Five Things to Know Before Traveling to Dubai
Pay attention to the dos and don’ts when visiting this famous destination.
Snatched away from the desert and turned into a metropolis, Dubai is a marvel of human engineering. And it has been attracting tourists with its luxury resorts and impressive architecture for decades.
The fast-developing city is well-known for nightlife and shopping. However, as the UAE’s capital, Dubai has some strict rules that contrast the image of a lavish lifestyle. Their culture and social norms are different from western countries, so it’s best to know what to expect.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of five things to know before traveling to Dubai.
1. Entering the Country and Passing Customs
Citizens of most western countries can receive a 90-day visa on arrival. This makes coming to Dubai very straightforward. There are handy online resources to check the visa rules for your country, but there should generally be no trouble in that department. Unlike before, people who previously visited Kuwait or Israel will no longer have any problems entering the UAE.
Customs and immigration shouldn’t be tricky as well, as long as you act decently and appropriately answer the few questions they might ask. When it comes to things you can’t bring to the country, opiates and other dangerous materials aren’t allowed. Along with this, it’s illegal to bring gambling tools, red laser pointers, and candy cigarettes. You can only enter the UAE with weapons, alcohol, medications, and live animals if you get a special permit.
2. Don’t Act Carefree in the City
While the most popular images from Dubai are those of extravagant architecture and luxury, not all of the city’s like that. In fact, there are areas of Dubai that tourists should avoid if possible. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to recognize the safe parts of the city – the areas with lots of tourist traffic that are better policed than others.
When it comes to overall crime rates, Dubai’s pretty safe. That means you won’t get robbed or attacked if you stay in the right neighborhoods. However, there’s still plenty of pickpockets around. Also, you shouldn’t leave your belongings unattended in public spaces. This especially goes for beaches. Tourists are prime targets for petty theft, so be mindful of that wherever in Dubai you are.
Visiting Dubai as a woman might be a bit trickier under certain circumstances. Ladies should mind their clothing style, making sure it isn’t too provocative. This is especially true when venturing further from the tourist hotspots. It’s also advisable for women to go in pairs or groups while on the street. Also, finding yourself in areas with heavy prostitution might become troublesome.
Naturally, all of these limitations disappear in the confines of the luxury resorts.
3. Dubai Isn’t Only for the Extremely Wealthy
Luxurious resorts and hotels in Dubai are world-renowned. However, the city’s been opening up for visitors with a more moderate budget. Although there are slim chances to find any mind-blowing deals, there are reasonably priced options available. If you find vacancies, hostels might be the most budget-friendly way to go.
The taxis and other public transportation services are relatively cheap, as is the food. Naturally, there are plenty of premium restaurants with dizzying prices. But it’s really straightforward to find an excellent and affordable meal in Dubai.
4. Know What’s Allowed and What’s Not
As a Middle Eastern Muslim country, the UAE has some strict laws and social rules. Dubai, of course, shares them with the rest of the country.
While the rules are not as severe as in some other Muslim countries, some might still come as a shock to a visiting westerner. Even worse, disregarding the lesser-known laws could get you fined or even jailed.
Here are the essential laws to know in Dubai:
Drugs are illegal, and the penalty for either possession or being under their influence is jail time. Alcohol, on the other hand, is legal but within set boundaries. You can drink freely in a licensed venue, such as a club, restaurant, or hotel. Public drinking isn’t allowed, nor is drunk and disorderly conduct. You also won’t be able to buy alcohol outside of permitted establishments. That’s why as a possible deterrent measure, drinks in Dubai are notoriously expensive.
Public displays of affection are problematic in Dubai and can get you arrested. It’s hard to understand why holding hands during a walk or kissing in a cafe is offensive and prohibited. However, that’s the norm in the UAE, so it’s best to adhere to the law while visiting. PDA has the same status as prostitution in Dubai – it’s illegal but tolerated as long as it’s out of sight. Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE, even though laws on extramarital relations are now somewhat relaxed.
5. Adhere to the Local Norms of Decency
Another everyday activity that can get you in trouble in Dubai is the simple act of taking photographs. You can, of course, take a photo of the novelty architecture, but not the people. If you don’t have their permission, you’re not allowed to take a picture. Photographing women, the police, or the military can get you in big trouble fast.
Visible knees and shoulders are also prohibited in public. And whenever you leave the hotel or the beach, you must make sure to cover these offensive parts of human anatomy. The same goes for too tight or transparent clothes. Classical western bikinis are perfectly fine on the beach. The clothing restrictions aren’t reinforced by law, but it’s probably a good idea not to provoke the locals.
If you’re visiting Dubai, it would be wise to avoid Ramadan – the holy month of fasting in the Muslim world. During that time, their rules and prohibitions are even more strict. Everything we’ve mentioned so far is still not allowed, but you can add restrictions on public eating, drinking, and smoking to the list. Since Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, it’s tricky to calculate the exact dates. Luckily, you can find this information online and plan your visit accordingly.
Have a Great Vacation, but Stick by the Rules
If you observe all of the mentioned laws, regulations, and traditional customs, there’s nothing to worry about. You can have an exciting and memorable vacation in Dubai.
Just make sure you’ll remember your trip for all the right reasons.