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United Arab Emirates

If you’re travelling to the United Arab Emirates, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information. 

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

If you’re planning a trip to the UAE, we advise you to exercise a high degree of caution.

Latest Travel Alert

There is considered to be a high threat from terrorism. You should remain vigilant at this time.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, start by talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management. You can also contact Irish Embassy if you require assistance or advice. Irish citizens with a genuine emergency can leave a message on the Embassy voicemail outside of office hours. Make sure to leave your name, mobile number, current location and the nature of the emergency. An Embassy Duty Officer will return your call.

The Emergency services number in UAE is 999.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravel for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and security

Demonstrations

The political situation in the UAE is stable but you should avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, which can sometimes turn confrontational.

Terrorism

You should be aware that there is a threat from terrorism generally in the region. Attacks could be indiscriminate, and against Western interests, as they have been elsewhere in the region.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in the UAE but you should take sensible precautions. 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
  • Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are relatively rare, but do happen. UAE law places a high burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that sexual relations were not consensual, especially when the victim had consumed alcohol or where the attacker was known to the victim. If the sexual relations are determined to have been consensual, both parties may face prosecution for the offence of sex outside marriage. Drink spiking can occur. Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.

Reporting a crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in the UAE, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy if you need help.

Photography

You should also stay away from military sites – taking photos of military or security installations, and some public buildings is prohibited.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in the UAE, you should be extremely careful. Road safety standards are low, particularly outside towns and cities. Accidents are frequent and are often caused by poor driving and inadequate lighting.

It is a criminal offence in the UAE to drink and drive, no matter how small the amount.  Offensive gestures and bad language can lead to fines, a jail sentence and deportation.

Excursions to the desert can be dangerous especially without adequately equipped 4 x 4 vehicles. Serious accidents can occur when driving on sand dunes in the desert, which can result in death. You should always travel in convoy with other cars, take a supply of water and a mobile telephone and leave travel plans with friends or relatives.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your international driving license and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and the penalties can be severe. Your insurance is likely to be invalidated, leaving you to pay claims by other parties involved
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Water Safety

Rip currents can occur at any beach, and can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea. Always comply with warning signs, especially red flags, and only swim from approved beaches. Only swim at pools with a lifeguard in attendance, and always check and ensure that there are qualified lifeguards present if your children will be swimming as part of their school activities or at summer camps.

The safety of tourist boats may not be up to Irish standards. Ensure that life jackets are available for all passengers.

Local laws and customs

Muslim culture

The UAE is an Islamic country and you should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions. Be aware of your actions and take care not to offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or other religious festivals, or if you intend to visit religious areas.

Dress conservatively, particularly in Sharjah and Ajman emirates, where Islamic law is rigorously enforced. Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs and underwear should not be visible.

Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and there have been several arrests for kissing in public. Sex outside of marriage is illegal, as is cohabitation, adultery and homosexual behaviour. If you conduct a sexual relationship outside heterosexual marriage you run the risk of prosecution, imprisonment and/or a fine and deportation. Private life is respected in the UAE, however people are punished for sexual activity outside marriage where there is a public element or if it is brought to the attention of the police authorities.

If you become pregnant outside marriage, both you and your partner could face imprisonment and/or deportation. Doctors may ask for proof of marriage during ante-natal checks. An unmarried woman who gives birth in the UAE may also encounter problems when registering the birth of the child in the UAE, and could face arrest, imprisonment or deportation. To obtain a birth certificate from the UAE authorities, you must provide a marriage certificate and the authorities may compare the date of the marriage against the estimated date of conception.

During Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke during daylight hours. To avoid offence, you should not eat, drink or smoke in public during this time.

Forbidden products

Bringing drugs, pork products and pornographic books and material into the UAE is forbidden. Videos, books and magazines are subject to scrutiny and may be censored.

Prescription medications

Medications available over the counter or by prescription in Ireland may be illegal or considered a controlled substance in the UAE. Any such medication is not allowed into the UAE without prior permission from the UAE Ministry of Health. You can find a list of restricted and controlled drug on the Ministry of Health website. Check the generic name of any medication with a doctor or pharmacist.

Criminal offences

Financial crimes, including fraud, bouncing cheques and the non-payment of bills, is regarded very seriously in the UAE and can often result in imprisonment and/or a fine. Non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for crimes involving fraud do not generally get bail. Convicted debtors will not usually be released from jail until the debt is paid or waived. Several Irish citizens have received custodial sentences as a result of non-payment of outstanding debts.

Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered obscene acts and can lead to prosecution. Take particular care when dealing with the police and other officials.

Women travellers

Women should dress in a modest way, particularly in Sharjah and Ajman emirates where Islamic law is rigorously enforced.

LGBT

Homosexual activity is illegal in the UAE.

Alcohol

Liquor licences can be obtained by non-Muslim residents to consume alcohol in private homes, and alcoholic drinks are served in licensed hotels and clubs. These licences are valid only in the Emirate that issued the licence. Residents must also get a permit to be able to drink in licensed venues. But it is a punishable offence to drink or to be drunk in public. Passengers in transit through the UAE under the influence of alcohol may also be arrested.

Illegal drugs

The penalties for drug trafficking, smuggling and possession are severe. Drug trafficking penalties can include the death sentence or life imprisonment. The presence of drugs in the body constitutes possession and carries a minimum sentence of four years.

The Emirati authorities consider the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession. Travellers who transit in UAE airports are subject to these laws. UAE airports have excellent technology and security, so transiting passengers carrying even residual amounts of drugs may be arrested.

Weapons and related equipment

Weapons, ammunition and gun belts etc. all require permission for entry or transit through the UAE.

Natural disasters and climate

Climate

The UAE is hot and dry most of the year. Drink plenty of water but remember that during Ramadan it is an offence to eat or drink in public between sunrise and sunset.

Sandstorms

There are occasional sandstorms but they are not usually bad enough to affect daily life. 

Flooding

In some parts of the country, particularly in the mountains, occasional heavy rain can cause flash floods. Take precautions and seek out local advice.

Additional information

Entry & exit requirements (visa/passport)

If you are unsure of what the entry requirements for the UAE are, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the UAE.

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months to enter the UAE.

For non-residents, Irish temporary passports are not valid for entry into the United Arab Emirates. However, temporary passports are accepted for airside transit and exit from the United Arab Emirates.

Visitors must have legal status in the UAE when they depart. If your residency visa is under process, or if you are subject to a travel ban, involved in legal proceedings, have unpaid debt or are a child subject to a custody dispute, you may be prevented from leaving the country. A number of Irish nationals have been arrested when departing or transiting the UAE, including as a result of unpaid debts in the country.

Buying Property

If you wish to buy property in the UAE, you should seek appropriate professional advice, as you would in Ireland.