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5 rules you should know before you travel to Dubai

07 November 2019

Planning to visit Dubai? There are a few things you should know before you travel. Here are the rules related to smoking, holding hands in public places, swearing in public, tattoos and chew gum in Dubai.

Smoking in Dubai

In Dubai there are designated areas for smoking. Smoking is prohibited in government areas, offices, and shopping malls. But, there are some designated areas like most outside spaces, and certain restaurants, where smoking is still allowed.

The law regarding Tobacco control forbids and penalises sale of tobacco products to those under 18. Smoking in private cars in the presence of child/children under age 12 is not allowed. Also, smoking in houses of worship, educational institutions, health and sport facilities, and smoking in closed public places is not allowed.

The Dubai Municipality has banned smoking shisha in parks, beaches, and public recreational areas in Dubai.

Tobacco advertisements, E-Cigarettes and Vaping are all banned in Dubai and UAE, and you may find your devices confiscated at the airport on arriving in Dubai.

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Swearing in public is illegal

Dubai is very conservative as far as use of bad language is concerned. Swearing in public is completely prohibited in the UAE, including the use of the F-word being a serious crime, as it 'disgraces the honour or modesty' of a person. Swearing, profanities, and all kind of vulgar language are considered as obscene acts, as is making rude gestures, and offenders can be fined or jailed. Article 373 of the UAE Penal Code is punishable by imprisonment of up to a year, in addition to fine as high as Dh.10,000.

Can couples hold hands in public places in Dubai?

As per the Dubai code, holding hands is tolerated in case of married couple, but other public displays of affection is an offense to public decency.  

Although in theory men and women holding hands is a public display of affection, it may not lead to a problem in Dubai, unless in Sharjah, or if it is Ramadan. In Dubai, walking through shopping centres especially in Dubai, it is common to see couples of opposite sex holding hands.

However, all that acts of public display of affection should be avoided, as it is considered offensive.  Homosexuality is also not permitted in any part of the UAE. So also, sexual harassment, or randomly addressing women in public places is considered as liable for punishment.

Are tattoos allowed in Dubai?

Although tattoos are in vogue in most parts of the world, when it comes to the rules in UAE, it gets a bit tactful. Dubai, despite being known for its extravagance, has its limits and laws for people's health and safety.

As for the legality of tattoos in Dubai, a tattoo service will be permitted only if its approved by the Dubai Health Authority or Dubai Municipality. Both of these adhere to precise rules and regulations in permitting and providing license for body art.

While tattoos for medical necessities are legal (the ones used to notify the first aider of their medical condition during an emergency, or those used to cover scarred skin on body etc.), they are permitted to be only done by licensed doctors / dermatological doctors.

Temporary tattoos designed using organic ink, which does not require usage of needles or induce pain, or those applied using henna, are permitted.

However, tattoos for body art displaying swear words, or profane images are strictly forbidden in the country.

What's more, when it comes to body art, there are no official tattoo artists in Dubai, and the only possibility is that of illegal artists, as Dubai does not provide license to run a tattoo parlour or permit it in salons. This is however unhygienic and risky. In Islam, permanent tattoos are not allowed.

Tourists however, are allowed to enter the country with tattoos, provided, their tattoo does not fall into the category of swear words, nude images and profanity.

In short, there is no official law prohibiting the tattoos, but, they are considered a form of self-injury, and is something that is forbidden in Islamic culture.

Can you chew gum in Dubai?

Dubai Municipality is keen on maintaining a clean and sustainable environment. Therefore, as a part of enhancing its contribution in maintaining the public cleanliness and aesthetic appearance of the emirate, chewing gum is not permitted in public places, including the Dubai Metro or the platform, or Dubai buses, and you can be fined if caught. Spitting in a public place can cost a fine of Dh.1000.

Find more Dubai Travel Tips.

Robin Vinod

Writer/blogger who writes on topics such as travel, real estate, employment and everyday life on GCC countries.

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