Here’s 6 things you should never, ever do while visiting any of Dubai’s airports, or risk being arrested in Dubai
12 August 2018| Last updated on 31 March 2019
There are frequent international news stories that tend to cause confusion over what will cause you to be arrested in a Dubai airport.
After all, it is widely believed – and naively reported – that Dubai is so conservative that even having alcohol in your system upon landing here will result in your instant arrest and jailing.
This of course, is entirely not the case.
In fact, Dubai’s own airline, Emirates, cater for those who consume alcohol during their international flights.
Because of this ‘fake’ news shared by the media, it’s not uncommon to find people curious as to why anyone would want to visit Dubai. As a result, we expats living here – who call this place home – are left agitated by the presumptuous attitude towards the city and the laws in place here.
Of course for those of us who live here, we very much understand the UAE etiquette that is expected of us, and what we should and should not do upon arriving and when departing from Dubai.
For those of you who are unsure, however, here are some things you shouldn’t do if you’re transiting through Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport, or risk being arrested and charged…
1. Take photos/videos of any members of staff or officials
This is a huge no-no in all airports across the world, with many destinations displaying signs explicitly banning the usage of photography or videography while in certain parts of an airport.
Particularly when you’re in the immigration and customs area, whether arriving or departing, we strongly advise everyone against taking any photos or videos while passing through immigration.
To take a photo of an immigration officer in the UAE is considered an offence, plus – to take a photo or video of anyone in the UAE without their permission is an offence. So avoid taking your camera/phone out until you step outside of Dubai International Airport, just to be on the safe side.
2. Abusive and rude behaviour in the airport
If, for whatever reason, you’re left frustrated and at a loss for what to do while travelling through DXB or Al Maktoum, don’t let your anger get the better of you. Travelling can be stressful enough without something going wrong, so when it does – it’s important you don’t let hand gestures and swearing get you into trouble.
The UAE is a very respectful country, and thus expects expats and tourists to maintain that respect when dealing with others. This means you should NOT swear at anyone you’re dealing with in the airport – verbally or via hand gestures.
3. Smuggling drugs or illegal substances through Dubai
A pretty obvious one, and it goes without saying – don’t ever try to smuggle an illegal substance or drug through any of Dubai’s airports.
The use, importation and selling of drugs is strictly prohibited in Dubai and the UAE. If you’re caught breaking this law, you’ll earn yourself an arrest, jail time and will most likely be deported. Even possessing a small amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum of four years in jail.
The most recent case involved a Nigerian man, who was caught at Dubai International Airport with 26.6kg of drugs. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail after his arrival in Dubai in March 2018 on a visit visa.
Carrying a poppy seed bagel through Dubai airports
What seems a relatively harmless snack for some is in fact a serious violation of the UAE’s laws here in Dubai. Why? Because poppy seeds are the source of two drugs; opium and heroin. Given the country’s strict laws surrounding drug usage, carrying a poppy seed or poppy seed bagel can result in your arrest for drug possession.
4. Being drunk and disorderly in the airport
As with anywhere in the UAE, being drunk in public can lead to being arrested. That’s not to say that you will be arrested for simply consuming alcohol.
The drinking laws in Dubai allow the consumption of alcohol by non-Muslims, but if you’re then caught too drunk and disorderly in a public domain, the Dubai Police may and will arrest an individual if they see fit.
Is it legal to consume alcohol on an Emirates flight in Dubai?
Yes, it is legal – as we’ve mentioned, Emirates as an airline supply alcohol to non-Muslim passengers during flights. It is also fine to purchase and consume alcohol in any one of the licensed outlets in both Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport.
A recent story involving a woman named Ellie Holman went viral in the international media, with reports stating that she had been arrested for consuming wine on an Emirates flight.
This was not the case however, as she was reportedly abusive towards staff, and illegally photographed and took a video of immigration officials in DXB. She has since been released and deported from the country.
5. Carrying any item from the banned items list for Dubai customs
If a passenger arriving in Dubai is carrying any of the following items, they risk being arrested and jailed by UAE authorities. The list includes:
- All kinds of narcotic drugs (as mentioned above)
- Goods intended to be imported from boycotted countries
- Goods from Israeli origin or bearing Israeli trademarks or logos
- Crude Ivory and Rhinoceros horn
- Gambling tools and machineries
- Three layers fishing nets
- Original engravings, prints, lithographs, sculpture and statues in any material
- Used, reconditioned and inlaid tyres
- Radiation polluted substances
- Printed publications, oil paintings, photographs, pictures, cards, books, magazines stony sculptures and mannequins which contradict Islamic teachings, decencies, or deliberately implying immorality or turmoil
- Any other goods, the importation of which is prohibited under the authority of U.A.E. customs laws or any other laws in the country
- Forged and duplicate currency
- Cooked and home-made foods
6. Unpaid, outstanding debts owed in Dubai and the UAE
If you are or have previously been an expat who has racked up unpaid debts in the country, yes, you may risk being caught and arrested upon your arrival at any one of Dubai’s airports.
This is particularly risky for anyone returning to the UAE who still has a police case pending in court, or an arrest warrant is waiting. When arriving at a Dubai airport, there is a risk that you will be arrested and detained upon arrival in the UAE.
It is best to seek legal advice and thoroughly plan your trip to the country if you wish to return to seek employment.