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How Strict is Dubai to Live in? Things that Might Get You into Trouble

Are there certain laws that might get you into trouble? Should you keep something in mind when you’re in public, whether you’re relocating or just visiting?
Mo’ Zubair
· July 4, 2022
How Strict is Dubai to Live in? Things that Might Get You into Trouble

It’s only normal to have questions when moving to a new city, and here at Wise Move , we do our best to put your concerns at ease. One question that gets asked often is - How strict is Dubai to live in?

Are there certain laws that might get you into trouble? Should you keep something in mind when you’re in public, whether you’re relocating or just visiting? For all such questions and similar concerns, keep reading this blog post!

Without further ado let’s go in-depth into the topic.

Drinking Alcohol

Only certain restaurants and star hotels are allowed to serve alcohol in Dubai to non-muslims. There are however places where you can buy alcohol for consumption at home. There used to be an alcohol license needed for the same, but that has been done away with now.

Keep in mind that drinking alcohol in public is strictly forbidden. The legal drinking age is 21 and above.

How to Dress in Public

You’re expected to respect local culture when in Dubai, and this extends to the dress code as well. Wearing anything provocative including clothes that are too short, display too much flesh, or carry offensive slogans is prohibited. Several malls also carry a warning for visitors reiterating this very point.

While you can wear swimwear at beaches, keep in mind nudity in any shape and form is not tolerated.

Driving in Dubai

Dubai has very strict rules in place for motorists, with several radars present just about everywhere across the city. Things like speeding, skipping red lights, not wearing a seatbelt, using your phone while driving, and even blocking traffic attract very hefty fines (trust us when we say hefty!).

Not only will you get a fine for breaking the rules but you get something called ‘black points’ too. Accumulate enough black points and your license can be revoked in addition to your vehicle being impounded. Ouch!

Respecting Others - Online & Offline

Dubai is big on mutual respect whether it is offline or online. People from all cultures and religions must be shown respect (something we can get on board with!). This means swearing, flashing offensive signs, or any form of rude behaviour, even on an internet chat, can get you in big trouble if reported.

Punishment includes fines, imprisonment, and even deportation. If you want to live a conflict-free life while in Dubai, be civil at all times and do not indulge in any form of disrespectful conduct. As simple as that.

Stringent Drug Laws

Like many other countries in the world, Dubai has a zero-tolerance policy against all drugs which explains the negligible drug use that exists here. This extends to all recreational drugs and certain over-the-counter medications.

Travelling with something like plain poppy seeds can also result in a 4-year prison term followed by deportation. Possession with the intent to distribute automatically results in a life term or worse. Thus it’s very integral to understand the gravity of the situation.

Be extra careful when relocating or travelling to Dubai and don’t take any undue risks. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Public Display of Affection

Holding hands in public with your significant other is probably the most you can get away with while in Dubai. Kissing and all other public displays of affection are seen as indecent behaviour and can land you behind bars. Reserve your love for behind closed doors!

Living Together Outside of Marriage

This is a rule that has recently been changed to allow for leniency. Couples who are not married can now legally stay together in Dubai.

However, keep in mind that same-sex relationships are still forbidden here and can get you into trouble.

Religious Considerations

At the end of the day, despite tolerance toward several things, the United Arab Emirates is an Islamic Country. This means that while you can indulge in alcohol, eat pork etc. in licensed establishments and within the confines of your home, you must not do anything that disrespects Muslim culture such as eating or drinking in public during the holy month of Ramadan where Muslims are required to fast during the day.

As an expatriate, you can simply follow your own religion and be mindful of others. 

Working in Dubai

And finally, while you need a visa to live in Dubai as an expatriate, you’re also required to have a work permit if you intend to work here. This is different from, say, an investor visa.

Always obtain the right paperwork before you take up a job to avoid any sort of problems in the future.


So all said and done, is Dubai a strict place to live in? Well, the answer is Yes and No.

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Yes, compared to some Western countries in the world, and ‘no’ compared to its Gulf counterparts such as Saudi Arabia, which has much stricter laws. In fact, in recent times, some former laws such as punishment for living together for couples outside of marriage and drinking at home without an ‘alcohol license’ have also been relaxed. For the most part, since many laws are commonplace, if you keep in mind the above pointers and respect the culture and laws in Dubai at all times, you should be fine!

That’s all from us at Wise Move for now. Until next time, and as always, choose wisely.