Although the UAE is a Muslim country and Dubai a Muslim Emirate, it is probably one of the most liberal in all the Middle East. Having said that, there are some faux-pas that need to be avoided in order not to offend the local populace! Reads through our travel tips.
It is permitted to wear bikinis and normal swim wear on the beach, however, it is highly recommended that one restrict the wearing of such garments to the beach and not openly in public. In addition, topless bathing is not permitted, and thongs may also cause offense to the local populace. Whilst it is common for men to walk bare-chested on the promenades of Europe, it is frowned upon here so please respect the local customs and culture and ensure you comply with the local dress code. Short skirts and revealing tops will also attract attention, and are not considered appropriate attire for public forums, such as area shopping malls.
Alcohol is permitted in Dubai and can be purchased at the Duty Free Shop on the way into the country. The limit for this is four bottles each per person. Alcohol cannot be purchased in supermarkets or liquor stores here unless you are a resident with an alcohol license. However, alcohol is readily available in most hotels, bars, nightclubs and restaurants affiliated with hotels. Alcohol is not permitted to be consumed on the streets and there is a zero tolerance on drinking and driving. There are also some public holidays or periods of mourning where alcohol will not be served in public places. If this is important to you please check before booking your holiday if your dates are affected by these restrictions.
Dubai also has a zero tolerance on drug offenses, either taking drugs or trafficking, with very strict consequences if caught. Please consider Dubai to be as stringent as other Asian countries (i.e. Thailand) and remember the Bangkok Hilton Dubai equivalent is not the place to be spending your holiday and a lot longer, if caught. The Emirate of Dubai does have regulations regarding controlled drugs, so those visitors traveling with prescription medicine may want to verify whether these regulations impact theirs. Medicines, such as Tylenol 3 do have restrictions (as it contains codeine) so it is always important to check beforehand. If you are traveling with such prescription medicine, it is advisable to only carry the necessary amount needed for your travel (not to exceed 3 months as a maximum), and a letter from your physician. Some narcotics will require prior Ministry approval.
Major public displays of affection are to be avoided as they can cause offense, and homosexuality is also not permitted in any part of the UAE. As Dubai is governed by Sharia law, it is highly recommended that unwed couples traveling together to the Emirate arrange for separate accommodations.
The following items are some of the forbidden imports to Dubai:
– Firearms / dangerous weapons
– Religious propaganda
– Unstrung pearls except for personal use
– Raw seafood (only when visiting Dubai and/or Sharjah) or fruit and vegetables from cholera-infected areas.
Ensure you are fully covered for medical treatment through your travel insurance. Although pharmacies readily provide medicines quite accessibly, (there is even Boots Chemist here now), treatment, hospitalization and evacuation can add up to a large amount. Hospitals are generally very well equipped however and there are specialists in all areas of medicine with many state of the art treatments available.
Please check with your local embassies for visa requirements. Whilst many nationalities can enter on a tourist visa for up to 60 days (correct at time of publication), some nationalities are not allowed entry without a valid visa on arrival.
The local currency is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (UAE Dirham). There are now many UK banks in Dubai, Lloyds, HSBC etc, and all the local banks offer cash withdrawal facilities from ATM’s available in many hotels and malls. Please do not attempt money changing on the streets as this is not a recommended form of transaction due to the possibility of fraudulent notes being offered.
On a visit visa, you can drive on an International driving license, but this changes when you become a resident, at which time you will need to apply for a Dubai driving license. Don’t drink and drive, ever. Penalties can range from large fines, to imprisonment and even lashings and deportation. If you have an accident, remain with your car in the exact place where the accident happened and call the police who will handle the accident in accordance with local laws.
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