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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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UAE 2019 Crime & Safety Report: Dubai

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses the UAE at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.

 

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

 

The U.S. Consulate in Dubai does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

 

Please review OSAC’s Dubai-specific webpage for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

 

Crime Threats

 

The Regional Security Office (RSO) at U.S. Consulate Dubai relies primarily upon open-source reporting and discussion with consulate officials and private citizens, but is able to request specific information from the Dubai police when appropriate. 

 

There is minimal risk from crime in Dubai. In comparison to similarly sized cities worldwide, Dubai’s crime rate appears to be significantly lower. However, U.S. nationals should not be lulled into a false sense of security. The majority of crime occurs in areas populated primarily by lower-income, temporary laborers originating from other countries. The majority of crimes attributed to this group consist of petty theft, public offenses (fighting, public intoxication), sexual harassment, and rare incidents of violent assault.

 

Street crimes (pickpocketing, shoplifting, petty theft) occur; however, weapons are rarely used.

 

Violent criminal acts are very rare, and occur mostly within the third-country national communities.

 

ATM skimming devices, installed by criminals to capture data from cards, are a threat throughout the UAE. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.”

 

Transportation-Safety Situation

 

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

 

Road Safety and Road Conditions

 

The road network in metro Dubai, though generally in good repair, is increasingly strained due to the growing number of vehicles and continuous construction. Expressways are often unable to handle traffic volume, especially during peak traffic periods.

 

Vehicle accidents are relatively common. While most result in property damage and minor injuries, serious collisions resulting in fatalities or serious injuries do occur. Drivers display varying degrees of skill, aggression, and attention, and often maneuver erratically and at high speed, demonstrating little care or courtesy. Excessive speed, different driving habits, and lack of speed/lane discipline by the diverse international community, as well as occasionally diminished visibility due to heavy fog are the most common causes of the more serious accidents. Defensive driving is strongly encouraged. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

 

Do not use your mobile phone while driving.

 

If you feel that someone is following you, do not drive home; go to a safe area (a police station, public area). Try to get a license plate number and description of the vehicle.

 

Avoid making any offensive gestures at others while driving. Authorities have arrested and prosecuted expatriates over rude gestures not punishable by law in their home countries.

 

Public Transportation Conditions

 

Public transport is generally safe and reliable. Dubai has an extensive automated metro rail system that provides transportation throughout the metropolitan area. You can find information on disruptions to transportation services on the Roads and Transport Authority Dubai website.

 

Taxicabs are widely available throughout the metropolitan area. The color of the taxicab's roof indicates a specific company. Most cabs are tan except for the roofs, which can be red, blue, green, yellow, or pink (indicating female drivers/passengers only). Dubai law requires all taxicabs to use fare meters. Taxicabs should have the driver’s name and ID number posted on the back of the driver/passenger seat. To aid in reporting criminal or fraudulent taxi incidents to the police, try to obtain the taxi number, company, and color of the vehicle.

 

Most taxis operating in Dubai have recently been equipped with surveillance cameras linked to a centralized system. This measure aims to monitor driver compliance with the applicable laws and professional standards; authorities can retrieve footage in case of a complaint by a user.

 

Ride hailing services (Uber, Careem) are safe and reliable. For more information on ride-sharing, please review OSAC’s Annual Briefing Report “Safety and Security in the Share Economy.”

 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

 

UAE airports have extremely rigorous screening standards, and seemingly innocuous items are strictly forbidden. Items such as small cutting blades, any weapons, or any inert or live ammunition or component (even expended), law enforcement tools, and specialized communications equipment have created delays for travelers. Even accidentally carrying these items through the airport can incur penalties or subject a person to arrest and criminal prosecution.

 

Terrorism Threat

 

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

 

There is moderate risk from terrorism in Dubai. The possibility of a terrorist attack against U.S. interests cannot be ruled out given the UAE's proximity to hostile and unstable countries, its importance as a major transit hub for regional travel and commerce, and the large expatriate population. UAE participation in the anti-ISIS coalition and the ongoing Yemen civil war has raised the overall likelihood of terrorist attacks against Emirati and Western interests alike. Continued threats from terrorist groups directed against U.S. interests worldwide require that U.S. citizens remain alert and incorporate good security practices into their daily activities. 

 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

 

Civil Unrest

 

There is minimal risk from civil unrest in Dubai. The UAE government must pre-authorize political demonstrations, which are extremely rare.

 

Post-specific Concerns

 

Personal Identity Concerns

 

While Dubai presents a Western image and is more tolerant than other countries in the Middle East, the local culture is conservative. U.S. citizens should be mindful not to offend local (Islamic) customs. Manner of dress, particularly for women (teens and adults alike), should be conservative and respectful. It is advisable for women to remain vigilant, particularly during hours of darkness. Harassment of unaccompanied females occurs occasionally.

 

Public displays of affection are discouraged and may be a violation of local laws.

 

Enhance recognition of religious sensitivities during Ramadan or other holy periods.

 

Drug-related Crimes

 

Authorities have a zero-tolerance policy on drugs. Authorities have arrested and convicted several U.S. citizens for carrying even small quantities of banned substances. Trials usually result in a prison sentence of several years.

 

Police Response

 

Investigative resources and sophisticated equipment are available. The police use fingerprint and iris-scan technology, and have a national registry for expatriates living and working in the UAE. Authorities have installed smart cameras with facial recognition technology in several areas in Dubai to detect potential violations and identify wanted persons.

 

UAE law prohibits taking photographs in certain areas or of certain premises, such as government buildings and diplomatic and consular missions; any violation of this prohibition can result in criminal prosecution.

 

Police responding to the report of a crime may not always provide the same level of service as in the U.S. Most police officers below the rank of Warrant Officer are from the expatriate community and are hesitant to make independent decisions. These officers wear green uniforms and may have limited education and English-language abilities. Those above the rank of Warrant Officer are generally Emirati; many have studied in Europe or the U.S., and are fluent in English. These officers wear tan/khaki uniforms. An Emirati police supervisor will usually make any decisions concerning anything other than routine matters. Dubai police HQ and emergency dispatch have a variety of language capabilities to serve the significant expatriate community.

 

Over the last several years, there have been publicized arrests and deportations of expatriates who posted photos or comments on various social media in violation of UAE laws. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”

 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. citizens detained or arrested should notify the Consular section of the Consulate. Expatriates found by the police to be involved in criminal activity are usually deported following incarceration.

 

Crime Victim Assistance

 

The emergency response system number is 999 for police, 998 for medical emergencies, and 997 for fire emergencies. By calling 999, medical emergencies can be reported as well and assistance requested. English-speaking operators are always available. Many international emergency phone numbers have been captured and added to Dubai's emergency call-in network with the understanding that, in an emergency, people tend to revert to familiar numbers, so a caller dialing 911 during an emergency will still be connected to Dubai police and emergency services.

 

When seeking emergency assistance, callers should provide the operator/dispatcher with a detailed description of the location and the type of emergency. Many streets are identifiable by a number-letter combination. Dubai has changed some street names from the number-letter format to a name format. This can cause confusion when trying to find a location or give directions. The problem is further aggravated by ever-changing construction zones as Dubai builds and updates its infrastructure. Identifying landmarks or businesses near the location is essential in helping emergency personnel respond.

 

Travelers can download the Dubai Police App for iOS and Android mobile devices and use it to summon police assistance directly through its interface. The app shares GPS location information directly from the device, allowing users to share their location with the authorities effectively. You can also use the app to report non-emergency situations.  

 

Medical Emergencies

 

For ambulance service, call 998. Ambulances are modern and staffed by trained paramedics. It is best to give directions based upon Makani number-- a unique 10-digit code that exists for every building in the city. Do not end an emergency call until you are certain that the person on the other end clearly understands your directions. If your location is difficult to find, advise the operator that you will meet the ambulance at a nearby landmark. Heavy traffic may impede the ability of emergency medical services to respond in a timely manner. Consider transportation by private vehicle if a safe and secure option is available.

 

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

 

For medical assistance, please refer to the Consulate’s Passport and U.S. Citizen Services page under the Medical Assistance tab.

 

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

 

The UAE government prohibits the import of many medications obtained legally in other countries. Recent guidelines from the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention require travelers entering the UAE with medication qualifying as narcotic, psychotropic, controlled, or semi-controlled, according to UAE law, to get an approval from UAE authorities. Request approval in advance by filling an online form and submitting required documents. If approval was not requested and received prior to arrival, the medication needs to be declared with Customs and approval requested upon arrival, failing which UAE authorities may decide to take necessary measures against the traveler, including confiscation and/or prosecution. Approval request upon arrival takes up to five days, during which the medication remains with UAE authorities. Travelers should solicit approval prior to arrival. Information on the required documents and list of concerned medication is available on the website of the Ministry of Health and Prevention. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, Traveling with Medications.

 

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for the UAE.

 

OSAC Country Council Information

 

The Dubai Country Council is active and meets monthly. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa Team with any questions.

 

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

 

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Dubai is located at Umm Hurair-1, First Street, Bur Dubai.

 

The Consulate’s business hours are Sun-Thurs, 0830- 1700. The Consulate is closed on UAE and U.S. holidays.

 

Consulate Contact Numbers

 

Main number: +971-4-309-4000

Website: https://ae.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/dubai/

 

Nearby Posts

 

Embassy Abu Dhabi: https://ae.usembassy.gov/

 

Consulate Guidance

 

For questions about U.S. visas, please contact the U.S. Consulate General’s Consular section via email. For questions about American Citizen Services (ACS), please email the U.S. Consulate General’s Consular section.

 

The U.S. Consulate General also sends updated information regarding security threats to registered U.S. citizens within its consular district via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) notification system. The RSO encourages all American visitors to enroll online in STEP.

 

Additional Resources

 

UAE Country Information Sheet


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