9 laws that could land tourists in jail on a trip to Dubai



But if you are planning a trip to the metropolis, make sure you are aware of the laws in the city.

Otherwise you could run the risk of potentially ending up in prison.

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Dubai. Picture: KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

We have pulled together a guide of the laws you really need to know before visiting Dubai.

Here’s all you need to know:

Zero tolerance for drugs

Dubai has a zero tolerance for drugs-related offences.

The foreign office website warns: ‘The penalties for trafficking, smuggling and possession of drugs (even residual amounts) are severe.

‘Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty and possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum three-month prison term or a fine not less than AED 20,000 and not exceeding AED100,000.

‘The Emirati authorities count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession.’

Alcohol laws

Dubai has different alcohol laws than European tourists might be used to.

Residents are able to drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues. Liquor license are required for residents in Dubai.

The UK government website says: ‘In Dubai, tourists are able to obtain a temporary liquor licence for the duration of a month from the two official liquor distributors in Dubai.

‘Tourists will be provided with a code of conduct document and will be asked to confirm they understand rules and regulations in relation to purchasing, transporting and consuming liquor in Dubai.

‘However, you should be aware that it is a punishable offence under UAE law to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public. British nationals have been arrested and charged under this law, often in cases where they have come to the attention of the police for a related offence, such as disorderly or offensive behaviour.’

Dubai has a dress code for women

Woman are advised to dress modestly in public when in Dubai.

Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs, and underwear should not be visible.

Swimming attire should be worn only on beaches or at swimming pools.

Cross-dressing is illegal.

Swearing in public is illegal

The UK government warns: ‘Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered obscene acts and offenders can be jailed or deported. Take particular care when dealing with the police and other officials.’

Kissing in public

In Dubai and the rest of the UAE, public displays of affection are frowned upon and there have been several arrests for kissing in public.

Same sex relationships are illegal

The UK government warns: ‘All homosexual sex is illegal and same-sex marriages are not recognised.

‘The UAE is in many respects a tolerant society and private life is respected, although there have been some reports of individuals being punished for homosexual activity, particularly where there is any public element, or the behaviour has caused offence.

‘This applies both to expatriate residents and to tourists.’

Cheating could land you in jail

The foreign office advises: ‘Consensual sexual relationships between a male and female outside marriage where both are over the age of 18 years, including extra-marital sexual relationships, is generally permitted under UAE law.

‘However, in the case of an extra-marital consensual sexual relationship, if either person’s spouse or parent/guardian files a criminal complaint, then both parties of an extra-marital consensual relationship shall be liable to a jail sentence for a period not less than six months.’

Charitable acts without proper license

If you feel the urge to be charitable or want to raise funds for charity while on holiday in Dubai, you are advise that these acts including where conducted online and via social media, are heavily regulated.

The UK government warns: ‘You should be fully aware of the legal requirements and seek professional advice as necessary. Non-compliance can incur criminal penalties, including heavy fines and/or imprisonment.’

Skipping the bill

If you get the urge to skip out paying your bill, be warned that you could end up in jail.

The foreign office warns: ‘

Financial crimes, including fraud and the non-payment of bills (including hotel bills) can often result in imprisonment and/or a fine. Bank accounts and other assets can also be frozen.

‘Bail is generally not available to non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for financial crimes. Those convicted will not generally be released from jail until the debt is paid or waived and they may even remain in jail after a debt has been paid if there is an outstanding sentence to be served.’


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