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What can tourists be fined for in Dubai and the UAE?

За что могут оштрафовать туристов в Дубае и ОАЭ?

Tourism is one of the most important income items of Dubai and other emirates. However, for local residents, the presence of hundreds of thousands of visiting non-Muslims creates a lot of problems. Tourists are people on vacation, which everyone understands in their own way. The moral norms of behavior of representatives of the Muslim and non-Muslim world differ radically: this applies to clothing, behavior in public places, relationships between the sexes.

The authorities are ready to turn a blind eye to some things for the sake of profit, but they remain completely irreconcilable with others. Fines are provided for many offenses for tourists in Dubai, for others you can generally lose your vehicle and go to jail. At the same time, the legislation regarding guests is constantly being reviewed.

UAE legal system – general information


According to the state structure of the UAE, it is a Commonwealth of seven principalities–emirates. Each emirate has its own set of laws that are binding on its entire territory, but general federal legislation also applies. Depending on the offense, different laws have priority in each principality.

The Arab Emirates is an Islamic state in which all life is strictly subordinated to the Koran. The desire of the authorities to bring the country to a new economic level forced them to open their doors to representatives of other cultures, which at first was critically perceived by the local population. Over time, the citizens of the country were convinced of the need for such a step. However, it was necessary to make many amendments to the legislation in order to preserve the patriarchal order and prevent the spread and rooting in the country of alien norms of behavior, morality and frankly vicious morals.

It is quite difficult for the authorities to maintain a balance between monitoring the observance of Sharia law in society and the behavior of tourists, far from religious restraint. In order for Europeans and Americans to feel more free, many local bans do not apply on the territories of hotels, closed beaches, nightclubs and parties. For some frivolous violations, the police can issue a warning or not let them into a public place, but they will not fine them. But there are a number of offenses for which the tourist will definitely be punished.

What can tourists in the UAE be fined for?

Alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption

Drinking alcohol in a public place or being drunk in it is regarded as a criminal offense punishable by a fine of 2000 dirhams or 6 months in prison. At the same time, you can drink at the hotel where you live, in a bar, in a nightclub, but then you must immediately go home by taxi. In fairness, it should be noted that no one is satisfied with hunting for drunk vacationers. Vacationers often allow themselves to leave the hotel in a cheerful mood and take a walk. But if a person behaves decently, the police turn a blind eye to it.

Until November 8 last year, tourists had no right to freely buy alcoholic beverages. Now this rule has been abolished with the exception of Sharjah, the most conservative principality. Here, the sale of alcohol is not prohibited only at the airport. In other places, everything is strictly prohibited. But the underground market of alcoholic beverages is thriving here, but it is focused not on tourists, but on expats.

In Dubai, you will be asked to present your passport in order to issue a special license (this is not a paper permit, but a mark in a special database). This is not just a formality: such a mark gives a tourist the right to freely buy alcohol for 30 days, and then it will no longer be possible to do this. In other emirates, a passport will be required to make sure that you are over 21 years old.

In the emirates of Ajman, Fujairah, Umm al-Qaywain, Ras al-Khaimah, licenses have been canceled since 08.11.20 and you can buy alcohol freely.

Prohibitions in the month of Ramadan

This is a holy month for Muslims all over the world. In accordance with the requirements of the Koran, a Muslim is obliged to observe strict rules during this month: neither eat, drink, nor smoke from sunrise to sunset. In most Muslim countries, these rules have not been observed for a long time, in any case, no one demands to do it forcibly. 

But in the UAE, things are different: here fasting is required at the level of the law. According to Article 313 of paragraph “a” of the UAE Criminal Code, all without exception (i.e. tourists) are obliged to publicly comply with all the requirements of the post. This means that you can eat and drink indoors (restaurants, cafes, hotels). While staying at the hotel, you can even drink alcohol. The ban on the sale of alcohol during Ramadan has been lifted at the federal law level, but each emirate has the right to make other decisions.

By the way, fasting includes a ban on public chewing gum and swallowing saliva.

The law does not apply to children, pregnant and lactating women, the sick, as well as workers engaged in hard work.

Cohabitation and sex outside marriage

Cohabitation and sex outside marriage

In the era of the legendary Sheikh Zayed (until 2004), cohabitation and sexual relations outside of marriage (even by mutual consent) were punishable by imprisonment for a period of one year. After 2004, the punishment for such a violation was slightly mitigated: cohabitation outside of marriage was no longer considered a criminal offense, but free sex was still punishable.

But, as in the case of drunken walking guests of the country, special raids on adulterous couples are not satisfied. Moreover, the wording concerning intimate relationships is so vaguely spelled out in the law that it is very difficult to judge by them and even more so to pass sentences. Most likely, in the near future, free sex will cease to be considered a crime. But this does not mean that they can be engaged openly, for example, on the beach or in an entertainment venue.

What can be photographed and what is forbidden

Interference in personal life is severely punished: imprisonment up to 7 years. This concept includes photographing a person or his family without his consent. At the same time, it is not forbidden to simply shoot people on the street, for example, passers-by or cafe visitors (in the form of a general snapshot). It is strictly forbidden to photograph local women, it is impossible to post pictures on social networks without the consent of the photographed: for this you can go to prison for six months and pay a fine of up to half a million dirhams.

In addition, it is forbidden to remove:

  • government buildings;
  • strategic objects;
  • mosques;
  • people performing prayer.



Any actions with drugs are strictly prohibited and punished. Last year, the use of narcotic drugs in the UAE was recognized as a disease. For this, they stopped being imprisoned, but began to be placed on compulsory treatment in special rehabilitation centers. For drug possession, a fine of 10,000 AED and (or) imprisonment of up to 4 years is provided, for the distribution of drugs, the penalty is life imprisonment.

The attempt to import prohibited substances added to smoking mixtures is severely punished. Even transit passengers are arrested, because airports are equipped with such sensitive equipment that it even detects traces of the presence of drugs in luggage. At the same time, the authorities have the right to take a blood test from suspicious passengers.

It is worth mentioning separately about medicines, which include substances that are considered narcotic in the UAE. As a rule, these are painkillers. If a doctor prescribed them to you and you are taking medicines with you, be sure to have a prescription with the doctor’s details with you so that the information can be checked.

Since last year, in the interests of the development of the tourism industry, the punishment for the import of narcotic drinks, products or medicines (without a prescription) has been mitigated: for the first time, the tourist will be forgiven.

Violations and fines in the metro and buses

Metro is the fastest and most convenient form of transport. However, unlike the subway in other countries, in the UAE, when traveling in the subway, you have to follow a huge number of rules. At the same time, remember – there is a controller in every composition! For clarity, here are the most common violations and penalties for them.

ViolationFine, AED
Boarding the wrong car100
Sleep at the station300
Eating, drinks (any, even non-alcoholic), chewing gum, smoking100
Transportation of alcohol even in a closed bag500
Boarding seats for disabled or pregnant women (even if there are none nearby)100
Pressing the emergency button or remote control for no reason2000
Transportation of animals100
Noisy behavior, throwing garbage, sitting with your feet on the chair, spoiling the carfrom 100

About boarding the wrong car should be explained. In the Emirati metro, the cars differ in color: silver – for everyone, gold – for superior comfort (a ticket to it costs more), pink – for women and children. Tourists often, without knowing the rules, sit in the wrong car (especially for women) and almost always forgive them, just explain and ask to change seats.

But for some time now it has become clear that many strive to deceive consciously: having one golden ticket (already used) with them, people try to ride on it in a comfortable gold despite the fact that they got into the subway on a silver one. This deception is well known to the controllers: they are now not just visually looking at the presence of a travel card, but reading the date of purchase with a special device. Of course, in this case, a fine is inevitable.

Buses are most often punished for stowaway travel, and can also be fined for distracting the driver with conversations.

Fines for driving a car

The police strictly ensures that all road users comply with the rules, and strictly punishes violations. The average fine is 400-500 AED, but it can reach up to 3000-5000.

The most common violations and penalty rates are presented in the table below.

ViolationFine, AED
Driving without a license5000
Road racing2000
No seat belts400
Using a mobile phone while driving or smoking200-800
Lights off at night100-400
A child under 10 years old sits without a special child seat400
Stopping on the highway for no reason500-1000
Running a red light800-1000
Ignoring traffic signs500
Non-compliance with the distance400
Throwing garbage out of the window500-1000
Riding without a license plate2000
Exit to the oncoming lane600
Entry into a restricted area1000
If you do not give way to special transport, car tuples200-800

How much is the fine in Dubai for speeding

Speeding up to

For exceeding the speed limit by more than 80 km, they can deprive you of your license and confiscate a car, and for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can also arrest you.

About women’s swimwear on the beaches

It is strictly forbidden to sunbathe topless or without a swimsuit at all: it is punishable by 6 months in prison. You can stay on the beach in open swimsuits in all emirates, except Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah. It is impossible to go outside the beach in a bathing suit, but they have not been punished for this for a long time: a policeman makes a remark and asks either to get dressed or to return to the beach. In a public place (in a bar, shop) in this form will definitely not be allowed.

Dress code in public places

Dress code in public places

There is no prescribed law on the dress code in the country. But there are unwritten rules that are better to follow. If earlier it was forbidden to go out in shorts and T-shirts, now they do not pay attention to it. However, it is unacceptable to appear in public places:

  • in too short, tight-fitting or transparent attire;
  • if underwear is visible through the clothes;
  • with an open stomach or back: clothes should cover the body from shoulders to hips, and preferably to the knee.

Foreign women dressed too provocatively will not be allowed in public places.

When visiting a mosque, the rules are even stricter: no shorts, T-shirts, open outfits.

Public displays of affection between a man and a woman

By law, men and women in a public place can hold hands or hug each other’s shoulders. You can’t hug, kiss, touch each other’s private parts. The rules also apply to spouses, but they no longer put them in jail for violations. Sometimes a policeman will just make a remark. If the couple’s behavior is too provocative, they will take her to the police station and keep her there for several hours.

Homosexuality and dressing up


Are not allowed in any form. The federal law provides for capital punishment for homosexuality, but in some principalities the punishment is milder: in Dubai, the prison term is up to 10 years, and in Abu Dhabi – up to 14. It does not matter whether a homosexual meeting takes place openly or behind closed doors.

It is also forbidden to change into clothes of the opposite sex.

What else is prohibited

  • talking loudly in public places;
  • to talk to someone in raised tones, especially to shout;
  • use aggressive gestures, fight;
  • use obscene language, use similar gestures;
  • pornographic products in any form (photos, videos, magazines of the appropriate kind);
  • flirt with local women and touch them, even if urgent medical care is required (look for a Muslim man);
  • to touch the locals (men) even in a friendly way, unless the initiative comes from them;
  • closely observe the worshippers;
  • religious propaganda;
  • offensive statements about any religion.

Penalties for:

  • vaping;
  • wearing clothes and using Israeli-made items;
  • accidental bodily injury during first aid;
  • attempted suicide (previously it was considered a criminal offense, now such individuals are sent for compulsory treatment).

How to behave at a party (etiquette rules)

  • in an Arab house, shoes are removed at the entrance;
  • when greeting a woman, you cannot give your hand to a woman, you can only shake it if she gives it first;
  • a man’s greeting handshake lasts longer than is customary among Europeans or Americans, but the owner of the house must interrupt it (otherwise he may be offended);
  • the direction of the soles towards the owner is regarded as an insult;
  • do not bring alcohol with you;
  • to refuse a traditional treat (very plentiful) means to offend the host;
  • it is allowed to accept or pass plates with food or drinks only with the right hand (the same applies to business cards and documents);
  • if you eat something with your hands, then you need to use only the right one;
  • you can’t point with your finger, only with an open palm;
  • it is indecent to sit cross-legged;
  • if a person enters the room, especially a higher rank, older in age or a woman, it is customary to get up.

What can not be imported into the country by a tourist?


No type of medicines for which there is no medical prescription can be imported into the UAE. Psychotropic, narcotic drugs are under a special ban. But if a tourist needs to take them constantly, then you need to have a prescription and a dose of the drug with you, calculated for no more than 90 days.

Food products

It is not allowed to import products made at home or without factory marking. Everything else is possible, but there are maximum permissible volumes. For example, baby food, sweets, fruits – up to 10 kg, tea and coffee – up to 5 kg, honey – up to 20 kg, vegetable oil – up to 50 liters.


Alcohol, tobacco and weapons

Explosives, pyrotechnics, weapons and drugs cannot be imported. Alcohol and cigarettes are allowed, but the volume that does not require declaration is limited:

  • 500 g of tobacco;
  • 50 cigars;
  • 400 cigarettes;
  • 4 liters of strong alcohol;
  • 48 cans of beer with a volume of 0.35 liters.


Cannot be imported:

  • goods produced in Qatar, Somalia, Iran, North Korea;
  • ivory and rhino horn products;
  • objects of painting and architecture;
  • anti-Islamic literature;
  • pornographic literature and products;
  • playing accessories (cards, chips, dice, other attributes);
  • animals of some breeds (fighting dogs, birds).

Mandatory declaration is subject to:

  • all books, magazines, disks;
  • funds exceeding 100 000 AED;
  • gifts worth more than 3000 AED.

Summing up, we can say that the highest fines in Dubai for tourists are set for offenses that entail a threat to life or health . These are traffic violations and drug distribution. The authorities also carefully monitor the preservation of the moral level of Muslim society: such violations are also severely punished by fines and imprisonment. At the same time, it can be stated that for many things that were banned 5-10 years ago, the bans for tourists have been lifted, which makes their stay in the country more free.

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Vladimir Sviridov
Vladimir Sviridov
General Manager RLC Consulting
With a Postgraduate Masters in Finance from The, Moscow State University, Russia. Vladimir started his professional career as an auditor of the financial sector of EY. After that, he worked for several years in senior positions in corporate banking. In 2018-2021, he managed the finances of a large agricultural holding, and is currently responsible for strategic planning, corporate partnership and financial management in the role of General Manager of RLC Consulting GROUP in the UAE.

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