Dubai is an exciting and amazing place to visit. It’s a bustling modern metropolis that attracts people from all over the world. It has also attracted some negative attention especially in some Western countries where rules don’t tend to be as strict. Before we went we did a lot of research and here are some of the things that we think you should know before you go.
It might sound obvious but Dubai has a zero tolerance policy on drugs. This includes your usual narcotics but also some that are legal in your own country. A big example is codeine. Whilst it is legal in the UK it definitely is not in Dubai. We also read a story of a tourist who arrived in Dubai with poppy seeds on his clothes. These had come from eating a bread roll in an airport abroad. He was allegedly imprisoned. It is clearly no joke. If you have prescription medicine that you are bringing always bring a doctor’s note, and check what you can and can’t bring into the country. Otherwise you could end up in serious trouble . If in doubt, leave it out.
When visiting the UAE there are some places where alcohol is not allowed at all. Dubai is slightly more lenient and non muslims can drink in licensed areas such as hotels. You should be aware that drink driving is a serious no-no. If you are caught driving with even the slightest trace of alcohol in your system you will be arrested. It is also really important to keep in mind that public drunkenness is not tolerated, so try to stay within your limits and avoid making a spectacle of yourself.
Despite what some people may believe you do not have to cover yourself from head to toe in Dubai. It is however advised that you dress conservatively. When we visited I was quite conscious of this so I checked with staff at our hotel to find out what was appropriate. They advised not to wear short shorts or skirts, and to make sure that my shoulders were covered. I basically wore leggings under my skirts and made sure my t-shirts covered my shoulders at all times and had no incident. The same rule applied to men. They should dress conservatively and walking around with no shirt is a complete no no (you might think this is obvious but try visiting England when the temperature hits above 20 degrees). Bathing suits are perfectly acceptable though, provided you are at the beach or a pool, anywhere else is not.
It is really not acceptable to be kissing and hugging in public even in the malls. It is disrespectful and can be an arrestable offence. Because we weren’t married Dave and I avoided holding hands in public, not because we thought someone would stop us and ask to see our marriage license but more so because we felt uncomfortable.
In Dubai unless you are married you are not allowed to live together. The same goes for sharing a hotel room. Now realistically hotels do not ask for marriage certificates when you check in, and Dave and I had different surnames on our passports and nothing was said. I’m sure hotels are aware that non married couples share rooms, and probably wouldn’t say anything, but it’s important that you do not draw attention to it either. There have been instances where unmarried couples living in Dubai have conceived and then faced imprisonment so it is something you need to be aware of and take seriously.
It is important to be aware that a western man (or any man really) should not address a local woman in public. It is viewed as very disrespectful behaviour. Additionally if you are a women travelling solo or even in a couple for that matter it is best not to draw attention to yourself sexually. I say this even though I strongly believe women should dress how they want. The problem is in places like Dubai there have been instances where women have been raped, reported this and then been arrested themselves. Unfortunately the UAE has some different rules and ideas around feminism then we do in the west. It is important to know this when visiting.
The UAE is a predominately Muslim country. Whilst it is ok for you to practice a different religion, insulting Islam will not be tolerated. Muslims are expected to pray 5 times a day and this is something you should respect. Do not interrupt someone in the middle of prayer. It is also advisable to avoid visiting during the month of Ramadan. This is when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. It could be seen as disrespectful if you eat during these times. That being said there are so many westerners in Dubai that it probably isn’t a problem, but just something to be mindful of.
All in all though most trips to Dubai go by without a hitch. It’s just important that you are aware of the laws especially because what may be seen as normal in your country may be illegal in the UAE.
Want more Dubai tips? Check out these articles.