Middle East

Top 10 Dubai travel tips

You know the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”? The same goes for the glistening metropolis of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite its enormous shopping centres and flashy high-rises, this city of bright lights is ultra conservative. Hefty penalties apply for anyone who breaks the rules, so you’re best to play it safe and blend in with the locals. Here are 10 tips for safe travel in Dubai.

1. Dress modestly
Dubai is in a Muslim emirate, so opt for conservative attire over anything revealing. Revealing clothing, like short skirts or spaghetti strap tops are big no-no’s. Women can wear bikinis and bathing suits while on the beach, but should not wear them in public (even on the way to and from the beach). And boys, keep those shirts on at all times.

2. Use proper money exchanges
Never have your money exchanged for the local currency on the street. Not only could you get short-changed, you might end up in a dangerous situation. Your best bet for exchanging money is a bank, a hotel or an ATM at the local shopping centre.

3. Avoid public displays of affection
PDAs are considered offensive in the UAE, as are displays of homosexuality. Because Dubai falls under Sharia Law, some travel sites even go as far as recommending that unwedded couples book separate hotel rooms.

4. Electricity adapters
Electrical sockets for three-pinned plugs of 13 amps each are the standard throughout the UAE. But we recommend buying an electrical adapter just in case you run into a problem.

5. Avoid drugs and check your prescriptions
It goes without saying, but the consumption of illegal drugs and trafficking drugs is strictly prohibited. If you are caught with illegal drugs, you’ll spend quite a bit of time behind bars. Double check with your embassy to make sure your prescription drugs are permitted. In some cases, you may need to carry a note from your doctor.

6. Avoid public alcohol consumption
Alcohol itself is not banned in Dubai, but it can only be purchased at a few duty-free stores on your way into the city. As a tourist, you won’t be able to purchase alcohol from a bottle shop. You can purchase drinks in restaurants and bars, but keep in mind that public drunkenness is strictly prohibited, as is drinking and driving.

7. Think before you click
Never take a photo with a stranger without asking for permission first. Unless you are in a tourist area where photography is expressly permitted, avoid taking pictures of government buildings, airports, docks, military installations etc. And never, ever, take a picture of a Muslim woman without permission.

8. Driving in Dubai
There’s no shortage of public transport options in Dubai, but if you plan on getting behind the wheel, you’ll need an international driver’s license. If you plan on taking up residence in Dubai, you’ll eventually need to get a permanent Dubai driver’s license. Don’t panic if you are in a car accident; simply remain with your vehicle, without moving it from the place where the accident happened, and wait for the police.

9. Check your visa
Will you need to have a visa on hand before visiting Dubai? Citizens from some countries are allowed to enter the UAE by purchasing a tourist visa upon arrival. Others must have a visa in hand at the time of arrival. Check with your country’s embassy before leaving home to ensure you have the right documents in hand.

10. Buy health insurance
Most health insurance companies won’t pay your expenses when travelling out of country. Check with your own carrier before you leave to make sure you have coverage. If not, purchase some travel insurance. While in Dubai, it is generally easy to get medications from pharmacies, but if you end up hospitalised, the costs of treatments or getting home can add up very quickly.

19 Comments for "Top 10 Dubai travel tips"

Kevin says on May 26th, 2010 at 2:20 pm:

I just don’t see the draw of Dubai. I am not saying I would avoid it, but I was wondering if others could enlighten me on how Dubai is one of “the places to go” these days.

Tom Martin says on September 11th, 2011 at 5:03 pm:

Dubai sounds like a destination that has way too many limitations for what it offers. In addition, the whole explanation of how the culture and people are have already made me feel insecure and I haven’t even planned my trip!

calgary traveller says on September 21st, 2011 at 5:28 am:

Spent eight days last February (2011) in Dubai with my wife. We did not feel the need to do anything different than at any other travel destination in Europe; Be respectful of the local people, their customs and way of life and religion. Dress normally with no shorts (which are not common in Europe anyhow) in public places. The above rules do not sound onerous to any normal average traveler. Remember, it is their country after all and you are given the temporary priveledge to be there. We felt extremely safe and people were very respectful. Don’t act like earlier American tourists; loud and expecting everybody to serve you. Then everything is wonderful. Highly recommendable destination next few months when n. America is approaching another winter.

coverguy says on October 1st, 2011 at 11:22 am:

Dubai is the best tourists place I’ve ever visited.It’s a safe and modern place.Nor america or europe offers the same quality of life for tourists.Do not worry for religious limitations.Dubai is not a place for religious extremism.It’s a very balanced place.Just use your common sense and enjoy your stay in Dubai.For your information,I am not a muslim.

Kennedy says on August 17th, 2012 at 11:56 pm:

As a gay Jew, I think I’m better off traveling to France again for next vacation. Reading this article made me laugh; UAE is totally safe! No need to worry about anything…except for taking vacation photos, wearing pants in 100 degree heat, not being able to hold hands or kiss in public,…the list goes on… PASS!

joeblow says on September 14th, 2012 at 3:34 pm:

this place sounds like it blows of moral police

Here now says on April 3rd, 2013 at 10:07 am:

I am in Dubai as we speak. The Dubai destinations I have been to are simply amazing. I am wearing shorts on a daily basis with the other 95% of the people. There are a few restaurants that require long pants, but you get that in the states as well. I have been treated with the utmost respect as have my family members. I would say Dubai is very safe and it is a great destination if you are looking for something new. The weather is gorgeous, the people are nice, and the sights are wonderful. I would highly advise people to give it a try. Well worth it!

Erica says on April 14th, 2013 at 7:17 pm:

I’m actually going to Dubai this week for a modeling career. It does sound exciting. It has the world’s tallest building, the world’s biggest mall, the world’s biggest fountain, world’s fastest rollocoaster, worlds biggest meal dish their architecture is so detailed and beautiful. I’ve never been there but excited to go :)

khalifa says on May 14th, 2013 at 12:51 pm:

i was in Dubai in January. I think its a beautiful place. I witnessed the light and fire show and visited NAIF the open market. I really love it.

Layda says on January 1st, 2014 at 1:28 pm:

Dubai seems like a wonderful place to visit, I’m adding it to my husband and I bucket list!

Thom says on January 5th, 2014 at 6:42 pm:

What’s the weather like in Dubai in January?? Also, any travel and/or packing tips for a first-timer??

Albert Smit says on January 22nd, 2014 at 7:53 pm:

Thank you everyone for your comments. Thom, just see the above link “the dark side of Dubai”. The weather etc. is explained there. Can anyone, who has been or is currently in Dubai please tell me what the educational side of things look like ?

Rosie Evie says on February 9th, 2014 at 7:16 am:

dubai, one of only two countries with no reported cases of holiday illnesses recorded in a survey by the leading British consumer magazine, Holiday Which? This is a tribute to the success of government immunization programs, the provision of adequate clean water and high standards of cleanliness in hotels and restaurants.


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