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Things You Can't Do In Dubai

Updated on June 6, 2017
Azure11 profile image

Marian (aka Azure11) lived in Dubai for 7 years and now travels over there once or twice a year for business and pleasure.

Travelling to Dubai

Many people travel to Dubai on holiday and for business and it is worth checking before you go, if you have not been there before, what the facts are about what you can and can't do.

There are certain rules that are strictly enforced and some that may be turned a blind eye to in certain circumstances so check out the following information.

Stop and think what you are doing in case you might be breaking the law.
Stop and think what you are doing in case you might be breaking the law.

Dubai is Under Shariah Law

Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, which is a Muslim country and hence is under Shariah Law. Although Dubai is not as strict as some other Muslim countries in the Middle East, there are still strict rules, laws and protocols that must be followed. Some rules are unwritten and just expected of people, some are in fact law and others are law but are subject to the discretion of the police.

You may have read various court cases that have been reported where someone has been the victim of a crime and has then gone on to be prosecuted themselves. For example:

  • the lady who was raped but then was charged with unlawful sex.
  • A British couple who were attacked and also charged with sex outside of marriage.
  • Another case of a lost passport which when reported led to a prosecution of a completely different matter.
  • A man was arrested and jailed for a month, then deported for giving the finger to a policeman.

So really the lesson in this is, if you do anything wrong however small, or if anything happens to you that you need to report to the police, think carefully before you do so to make sure you have not inadvertently broken any laws yourself as you will be called to account for these.

Visitors do not need to cover their heads (except perhaps when visiting a mosque) but they should dress respectfully when in public places.
Visitors do not need to cover their heads (except perhaps when visiting a mosque) but they should dress respectfully when in public places.

Some Illegal Things In Dubai

So, some of the things that you cannot do are as follows:

  • Be abusive to anyone, particularly a local, including words, signs or gestures. In particular do not use any kind of hand gestures whatever the situation as you can be arrested and jailed for this. In particular be careful when you are driving and you think that no-one is watching you.
  • Drink alcohol – well this is a bit of a grey area (see my previous article) but the long and short of it is, if you do not have an alcohol licence then you cannot drink alcohol full stop (despite the fact it is sold to foreigners in hotel bars). If you do have a licence and drink then a) don’t drive and b) don’t get drunk and abusive c) go straight home or back to your hotel afterwards.
  • Take or carry any sort of illegal drugs – More drugs are illegal in Dubai than you might think. For example codeine is an illegal drug that is commonly available over the counter in other countries. Poppy seeds are also counted as a drug so don’t have any excess on you when travelling to Dubai perhaps even after eating a poppy seed bun. If you have prescription drugs from abroad that may be banned in Dubai then make sure you carry a copy of your prescription with you.
  • Cover Up – this is not a law (I believe) but you should dress respectfully so that you do not offend the locals. Cover shoulders and knees in particular. Offending someone can lead to other things being investigated.
  • Have sex without being married – There are no exceptions for this, if you are not married then it is illegal to have sex. Many western expats live together without being married (and take the risk of being caught) but this could cause complications if you were to subsequently want to report any crime and the police found this out.

Dubai has some amazing sights to see but just be careful of what you do!
Dubai has some amazing sights to see but just be careful of what you do!


A lot of what you can and can't do in Dubai is common sense but there are also other aspects that you are not necessarily told before you get there.

Just be sensible and ask a few questions of locals and residents if needs be.

Otherwise if you are visiting, get a good tourist guide book. If you are in the UK, try the Dubai Lonely Planet Guide, otherwise for Amazon US see below. Make sure you actually read the relevant sections before you travel so that you are aware of all the facts.

Dubai is a great place to visit but educate yourself before you go!


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    • Matthewtweediehyp profile image

      Matthew Tweedie 

      13 months ago from 2 Kensington Rd Rose Park South Australia 5067

      That's interesting...

    • Azure11 profile imageAUTHOR

      Marian L 

      5 years ago from UK

      Totally agree Fiona!

    • Fiona Jean Mckay profile image


      5 years ago from South Africa

      Hi, I think acting respectfully and covering up is important. My sister in law lived in Dubai and complained about how rude the locals were. I got there and found them actually very polite - the difference? She wore short skirts and shorts most of the time. I always made sure that my knees and shoulders were covered.

    • Azure11 profile imageAUTHOR

      Marian L 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi Susan, I would definitely recommend taking a copy of your prescription with you just in case.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      hi iam on morphine for my pain will i have to get a dr letter so i can take them with me

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good thing that they are strict so we don't have silly drunk people.

    • saudia profile image


      7 years ago

      I visited Dubai I liked it very much as it is organized and attractive

    • Azure11 profile imageAUTHOR

      Marian L 

      7 years ago from UK

      Hi Paul, like you say there are lots of prostitutes in Dubai and many frequent some high class hotels. I would say that there is no way that the police do not know about them, all you need to do is to walk into many a hotel and even I can spot them. I understand that many of those that use the prostitutes are very wealthy. That is all I will say on the matter!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      If one cannot have sex outside marriage, how come so many prostitutes are thriving in Dubai. Does the police know everything and still turn a blind eye?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting! Thanks for sharing this info.


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