Customs in Dubai
Are customs strict in Dubai? What can you bring to Dubai? How much cash can I take with me? What is and is not allowed when you go on holiday to Dubai?
Get an answer to all Dubai customs questions.
Are laws and regulations strict in Dubai?
Dubai and the other UAE Emirates are known to have some unusual rules.
For example, WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime and other video calls are not allowed in Dubai. Driving around in a dirty car or taking a photo of that one person who has not given permission for it can quickly amount to a hefty fine or even a prison sentence.
Yet you don’t have to be afraid to visit Dubai. Dubai is an emirate that is very westernized.
With most websites you often come across strict rules that make you think it is extremely risky to travel to Dubai. It’s not risky at all! The most important rules are listed below, but do not take them too closely? Use your common sense! Yet there are a number of rules that you must respect when visiting Dubai. We have not experienced any problems here, everyone was super friendly and extremely helpful!
Most important rules and laws in Dubai
Pornographic or sex magazines
Pornographic or sex magazines are illegal in Dubai and you will not find them here either.
It is best to leave these at home since importing or bringing them in is punishable.
In Dubai all video calls are blocked. WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime,… You name it: all are currently being blocked by the government.
Sending messages works, even photos and videos are allowed. There is a lifting of this limitation but until today (November 2019) it is still not possible to have a video call with the home front.
Curses or indecent gestures
When you have a discussion in Dubai with a person, it is advisable to keep calm and decent.
A gesture with the well-known finger is totally not done in Dubai, as well as swearing in public is a serious fact.
Is this too strict? In our opinion not, this results in a super friendly atmosphere throughout the emirate that we could experience ourselves. At no time have we had problems with difficult people.
Take photos in public
You can imagine that where the largest building, largest shopping mall and many other major sights can be found, thousands of photos are taken. In Dubai this is allowed as long as it concerns public places. This is not the case with for example government buildings.
Taking photographs of people without permission or filming or photographing an accident is strictly prohibited in Dubai. Fines can go upto a sloppy 130,000 euros and a prison sentence. During our visit we noticed that this rule should not be taken too seriously. If you accidentally film someone, then there is no problem. If you secretly take a photo this will be a different story.
Bread with poppy seeds
Poppy seeds that you can find with us regularly and completely legally on bread is strictly prohibited in Dubai.
Poppy seed is considered a drug in the United Arab Emirates.
It is best to leave those products at home, the possession of poppy seeds results in a hefty prison sentence.
Relationship without marriage
All sex outside of marriage is illegal, regardless of the type of relationship with your partner.
Gay marriages are not recognized and all homosexual sex is illegal.
A common question is whether you can share a hotel room if you are not married. Some hotels apply this rule, so it’s best to contact your hotel if this is a problem.
We requested this in advance via email and this was not a problem.
Importing or smuggling drugs to Dubai is a very serious fact and is punished with a minimum prison sentence of 4 years.
Even if you only have a minor amount or even a remnant on your clothing, this can result in a famous severe penalty.
Its use is also a serious crime!
Sometimes sandstorms pass through in Dubai. When, for example, you rent a car and you leave it on a public parking lot, make sure it is not too dirty and disrupts the cityscape. There is a chance that they will tow it and you can pay a fine of around 800 Euros.
Almost every gas station in Dubai has a car wash where you can clean the rental car perfectly.
Eating and drinking on public transportation
Eating and drinking is completely prohibited on all forms of public transportation and their stations in Dubai, from subways and buses to pedestrian crossings.
If you get caught eating or drinking in one of these places, it can make your wallet about 30 Dollar lighter.
This is just about the most frequently asked question. Do I really have to wear a long skirt and a shirt with long sleeves in Dubai? The answer is NO!
There is a law in Dubai that says that women must have their upper legs and arms covered. When you visit Dubai you notice that this law is not taken so closely.
What is forbidden, for example, is wearing a bikini in a public place such as the Burj Khalifa. On the beaches however this is allowed.
The super-short skirts or transparent shorts may be a problem.
Non-Muslim residents can get a drink permit to drink alcohol at home and at licensed locations.
Alcoholic beverages are only served in hotels and clubs that have a license for this. We visited a few restaurants that also had no alcohol on the menu.
It is a criminal offense to drink in public or to be under the influence of alcohol.
The legal age for drinking alcohol is 21 in Dubai.
Passengers in transit in Dubai under the influence of alcohol can also be arrested.
Since the beginning of 2019 it is allowed to use vaporizers in Dubai. The use is the same as smoking cigarettes and cigars and must take place at the designated places.
When you travel to Dubai by plane and bring vaporizers with you, you should, if possible, remove the battery from the device and pack it in a separate case. The liquids for vaporizers are available in various places in Dubai.