Dubai is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The world-class city is a true cosmopolitan amalgamation of rich history and modern lifestyle. The Emirates of Dubai continuously extends a warm welcome to its visitors and skilled people to work in the Emirate. The authorities are constantly working to make Dubai more inclusive for tourists and expatriates. However, the authorities expect you to respect the law, regulations, and local sentiments.
For staying in Dubai with your spouse or partner, you need to make yourself aware of the guidelines to avoid fines, jail, or deportation. Simple acts like dancing in public or sharing a kiss may be normal in your home country but are not well received in Dubai by both locals and authorities. Apart from evading legal troubles, the main objective here is to respect the local culture and native sentiments.
If you are all set to travel to Dubai or moving here for work with your partner or spouse, there is a list of dos and don’ts that you need to keep in my mind.
10 Things not to do in Dubai as a couple
1. Public Display of Affection:
Dubai is unarguably one of the most popular destinations for honeymooners. The couples need to understand that the country does not permit the public display of affection. Even sharing a kiss in a public place might place both of you in jail. It is advisable to avoid all kinds of PDA in public.
A married couple may hold hands in public or put hands around the shoulder. However, unmarried couples or gay couples must avoid all kinds of public affection. The policy extends to all public places, including bars and clubs.
Legal Implications: According to Article 358, whoever publicly or openly commits a disgraceful or indecent act shall be punished by way of detention for a period of a minimum of 6 months. Foreign couples can also face deportation.
2. Dressing inappropriately:
There is no dress code mentioned by law for people staying or visiting Dubai. The couples need to dress cautiously in public places. You can wear the clothes of your choice in your hotel room or home. However, when in public, you need to dress appropriately according to the venue.
Expats and tourists are generally expected to wear nothing too short or see-through material while visiting malls or restaurants.
- While visiting mosques, you are expected to follow strict dress codes.
- Clothes featuring logos and slogans that could outrage personal or religious sentiments must be avoided altogether.
- Swim shorts, bikinis, and swimsuits are allowed on the beach, poolside, or at water parks. The swimming attire must be left behind once you leave the areas. Moreover, the topless sunbathing might make you end up in jail.
- Crossdressing in public is also not tolerated at all. Any man or woman who dresses up or behaves like the opposite gender in public can be questioned, and legal actions can be taken against him or her. The penal code for public decency defines crossdressing as ‘indecent attire.’ Dubai police have also launched a campaign for the public to report if they witness people crossdressing.
Legal Implications: Dressing appropriately is covered under public decency law in the UAE. The revealing outfits, clothes that outrage religious sentiments, or nudity carry penalties up to 6 months jail term and or AED 5,000 fine. For crossdressing, you can expect a much stricter punishment with up to 10 years imprisonment, fines, and deportation.
3. Getting high:
The UAE has a zero-tolerance approach for the use of any kind of drug. The trace amounts of drugs in your baggage, blood, or even clothing can be enough to lock you up in jail. Dubai policy is extremely strict for drugs; even the traveler couples passing through the UAE with cannabis or any kind of medicines without prescription can be detained.
Carrying poppy seeds is also a severe violation of the law as its source of opium and a banned substance in the UAE. If you are that couple who enjoys smoking pots together, we recommend you clean up your system and bags before entering Dubai.
Legal Implications: The travelers passing through Dubai in an intoxicated state or possession of drugs can face a jail term of two years. Numerous convictions have happened in Dubai for a small amount of 0.05 gm or even lesser. The presence of drugs in body fluids is also counted as possession and invites similarly harsh punishments. Some of the recent legislation has offered first-time offenders rehabilitation, community services, and fine up to AED 10,000.
4. Drinking in Public:
Dubai has numerous clubs, restaurants, and bars where you can enjoy your choice of alcohol. However, all these places are licensed to sell or serve alcohol. Drinking in a public area, like enjoying a beer on the beach, is a serious offense in Dubai. This also means that couples are not supposed to carry alcohol to public places or while walking down the street. Understand that alcohol consumption is not a criminal offense in Dubai and other parts of the UAE, but it must be consumed privately or at licensed venues.
Before the new reforms that came in force in November 2020, there was a strict license procedure for non-Muslims to avail license to buy and keep alcohol. The new law now allows Muslims to buy and possess alcohol at home and there is no need to avail license. The new law also allows anyone of or above the age of 21 to consume alcohol. If you are a couple aged below 21 years and do not qualify to drink, try to avoid consuming alcohol all together-public or private.
When it comes to drunk driving, even the trace amount of alcohol in your system can be enough to qualify for imprisonment. Being drunk in public and acting inappropriately does not go down well with authorities.
Legal Implications: Considering the zero-tolerance stance, the punishment related to alcohol abuse is also stricter. The drunk driving fine may vary from AED 5,000 to AED 20,000 and imprisonment up to 6 months. The zero-tolerance stance also means if you are caught driving in Dubai with an even trace amount of alcohol in your system, you can be imprisoned. And if you are not an Emirati, you can face deportation.
5. Posting mindlessly on social media:
Cyber laws in the UAE are strict and can invite tough legal complications. Be very discreet about what you post on your social media pages while in Dubai. The government does not monitor each and every post, but if someone files a complaint against your social media post, you can be in trouble. Posting pictures or videos that exhibit nudity, intoxicated state, or pornography is a serious offense in Dubai. The act is considered inappropriate according to Islamic practices and values. Posting, sharing, or liking videos or any social media that defame the government or Islamic religion can invite stricter punishments.
Legal Implications: Fine for cyber law crimes may vary between AED 50,000 to AED 3 million depending on the severity of the offense. Apart from the person committing the act, the person who records and uploads the video can also get arrested.
When caught posting photos of other people without their consent, you can face at least 6 months in prison and will be fined AED 150,000 or more.
When caught posting content against Islamic morals and values, you will receive jail time and a hefty fine from AED 250,000 to AED 500,000.
6. Staying in a hotel if you are underage:
If you and your partner are planning to travel for a fun trip to Dubai after high school, then you should think again and give Dubai a miss. It is illegal to stay in a Dubai hotel when you are under 18. If you are underage, you need to be accompanied by an adult to stay in a hotel. Even the hostels, which are popular among young travelers, are covered under the law.
Legal Implications: Minor offenders do not invite any legal complications. If you are a tourist, you might be deported. However, the hotel that allows minors to stay without adult consent may get fined.
7. Do not share a room if you are Homosexual:
Dubai has strict laws against homosexuality. Due to the strict anti-gay laws of the UAE, Gay couples can’t stay in the same room in a hotel. Two same-sex people sharing a bed is not a crime in UAE, but the act of homosexuality is a serious offense. It is advisable to avoid all kinds of public displays of affection and dress appropriately.
Legal Implications: Article 177 of the penal code of Dubai states any act of consensual sodomy can invite imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of up to AED 10,000 and deportation. Other LGBTQ couples can also be charged under public decency law.
8. Carrying medicines without prescription:
As mentioned, Dubai has zero-tolerance for drug-related offenses. Possession of even the most negligible amounts of illegal drugs can lead to serious legal complications, including prescription medicines. Some drugs and medication that can be purchased over-the-counter in your home country might be classified as controlled substances in Dubai.
Individuals who want to bring any medicine to Dubai for their personal use must carry a doctor’s letter or a copy of the original prescription. A visitor can carry 3 months’ worth of medicines, and a resident can carry 12 months’ worth of medicine. The number of medicines you carry must justify the dosage mentioned in your prescription.
Couples must also avoid carrying morning-after pills. The Emirate has strict anti-abortion laws and does not allow medicines containing levonorgestrel, even on prescription. However, the country allows women to purchase contraceptive pills with prescriptions.
Legal Implications: According to Article 40, the punishment may invite imprisonment of 6 months to two years along with a fine of AED 10,000.
9. Dancing in public:
Dubai has abundant options for couples who love to dance together and enjoy the nightlife. However, you must avoid dancing in public places. Dancing is allowed only in licensed places and in the privacy of your home. According to the Dubai Code of conduct, loud music and dancing are prohibited in public places. The act of public dancing is covered under public decency law and can be considered “indecent and provocative”.
Legal Implications: According to Article 358 of the UAE penal code, you can be imprisoned for 6 months. And non-Emiratis can be deported.
10. Taking selfies or going live:
Photography is not illegal in Dubai. However, the place you take the selfie and people you may cover while taking selfies or videos can be a problem. There are various government buildings in Dubai where taking pictures is prohibited. Make sure you read the signs and avoid taking pictures. Similarly, taking pictures of people without their consent is invading privacy, that includes young children.
Legal Implications: According to Article 378 of the UAE penal code, it is a criminal offense to take pictures or record videos of an individual without their consent. Furthermore, if you publish the video on social media, you may also face charges under cybercrime law. Your camera can be confiscated, and you might invite hefty fines.
The most appropriate way to spend a great vacation in any city is by respecting the country’s regulations, rules, and culture. The culture and law of the two places cannot be the same and you need to understand that. Dubai is a great place to stay and enjoy vacations, but just remember when you are a guest, you must abide by the rules and etiquette of the land. We hope the above list of what not to do in Dubai as a couple will be useful during your visit.