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Laws and Regulations

Dubai Property Laws & Regulations

Most visitors face no problems - but travellers should be aware of local laws

The country's laws reflect its Muslim tradition, and Westerners who do not take steps to familiarise themselves with restrictions may quite easily find themselves falling foul of strict regulations.

Entering the country

  • The UAE has a zero-tolerance drugs policy and anyone caught carrying illegal substances can expect a stiff penalty, even if it is just a trace amount.
  • Some prescription drugs, such as commonly-used anti-depressants, are included on the UAE's controlled list and visitors are advised to check the status of their medicines before bringing them into the country.
  • Raw poppy seeds are included on the UAE's banned list, and Fair Trials International highlights the case of a man held at customs after poppy seeds from a roll he ate in the airport became trapped in his clothing.
  • Pork products and pornographic books and material are also banned.

In the country:

  • Swearing or making rude gestures is considered to be an obscene act and offenders can be arrested by police.
  • Public displays of affection, including kissing and holding hands, could lead to arrest if deemed to be offensive.
  • Sex outside marriage is banned and unmarried couples who live together or even share a hotel room are committing an offence, although this is unlikely to be a problem in Dubai. Adultery is illegal.
  • Homosexual behaviour and cross-dressing is forbidden.
  • In situations other than on the beach or by the swimming pool, a woman's clothing may be considered indecent if it is tight, transparent, above the knee or shows her stomach, shoulders or back. A man should not wear shorts or show his chest. Underwear should not be visible.
  • Visitors can only drink alcohol in licensed hotels or clubs, and drinking alcohol or being drunk in public is an offence. In the emirate of Sharjah, any alcohol consumption is illegal.
  • Driving after consuming any amount of alcohol is against the law.
  • Photography of certain government and military buildings is banned, and visitors should always ask before taking pictures of people.
  • Failing to pay a bill or bouncing a cheque can lead to a fine and even imprisonment.
  • During the fasting month of Ramadan, visitors should not eat, drink or smoke in public places. Live and loud music is also banned.