Planning a trip to Dubai? Here’s some answers to those important questions you might have
10 October 2017| Last updated on 14 January 2020
Between the glitz and glam of the lavish lifestyles offered in Dubai, and the skyscrapers, Friday brunches and attractions, is a very complex and misunderstood judicial system in place.
The UAE’s judicial system follows the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ train of thought, and thus an accused individual of any criminal wrongdoing has particular rights owed to them while in the UAE.
Of course, while planning your holiday as a tourist visiting Dubai – legal issues might be the last thing on your mind, but it’s only right to make sure you come prepared and do thorough research should anything happen during your time here.
So to help you fully prepare, here’s some of the most common questions tourists have about Dubai with answers and explanations for you.
1. Is Dubai safe to travel to for tourists?
Absolutely yes – Dubai has rapidly become one of the most popular go-to destinations for holidays and travellers and has a multitude of attractions, sight-seeing, activities and historical spots to explore.
In fact, Dubai is one of safest cities in arguably THE safest country in the Middle East. Thanks to stricter laws, crime is kept to a minimum and you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that many tourists feel very safe during their stay in Dubai.
2. Can you take alcohol into Dubai?
Tourists visiting Dubai can bring the following goods free of duty into the city:
- Gifts with a value of no more than AED 3,000
- 400 cigarettes OR 500 grams of tobacco OR 50 cigars
- And up to 4 litres of alcohol OR 48 cans of beer (each not exceeding 355 ml)
So yes, tourists can buy and bring alcohol into Dubai. Which leads us onto #3…
3. Can you drink in Dubai?
Technically, no – if you don’t have an alcohol license in Dubai you shouldn’t drink. However, the city is continually enhancing its tourism industry, and so those visiting should have no issue purchasing a drink while staying here.
Tourists will find that most restaurants, bars and hotels serve alcohol to those above the UAE’s legal drinking age of 21.
If you’re a resident living in Dubai – that’s a different story, as you should purchase and register for an alcohol license. Provided you’re a non-Muslim.
4. Can you swear in Dubai?
No, you should endeavour to keep your potty mouth shut while out and about in Dubai. Particularly in public places where crowds will form, like at the beach, or in a mall or restaurant. Be mindful of who is around you – Dubai is a melting pot of many different cultures, so it’s best to refrain from swearing to ensure you don’t accidentally insult someone.
In the comfort of your own hotel room or holiday residence, swear all you like – just don’t say anything that might cause offence in public.
5. Can you smoke in Dubai?
Dubai is one of the few tourist destinations left that still allows smoking indoors – which is great news if you smoke, but horrible news if you can’t stand it.
But don’t be alarmed – all restaurants that do allow indoor smoking separate the smokers from the non-smokers in different seating areas.
And if you’re a fan of shisha – you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find lots of local cafes or Arabic restaurants that serve it. If it’s your first time visiting, and you’re not against giving it a go – you can try it as part of your ‘authentic Middle Eastern’ experience here.
Those who do smoke will also be pleased to learn that Dubai’s tobacco prices are still extremely cheap in comparison to other Western countries. For example, a pack of Marlboro Gold costs AED 20 for 20 cigarettes.
6. Can you hold hands in public in Dubai?
If you’re a married couple, holding hands is tolerated. But kissing, hugging or petting can be considered an offence to public decency. Thus, we advise you keep your PDAs only for your hotel room or holiday residence.
As per the UAE’s law, PDAs, as well as sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public places, is liable to be published by imprisonment or deportation.
So yes – keep it for behind closed doors.
7. Is it illegal to kiss in Dubai? Is public affection illegal?
See above. Kissing in public is not allowed in Dubai or the UAE.
8. What do you have to wear in Dubai?
As a rule of thumb, make sure your holiday outfits keep you covered from shoulders to at least the knee to prevent any issues from arising should you cause offence to anyone.
At the beach or by the pool, it’s fine to wear your (suitable) swimwear, so long as you’re appropriately dressed once again after leaving the pool or beach vicinity.
9. Can I drink alcohol during Ramadan in Dubai?
Over the years, the city has become more lenient regarding the serving of alcohol during the Holy Month of Ramadan – with some establishments gaining special permissions from the government to allow their normal service throughout the month.
However, do keep your alcohol intake limited during the Holy Month as it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you find a restaurant that is serving alcohol during Ramadan in Dubai, you’ll most likely find that it’s after a particular time of the day.
10. Can women drive in Dubai?
Yes, women can drive in Dubai and the UAE.
11. Do I need a visa to visit Dubai?
Requirements for obtaining a visit visa to travel to Dubai vary depending on your nationality, the purpose of your visit and its duration.
GCC nationals are granted entry upon arrival, and other citizens from the following countries can obtain a visa upon arrival that lasts 90 days; France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Holland, GeCirmany, Sweden, Austria, Finland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Poland, Switzerland, Estonia, Portugal, Malta, Spain, Cyprus, Denmark, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia.
Additionally, citizens of the following countries can obtain a visa upon arrival for 30 days, with a 10-day grace period; Andorra, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Monaco, South Korea, Brunei, Ireland, New Zealand, The Vatican, Canada, Japan, San Marino, United States, United Kingdom and Russia.
12. What language is spoken in Dubai?
Although Arabic is the primary language of Dubai and the UAE, you’ll find that English is most commonly used in public areas, on road signs, in restaurants and shopping malls.
Here you will find 17 Arabic phrases that all tourists can learn to help with daily conversations while visiting Dubai.
13. What tourist attractions are in Dubai?
There are SO many, and all suit different ages and lifestyles. From the Burj Khalifa, to The Beach in JBR, to the IMG Worlds of Adventure theme park, to City Walk’s HUB ZERO as well as Burj Al Arab, Souk Madinat, desert safaris, sand dune buggy rides, to the Dubai Canal and Dubai Marina… There’s SO much to see and do during your time in Dubai, with options that suit all budgets.
In fact, why don’t you take a look at deal websites like Cobone that have plenty of activity deals to help save you some Dirhams during your stay here?
14. What emergency numbers are used in Dubai?
A very important question! For Dubai Police, dial 999. For the Fire Department, ring 997, ambulance is 998, and should you have any blips related to electricity or water services, dial 991.
For a full list of emergency numbers and police station contact details, visit our page on emergency numbers in Dubai.
15. Do I have to tip in Dubai?
Many restaurants and bars include the service charge in the price of the meal/drinks bought, however there may be some instances like using a valet, or using a Dubai taxi that you might feel it appropriate to tip – which is fine. Anything between the 10% - 20% mark will be fine.
16. Are drugs allowed in Dubai?
Absolutely not. It’s not even worth entertaining the idea. Don’t try to bring any into the country, and most certainly don’t seek or take any while in the country.
17. Are there any photography rules in Dubai?
Surprisingly for some, yes there are some photography restrictions in Dubai. While it’s a perfect city for every photography-lover to flex their snapping skills, there are some places/individuals that should not become the topic of focus for your images.
Military areas, palaces, courts, Government buildings and certain bridges should be avoided – in fact, taking pictures in restricted areas could lead you to land in jail or be fined.
Avoid taking images of women entirely, and if you do wish to take a picture of an individual – you must have their permission before taking it.
18. Is Dubai special needs friendly?
The UAE is continually improving its accessibility to those individuals who have a disability or special needs. Many public places like tourist attractions and malls are entirely accessible, but out and about on the streets might prove a little difficult if your journey or day isn’t planned correctly.
19. When’s the best time to visit Dubai?
We’re all very aware of just how HOT it can get in Dubai and the UAE during summer, but tourists wishing to visit Dubai will be glad to hear that this heat does cool down in the winter months. From October to April, the temperature is generally cooler – with the best time entirely being from November to March.
20. What hospitals/doctors can I visit in Dubai as a tourist?
Provided you have international health insurance, visiting a government or private hospital, or a doctor’s clinic shouldn’t be an issue for you.
Otherwise, if you have to pay upfront, you can expect anywhere between Dhs 300 to Dhs 700 for a consultation – as well as the additional costs of any medications required.