Dubai: Do's & Don'ts
Before you travel to Dubai or the UAE in general, you should be aware of the laws in place there. You have probably heard stories about expats and tourists being thrown in jail for stepping out of line but this is not the case. As with any country you travel to you, you must abide by their rules. Dubai and the UAE is a beautiful place with stunning beaches and buzzing cities but remember to respect their rules. They aren't unreasonable.
Firstly you should know:
- The UAE follows Muslim and Sharia law.
- The UAE is not a democratic country, it is ruled by the royal family.
- The UAE has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, largely due to the laws they have in place.
- Do travel there during the month of Ramadan as it is actually the best time of year to visit. It's usually much quieter and hotel rates are lower. Yes, the temperature is much hotter however with air conditioning, pools and the sea it's manageable. In addition, the evenings are filled with Iftars (breaking of the fast) where restaurants and hotels put on luxurious buffets to celebrate. In the past, the month of Ramadan was stricter with many restaurants and cafes closing for the month, however now many are open throughout. It is, however, worth mentioning there must be no eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum in public. Muslims fast during daylight hours and so in public, they ask that tourists and non-muslims do the same.
- Do explore the non-touristy areas of Dubai. Why not hire a car and drive out of town to explore some of the natural beauty Dubai has to offer
- Do use the metro service. It is cheap and fast plus it shows you some great views of Dubai along the way.
- Do try Emirati food, often confused with Lebanese. It is delicious and extremely underrated.
- Do tip your waiters, taxi drivers and bar staff. They work hard, for extremely long hours so the extra appreciation means a lot.
- Do take time to go to the Etihad museum to understand where the city came from. It has grown quickly and you'll be amazed to see how it looked 40 years ago.
- Do go to the fabric and gold souks in Old Dubai - it shows you how beautiful Dubai is even without the glitz and glamour.
- Do people watch on Fashion Avenue in the Dubai Mall. All the Hermes and Chanel shopping bags are enviable.
- Do smell Oud - an Arabic perfume. It is very potent but part of the Emirati culture and tradition.
- Finally, do understand that this city was created by a man to give his people a better way of life. Was there ever a better reason?
- Your clothing must be respectful and conservative however In private residences, hotels and on beaches you can relax. If you are unsure whether your outfit is appropriate, a good rule to follow is to cover your knees and shoulders.
- Men mustn't be shirtless unless they are on a beach or by the pool.
- Don't be drunk and disorderly in a public place as this can end with you being arrested. Be extra careful when drinking outside of your hotel and be respectful to the taxi driver who takes you home.
- In addition, the UAE has a zero-tolerance policy on driving under the influence. If you have had a drink do not drive.
- Over the top PDA (public displays of affection) are frowned upon, take this into account when with your significant other.
- Finally, the below items are prohibited in Dubai and the UAE so do not pack them in your luggage:
- Pornographic Materials
- All Drugs
- Poppy Seeds
- Some kinds of prescription medicine
- Any printed or painted publications that contradict Islamic teachings
Dubai is a diverse and multicultural city with people having expatriated from all over the world. They celebrate every nationality, culture and religion from Diwali to Christmas and that is part of what makes it a wonderfully tolerant place. However like everywhere they have their laws, so stick to them and you won't have a problem.
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley