United Arab Emirates (UAE) Travel Tips
The United Arab Emirates (USA) is filled with modern cities that welcome travellers accross the globe to enjoy the surroundings. However, as a country with a large Muslim population it is very important to get familiar with the UAE's culture and etiquette. The following basic rules should assist travellers to ensure their trip is trouble free and enjoyable.
Public displays of affection are not part of the culture
Even for a married couple holding hands is accepted but not overly welcomed. Kissing and petting are considered an act of public indecency.
Wear modest clothing
This includes at the beaches, where conservative swimwear must be warm. Swimwear is never to be worn outside the beach. Nudity is strictly forbidden and could lead to imprisonment or even deportation. Research the areas you are visiting first to ensure you follow their dress code.
There are rules regarding alcohol
Do not drink in public places or display drunken behaviour in public. Due to the large diversity of cultures in the UAE some areas closely regulate alcohol consumption. There are designated areas for drinking alcohol (licenced restaurants, bars and clubs). There is a zero tolerance policy for drink driving - so if you are driving don't even think about touching a drop. Alcohol can only be purchased with an alcohol purchasing licence and alcohol should be carried in public in a bag where it is not visible. Alcohol is not available in Sharjah (the third largest and most populous city in the UAE).
Ask before you take photos
You should always ask for permission to take photos of people in the UAE. This is in particular when taking photos of women, children and mosques. Taking photos of people can be a sensitive issue in UAE.
Keep the noise down
It is important in UAE culture to respect other people's space and right to a calm and gentle public environment. Never blast music loudly, have loud conversations, etc in public. Drunken obnoxious behaviour could lead to fines or imprisonment. Loud music and dancing is forbidden in many public UAE places.
Littering and spitting
Common sense tells you that neither are appropriate in any environment. However they are considered an offence in places like Dubai and are subjected to fines.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims in the UAE observe this by abstaining from food, drink and other physical needs during the daylight hours. It is an offense to be seen eating, drinking, smoking etc during daylight hours. Despite this, Ramadan is a very popular season for travellers to visit. They enjoy taking part in the cultural event and the feasts that are served at night time.
What to wear when visiting Mosques
Wear loose fitting clothing that covers shoulders, arms and legs. Females are usually required to wear a scarf and at many mosques they will have scarfs to purchase/hire.
For religious purposes some residents of UAE will not shake hands with members of the opposite sex. Only shake hands in this instance if they initiate the hand shake first.
Use the right hand
When shaking hands you should use your right hand. When you are accepting and giving items use your right hand.
Don't point with your feet
This is considered very rude. When sitting, ensure you are seated with good composure and ensure your feet are place directly on the floor, it is considered offensive for people to see the soles of your feet.
Gift giving in the UAE is a very common and integral part of the culture
Good quality chocolates or flowers are always welcomed. When visiting a home it's a good idea to bring something from your home country and also a small gift for children if there are any. Alcohol and leather products are not appropriate for persons that observe the Muslim religion.
If visiting a home, try not to admire an item too much
If you compliment an item, for example a vase in someone's home, try not to continually show a fondness for it as the host will feel obliged to offer it to you. Refusing to accept a gift is also considered offensive to many in the UAE.
Watch your language
Offensive language and rude hand gestures are considered highly rude and can even result in imprisonment and deportation. This also includes road rage.
Leave the rainbow flag at home
Unfortunately in UAE gay and lesbian activities can be a punishable offence in some areas. Whilst some places like Dubai have a vibrant underground gay scene, it is advised that gay and lesbian travellers should be careful when showing public affection and not wearing clothing that may be deemed "offensive" and that could result in criminal charges and deportation.
Leave the adult magazines and DVDs at home
Pornography is an offence in the UAE and these items may be retained by customs officials.
Certain laws apply to visitors as well as residents
In the UAE it is against the law to share the same hotel room with someone of the opposite sex to whom you are not married or closely related to.
Don't be offended if men don't follow the "ladie's first" rule when entering a room or exiting a lift.
Whilst Westerners may be used to being let off the train first or have a door opened for them – this generally does not occur in the UAE. It is customary in the UAE for men to lead the way to clear way for a woman.
Sexual harassment is a big no no.
So if you are confronted by the local men that tend to stare (keep in mind the points on dressing modestly) take peace in mind knowing that sexual harassment is illegal in the UAE and could result in imprisonment or deportation of the offender.
As all places in which you travel to – it's important to research the region and understand their ways
When visiting UAE it's important to act in accordance with Islamic values to respect their culture and enjoy their welcoming nature.