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15 Things Americans Should Never Do In Dubai

High Life, Shocking
15 Things Americans Should Never Do In Dubai

Oh, the mysterious, ultra-luxurious land of Dubai. A magical, lively city with treasures that one can only dream of. Dubai beckons to the adventurous party-focused and the bucket list scratcher-offers with its breathtaking skyscraper-filled skyline, intricately designed buildings with rooftop pools, rooftop tennis courts and almost anything else rooftop that can be dreamt up. There are also artificial islands and tropical man made resorts that can almost put natural paradise to shame. And it’s all in the middle of the desert. It’s like a mirage only it’s completely real… real expensive to visit. But if you can, there are some things that you need to know beforehand.

Like other vacation destinations, as fun as Dubai might be, it’s not without its rules. Unlike other vacation destinations, Dubai is an emirate ruled by an absolute monarchy (no election system in place) and one family has dominated the controls of the paradise-like city since 1833. Sharia laws are strict compared to say, American customs and if you don’t follow the rules, prepare for jail, maybe prison, a ton of expensive fees and an all-around massive legal headache that even your fancy lawyer won’t be able to easily untangle. To make things a bit easier for you, we’ve rounded up a list of the fifteen things you should never do in Dubai.

15. Never Drink And Drive In Dubai

Drinking and driving is a horrible and inexcusable idea but in the United States, it’s technically legal to drive if you have consumed alcohol as long as your blood alcohol content tests lower than 0.08% or 0.04% for drivers of commercial vehicles. But Dubai does things a little bit differently. If you’re pulled over and caught even with one drop of alcohol in your system, you’re in serious trouble. Since 2008, Dubai has cracked down with their zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving. There is no grey area. Offenders face one year in Dubai’s prison with immediate exportation afterward and a hefty fine, not to mention court expenses. So if you’re planning on driving in Dubai, do not even look in the direction of a bar before getting behind the wheel. Pretty good advice in general.

14. Never Curse In Public

If you are a naturally excitable person, it may be hard to resist landing in Dubai without exclaiming, “Holy @#$&! I’m in #*%&@$% Dubai!” But don’t. Bite your tongue if you have to. As a matter of fact, don’t even think about whispering it. Because if you get caught cursing, you could face a penalty and possibly even jail time, depending on the circumstances. While it might seem pretty silly to get in actual legal trouble for cursing, Dubai takes bad language very seriously and they do not want bad habits brought into their city. A double whammy is cursing with added blasphemy as using blasphemous phrases also has the potential to get you in hot water. If you normally curse like a sailor, try practicing going curse-free before you get to Dubai. Put a rubber band around your wrist or even visit your local hypnotist to break the habit because the penalties in Dubai are just not worth it. In 2009, an Australian man was arrested and detained in Dubai for many months for saying, “What the f#*&?” when his arm was grabbed at the Dubai airport by a plainclothes officer. Don’t be that guy.

13. Never Gawk At Women

Based on a survey, a study found that most men spend about a year of their lives ogling women. Just make sure that before you visit Dubai, you get all the staring out of your system for however long you’re going to be there because gawking at women is illegal in Dubai. If you know you are a natural gawker and think that a dark pair of sunglasses might be the answer to your potential problem, just be careful. Because the penalties for openly gawking at women can result in a hefty fine and even jail time if the gawking is caught by an unsympathetic officer or the ogling is just too over the top. Best not to stare at anyone during your time there. Instead, gawk your heart out at the tall buildings – just as long as you’re not staring at a woman in one of the windows!

12. Never Drive Fast And Furiously

For the auto enthusiast, Dubai is something like the ultimate fantasy. The finest luxury cars smoothly gliding along the posh streets of Dubai with some of the fanciest architecture in the backdrop… what could be cooler? There are oodles of car rental services in Dubai stocked with dream cars, boasting a little something for everyone. Even the police cars in Dubai are flashy and impressive. But driving fantastic cars in Dubai too fast, or too slow for that matter, could result in not-so-fantastic, expensive fines. Tailgaiting, driving too close to the rear bumpers of other cars of flashing your lights can and will result in fines so be careful out there or just let experienced cabbies get you around in Dubai so you can sit back and relax.

11. Never Show Gay Pride Or LGBTQ+ Support In Dubai

We know what you’re thinking. It’s 2017 and times have changed. Many people are proud allies for the LGBTQ+ community these days. But when you visit Dubai, you might want to keep that pride under wraps, just temporarily. While people in other countries happily celebrate gay pride and support for gay pride, anything leading or similar to a homosexual act is extremely illegal and can lead to legal punishment. In order to avoid trouble of all kinds, it’s highly recommended to leave the subject alone and wave the rainbow flag with pride only when you get back home. While Dubai is considered a modern city in many regards, it is still a city that is run by very traditional values and officials in Dubai don’t appreciate having those old traditions challenged.

10. Never Expose Too Much Skin

Dubai has “courtesy policies” posted for public viewing, urging people to “please wear respectful clothing.” You don’t have to be covered head to toe of course, but Dubai is very conservative compared to other countries where women like to engage in the latest fashion trends, wearing super short shorts, minidresses and high rise flowy tops that are designed to flash a maximum amount of skin. Pack modest clothing only. Wearing layers is an okay plan as long as you won’t be showing too much when you de-layer. Think of it as going back in time to the 50s. Women aren’t the only ones affected by the Dubai dress code. Men should never take off their shirts, even if it’s very hot outside. Imagine you’re trying to impress the Queen of England. Before you leave your hotel room, do a quick check. Would the Queen approve if she saw you on the street? If yes, proceed!

9. Never Display PDA

Cool it with the public displays of affection in Dubai. Why? Any sort of show of affection such as kissing or even the simple act of holding acts is considered socially unacceptable. Plenty of couples who couldn’t control the admiration they had for one another landed themselves in jail after a public smooch or hand-holding display. In fact, a couple in 2008 was jailed for three months when they were caught doing the sinful deed on the beach. To make matters worse, they were both drunk – another big no-no in Dubai. Displays of affection aren’t just frowned upon. You (and your affectionate partner in crime) will face harsh penalties if caught and can easily wind up in jail. So don’t. If you’re a “hugger” – make sure to squash your hugging impulses until you are out of Dubai’s jurisdiction.

8. Never Click That Shutter Without Permission

Dubai is such an impressive place, you’ll undoubtedly have a camera or two packed away as cell phone photos just might not be cut it in terms of capturing all the beauty the shining city has to offer. But before you click away, you have to know that people in Dubai consider it extremely intrusive and maybe even a violation to have their photo taken without expressed permission. Make sure that when you’re taking photos of the architecture, you don’t accidentally get Dubai locals in the photo who might not appreciate your photography passion. Though it might be difficult not to get lost in the beauty of Dubai, keep aware of your surroundings, and who is surrounding you, at all times. And it’s probably a good idea not to walk around with your camera hanging from your neck.

7. Never Drink Alcohol In Public

We can see your annoyed eye roll from here. We know, we know. One of the attractions to Dubai is its extravagant nightlife and you’re expected to experience that sober? Well, not exactly. Alcohol is allowed in Dubai but only in designated places. If you’re not sure, find out before you take a sip or are even seen holding an alcoholic beverage. Dubai is not Las Vegas and they take their rules on substances like alcohol very seriously. So head to one of those amazing clubs that you’ve been hearing about and have the time of your life. Then sober up enough to head directly to your room and don’t come out until you are thinking clearly because being caught inebriated in public, among many other infractions, can lead to trouble for you, the least of all resulting in a big fat fine.

6. Never Bust A Move Or Blast Tunes In Public

If you’ve always wanted to travel to Dubai and you finally get the chance to get there, you might be so excited that you just can’t help but break out in a little celebratory dance like the penguins in Happy Feet. But don’t! Dancing and playing loud music to dance to is not okay in Dubai. It’s a bit of a grey area of whether it’s actually illegal to blast loud music and/or dance in public or just highly frowned upon but we say, play it safe and wait until you are safely and legally located with your boogie shoes planted on a designated Dubai dance floor. And then, by all means, dance your heart out and let the DJ play that funky music.

5. Never Live “In Sin” With Your SO (Or Let On That You Do)

“Consummating” dating relationships is illegal in Dubai so while you’ll likely have no plans to consummate your dating relationship in public, you would be best served to at least pretend that you and your significant other are waiting for marriage. You may even have to book separate hotel rooms, depending on the hotel that you choose. Hotels in Dubai are like hotels everywhere else and want your business but play it cool by researching reviews online before you book to get an understanding if separate rooms will be necessary. Being intimate before marriage is illegal in Dubai. Earlier this year, a man took his girlfriend to the hospital in Dubai when she started experiencing stomach cramps during their vacation. A doctor discovered that she was pregnant and revealed this information to the authorities who promptly arrested the surprised parents-to-be.

4. Never Gesture With Your Fingers

This is where cultural diversity comes into play. Pointing two fingers at someone or one finger curled back towards you (the mostly universal “come here” gesture) does not translate well over in Dubai. It goes without saying that flipping the bird is also in that category and is not appreciated by any means. All of these gestures can be looked at as criminal acts, similar to threats, and you can face legal troubles over something that seems so simple elsewhere so best to keep your hands in your pockets if you have itchy fingers or like to gesture with your hands. At the very least, Dubai officials can fine you for your offensive fingers. Maybe keep “hellos” to passing strangers to polite head nods just to stay on the safe side.

3. Never Bring Over The Counter Medication To Dubai Without Checking First

It may seem kind of silly but even medications that we take for headaches or small aches and pains like Ibuprofen may be illegal in Dubai. Before you bring any over the counter medication into Dubai, you have to check to make sure you won’t get in trouble for taking care of your bothersome migraine. Ouch. Since their crackdown on recreational drugs is so tough, this strict policy extends to drugs that are otherwise considered legal elsewhere. If you don’t do your homework before you bring over the counter medications into Dubai, you’ll likely have your pain relievers confiscated at the very least. Worst scenario has you facing a fine or even jail time, depending on the circumstances.

2. Never Do Drugs, They Can Kill You – From A Death Penalty In Dubai

Drugs can kill you but in Dubai, you can get killed for taking drugs. If you get caught holding, selling, taking or test positive for any kind of drugs, your best case outcome is jail. Worst case? The death penalty. In the United States, for example, people who are caught with drugs are sent to jail but many times, good lawyers are able to get the charges reduced or even dropped and the drug offenders are usually back on the street soon enough. Dubai does not play around when it comes to using illegal substances. Those who think of Dubai as a party paradise better be thinking in terms of a children’s birthday party. PG fun only except for designated spots where drinking alcohol is permitted. Moral of this story? If you must party extra hearty, Dubai may not be the place for you.

1. Never Smoke In Public Areas

Smoking is bad for your health. But in Dubai, where smoking is prohibited near or in any government buildings, offices of any kind or shopping centers, it can also be harmful to your wallet and potentially, your freedom as well if the fines for getting caught smoking in non-designated areas are not taken care of. But that’s not to say that Dubai is against smoking. There’s actually a high population of smokers. So smoking tourists will be happy to know that most places of business have specified smoking areas near the entrances but the spaces are small so smokers who enjoy a leisurely stroll while puffing away are out of luck. Smoking in cars is allowed as long as used cigarettes are not tossed out of windows. There are even ash trays located on the public transportation vehicles in Dubai. So puff away but make sure you know where to inhale before you strike a match.

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