some veritable petrol porn at the Maserati and Aston Martin showrooms.
4x4 dune bashing
Swap Dubai’s desert for Nellis Dunes in Las Vegas
While silent sand dunes and vast open space might feel like a world away when you’re strolling The Strip in Las Vegas, the city is actually surrounded by a barren land of sand. Just beyond the city limits, in fact, are the Nellis Dunes – a collection of undulating peaks and troughs in the middle of the desert that make the ultimate adventure playground.
Don a helmet and get behind the wheel of an ATV and fling yourself up and down the dunes for a thrilling afternoon of fun. Don’t miss the photo opportunity atop Look Out Dune, where you’ll get spectacular views of Vegas and The Strip.
Swap Dubai’s beach clubs for Mykonos’ gay scene
While you can’t show public displays of affection and be yourself in Dubai, the island of Mykonos has long been one of the world’s greatest gay destinations. Beeline for the main town of Chora for brilliant bars and beaches, where you can dance and drink right by the sand and dip your toes in the Aegean Sea, or head out to Elia Beach – the highlight of the gay scene in Mykonos.
Here you’ll find a lively crowd looking for a party, sunbeds and parasols for lazing in the sun, and a great beach bar serving refreshing drinks all day long. Super Paradise Beach is another favourite, where beach clubs spill out onto the sand for all-day fun.
Swap Dubai for New York
You might think Dubai is the ultimate skyscraper city, but have you been to New York? The Big Apple has big buildings and some of the coolest skyscrapers in the world. The famous Empire State Building is well worth a visit, with its exceptional views across New York’s brilliant boulevards, and the One World Trade Center is the city’s tallest building, at 541 metres.
But beyond the towering skyscrapers, there’s iconic and intriguing architecture to boot. Seek out the Flat Iron Building, which looks two-dimensional from certain angles, and don’t miss a visit to The Shed – an arts centre that doubles as one of the newest and most impressive pieces of architecture in the city.
Check out our New York city guide