Exercise normal safety precautions in the UAE. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for information on local conditions. See Safety and security.
- From 6 June 2017, direct flights between the UAE and Qatar have been suspended. If you have an upcoming flight from the UAE to or transiting Doha, contact your airline or travel provider.
- It's an offence to show sympathy or bias towards Qatar, or to object to the UAE Government's current policy in relation to Qatar. This includes social media, or any other written or verbal communication. Offenders can be imprisoned and subject to large fines.
- The UAE is a Muslim country. Local laws closely reflect Islamic practices and beliefs. Familiarise yourself with local laws and their impact on your personal circumstances, before you travel. See
- The UAE has very strict laws regulating social behaviour, including social media. It's illegal to take photographs of people without their consent. Posting photos on social media with people in the background can violate this law. It's also illegal to make offensive comments about other people, the UAE or its government or royal family, including on social media. See
- Legal and administrative processes are significantly different from those in Australia. If you're arrested, you may be detained for a significant period of time before your case goes to trial. UAE authorities can hold your passport and you may be prevented from leaving the country. Even simple issues can be complex and take a long time to resolve. See
- If you have unresolved criminal charges, including unpaid business debts in the UAE, you may be detained and transferred to police custody when transiting the UAE, even if you do not plan to leave the airport. See Laws.
- Having a cheque bounce, not paying a bill or fine, or not repaying a loan are considered criminal acts and may result in imprisonment. If you become involved in commercial or civil litigation, you may be prevented from leaving the UAE until the matter is resolved. See
- Sex outside of marriage and homosexuality, are illegal. Victims of sexual assault may face criminal prosecution rather than being considered the victim of a crime. Some sexual assault victims have been imprisoned after reporting an incident to local police or upon seeking medical assistance. See Laws.
- The UAE has a zero tolerance policy on the trafficking and possession of illegal drugs. Penalties include the death penalty or life imprisonment, even for small amounts. Some medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are illegal in the UAE. See Health.
Travel smart for general advice for all travellers.
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest
Embassy or Consulate-General of the United Arab Emirates for up-to-date information.
Australians are eligible for a free 30-day visitor visa-on-arrival. You can extend this at a UAE immigration office for a further 30 days for United Arab Emirates Dirhams (AED) 600.
If you're visiting the UAE for business you must apply for a different visa. If you're travelling to the UAE on a diplomatic and official passport, you must have a visa before travelling.
If you have unresolved criminal charges, including unpaid debts in the UAE, you may be detained and transferred to police custody on arrival in the UAE, even if you only plan to transit through the airport. See
Immigration authorities can refuse you entry if you have a criminal record, regardless of how long ago the offence took place. If you're concerned about being denied entry, contact the
Embassy or Consulate-General of the United Arab Emirates before you depart Australia.
The importation of pork products, poppy seeds and pornographic material is illegal. Videos, books and magazines may be scrutinised and censored, or confiscated. Possession of marijuana flavoured merchandise (teas, liquor, chewing gum, lollies) can result in arrest. It's illegal to carry weapons or replica weapons, including decorative spent bullet cartridges, into the UAE. There are also restrictions on bringing certain medications into the UAE. Travellers have also been detained and deported for carrying medication to treat HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, or for testing positive to either illness. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate-General of the United Arab Emirates if you have concerns. See also
Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia. Carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
If your passport is seized for any reason by UAE law enforcement, ensure they provide you with a receipt for its collection. This receipt will also assist you to check into accommodation without having to present your passport.
Australian emergency passports are only accepted in the UAE for transits of up to 96 hours. You must carry an onward ticket if transiting on an emergency passport.
If you lose your passport before passing through UAE immigration, you must return to Australia on the next available flight to apply for a full validity passport. The Australian Embassy can't issue you a new passport if you haven't cleared UAE immigration.
It's a legal requirement in the UAE for foreign guests to provide their passports for scanning when they check in to a hotel.
passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.
By law, you must as soon as possible report a lost or stolen passport:
You must declare cash money, including travellers cheques, above AED 100,000, or the equivalent in other currencies.
Dubai Customs Services
Safety and security
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.
UAE authorities have arrested a number of alleged terrorists in connection with possible attack planning. Attacks could occur at any time and could target places of worship, military interests, malls and hotels, transport interests and other locations frequented by Westerners.
There have been a number of terrorist attacks in the wider Gulf region in recent years. More attacks could occur.
Terrorist threat worldwide
The UAE has a low incidence of crime. Petty crime, including pickpocketing and bag snatching, occurs but is relatively rare. There have been incidents of drink spiking, including in places frequented by tourists.
Incidents of physical and verbal harassment, and sexual assault occur. Avoid walking alone after dark in isolated places, including pedestrian underpasses.
Victims of sexual assault
Sex outside of marriage is illegal in the UAE. If you're a victim of sexual assault, you may face criminal prosecution rather than being considered the victim of a crime. Sexual assault victims have been imprisoned after reporting an incident to local police or when seeking medical assistance.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you are twice as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in the UAE than in Australia. Speeding, tailgating, poor lane discipline and reckless overtaking are common. Accidents occur frequently. When driving, be aware of additional hazards, including roaming animals, careless pedestrians and cyclists, fog, drifting sand and dust storms.
Pedestrian deaths and serious injuries are also common in the UAE. Only cross the road at designated pedestrian crossings and take particular care as vehicles won't always give way.
Off-road driving can be dangerous. Ensure vehicles are well equipped and properly maintained. Carry sufficient water.
If you're driving in desert areas, travel with at least one other vehicle. Use a GPS and take enough petrol and water.
Land border crossing points may close without notice. If you plan to leave the UAE by road, check the border crossing is open before you depart.
Road safety and driving
If you're visiting the UAE on a tourist visa and want to drive, you must get an International Driving Permit before leaving Australia.
The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities, are not always met. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider. Be aware of strong currents and comply with warning signs at beaches.
If you're entering the Gulf area by sea, be aware that many areas are sensitive in relation to security and territory. Maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf are the subject of jurisdictional disputes. Vessels have been inspected, and people detained and arrested.
The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the
Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the UAE.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay. Behaviour that could be considered offensive or anti-social, but not criminal, in Australia could violate UAE law. Anyone violating UAE law, even unknowingly, may be subject to severe punishment.
UAE law applies to you even if you're only transiting and don't leave the airport.
The UAE is a Muslim country and local laws closely reflect Islamic practices and beliefs. Sharia or Islamic courts work alongside the civil and criminal courts in the UAE, and this can make legal issues and systems complicated.
If you come to the attention of UAE authorities, your case will be dealt with by the local legal and judicial system, which differs significantly to Australia's. If arrested, you may be detained for a significant period before your case goes to trial. UAE authorities can hold your passport and prevent you from leaving the country.
Even simple legal issues can be complex and take time to be resolved. Custodial sentences are served in local jails.
It's standard practice for deportees to be held in immigration detention for at least 24 hours before being allowed to leave the UAE.
A list of lawyers who can represent you is available from:
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our
Consular services charter, but we can't get you out of jail.
Arrested or in prison
Laws in individual Emirates
The UAE is made up of seven Emirates, each with its own independent judicial system. Laws, legal procedures and penalties vary between systems.
There is a federal court system with a final court of appeal in Abu Dhabi (the Abu Dhabi Supreme Court). Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah aren't part of this system.
Commercial, civil and family law disputes
Australians are often involved in commercial and civil disputes where local firms or courts have taken possession of their passport, effectively preventing people from leaving the UAE until the dispute is resolved.
You can be imprisoned or prevented from leaving the UAE for issues including:
- having a cheque dishonoured
- not paying bills, including court fines, hotel bills, personal loans and local credit cards.
If you travel to the UAE with an unpaid UAE debt, you may be detained on arrival. These laws apply even if you're only in transit and don't plan to leave the airport.
Bail is generally not available to non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for fraud. You can be imprisoned until debts are settled.
If you engage in activities involving local legal matters, particularly relating to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), seek professional advice and become aware of your rights and responsibilities.
Seek local legal advice on preparing a local will if you have children or assets in the UAE.
Decisions on child custody are based on Islamic law.
The UAE has a zero tolerance policy towards drugs, including for those transiting. No one accused of drug crimes is eligible for bail.
Penalties for drug trafficking include the death penalty and life imprisonment.
Penalties for possessing or using illegal drugs include lengthy imprisonment and heavy fines. These laws also apply if you're transiting the UAE.
If illegal drugs are detected in blood or urine tests, this is considered possession, regardless of where or how long ago you consumed the drugs. You can be charged with possession if trace amounts of drugs are found on your body, clothing or luggage. You can be convicted for 0.05 grams or less.
Avoid carrying substances that could be mistaken for drugs or drug paraphernalia. Laboratory testing on suspicious substances could take days or weeks, during which time suspects could be detained without bail. This can include, for example, marijuana flavoured liquor, tea, chewing gum or lollies.
Carrying or using drugs
Criminal acts, for which you can be fined, imprisoned or deported include:
- making offensive remarks about, or insulting, other people, the UAE, the royal families, the local government or local officials
- inappropriately using or desecrating the UAE flag
- making rude gestures
- making inappropriate and/or offensive comments on social media
- touching another person without their permission.
It's illegal to harass women in the UAE. Behaviour that may offend or harrass includes:
- ogling or prolonged stares
- unwanted conversation
- touching any part of the body.
Taking photographs of people, particularly women, without permission and/or where there has been no previous contact is illegal and can lead to arrest or fines. Posting photos on social media with people in the background, without the consent of these people, can be against the law.
Intimate public displays of affection
You can be arrested for intimate public displays of affection between adults, including kissing. This type of behaviour can attract the attention of local authorities.
If you engage in unauthorised preaching or distribute non-Islamic religious material to Muslims, you can be imprisoned and deported.
If you make derogatory comments about Islam (in writing or orally), you could be imprisoned or subject to other penalties.
Social media and behaviour online
The UAE has strict laws regarding online behaviour, including comments made via social media platforms.
Online behaviour which may be considered a crime and punishable by fines, imprisonment and deportation, includes:
- spreading rumours or gossip
- making threats or accusations
- posting photos of local incidents, such as building fires and storm damage
- posting photos with other people in the background without their consent
- using a fraudulent IP address, such as a Virtual Private Network (VPN), to commit a crime or prevent the discovery of a crime.
Whether you are a visitor or resident in the UAE, take particular care not to cause offence, including on social media.
Charity and fundraising activities are closely regulated, including when conducted online and via social media.
Sex outside of marriage and LGBTI issues
Sex outside of marriage is illegal in the UAE. Foreigners have been imprisoned for having sex with people to whom they're not legally married. De facto relationships and civil unions aren't recognised in the UAE. Sexual acts within these relationships are considered to be sex outside of marriage. Adultery is illegal.
It's against the law to live with, or share a hotel room with, someone of the opposite sex to whom you're not married or closely related. You may be asked to prove you're legally married when checking into a hotel as a couple. This applies to UAE residents and visitors. Foreigners have come to the attention of authorities for sub-leasing accommodation from someone of the opposite sex.
Homosexuality is illegal and may lead to severe punishment, including imprisonment and fines. Cross-dressing is also illegal. If you're transgender or intersex, or your gender on your passport is not consistent with your appearance, you may face questioning at immigration or be denied entry into the UAE.
More information: LGBTI travellers.
Prostitution is illegal in the UAE. Severe penalties apply to those providing such services, as well as to customers.
Victims of sexual assault
If you're a victim of sexual assault, you may face criminal prosecution rather than being considered the victim of a crime. Sexual assault victims have been imprisoned after reporting an incident to local police or when seeking medical assistance.
If you're a victim of sexual assault, contact an authority as quickly as possible for information and guidance on support services:
Consular officers can't provide legal or medical advice, but they can provide lists of English-speaking service providers who may be able to help.
More information: Where to get help.
Registering births of children born to unmarried parents
If you're a parent and not legally married, you may face difficulties in registering the birth of your child. If you're unmarried and fall pregnant or give birth in the UAE, you'll face legal difficulties that can range from UAE authorities refusing to issue a birth certificate, to arrest and imprisonment. You'll also face difficulties in registering a birth if the date of your marriage (with the parent of the child) is less than nine months before the birth of the child, regardless of where conception took place. The father may be required to face court before a birth certificate is issued.
Respect UAE restrictions on consuming and possessing alcohol. Limits on duty free importation of liquor are strictly enforced.
The Emirate of Sharjah is dry and alcohol is strictly prohibited at all times.
Elsewhere in the UAE, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it's illegal for Muslims to possess or consume alcohol.
It's illegal for non-Muslims to sell or offer alcohol to Muslims.
Non-Muslim UAE residents must hold a liquor licence issued by the Ministry of Interior to buy, carry or consume alcohol, including at home. A licence is only valid in the Emirate that issues it (for example, a licence issued in Abu Dhabi is not valid in Dubai).
Alcohol is sold in a limited number of designated stores and may only be bought by licence holders. Alcohol is served in bars and clubs at many major hotels for consumption by non-Muslim hotel guests and liquor licence holders.
Legal drinking age
The legal drinking age can vary among Emirates.
The legal drinking age in Abu Dhabi is 18 years of age, but a Ministry of Tourism bylaw means hotels can only serve alcohol to those over 21 years of age.
The legal drinking age in Dubai and the northern Emirates is 21 years.
Drinking in public
It's illegal to drink alcohol or be intoxicated in public. You can be arrested. Foreigners have been arrested on arrival after becoming intoxicated on incoming aircraft or while in transit.
Be careful if using a taxi when intoxicated. If you have a dispute with a driver or vomit in a taxi, you may be taken directly to the police station and charged with public intoxication.
If you commit any misdemeanour or offence while under the influence of alcohol, you will most likely be charged with both the misdemeanour and intoxication.
Penalties for alcohol-related offences include:
Medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal or considered a controlled substance in the UAE. If you arrive with certain medication, and without prior approval and the required documentation, you may not be allowed into the country or may be prosecuted. More information:
You must have a valid work permit from the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation for any type of employment. If you intend to work, establish terms and conditions or sponsorship before starting, to minimise the risk of contractual or labour disputes. Should a dispute arise, a special department of the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation reviews and arbitrates labour claims.
UAE employers may ask to hold a foreign employee's passport as a condition of employment. While this practice is not unusual, it's against the law.
You're required to take a full medical exam for work or residence permits. This includes an HIV/AIDS test. You must be tested after you arrive. HIV certificates issued by foreign medical authorities aren't accepted.
Other legal issues
Serious crimes and other types of illegal activities
Serious crimes, such as murder, espionage, terrorism, treason and rape, can attract the death penalty.
If you're associated with a terrorist group, you could be refused entry or arrested and detained. The UAE Government has a list of groups it considers to be terrorist organisations.
It's illegal to:
- carry weapons, including pocket knives and capsicum or pepper spray
- carry or use electronic cigarettes
- eat, drink or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan
- discriminate through speech, written word or online media
- vandalise religious symbols, rituals or holy rites.
Penalties for discriminating and vandalising can include jail terms of six months to more than 10 years and fines up to AED 2 million.
Law enforcement and military equipment
You must have previous written approval from the UAE Ministry of Defence to transport law enforcement or military equipment into or through the UAE. Australians, including Australian government personnel and those transiting UAE airports, have been arrested, detained, fined, imprisoned or deported for doing so without written approval.
Transport of such equipment without written approval into or through the UAE is against the law. This includes:
- body armour
- military equipment
- police equipment
- weapon parts and tools.
Photography and other hobbies
It's illegal to photograph:
- people without permission
- airports and related transport infrastructure
- government buildings including Embassies
Hobbies such as bird watching, flying remote control helicopters or planes, or plane spotting can be a breach of the law, particularly around these sites.
You can be arrested or fined.
Drones must be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority of the relevant Emirate before use.
It's illegal for residents to drive without a UAE driver's licence once residency has been granted. Non-residents must have an International Driving Permit.
Tourist visa holders wanting to drive in the UAE must get an International Driving Permit before leaving Australia.
Although common in the UAE, it's illegal to use a mobile phone, eat or drink while driving.
Jaywalking, walking on highways and hitchhiking are illegal in the UAE.
It's illegal to drive following the consumption of alcohol. You may be jailed or fined if you have any alcohol in your blood when driving. These laws are strictly enforced in the UAE.
Police must be called to all road accidents, including single vehicle accidents. It's illegal to leave the scene of a traffic accident. If you have an accident, don't move your car and don't take photos of the other car without the driver's permission.
Some Australian criminal offences apply overseas. You can be prosecuted for them in Australia. These offences include, but are not limited to:
- child sex offences and child pornography
- female genital mutilation
- forced marriage
- drug trafficking
- people smuggling and human trafficking
- bribery of foreign public officials
- money laundering
- terrorism and foreign incursions.
Staying within the law
The UAE doesn't recognise dual nationality. The Australian Government won't be able to provide consular assistance to Australians who enter the UAE on nationality non-Australian passport. Dual nationals must enter and depart the UAE on the same passport.
Children born in the UAE of Emirati fathers automatically acquire UAE citizenship at birth. They must enter and leave the UAE on UAE passports.
Child custody decisions are based on Islamic law. Consult a lawyer about custody disputes and determine if children could be prevented from leaving the country.
More information: Dual nationals
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between mid-May and mid-June 2018. It is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan in the UAE, including in private vehicles. During Ramadan, take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs.
Dress and behaviour
The UAE is a Muslim country with strict standards of dress and behaviour.
- Familiarise yourself with local customs, culture and attitudes before departing Australia.
- Research dress codes for tourist attractions, shopping malls, beaches and other public places (often displayed onsite or available on websites).
- Dress modestly— both men and women—especially in Sharjah and Ajman where Islamic law is strictly enforced.
- Cover shoulders and knees if you're female. Seek local advice if in doubt about appropriate dress.
- Take care not to offend.
Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.
Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.
- what circumstances and activities are, and aren't, covered under your policy
- that you're covered for the whole time you'll be away.
Physical and mental health
Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
- At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
- Get vaccinated before you travel.
If you need counselling services, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.
Some medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia aren't readily available in the UAE or are considered to be illegal or controlled substances, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
This includes medication:
- containing codeine, Valium or Ritalin
- designed to treat HIV/AIDS
- designed to treat hepatitis.
You can be detained, deported or prevented from entering the country for carrying such medication. This even applies if you're in transit. The Australian Government can't help you determine if any medication is considered a controlled substance in the UAE.
Before you leave Australia:
Even if your medication isn't on the list of illegal or controlled medications, carry:
- a copy of your prescription
- a letter from your doctor
- all medication in its original packaging.
This applies for any medication that can be detected in your system.
UAE Embassy's website for the full list of illegal and controlled medication, and the additional documents you need. Medication on this website is listed by generic name, which may not be the name by which it's known in Australia. Check your medication's generic name with your doctor or pharmacist before departing. You can also contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate-General of the United Arab Emirates.
More information: Prescription medicines
Cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been reported in a number of countries in the Middle East, including the UAE. Other countries outside the Middle East have also reported imported cases from returned travellers.
Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases occur from time to time. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.
Dust and sandstorms can exacerbate respiratory issues.
Red algae or red tide, which can cause skin and eye irritations and breathing problems, may affect beaches from time to time. Don't swim in affected water.
The standard of public medical facilities in major cities is adequate, but services might not be available in remote areas. A number of private facilities, especially in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai, meet international accreditation standards.
There's no reciprocal medical agreement between Australia and the UAE. Before admitting patients, hospitals usually require:
- guarantee of payment
- confirmation of medical insurance
- upfront deposit for services.
Where to get help
Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer or airline.
The emergency number in the UAE is 999.
Tourism services and products
For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.
Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
For consular assistance, contact:
Australian Embassy, Abu Dhabi
Al Muhairy Centre
Zayed the First Street
Abu Dhabi UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Telephone: (971 2) 401 7500
Facsimile: (971 2) 401 7501
Australian Consulate-General, Dubai
25th Floor Burjuman Centre Office Tower
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road (Trade Centre Road)
Dubai UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Telephone: (971 4) 508 7100
Facsimile: (971 4) 355 1547
The working week of the Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate-General in Dubai is Sunday to Thursday in accordance with local practice.
Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
If you're unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
The UAE experiences extremely high temperatures. During the hottest months of the year, June to September, the temperature can exceed 50˚C. Stay out of the sun and drink water to avoid dehydration.
Sandstorms and dust storms occur regularly.
Although rare, the UAE can experience severe thunderstorms, strong winds and heavy rain, particularly during spring and autumn. Flash flooding can cause dangerous driving conditions. Flash flooding in river canyons (wadis) has led to a number of deaths in recent years.
In severe weather, stay indoors and avoid driving if possible. Monitor the media and local government websites, such as the
National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority and the
National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology. The NCEMA Facebook page (in Arabic) is updated regularly during a crisis.
Earth tremors occur in the UAE, particularly following a major earthquake elsewhere in the region.
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the
Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.