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Top 12 Tips for Understanding Rules in Dubai

Whether you are visiting Dubai on holiday or in the process of relocating here as an expatriate one of the first questions on everyone’s mind is what are the rules and laws that govern the UAE? Below is an overview of the key laws that all expats and visitors to Dubai should know and understand. Some of these will be different to what you experience in your home country, however it is important to understand them or you could risk fines, imprisonment or even deportation. While some may seem extreme it is imperative to understand these rules so you can successfully live, survive and thrive in Dubai.

1- Alcohol: Alcohol is tolerated in Dubai but there are several rules pertaining to consumption. Non-Muslims are allowed to drink alcohol in Dubai if they are within licensed areas (many of these are located in private hotel restaurants and clubs). These facilities must hold a license to serve alcohol. If you are a resident in Dubai you can apply for a liquor license to buy alcohol and consume it in your own home. It is illegal to purchase alcohol and drink alcohol in your home without a liquor license. There is absolutely zero tolerance for any drinking and driving in Dubai or the UAE. If you are caught with any trace of alcohol in your system while driving you will be arrested, imprisoned and consequences can include being deported. Abstain or take a taxi or car service if you plan to be out with your friends. Taxis and drivers are economical in Dubai. Public drunkenness is also not tolerated. If you are in public and caught making a spectacle you could also be arrested.

2- Checks: Compared to other areas of the world, writing checks in Dubai for larger payments such as rent checks or car checks is widely used since credit for expatriates is somewhat hard to come by. However, there is zero tolerance for bouncing a check in the UAE. So while post dated checks are a practice here for payments it is imperative that you have the funds available in your bank account. Writing a hot check could land you in prison for breaking a financial agreement.

3- Dress Code: It is best to dress on the conservative side when in public areas such as malls, restaurants and on the streets. Emiratis dress conservatively and expats are expected to do so as well. Rules of thumb are to not wear too short of skirts or shorts, see through materials or anything that reveals too much flesh or any type of offensive slogans on clothing material. It is acceptable at the beach to wear swim suits and beach attire but you must cover offensive body parts (there is no top-less sunbathing). Once you leave the pool or beach you must cover your body with a cover up as you will not be allowed to walk home in your bikini. It is important to respect the local culture no matter what your fashion tastes are as disobeying it will be viewed as public indecency and you could end up in prison.

4- Driving Offenses: Driving in Dubai is fast and while you may witness some erratic driving behavior do not be confused that there are no driving laws to abide by. It is illegal to tailgate, break the speed limit, street race, lane hop or use a mobile phone while driving. While you witness instances of these each day, Dubai is cracking down and breaking the driving laws can lead to fines, imprisonment and your car being impounded.

5- Drugs: Similar to driving while drunk there is a zero tolerance policy for drugs in Dubai. You may believe this extends to only narcotics that are illegal in your own country; however, it extends to some prescription medications and some over the counter medicines as well. It is important to understand these rules even if you are just traveling through to the airport. Before coming to the UAE know what you can bring in. The British and US Embassy Dubai have a list of exceptional “controlled medicine” resources and the list includes the Drug Control’s department in the UAE Ministry. It is of utmost importance if you are in doubt, don’t bring it. If it is a medical necessity check the above sources before travel.

6. Offensive Behavior: No matter how bad a driver is on the road do not comment or show any actions of rage or offensive gestures. You can be reported to the police and as an expatriate you will be fined or imprisoned. Road rage is not tolerated of any kind.

7. Public Displays of Affection: If you are a married couple holding hands in public is about as far as you should go in terms of showing affection. Kissing and hugging is not tolerated and should be refrained from in public. If you are caught you could be fined and imprisoned.

8. Religious Issues: The Muslim religion is Islam. Expatriates are allowed to follow their own religions and that is tolerated. However, anything that is viewed as disrespecting Islam is not tolerated and again will result in fines and imprisonment. Muslims are called to pray five times a day and if you are on a public road or area outside of a Mosque do not disturb or disrupt. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims will fast from sunrise to sundown and so it is unacceptable for you to be seen eating, drinking or smoking in public during this month as well.

9. Sexual Harassment: It is imperative to know that expatriate men are not allowed to address a local lady in public, take her photo without permission or follow her. All are viewed as disrespectful and unacceptable behavior.

10. Sexual Relations: Unless you are married in Dubai you will not be allowed to live together period. Even if you have been living with your partner for years you will not be allowed to live together. If you do so and you call any attention to the authorities for some reason you can be jailed and then deported. It is important to not take this risk. If you and your partner conceive a baby in the UAE and you are not married you and your partner will face imprisonment. Marriage and birth certificates will be reviewed by authorities. Don’t take the risk.

11. Smoking: Smoking is banned in public offices and places such as shopping malls. There are also designated smoking areas all over the city.

12. Working in Dubai: You must not attempt to work illegally in Dubai without a work permit in the UAE. You must first obtain approved paperwork before you can take your job. Doing it can land you in prison first and then deportation.



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