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Go back to the blog 21.10.2019

Dubai – Important Things Every Expat & Traveller Should Know

Many of our clients holiday, move, or are relocated to the United Arab Emirates, specifically to Dubai; also referred to as ‘The City of Gold.’ An exciting global destination that has become synonymous with luxury, breath-taking architecture and design, and an exotic way of life amidst the Middle East, Dubai is also known for its traditions and firm laws. However, these should not stop you from journeying to this marvellous destination. Therefore, to enjoy a relaxed and carefree Dubai experience, it is worth knowing some of the everyday expectations of civilians and tourists.

Dress & Attire

Showing too much or a lot of skin in Dubai is forbidden; this rule applies to women especially. Belly, shoulders and back must always be covered in public and skirts must be no shorter than below the knee. While it is not mandatory for females to wear a headscarf, it is considered culturally polite to do so and is an expectation when visiting religious and significant locations. In the case of men, sensible attire is also mandatory when out in public, following a similar guideline to that of the ladies.

In tourist areas such as beaches and pools, the rules are a little more flexible. Certain rules will apply to different resorts and hotels also. However, it is still an expectation that both men and particularly women dress in a conservative, non-provocative, and respectful manner. Violation of the laws associated with dress and attire in public may result in imprisonment or deportation. Your travel agent or host hotel will be able to provide you with more information regarding this.

Public Displays of Affection (Kissing, Holding Hands, Touching, etc.)

There is a strict approach to any display of public affection in Dubai. While Dubai is one of the more progressive cities in the Middle East, it is still important to respect their traditions and laws while enjoying your visit. As such, kissing, holding hands, touching and anything construed as intimate behaviour or sexual innuendo should all be saved for the privacy of your hotel room or apartment.

This is very important as public displays of affection can be particularly offensive to some of the locals and result in the temporary imprisonment or deportation of the offending persons.

Homosexuality & LGBTQ+ Persons

Officially, homosexuality is still illegal in the UAE, as it is in many countries throughout the Middle East under Islamic Sharia Law. However, Dubai is a progressive city and is more tolerable to what happens behind closed doors. As it is in many destinations around the world, unfortunately, those in the LGBTQ+ community should exercise caution and make safe decisions when in Dubai. In particular, trans men and women should reconsider if travelling to Dubai is a wise decision regarding their safety.

Same sex couples will find that it is safe to travel, as long as they refrain from public displays of affection and introduce themselves as friends (this will also spare any unwanted reactions during check-in at your hotel). While it is not the ideal scenario for many people, safety should always be the first and major concern.

Sex Outside of Marriage

Along with its conservative approach to dress, public displays of affection and homosexuality, it is also forbidden to have sex outside of marriage in Dubai. As most countries around the world have laws stemming from religious belief, the UAE is no different and is less progressive in these areas. As such, it is important that unmarried couple travelling together to Dubai either declare themselves as married with different names or as friends/colleagues, in order to spare unwanted attention/reactions.

Again, practicing discretion, respectful behaviour and being polite to all locals (in and outside of the hotel) can ensure that your travels are carefree and enjoyable.

Alcohol Consumption

Generally speaking, the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the UAE. However, the rules associated with this are not necessarily enforced within many of the luxurious hotels, resorts and bars/restaurants in Dubai. As such, finding an alcoholic beverage is very much possible, but with the utmost discretion. To show oneself inebriated / drunk in Dubai is considered offensive and could result in imprisonment or deportation. Therefore, enjoy yourself but don’t make a fool of yourself. Cheers!

Photographing Locals & State Buildings

The photographing and or filming of local people without their permission is strictly forbidden, as is the photographing and filming of state building and buildings of religious significance. As such, exercise caution when using your phone or camera to take pictures of your surroundings. It is natural that some photos may capture these things, but it is important to practice discretion and remove/blur the faces of locals before posting to social media.

It may seem that there are a lot of things that can’t be done in Dubai but, in reality, Dubai is a much more progressive city within the Middle East and welcomes visitors from all around the world. When travelling to any foreign land, it is always important to be respectful of the locals, acknowledge traditions and customs, and adhere to what behaviour is expected of foreigners entering for leisure, work or to live. Dubai is a wonderful city between sand and sea, and you are sure to enjoy all that it has to offer.
Daniel Fiorenza

Daniel Fiorenza

Content & Community Manager

Daniel comes from Zurich, Switzerland. He has a commercial diploma and had several years of professional experience in the travel industry, before moving into insurance in 2013. Within the insurance industry, Daniel has worked extensively in customer service, advising in international health, travel and life insurance, as well as disability and income protection. He is currently completing studies in digital content creation and manages content and community engagement at ASN. Daniel speaks German, English, Spanish, Italian and French, and is passionate about reading and writing.