Dubai Laws: 10 Things You Should Not Do In The United Arab Emirates


Most tourists are unaware of some Dubai Laws until they fall victim and find their self in jail.

As the saying goes ‘When in Rome act like a Roman,’ when in Dubai act like an Emiratis and imbibe to all of its laws, which is fundamentally the Sharia law.

Unlike in the United States of America where the new law restricts unpurposeful entry through its borders, the UAE has an easier entry law, but a more difficult staying law.

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Over the past few years, there have been reports of visitors breaking some Dubai laws and getting jail terms for it.

Dubai Laws

Whether on transit, tourist visit or permanent stay, here are some Dubai Laws you should never break.

1. Indecent Dressing

As a Muslim state, women are expected to dress conservatively: no transparent, low-cut or short clothing, the stomach, shoulders, and back should be covered.


Men are expected to cover their chest and hide their underwear, therefore sagging is not allowed. Offensive slogans on clothing are also prohibited.

It is acceptable at the beach to wear swim suits and beach attire, however, topless sunbathing is not allowed. Failure to strictly adhere to these rules could land you in prison.

2. Public Displays of Affection

Kissing, cuddling and holding hands is not allowed in public, even in expat bars and clubs. In 2007, an unmarried Indian couple were sentenced to one year in prison after being caught hugging and kissing in the back seat of a taxi. The driver observed them in his interior mirror and drove them straight to the nearest police station.

This also applies to married couples; holding hands in public is the farthest public affection you can show, anything beyond that could land you in jail.

3. Photography

In Dubai, before you take a photograph of a local you need to ask for their permission especially is it’s a woman. It is also illegal to take photographs of government buildings and some reserved areas.

4. Alcohol

The consumption of alcohol is banned in most public places but can be consumed in bars and restaurants that are part of a four or five-star hotel. However, you can be queried for getting drunk.

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Dubai residence can apply for a liquor license to buy alcohol and consume it in their own home. It is illegal to purchase alcohol and drink alcohol in your home without a liquor license.

There is zero tolerance for any drinking and driving in Dubai or the UAE. If you are caught with any trace of alcohol in your system while driving you will be arrested, imprisoned or deported.

5. Break Customs Laws

There are a number of products that are on the UAE’s banned list and cannot be brought into the country. They include Pornographic material, drugs and anti-Islamic material and more.

Some harmless everyday items may also be banned. Possession of painkillers, for example, and some cold and flu remedies is considered illegal and if you are found with them on your person you could bag a four-year prison sentence.

Learn from the case of a Swiss man who was sentenced to four years in prison after poppy seeds from a bread roll he had eaten in Heathrow were found on his clothes.

Another case study is that of a British tourist, Keith Brown who was sentenced to four years in jail after Dubai customs officers found a 0.003g trace of cannabis stuck to his shoe.

6. Sex Outside Marriage

Sex outside marriage is not permitted in Dubai. A story was reported of a newly engaged couple who found themselves in prison after the woman alleged that she was raped by a hotel employee.

During the course of the investigation, the police discovered that the umarried couple were sharing a hotel room and they arrested them for having sex outside of marriage.

Read Also: Tourist Couple Arrested In Dubai For Indulging In Pre-marital Sex

The alleged attacker was not charged with rape,  rather he was charged with sex outside of marriage. The couple were eventually allowed to leave Dubai after producing a marriage certificate and dropping the allegations of rape against the attacker.

pregnant through anal sex

If you and your partner conceive a baby in the UAE and you are not married you and your partner will face imprisonment. Marriage and birth certificates will be reviewed by authorities.

7.  Tender Bounced Cheques

Compared to other areas of the world, writing checks in Dubai for larger payments such as rent cheques or car cheques is widely used since credit for expatriates is somewhat hard to come by.

However, there is zero tolerance for bouncing a cheque in the UAE. Issuing a cheque when the account can not cover it could land you in prison for breaking a financial agreement.

8. Driving Offenses

Driving in Dubai is fast and while you may witness some erratic driving behavior do not be confused that there are no driving laws to abide by. It is illegal to tailgate, break the speed limit, street race, lane hop or use a mobile phone while driving. While you witness instances of these each day, Dubai is cracking down and breaking the driving laws can lead to fines, imprisonment and your car being impounded.

It is illegal to tailgate, break the speed limit, street race, lane hop or use a mobile phone while driving. While you witness instances of these each day, Dubai is cracking down and breaking the driving laws can lead to fines, imprisonment and your car being impounded.

9. Drugs/Smoking

Smoking is banned in public offices and places such as shopping malls. There are also designated smoking areas all over the city.


Just like driving, this is one of the Dubai laws that could land you in jail when violated as there is a zero tolerance policy for drugs in Dubai.

10. Work in Dubai

You must not attempt to work illegally in Dubai without a work permit in the UAE. You must first obtain approved paperwork before you can take your job. Doing it can land you in prison first and then deportation.

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Breaking any of the above Dubai Laws could land you in jail and on a more severe case lead to deportation. Therefore at every point of your stay in the UAE, you should be at your best behavior and abide by the laws guiding the state.