Is Dubai Safe? - All You Need To Know About Safety in Dubai

Ever since the Arab Spring in 2011, people have remained cautious with regards to safety in Dubai and the Middle East. Admittedly, some countries like Yemen and Syria continue to issue cautionary warnings to travellers. However, much of the region remains peaceful now, and the United Arab Emirates is certainly one of them. The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum of Dubai is relatively modern-thinking, and as a result, the region is quite Westernised and cosmopolitan. So, how safe is it to travel to the UAE? And how safe is Dubai?

Crime in Dubai

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With vigilant Dubai Police and strict enforcement of the law, crime rates are generally low. Of course, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't stay vigilant.

1. Keep you belongings close: Keep an eye on your belongings at all times and don't leave them unattended. There are the occasional reports of opportunistic burglary, pickpocketing and theft.

2. Stay clear from scams: Perhaps the most common crime in Dubai is credit card fraud and scams. It isn't uncommon for tourists to be approached by injured beggars or women with sick children who ask for money.

3. Watch out for fake products: There are plenty of cheap and fake goods that are sold at high prices to tourists in Dubai's local markets too, so check the quality of goods before purchases.

In case of trouble, feel free to reach out. The police pay attention to any disregard for the law, and most operators of emergency numbers speak different languages. Dubai has its fair share of expatriates that outnumber Arabic-speaking locals. So, English is widely spoken in Dubai. Law enforcement and hotel staff, in particular, are fluent in both Arabic and English.
Emergency Numbers:
1. 999 for Police
2. 998 for Ambulance
3. 997 for Fire Department (Civil Defence)
4. 996 for Coastguard

Transport Safety in Dubai

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Public transport is easily available, and you can travel quite freely in Dubai. It's safe and monitored.

1. Use only registered cabs:
The taxis have a different coloured roof to differentiate between different cab companies. Many of these drivers are immigrants, and they speak many languages so you should be able to communicate easily. In some cases, there are unlicensed taxis with no meters which charge higher fees than normal. It is preferable to only use licensed taxis from registered cab companies during your trip.

2. Gender-based segregation in public transport:
Conducting yourself properly in public is important in Dubai, especially with regard to members of the opposite sex. In public transport, it's recommended that women seek the front section of the bus that is specifically for them. Sometimes, sitting beside a member of the opposite sex can be misinterpreted as flirtatious behaviour.
Note: Don't put your feet on seats as it is considered disrespectful.
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3. Be vary of instigating drivers:
Road transport is the primary mode of transport in Dubai, but it also has one of the highest rates of accidents. Drivers flagrantly ignore speed limits and drive rashly. If you're a woman driving the car, they sometimes take you for granted and speed past without warning or indication. In such scenarios, it's best not to engage.

4. Keep spares handy:
While entering and leaving Dubai, there are long stretches of road with no help in sight. It is a good idea to travel with spare tires and other supplies in case of emergencies.

5. Take safaris ONLY with experienced guides:
Safety measures extend to desert safaris around Dubai as well. It's best to avoid embarking on such safaris without an experienced guide. Conduct some research online or through word-of-mouth before using the services of any tour operators because some companies value profits over security. Desert safaris can be dangerous without proper measures like speed limits, seatbelts, and protective gear in the case of quad biking. In recent years, there have been discussions about children on these rides as many tour operators do not have proper safety equipment in their sizes. 

Women and Couples Safety in Dubai

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Dubai is a cosmopolitan city, and for the most part, women are quite safe. There are separate counters and queues for women in most parts of the city. You can walk on the streets without worrying about any potential threats. Sexual harassment is admittedly still a problem, but there are very few cases when leering and catcalls have turned into any threatening actions against women. Dubai Police are strict about sexual harassment, so threats about calling the police usually work against these harassers.

1. Women's attire in Dubai:
Women are free to wear anything they desire like shorts, crop tops and sleeveless tops in most parts of Dubai, especially in popular tourist areas as long as it isn't obscene. It is not mandatory for women to wear headdresses or veils here. However, as an Islamic country, the local people are modest about their clothing. It is said that you will be more warmly received if you remain to understand their culture and wear less revealing clothing to avoid being interpreted as disrespectful. Perhaps avoid clothes that expose too much of the legs and torso, and you should be alright.

2. Nightlife scenarios for women:
Dubai has a happening nightlife with plenty of pubs and nightclubs in major hotel chains. These areas are generally safe for women to enjoy some drinks and party through the night. 

3. Violence against women:
There are very rare cases of violence against women in Dubai, but this is not to say that it doesn't happen. In instances of sexual assault, the Dubai Police are very prompt in taking action. 

4. No PDA:
Although Dubai is welcoming on tourists, public displays of affection remain problematic. While holding hands and pecks on the cheek are socially acceptable, anything more is considered impolite. It attracts unnecessary attention in public.  

Alcohol and Drugs

1. Liquor license:
Although the UAE is an Islamic country, alcohol is available in most major cities and Dubai is no exception. Liquor licenses are available to non-locals, but if you are in the country on a tourist visa, it is not required. In fact, these licenses are rarely checked. Keep in mind that these licenses are not common across the Emirates, so a license from Abu Dhabi won't work in Dubai.

2. Public intoxication:
Public intoxication is not allowed. Consumption of alcohol is permitted in licensed venues (most often bars and nightclubs in major hotel chains) and leniency is shown to non-Muslims in Dubai. When leaving the hotel, ensure that you take your cab back to your accommodation instead of walking on the street. Drunken behaviour of any kind in public is not permitted. This extends to drinking and driving as well, as the police are very strict about it.

3. Alcohol Consumption during Ramadan:
Strict alcohol rules are particularly enforced during the month of Ramadan. Alcohol is not served during fasting hours, and the loudest music and live performances do not take place. Holy days are dry days in Dubai.

4. Carry a prescription for your medicines at ALL times:
The UAE is notorious for its strict policy regarding drugs and controlled substances including medicines. Some common drugs containing codeine or diazepam (such as a Valium) are banned without a doctor's prescription. While travelling around Dubai, it is a good idea to keep your doctor's prescriptions with you if you are carrying your medicines. Sometimes, these prescriptions are not enough documentation and tourists have been fined or refused entry into the UAE. It is most recommended to avoid carrying medicines into the UAE unless absolutely necessary.

How Open is Dubai to LGBT Travellers?

Homosexuality is considered illegal in Dubai, and same-sex marriages are not recognised. According to Article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai, consensual sodomy can lead to up to 10 years imprisonment. It is commonly depicted in local media as associated with disease and sex crimes. However, there is a discreet, underground LGBTQ community in the country. Unless individuals display outright homosexual behaviour or announce it, there shouldn't be much problem in Dubai. But they do not take strict action of LGBT tourists visiting the country as long as there is no PDA or evident behaviour which would enrage the locals. 
 
As long as you keep these basic tips regarding safety in Dubai in mind, travelling here should be hassle-free. It is mostly a modern city full of residents from around the world who outnumber the local Arabs. The city is fun, lively and full of energy. Stay vigilant and your trip will be memorable for all the right reasons.

This post was published by Rhea Nath

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