Do’s & Don’ts: Dubai Laws for Tourists & Expats – What To Wear, Social Rules etc

Do’s & Don’ts: Dubai Laws for Tourists & Expats – What To Wear, Social Rules etc

Do’s and Don’ts: Learn about Dubai laws for tourists and expats.

Every city in the world has laws and rules and Dubai is not an exception. This article gives an insight into Dubai laws for tourists and expats, which you may refer to as do’s and don’ts, Dubai travel warnings or social rules. This will include dress code in Dubai or simply what to wear in Dubai, Dubai driving rules for visitors and punishments of violations and much more.

It is widely acknowledged that United Arab Emirates which houses Dubai is one of the most liberal Islam nation; and that Emiratis are friendly, tolerant and generally open-minded to visitors.

The liberalism of the UAE and of Dubai, and the qualities of Emiratis notwithstanding, there are laws in Dubai for travelers and these should be taken seriously. For emphasis, the laws bind on tourists as well as expats, whatever their country. In this connection, if you were traveling to Dubai, you should observe and adhere to the following Dubai travel warnings as offending any of them courts penalties (ranging from light to severe, although all are undesirable).

Clearly, Dubai is an exciting place. With all its highlights, economy and security status, we can understand why it is today the fourth most visited city in the world.

If you want to stay out of penalty as you enjoy your stay in the glitzy Arabian city, you are strongly advised to kindly read and follow the do’s and don’ts outlined here. Non-muslims are especially advised to read the article as certain things which are common practices in non-Islamic countries are criminalized in Dubai.

You’d love this:
Shopping mall in Dubai for the cheap shopping
Best things to do in Dubai
Is Dubai safe to visit?

A Brief of Do’s and Don’ts in Dubai or Dubai Laws for Tourists & Expats

Whether you call it Dubai social rules, do’s and don’ts in Dubai, Dubai travel warnings or even Dubai laws for tourists and expats, the following will answer your questions keeping you from punishments in Dubai.

  • You can’t specifically kiss and generally show affection in public.
  • You can’t hold hands with your partner in public.
  • You can’t be nude or something like that in public.
  • You can’t consume alcohol or be under its influence in public, or while driving. See Dubai’s alcohol license info.
  • You can’t wear swimming attire in public.
  • You may not dance in public.
  • You can’t eat in public in the month of Ramadan.

Dress code — Dubai Clothing Laws

What to wear in Dubai

What dress code doesn’t violate laws in dubai for tourists and expats? Dubai clothing laws or rules is not far fetched. First up, cross-dressing is illegal. Modest dressing is expected of every tourist; clothes should cover the top of the hands and of the legs. That is, ‘sleevelesses’ are not allowed. It is offensive if a woman’s underwear were visible. Swimming attires should be used at swimming venues only.

In short, men and women should avoid nudity and anything that might sexually entice. Men cannot be freely bare-chested in the streets, for example. Clothing should not be transparent or display offensive pictures or information. Be careful about similar tattoos. Observe these do’s and don’ts or clothes-related social rules and avoid getting punished.

Dubai Alcohol Laws — Liquor in public is a social rules violation in Dubai

Alcohol Do's and Don'ts in Dubai

Dubai 2020 Law Update: An alcohol licence is no longer required for alcohol consumption in Dubai. See details in the foregoing link.

In Dubai (as well as in the Northern Emirates), non-Muslims of age 21 or older can consume alcohol, if they’ve been granted a liquor licence. With that, they are allowed to consume alcohol in their homes and in licensed venues, although to consume alcohol in a licensed venue, you’d need a permit.

Note that a liquor licence is only valid in the Emirate that issued it to you. The liquor licence is only a permit for buying alcohol. It does not give any immunity for alcohol-related criminal offences. It is an offence to carry alcohol in your car if you do not hold the alcohol licence. The licence notwithstanding, it is illegal to be under the influence of alcohol while driving. The legal age for drinking alcohol in Abu Dhabi is 18 but, in Sharjah, consuming alcohol is illegal, altogether.

Note also that electronic cigarettes are illegal in UAE, although smoking is allowed for people not younger than 18 at specific places such as bars but never at government buildings.

Dubai driving rules for visitors

Driving Rules for Visitors in Dubai

What are some Dubai driving rules for visitors? First off, wearing a seat belt while driving is mandatory. It is illegal to drive drunk, with possession of alcohol, or with alcohol in your system. Driving in high speed, tailgating, race-driving or the like, lane jumping and using a mobile phone while driving are violations of Dubai’s do’s and don’ts and are punishable.

In short, anything that could distract you while driving to cause an accident may be considered an offence and any driving activity you do which endangers the lives of people may be considered an offence. There are numerous speed cameras on the roads. Perpetrators who are caught may have their cars impounded.

Jay walking (Crossing the road in a non-designated area / crossing) is also illegal and the police, particularly in Abu Dhabi, have launched a campaign against jay walking. If you are caught committing this offence you could be subject to a fine and fines are heavy. Jay walking is defined as crossing or walking in the street or road unlawfully or without regard for approaching traffic.

Banned food plus others in Dubai — Can one bring pork into Dubai, for e.g

Bringing Pork into Dubai

There’s hardly a place in the Western world that prohibits people from consuming pork. This might also be said of many other places besides the West. In the foregoing mentioned places, not eating pork may only be on a personal or some basis. The ruling against the eating of pork in Dubai and other parts of the UAE is peculiarly Islam-informed.

Apart from pork, pornography, or any videos, magazines and pictures that may be judged pornographic are considered unacceptable and so should not be consumed or utilized in Dubai and UAE as a whole. Bringing pork into Dubai is illegal.

Dubai drug laws and punishments

Drugs Use in Dubai

UAE takes drug offences extremely seriously. In fact, there is zero tolerance for it. For example, the consumption, possession, trafficking or smuggling of drugs is severely punished and punishment includes death sentence.

The possession of illegal drugs of the possible smallest amount can lead to a minimum 4 years’ imprisonment — quantities as small as 0.001g. This is on purpose as a senior Dubai judge was quoted in February 11, 2008, by the Dubai City News as saying, “These laws help discourage anyone from carrying or using drugs. Even if the quantity of illegal drugs found on someone is 0.05 grams, they will be found guilty. The penalty is a minimum of four years. The message is clear — drugs will not be tolerated.” Thus, the consumption of drugs, that is, the presence of drugs in the blood stream is considered possession of it and this is equally punishable.

Narcotic drugs (Hashish, Cocaine, Heroin, Poppy Seeds, Hallucination Pills, etc) are strictly forbidden. Drug trafficking may result in death sentence. It has been reported that UAE airports have excellent technology and security scanners and thus prohibited items could easily be discovered. Avoid drugs or (strictly speaking) any trace of it on or in you while going to Dubai or any part of the UAE, not to frustrate your journey and/or yourself by them. And, you can’t conceive leaving your country to Dubai or UAE to serve four years. Buying or selling narcotics has been said to be considered a serious crime which can result in life imprisonment.

Medicines with codeine are forbidden. And, over-the-counter medications are often considered illegal, so to ensure your medication does not land you in trouble, keep your medication in their original containers and bring a note from your doctor. You should also check the banned substances list from the local consulate or seek possible help from your embassy.

Sex laws in Dubai — can I visit Dubai with my boyfriend or girlfriend?

Can I visit Dubai with my boyfriend?

UPDATE 24/12/2020: Dubai and of course the UAE’s law has been updated, in November 7th, 2020, and the update states that unmarried couples in Dubai can cohabit. The situation, for emphasis, is the same for other emirates in the UAE.

The question “Can I visit Dubai with my boyfriend or girlfriend?” is an interesting one. In Dubai and in UAE in general, to make love to anyone you are not legally married to is a serious offense which could result in any of the following punishments: prosecution, imprisonment, deportation or getting fined. You are not even allowed to share a hotel room with an opposite sex you are not married to or closely related to.

Sex outside marriage is so unacceptable that if it results in a child, those involved may face a punishment. It may affect medical procedures also for a woman who is pregnant, as doctors may request for evidence of marriage during ante-natal checks. Birth registration might not be possible without evidence of marriage. To reiterate, any evidence of sex outside marriage courts a severe penalty. Records show that persons have been punished for sex outside marriage.

Homosexual sex or sex by people of the same sex, whether married anywhere or not is illegal and same-sex marriage is not recognized in Dubai and UAE, at large. It is a well-known fact that the UAE authority respects private life, although it has been reported that some individuals who have engaged in homosexual activities were punished.

Public photography laws in Dubai — can I take photos without consent?

Are there public photography laws in Dubai? What happens when you take photos without consent? You may take public photos of certain locations but you are not allowed to photograph government buildings or military installations. This is a definite a security measure.

You cannot also just photograph people without their consent, especially Emirati women. It has been reported that for photographing women in beaches without their consent, perpetrators have been punished. Hobbies like bird watching and plane spotting, may be misunderstood — particularly near military sites, government buildings, airports and other similar places.

In February 2015, 3 British nationals were arrested and detained for 2 months for plane spotting at UAE airports. Making posts on the internet which abuses, ridicules, criticizes or condemns the UAE government, companies, individuals may be considered a crime punishable under UAE law. There have been cases of individuals being detained, prosecuted and/or convicted for such acts.

Charitable acts — fundraising, for example

Charitable acts such as fundraising for example are highly regulated in UAE, even on the internet so long as it concerns the UAE, and thus you should seek legal advice if you want to get involved in such. Offences in this connection could be severely punished.

Financial crime in Dubai

Any financial crime at all in the whole of UAE is punishable. Do not get involved in fraud, cheques that bounce, or not paying bills. Financial offences are punishable by imprisonment, fining, or freezing of the account. Non-residents of the UAE arrested for financial crimes are generally not granted bail. Convicted perpetrators of financial crimes may not be released until offence is settled and they may not be released where sentence has not been fully served.

Gadgets — some may require a licence

Be wary of the type of gadgets you take with you to the UAE. Weapons, or even body protective equipment, and related equipment of any sort no matter how small, satellite phones, radio transmitters, listening or recording devices, binoculars or powerful cameras, may require a licence for use in the UAE. Seek professional advice in this regard.

Rule on Israelis

Australian travelers of Jewish background who are Israeli passport holders can only transit through Dubai and are not allowed to leave the airport because the UAE is a participant in the Arab League boycott of Israel.


You can understand that Dubai is an Islamic city and so is informed by Islamic customs. In other words, the social rules, do’s and don’ts or Dubai laws for tourists and expats including what to wear in Dubai are Islam-influenced.

You should observe the foregoing Dubai laws to avoid punishments. You should also know that people younger than 18 are not allowed to stay in a hotel alone except accompanied by an adult.

Seek legal advice if you want to buy property in Dubai or anywhere in UAE. It is a punishable crime to work in Dubai without a visa. As a reminder, do not forget what has been said on what to wear in Dubai. Your dress code must be modest and respectful.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Thus, eating, drinking, smoking, playing loud music or dancing in the public in daytime are violations of Dubai laws for tourists and expats and are punishable by law. Offensive language, aggressive behavior and smoking outside designated areas, staring at local women or trying to make eye-contact are not tolerated. Gambling and gambling materials are forbidden. Tourists and expats in Dubai and other parts of UAE have been punished for flouting one of these social rules or the other.

At this point, I believe if you were asking “what is illegal in dubai for tourists”, “laws in dubai tourists should know”, “do’s and don’ts in Dubai”, “Dubai clothing laws”, and “Dubai kissing laws” et cetera, your questions would have been answered.

Observe the foregoing Dubai travel warnings and enjoy Dubai. While you should mind what to wear in Dubai, some people have been found to be dressed blithely. But context matters and your security should be your priority. Cheers!