United Arab Emirates travel guide
About United Arab Emirates
Comprised of little more than sand dunes, crumbling forts and fishing villages a century ago, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has grown into a show-stopping, headline-grabbing destination which offers an intriguing blend of traditional Islamic culture and rampant consumerism.
Powered largely (but by no means exclusively) by oil wealth, the UAE today is defined by opulent resort hotels, ultra-modern architecture and a seemingly unending thirst for new and innovative mega-projects. Manmade islands in the shape of palm trees? Tick. Billionaire royals taking over Premiership football clubs? Tick. Tallest building on the planet? Naturally.
Seven separate emirates make up the country, but visitor attention falls mainly on Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Both are home to an ever-growing spread of luxury accommodation, gourmet restaurants, branded nightclubs and gleaming shopping malls. Dubai’s most iconic sights include the sail-shaped “7-star” hotel Burj Al Arab, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper and the sea-themed Atlantis Resort, which are microcosms of the UAE’s lofty ambitions.
The regular fountain show in the Downtown area rivals that of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, while vast shopping complexes like Dubai Mall (complete with one of the world’s largest aquariums) and Mall of the Emirates (complete with ski slope) are packed with premium international labels.
Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, doesn’t have quite the same verve but boasts some remarkable attractions, from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to the Ferrari World theme park. And in both destinations, there’s the option to delve into the UAE’s blend of Islamic culture and modernity, from spice souks to falcon hospitals. Meanwhile, the vast natural desert offers endless discoveries via exciting modes of transport from hot air balloon and quad bike to helicopter or sandboard.
And don’t be dazzled by Abu Dhabi and Dubai alone – the other emirates are also worthy of exploration. Among them, coastal Fujairah offers nature walks and a host of outdoor adventures, including mountain biking and scuba diving, while Ras al-Khamiah has excellent off-road driving and hiking in the rugged Hajar Mountains.
83,600 sq km (32,278 sq miles).
99 per sq km.
Federation of seven autonomous emirates. The highest federal authority is the Supreme Council of Rulers comprising the absolute rulers of the seven emirates. Decisions reached by the council must have the agreement of at least five members, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two largest members. The council appoints a president to act as head of state. There are no political parties.
President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan since 2004.
Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum since 2006.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for the United Arab Emirates on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in the United Arab Emirates.
Returning to the UK
When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK including COVID-19 testing rules for people travelling to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact your airline - Emirates Etihad Airways or British Airways or local health authorities for Dubai and Abu Dhabi for information on testing facilities.
From 8 June, direct flights can arrive in England from the UAE, but they must arrive at dedicated terminals at Heathrow and Birmingham airports. Different requirements may apply for arrivals into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel within the United Arab Emirates
COVID-19 cases continue to be recorded in the UAE and public health measures are in place in response to the outbreak. These can vary between each Emirates and the ease of movement between regions is affected. The local rules may change, including at short notice. You should check them carefully before you travel and whilst you are in the UAE, and ensure you comply.
The UAE authorities have stated that any violation of instructions and procedures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 will be treated as a crime punishable by law.
Since 2 June 2020, travel by land to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has been restricted although movement within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is allowed. The rules for entering and remaining in Abu Dhabi change regularly and further changes will come into effect from 19 July 2021. These include the introduction of strictly enforced overnight curfews and sterilisation (sanitation) regimes, including journeys being permitted only for essential reasons during certain times. You should check the current requirement from the Abu Dhabi Media Office website and on the Emirates News Agency website.
Public spaces and services
Most shops, restaurants, tourist attractions and religious establishments are open but there are restrictions and requirements in place to help contain the disease. Social distancing and the wearing of face masks is mandatory when away from your home. This also applies to visitors staying in hotels when they are not in their room.
Most schools across the UAE reopened at the start of the 2020/21 academic year with a number of COVID-19 measures in place. Some have since closed temporarily following COVID-19 outbreaks. All schools in Abu Dhabi and some schools in Dubai moved to remote learning at the beginning of 2021 although most have now reopened with COVID-19 measures in place.
The introduction of the ‘Green Pass’ on the ‘Al HOSN’ App for access to public places in Abu Dhabi has been temporarily suspended. Further information is available on the Abu Dhabi Media Office website.
Healthcare in the United Arab Emirates
You should keep up to date with local public health measures and comply with instructions. If you fail to do so you risk being fined or imprisoned.
Information about the UAE’s approach can be found on the website of the Ministry of Health and Prevention through its COVID-19 Information Centre. You can also keep up to date with information via official sources such as the UAE Government Portal, Dubai Media Office and Emirates News Agency.
If you develop coronavirus symptoms whilst in the UAE, you should contact your travel insurance or healthcare provider for further advice.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
View Health for further details on healthcare in the UAE.
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
COVID-19 vaccinations if you live in UAE
We will update this page when the Government of UAE announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
The UAE COVID-19 vaccination programme started in December 2020 and is using the AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines. The vaccine used may vary in each of the seven Emirates. The Government of UAE has stated that British nationals resident in UAE are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme.
All residents over the age of 16 are eligible for the vaccination programme. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is also available for children aged 12-15 years, if you are considering a vaccination for somebody in this age group, you should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider. Further information about COVID-19 vaccinations in the UAE is available from Abu Dhabi Health Services, the Dubai Health Authority and the Ministry of Health and Prevention.
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.
If you’re a British national living in UAE, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance whilst in the UAE contact:
All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Over 1.5 million British visitors travel to the UAE every year and more than 100,000 British nationals are resident there. The vast majority of visits are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. Don’t accept lifts from strangers. Use only licensed taxis or other recognized forms of public transport.
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 the sexual relations were not consensual, especially when the victim had consumed alcohol or where the alleged 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.
Female visitors and residents should take care when walking or travelling alone, and should use a reputable taxi company, particularly at night. Drink spiking can occur. Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
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.
If you’re visiting the UAE, you can drive a rental car using your UK driving licence. If you intend to drive a private vehicle as a visitor, you should check that you’re covered under the vehicle’s insurance.
If you’re applying for residence in the UAE, you can use your UK licence until your residence permit is issued, after which you’ll need to immediately get a UAE driving licence from the traffic department.
Driving standards in the UAE are not always as disciplined as in the UK and there is a high rate of traffic accidents. The World Health Organisation has reported that UAE road users are almost 7 times more likely to be killed than their UK counterparts and that the UAE has one of the highest rates of road deaths. Speeding is common.
It is a criminal offence in the UAE to drink and drive, no matter how small the amount. Your insurance is also likely to be invalidated in the event of an accident. Offensive gestures and bad language directed at other drivers can lead to fines, a jail sentence, and possibly deportation. Flashing your lights in the UAE can mean a driver is coming through, rather than giving way.
If you have an accident you should follow the rules of the Emirate in which you are travelling. In Abu Dhabi, if no one has been hurt and vehicle damage is minor, drivers should move vehicles to the side of the road to avoid blocking traffic; otherwise, the vehicles should not be moved. In Dubai, you should only move your vehicle if it is causing an obstruction to other motorists. In the other Emirates, you may only move your car if the accident is minor and both parties agree who is responsible. In all cases, call the police. It is an offence to leave the scene of an accident before the police have arrived.
Excursions to the desert can be dangerous unless you’re in a properly equipped 4 x 4 vehicle. Always travel in convoy with other cars, take a supply of water and a mobile telephone, and leave a copy of your travel plans with friends or relatives.
Pedestrians should take great care. Only cross roads using designated pedestrian crossings, failure to comply can lead to prosecution. Vehicles often don’t stop at zebra crossings marked on the roads.
Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected. Mariners should make careful enquiries before entering these waters.
You should consider how regional tensions may affect your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of maritime attack.
Be careful when travelling by tourist boat. The safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets are available for all passengers.
Events in the Middle East can affect local public opinion. Follow news reports and be alert to local and regional developments, which might trigger public disturbances.
Since 2018, numerous missiles have been launched into Saudi Arabia from Yemen, including attacks on aviation interests. The vast majority of these have been intercepted and destroyed but there have been a small number of casualties. Claims have been made in public media suggesting that there may also be attempts to target missiles and unmanned aerial systems (drones) aimed at the UAE. In the event of any incidents, you should monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in the UAE. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region. These include references to attacks on western interests, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests as well as crowded places, including restaurants, hotels, beaches, shopping centres and mosques. You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you should contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
Holders of full British passports will be granted a free of charge visitor/tourist visa upon arrival in the UAE. No application in advance of travel is needed. Your passport will be stamped with the visa as you pass through Immigration. The visa issued at the airport for British passport holders is valid for 30 days.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Testing before arrival
COVID-19 entry requirements may change at short notice, and travellers to the UAE are strongly encouraged to check the specifics, including the time frames for undertaking COVID-19 PCR tests before departure with their airline before they travel. Further details are available on British Airways, Emirates and Etihad websites including information about what these airlines accept as proof of a negative test.
Residents, tourists and visitors travelling from or through the UK and arriving in Dubai and Abu Dhabi must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test which was taken no more than 72 hours before departure and present the certificate at check in. Travellers arriving in Abu Dhabi will also be required to undertake a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival. Travellers arriving in Dubai may be required to undertake a further COVID-19 PCR test on arrival and will have to isolate pending the result of the COVID-19 PCR test. Further details are available on British Airways, Etihad and Emirates.
If you test positive for COVID-19 on arrival, depending on your symptoms and your accommodation plans, you may be required to self-isolate in a government facility, a hospital, your hotel or privately arranged accommodation for at least 10 days.
If you are transiting through the UAE to a country that requires a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival, then you must obtain a negative COVID-19 PCR test before travelling.
In all circumstances, the test must be a COVID-19 PCR swab test. Other test results including antibody tests are not accepted.
Further information about COVID-19 testing for travellers is available on the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority website. Children under the age of 12 and those with severe and moderate disabilities will be exempted from the test requirement. Those entering the country may also be asked to take a further COVID-19 PCR test on arrival and to complete a period of self-isolation or quarantine.
You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
Entry to Abu Dhabi
Visitors can travel to Abu Dhabi by road but must have had a negative COVID-19 PCR test or Laser-Based Diffractive Phase Interferometry (DPI) test before travel. There is also a requirement for further testing if visitors and residents remain in Abu Dhabi for 3 days or longer. The rules for entering and remaining in Abu Dhabi change regularly and further changes will come into effect from 19 July 2021. These include the introduction of strictly enforced overnight curfews and sterilisation (sanitation) regimes, including journeys being permitted only for essential reasons during certain times. You should check the current requirement from the Abu Dhabi Media Office website and on the Emirates News Agency website.
All arrivals in Abu Dhabi must isolate for up to 12 days on arrival, depending on their vaccination status, although arrivals from certain countries as listed on the Visit Abu Dhabi website will not be required to isolate. The UK was removed from this list on 13 June 2021. This means that all arrivals in Abu Dhabi from the UK will be required to wear a medically approved wristband for the duration of their quarantine. The wristband will be provided at Abu Dhabi airport after clearing immigration. Arrivals under the age of 18, over the age of 60, diplomats or those suffering from a chronic disease will be exempt from having to wear the wristband.
Travellers arriving in Abu Dhabi will also be required to undertake a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival, complete a period of self-isolation or quarantine and, depending on the length of their stay and vaccination status, have up to two further COVID-19 PCR tests. More information about quarantine and testing requirements for travellers to Abu Dhabi is available on the UAE Government Portal and Abu Dhabi Media Office website. Further information is also available on the Etihad Airlines website including a guide for arrivals in Abu Dhabi.
Dubai residents returning to or leaving Dubai
Further information about what returning residents need to do before they travel and what will happen on arrival in Dubai is available on the Government of Dubai website including information about testing on arrival and quarantine.
Dubai residents must apply for a permit to return on the Dubai Government General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs website. Further information about how to book a flight for returning residents is available on the Emirates Airline website.
On their return to Dubai, returning residents will have to register their details on the COVID-19 DXB App.
Visitors to Dubai
Further information about what visitors need to do before they travel and what will happen on arrival in Dubai is available on the Government of Dubai website including information about testing before departure, on arrival and quarantine. Further information for visitors to Dubai is available on the Emirates Airline website.
Visitors to Dubai will also have to register their details on the COVID-19 DXB App.
Before visitors fly to Dubai, they will also be required to complete a Health Declaration Form and a Quarantine Form. Both forms need to be printed, completed and handed over to Dubai Health Authority staff on arrival. Visitors to Dubai will also have to register their details on the COVID-19 DXB App.
Visitors must have international health insurance before travelling.
All visitors to Dubai must adhere to all public health measures issued by the Dubai authorities including any requirements to quarantine.
Stringent entry restrictions remain in place upon arrival at all airports in the UAE which may include, but are not limited to, a Health Authority COVID-19 PCR test on arrival, mandatory quarantine period, usually via self-isolation at a private address if suitable, or a hotel or Government facility and follow up testing before you are able to complete quarantine. Once any quarantine period is complete you must continue to comply with all measures put in place by the UAE authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Arrivals from countries that the UAE authorities consider high risk, and/or for whom the authorities assess private accommodation in the UAE to be unsuitable, are likely to be required to quarantine in a government quarantine facility.
Passenger cruises are currently not allowed to dock in the UAE as a result of measures taken to combat COVID-19. A UAE-wide notice to mariners has issued.
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has adopted an enhanced member health policy which all CLIA ocean member cruise lines are required to follow to address COVID-19.
If you are planning to travel on an international cruise that is due to call at any port in the UAE, contact your travel company for the latest information.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) has a visa hotline: +971 (0)9 208 3344.
If you have any questions on the validity or expiry of your visa, contact UAE Immigration directly. You can find out further information about visas on the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs website for Dubai or the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship website for the rest of the UAE.
If you’re living outside the UAE, contact the nearest UAE Embassy for advice.
All individuals who wish to remain in the UAE beyond the validity of their visa must contact the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs website for Dubai or the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship website for the rest of the UAE well in advance or they may be subject to fines for overstaying.
Exit rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
With effect from 18 January, all travellers to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival.
With effect from 1 August 2020, all travellers departing from Abu Dhabi to the EU will need to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within 96 hours prior to their departure. This is also a requirement for travellers to other countries that require a negative COVID-19 PCR test before arrival. Children under the age of 12 and those with severe and moderate disabilities will be exempted from the test requirement.
Transit passengers from some countries are required to conduct a COVID-19 PCR test prior to departure for Dubai. The pre-travel test is also mandatory for transit passengers if their destination country requires them to do so. Further information is available on the Dubai Media Office website
All travellers departing from the UAE to the UK will also be required to complete the UK Government Public Health Passenger Locator Form online and provide a printed copy at the airport before departing the UAE.
Further information is available on the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority website. Further information about testing facilities in the UAE is available on the UAE Government Portal.
Regular entry requirements
Living and working in the UAE
If you have entered Dubai on a visit visa and you wish to work then you should get a probationary work permit, valid for up to 3 months, from the Ministry of Labour. If you don’t get this permit and are caught working while on a visit visa, then you risk being jailed or fined and deported.
For further information, including on how to stay in the UAE for longer than 60 days, visit the websites of the UAE Embassy in London, the Naturalisation and Residency Department – Dubai or the UAE Federal E-Government Portal.
If you apply for a residence visa, you will have to take a blood test. Those testing positive for HIV or hepatitis are detained and then deported. There is no appeal process.
UAE employers may ask foreign employees to deposit their passports with the company as part of the terms and conditions of employment. While this is not an unusual practice, it is illegal under UAE labour law.
You should cancel your work visa before leaving the UAE permanently. If you don’t do this, you risk being reported as an absconder and could be arrested if you return to the UAE, even if you are in transit to another country. Failure to repay debts or resolve any outstanding cases against you may also result in your arrest on return or transit through the UAE.
If you have any doubt about your status before returning to the UAE seek advice from a local lawyer.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into the UAE. If you hold a residence permit, your passport must be valid for at least 3 months in order to travel to the UAE.
If you’re transiting the UAE (and not passing through Immigration) your passport only needs to have a minimum of 3 months validity from the date of transit.
If you’re planning to travel with any prescribed or over the counter medicines for personal use, you’ll need to meet the UAE’s specific requirements for your medicine to be allowed into the country.
If you’re entering the country with medication that the UAE classes as narcotic, psychotropic, controlled or semi-controlled, approval is needed from the UAE authorities. A list of medicines where this rule applies, allowed quantities and documents to present can be found on the UAE Ministry of Health website.
Approval can be requested in advance or on arrival. To gain approval prior to travelling, you can apply online using the electronic application form and accompanying user guide on the UAE Ministry of Health website. The UAE authorities advise that applications are normally processed within 5 working days. If you arrive in the UAE without prior approval, you will be asked to present the documents cited on the list above. It is not guaranteed that you will receive approval.
If you arrive in the UAE without prior approval or the required documentation, the medication will not be allowed into the UAE and you may be prosecuted under UAE law. If you need more information on controlled medicines or the process for obtaining permission, you should contact the UAE Ministry of Health by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +971 800 11111.
If you’re travelling in transit through a UAE airport and do not intend entering the UAE, or are entering the UAE with other types of medicine not listed in the above, you’re not required to go through this approval process.
In all cases, there are limits on the amount of medication that can be brought into the UAE legally. The Ministry of Health advise that you can bring up to 3 months’ supply of medication as a visitor, reduced to one month’s supply if the medication is included in the list requiring approval.
Previous travel to Israel
UAE immigration authorities have advised that British nationals with valid or expired Israeli visas or stamps in their passports should not face any difficulties entering the UAE as long as they don’t intend to work. If you do intend to work, further checks may be required and there is a risk that entry may be refused.
If you are a British-Israeli dual national and have any concerns about entering the UAE, contact the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in London.
Regular exit requirements
Visitors must have legal status in the UAE when they depart. 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.
Thermal scanning is in operation at airports. Departing passengers may be subject to testing, quarantine and medical treatment in the UAE.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for airside transit and exit from the United Arab Emirates, but not for entry into the UAE. If you are requesting an ETD to leave the UAE, you must check with UAE Immigration which documents you will need to present to leave the UAE. This will depend on the circumstances and you should allow time to do this. If your passport has been lost or stolen you will need to obtain a police report from a local police station. It can take a number of days to complete this process and you may need to reschedule your flight. In Dubai, you may be able to obtain a police report for your lost passport through the Dubai Police Website. If you experience difficulties with this process, you can obtain the required document by visiting your nearest police station.
UAE laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. Be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK. You are strongly advised to familiarise yourself with, and respect local laws and customs.
In 2022, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 3 April and finish on 2 May. See Travelling during Ramadan
You can read more about living in the UAE here.
Importing pork products and pornography into the UAE is illegal. Videos, books, and magazines may be subject to scrutiny and may be censored.
There is zero tolerance for drugs-related offences. 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 4-year jail sentence. The Emirati authorities count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession. Some herbal highs, like Spice, are illegal in the UAE.
Many people stop off in UAE airports on their way to other destinations. UAE airports have excellent technology and security, so transiting passengers carrying even residual amounts of drugs may be arrested.
Some skincare products and E-cigarette refills may contain ingredients that are illegal in the UAE such as CBD oil. If found in possession of such products, they will be confiscated and you may face criminal charges. A list of narcotic, psychotropic and controlled drugs where this rule applies, allowed quantities and documents to present can be found on the UAE Ministry of Health website
Non-Muslim residents can get a liquor licence to drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues. 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. Liquor licences are no longer required in Abu Dhabi for Residents to purchase alcohol for personal consumption.
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. This licence is only for use in the Emirate where it is issued.
Liquor licences are not available to non-residents in the other Emirates, but it is possible for tourists and visitors to buy and drink alcohol in licensed venues, such as hotels, restaurants and clubs. 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.
Generally, the legal age for drinking alcohol is 18 in Abu Dhabi, but a Ministry of Tourism by-law prevents hotels from serving alcohol to those under the age of 21. In Dubai and all other emirates besides Sharjah, the drinking age is 21. Drinking alcohol in Sharjah is illegal.
Passengers in transit through the UAE under the influence of alcohol may also be arrested.
Women should dress modestly when in public areas like shopping malls. 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.
It is normal practice for hotels to take a photocopy of your passport or Emirates ID. You can’t stay in a hotel if you’re under 18 years old and not accompanied by an adult.
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.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and there have been several arrests for kissing in public.
Relationships outside marriage
All sex outside marriage is illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in the UK. If the UAE authorities become aware that you’re conducting a sexual relationship outside marriage (as recognised by them), you run the risk of prosecution, imprisonment and/or a fine and deportation. It’s against the law to live together, or to share the same hotel room, with someone of the opposite sex to whom you aren’t married or closely related.
Due to the laws on sex outside marriage, 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 be arrested, imprisoned or deported. To get 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.
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 and/or sexual activity outside marriage, particularly where there is any public element, or the behaviour has caused offence. This applies both to expatriate residents and to tourists. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Photography of certain government buildings and military installations isn’t allowed. Don’t photograph people without their permission. Men have been arrested for photographing women on beaches. Hobbies like bird watching and plane spotting, may be misunderstood - particularly near military sites, government buildings and airports.
Posting material (including videos and photographs) online that is critical of the UAE government, companies or individuals, or related to incidents in the UAE, or appearing to abuse/ridicule/criticise the country or its authorities, or that is culturally insensitive, may be considered a crime punishable under UAE law. There have been cases of individuals being detained, prosecuted and/or convicted for posting this type of material.
If you wish to carry out media activity related to the production, transmission and/or distribution of printed, digital, audio, video and/or visual information, you will be required to obtain the appropriate permission from the Emirati authorities in advance. Failure to do so could result in imprisonment and a substantial fine.
Further information about media activity and how to obtain the necessary permits can be accessed by registering on the National Media Council website.
If you’re considering undertaking or promoting fundraising or other acts of charity in (or while passing through) the UAE, bear in mind that these activities, including where conducted online and via social media, are heavily regulated. 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.
If you want to buy property in the UAE, you should seek appropriate professional advice, as you would in the UK. A list of lawyers for Abu Dhabi and Dubai is available on the British Embassy website.
Financial crimes, including fraud, bouncing cheques (including post-dated and ‘security cheques’) 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.
Weapons and related equipment
Weapons, ammunition, body protection and related equipment (like cleaning kits, gun belts, etc), however small the quantity and whatever the purpose, all require permission before entering or transiting the UAE.
Equipment like satellite phones, listening or recording devices, radio transmitters, powerful cameras or binoculars, may require a licence for use in the UAE. Seek advice from the UAE Embassy in London.
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for the United Arab Emirates on the TravelHealthPro website
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in the United Arab Emirates.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. In the UAE, some prescribed and over the counter medicines are considered controlled substances and can’t be brought into the country without prior permission from the UAE Ministry of Health. See Medication
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Other health risks
For the latest information and advice, see the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Healthcare facilities in the UAE are generally comparable with those in the UK, but visitors may be prevented from using them without travel insurance or without the means to settle any medical fees. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.