Dos & Don’ts
Whilst 80% of the population of the United Arab Emirates is made up of non-UAE nationals, you must remember that this is a Muslim country and local traditions and customs should be respected.
- Bikinis: DO wear a bikini at the beach or swimming pool but, out of respect for local culture, please cover up in public areas. Due to local sensibilities, topless sun-bathing is not allowed and G-strings are not deemed appropriate.
- Dress: In general, most "normal" clothing is tolerated as long as it is not too outrageous, however to be respectful of the UAE culture, it is better to cover knees and shoulders and everything in between. For example, t-shirts are fine but spaghetti tops for women might be frowned upon in more public areas (and on men will probably get you arrested). Very tight and/or low-cut tee-shirts are also more likely to offend some people.
- Tipping: DO tip in restaurants if you wish. A service charge is often added to the total bill but, if it isn’t, a figure of 15% is standard.
- Photos: DO take photos as memories of your trip but avoid military sites and do ask permission if you want to photograph a local person (ladies in particular). Most people will be happy to pose for a photograph but make sure you have their approval first.
- Censorship: DO be aware that international magazines and newspaper sold in UAE are censored. Anything deemed risqué (ie: pictures of scantily clad women) will be marked out in black and intimate scenes in films shown in UAE will be cut out. Bear this in mind when bringing magazines into the country.
- Drugs: DON’T forget that there is a zero tolerance of drug use in UAE and that conviction could earn you a four year prison sentence. While you’re extremely unlikely to be offered drugs in UAE, if it happens – just say no.
- Dress : Don't wear anything that might be regarded as offensive. For example tee shirts with offensive slogans or pictures, obscene language or gestures, anything that might cause religious or cultural offence, etc. If you have to ask whether it's acceptable or not, assume it isn't. And if you genuinely think something is not offensive to UAE culture when it is, then it probably isn't a good idea for you to live in or visit the UAE - you're bound to annoy the authorities one way or another sooner or later, resulting in a combination of arrest, fine, jail, deportation.
- Kissing: DON’T be too passionate in public with your partner. UAE is a Muslim country and when it comes to public displays of affection – anything more than a kiss on the cheek may offend those around you and may get you in trouble with the police.
- Alcohol: DON’T drink or be seen to be drunk outside of licensed premises in hotels. Drinking alcohol is not a part of Muslim culture and drunken behavior in the street and drink driving are both punishable offences which could lead to a jail sentence.
- Taxis: DON’T expect taxi drivers to carry change. Many struggle to provide change for any note greater than AED 50. We recommend you have a ready supply of smaller notes if you are taking a cab within the city.
- Hand gestures: DON’T make rude hand gestures if you’re driving. Venting your frustrations either physically or verbally can result in your arrest.
Follow these guidelines and you should have a happy, healthy stay in UAE. Enjoy!