Dubai is one of those places you simply have to put on your bucket list. The nightlife there is very interesting, the desert safari is looking so good and you just love all those luxury things around you. Before you go there, you just hear so much about it, but you never know what to expect. And that was exactly my case, but after spending some time roaming around the city and experiencing it for myself, I somehow figured out how it works there. After seeing many people going to Dubai all the time and asking about the local culture, how to dress or what is allowed and what not, I decided to put this list together with some handy tips which might show you what to do and what not.
Let´s make it clear - the UAE is a Muslim country. That simply means that it is not a democratic country and follows Muslim and sharia laws. Even though there are many expats from all around the world (around 150 nationalities), the UAE is built on generations of Islamic traditions which are rooted firmly in its culture and tribal heritage. The Emirati are very friendly and respectful people and they are very open minded, but you should always respect their values and culture, doesn´t matter if you are just a tourist or you want to settle down in Dubai or the UAE for longer time.
Is is expected from you to dress modestly. Especially in the public areas (streets, shopping malls, public transport, cafes, the airport etc.) the shoulders should be covered and you shouldn´t show too much skin, so make sure that your thighs, belly, bum and chest are well covered. Nobody is probably going to call the fashion police if you flash too much skin, but you might be asked to cover yourself up or get indignant looks from the others. Be aware of transparent clothing or clothing with offensive slogans or graphic as well. However, the hotels, some private resorts, beach and pool are usually considered as "international zone", where you can relax in shorts, tank tops or bikini.
Alcohol consumption is allowed only by Non-Muslims and only in licensed restaurants, clubs, bars, private venues, hotel restaurants or at home (but you have to obtain a special license first.) Normal tourists and travelers can´t buy alcohol in stores or supermarkets on their own and they can consume alcohol only at those special places mentioned above. Being drunk in public areas is considered to be a crime and you can be fined or jailed for that. The drinking age is 21 years and it is strongly recommended not to try to get alcohol if you are younger.
Drugs are strictly forbidden and you can be jailed and deported for that. Smoking is allowed from 18 years old, but there are special places for smokers, you can´t light up simply everywhere, especially don´t try it in shopping malls, shops or government buildings.
Any kind of sexual relationship outside of marriage is illegal. Cohabiting of unmarried couple is also considered to be against the law, including hotels, but most of hotels in Dubai don´t really enforce rule "only married couples." Especially luxury hotels designed for foreigners shouldn´t have any problems when you book a hotel room and you have different surnames. However, one my friend from Dubai told me that it is always better to book a twin bed room, especially if you travel with a friend of same sex. Who should be very careful are homosexual couples. Homosexuality is not accepted in the UAE and you can be jailed or deported for homosexual behaviour. For all couples, doesn´t matter if they are homosexual or not, holding hands, kissing, cuddling up is considered unlawful in public. There are various stories of couples being jailed for kissing or hugging in public areas, so don´t do it, rather keep it for your hotel room and try to keep it low key as much as possible.
Conversations, swearing, dancing, music
Don´t harass women, don´t use offensive language, don´t make offensive hand gestures, don´t spit. All these actions are considered to be criminal offences and you can be jailed for this. Dancing or playing loud music in public can be fined, so dance and play music at your private place, not in public places.
The rules for driving are not really different, but it is strongly recommended not to break them. So try to avoid speeding, tailgating, racing, lane jumping, using mobile phone while driving or driving with alcohol in your blood. The speed cameras are all around the city and fines can be pretty heavy. Wearing a seat belt is mandatory. Also don´t try to cross the road where it is not allowed, you can be fined for this.
You can either use public transport or taxi service. Taxi is very cheap service in Dubai. There are many taxis on the road and it is really a great and handy way how to get around the city. Just one tip - make sure that the taxi driver puts on the meter and understands well where you want to go. Always leave to your destination in advance, the traffic in Dubai can be pretty insane. There is also really great public transportation which can take you pretty much everywhere around the city - subway or bus lines.
You don´t have to start learning Arabic to communicate well in Dubai. English is widely spoken there and I think that everybody knows it there and can use it there. So don´t worry, if you are good at English, you shouldn´t have any problem.
I know you want to take as many photos as possible, but be very careful what you take photos of. It can get you into serious trouble if you take photos of locals or government buildings without any kind of permission. This also applies to videos, so be careful and respectful.
So these are just some basic tips I got while staying there, some of them are also tips from my friends living in Dubai. Of course it is definitely worthy to go there and experience it for yourself, but try to be as much respectful as possible. Dubai, but also the UAE, are really interesting places to see, so make sure you have enough of time to go around and enjoy it as much as possible. However, as I mentioned above, respect the local culture. Thank you.
Have you ever visited Dubai? How did you like it over there?