1. Leave your porn at home!

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Ok, it’s not 1980 so the chance of you packing a porno in your suitcase is probably pretty slim. That being said, any stag do groups will want to watch out – that funny packing prank you were planning for the groom-to-be might not be so funny when he’s detained in customs… To stay safe, leave any videos, books, magazines or other items of a pornographic nature at home.

2. Don’t be drunk in public

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Whilst it is possible for tourists to buy booze in venues like hotels, restaurants and clubs, be careful… If you get carried away and end up staggering home, you might be intercepted by the UAE police. Why? It’s a punishable offence under UAE law to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public. In fact, there have been plenty of cases of British nationals arrested and charged for being drunk and disorderly. Think it’s time to rearrange that stag do!

3. You’ll need a licence to drink at your place

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Ok, I know what you’re thinking – just play it safe and keep the party in your hotel room! Surely nobody can get in trouble for that, right? Wrong. Even the residents of Dubai need a liquor licence in order to buy and drink alcohol in their own home. Tourists can get a temporary liquor licence for 30 days but there’s a catch… In order to get the licence you have to read a code of conduct and will be tested on it to see if you understand the rules around buying and drinking booze.

4. Under 21? No drinking for you!

A law passed by the Ministry of Tourism prevents hotels from serving alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. You may have been a regular down your local boozer for 3 years in the UK but go to Dubai before your 22nd birthday and you’ll be strictly sipping mocktails.


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If there’s one law you NEED to follow it’s this: in Dubai drugs are bad. Really, really bad. Zero-tolerance bad. If you’re caught with even a tiny amount of a substance that would see you getting a slap on the wrist at home, you’d be looking at a minimum three-month prison term or a fine of up to AED100,000 (that’s over 200k!). Caught with anything substantial – you could be facing the death penalty. The authorities even count the presence of drugs in the bloodstream as possession. Don’t do drugs kids and definitely don’t do them in Dubai!

6. Avoid foods with poppy seeds

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Amazingly, poppy seeds are the source of opium (the substance found in heroin). If you’re found to be in possession of food with the seeds on/in then you’re technically carrying a very serious drug. I’ll never look at a poppy seed in the same way again!

7. Illegal skincare products

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Unbelievably, some skincare products contain ingredients that are illegal drugs in Dubai (like CBD oil). Check your products over very carefully before packing and if in doubt, leave them at home.

8. Vaping

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If you or one of your mates vapes, be extra careful. Just like some skincare products, certain vape oils contain CBD – a banned substance in Dubai. Check and double check what you pack before going.

9. Women need to cover up

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Men seem to get an easier ride on the clothing front in Dubai. As for women, it’s modesty first and in public places such as shopping malls, cafes and parks clothing should cover the upper arms and legs and no underwear should be on show. I can think of a few friends who might struggle with that one!

10. No bikinis

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In a lot of foreign countries, it’s common to move between the swimming pool and bar/café with a small cover up or no change at all. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t go down very well in Dubai where bikinis and revealing swimming attire is strictly for beaches/poolside. Venture too far from either of those in your skimpy swimmers and you may have some questions to answer.

11. No swearing

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Rude gestures and/or swearing are considered ‘obscene acts’ and could lead to you being arrested or deported. This even applies online, so take care when captioning your Insta snaps. Be especially respectful around the police and authorities – they’re the ones keeping an eye on you, after all.

12. No kissing in public

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Public displays of affection such as kissing and intimate cuddling are frowned upon. In fact, there have been many arrests for people seen kissing in public. It may have an incredible sky-line but Dubai might not be the best place for popping the question – imagine getting arrested just after saying yes!

13. Eating or drinking on public transport

Don’t ask why but if you’re on any form of public transport (bus, metro, train, even a pedestrian crossing) you can’t eat or drink. If you’re caught, you could receive a small fine. To be honest, I like this one – who likes listening to someone else chomp through their food or sit in a stinky carriage where someone is having eggs!? It’s a very clean city, maybe they just want to keep it that way?

14. No sausages

Image Source / BBC

Talking of food, it’s illegal to import any pork products into Dubai. It feels like a pretty unlikely way to break the law but I guess if you bought a Peperami or sausage sandwich in the airport and still had it in your hand luggage when you arrived you could be in trouble. Why are they so strict on pork? Dubai is a Muslim country so pork isn’t eaten.

15. Let’s talk about sex…

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Hooking up with someone is generally fine. Although like everything in Dubai, there’s a catch. You have to be over 18 and they have to be the opposite sex… more on that later. Oh and remember not to get too steamy out in public or you’ll be done by the PDA police!

16. Don’t be caught cheating

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Although having sex with someone when you’re already in relationship isn’t actually illegal in Dubai, if either spouse catches you they can file a complaint. What would this mean for you and your bit on the side? A jail sentence of a minimum of six months… that cheeky kiss is probably not worth it after all.

17. Maybe baby

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With so many people moving to live in Dubai, it’s to be expected that some expat babies will be born there. If you find yourself giving birth just be aware of their strict rules around birth outside of marriage. To get a birth certificate, you need to be married or the birth won’t be registered and your medical insurance might not cover the little one. Shotgun wedding anyone!?

18. Homosexual activity is punished

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When living in more tolerant places like the UK it’s important to remember that not everywhere is as respectful to same-sex relationships. In Dubai, homosexual sex is illegal and same-sex marriages are not recognised. You can see why many gay people choose to avoid the UAE altogether – why travel to somewhere where you can’t be yourself? For those who do choose to go, the public display of affection law will apply even more strongly.

19. Watch that selfie!

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You’ll need to be really careful with what you snap. Photos of government buildings are banned so be sure to check what you’re posing in front of or that innocent selfie could be misinterpreted as a sneaky government gathering mission.

20. Don’t photograph strangers

Image Source / AFP/Giuseppe Cacace

If you’re into wildlife photography or taking photos of scenic places you want to be careful too – capture someone in shot without their permission and you might be arrested. Men have been arrested for photographing beaches as their pictures had women in who did not agree.

21. Cameras and binocular licences

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If you do have a decent camera, you might need a licence for use in the UAE. That’s because, as you’ve seen, the government is very hot on people taking photos of things they shouldn’t and powerful cameras raise suspicion. Binoculars are the same and could be confiscated without a licence. If you’re not sure, check with the UAE Embassy in London.

22. YouTubers beware!

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Whilst the average holiday snapper is probably fine, anyone taking part in more professional video production will need permission in advance. This is granted by the strict Emirati authorities and is likely a lengthy process. What happens if you forget your licence and start filming? You’ll be looking at a hefty fine and even time in prison

23. Fundraising

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It might be time to rethink that sponsored skydive. Due to many cases of fraudulent activity, the Dubai authorities have made fundraising really tricky. Any donations must be approved by the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD). If you fail to do so you’ll be looking at a big fine, possibly having to spend more money than you raised.

24. Don’t criticise the government

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We’ve all heard of the horror stories from North Korea. Well, Dubai might not be quite that extreme but post anything online that pokes fun at the UAE government and you could be in trouble. The scope for breaking these rules is pretty broad: clearly slagging off the government isn’t going to do you any favours but neither is posting culturally insensitive images (keep your outfits modest and no silly poses in front of a statue/policeman, it could be really offensive!).

25. Don’t take photos of car accidents

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Don’t ask me why but taking a photo of an accident in Dubai and posting it online could see you with a fine of up to £600,000! This doesn’t just include cars – plane crashes are prohibited too (although let’s be honest, you’d be very unlucky to see one of those).

26. Having a dirty car

Image Source / Daily Express

The local climate means that sandstorms are common. As a result, cars can very quickly get dirty. No big deal? Well, not really. Dubai prides itself on being clean and glamorous and a dirty car is seen to “disfigure the town’s image and public health”. Don’t be surprised if you see a car being towed away and a distraught owner left with a fine and no motor.

27. Having a clean car!

Image Source / Hindustan Times

So, you can get in trouble for having a dirty car but you can also get in trouble for cleaning your car! How? Well, cars have to be washed ‘correctly’. This means, they have to be taken to a proper car washing facility, approved by the government. There are many labourers looking to earn a bit of extra money for cheap car washes but beware, if you’re caught you’ll have more than a dirty car to deal with.

28. No firearms

Depending on where you live, this may seem like a no-brainer. But as some countries permit the use of weapons it’s worth a reminder that weapons (guns, knives etc), ammunition and any related equipment will all need to be cleared before entering Dubai.

29. Pay your hotel bill

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We’ve all been there – getting carried away on holiday and raiding the hotel mini bar, only to be left with a big bill as you check out. Well, whatever you do, remember to pay it in Dubai. The non-payment of bills is considered a financial crime and you could have your card frozen or worse, be arrested. Bail is not often given to non-UAE residents so you may have to stay in jail until the fine has been cleared. You have been warned!

30. Looking to buy?

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If these laws haven’t put you off too much, you may even consider moving to Dubai permanently. In which case, you’ll need somewhere to live. The property market in Dubai is very heavily regulated and foreigners have been known to be ripped off or led into breaking laws without knowing it. To prevent yourself from getting in any trouble, seek professional advice if you’re looking to buy out there.