This is an annual report produced
in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Consulate General
in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in the UAE.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s country-specific
page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact
information, some of which may be available only to private-sector
representatives with an OSAC password.
The current U.S. Department of
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses the UAE at Level
1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.
Review OSAC’s report, Understanding
the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Dubai as being a LOW-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
In comparison to similarly sized cities worldwide, Dubai’s crime rate appears
to be significantly lower. However, do not let this lull you 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 (e.g.
fighting, public intoxication), sexual harassment, and rare incidents of
There have been well-publicized
cases of alleged rape, where authorities charged the victim of the alleged rape
for sexual relations outside of marriage. This is especially true where
additional risk factors are present, such as drinking. The law puts a high
burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that sex was not consensual. In cases
where the victim has failed to do so, authorities have prosecuted both parties
and sometimes sentenced both to jail time.
The Regional Security Office (RSO)
at the U.S. Consulate in 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.
Street crimes (e.g. pickpocketing,
shoplifting, petty theft) occur, but weapons are rarely involved.
Violent criminal acts are very
rare and occur mostly within the third-country national communities.
ATM skimming devices, which
criminals install to capture data from cards, are a threat throughout the UAE.
For more information, review OSAC’s reports, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking
Online scams (especially those
targeting bank customers), malware attacks, and electronic extortions are very
common in the UAE. Criminals contact victims through the internet, including dating
websites. These con artists usually pose as U.S. citizens who have unexpectedly
experienced a medical, legal, financial, or other type of emergency in the UAE
that requires immediate financial assistance. Co-conspirators may pose as UAE-based
lawyers or medical professionals to verify the story and the supposed urgent
need for cash. Some victims have lost tens of thousands of dollars from such
scams. Email scams have become increasingly sophisticated using fake websites;
the Consulate has heard reports of individuals taking U.S. citizens’ email
addresses in order to pose as legitimate U.S. businesses. Recipients of such
emails alleging a U.S. citizen is experiencing a medical, legal, financial, or
other type of emergency in the UAE should ask the sender to contact the U.S.
Embassy or Consulate for assistance as soon as possible. The suggestion to
contact the embassy or consulate may deter further pleas if they are not
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite
Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road
Increasingly, the growing number
of vehicles and continuous construction strains the road network in metro
Dubai, though it is generally in good repair. 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, tailgating, and lack of speed/lane discipline by the diverse population,
as well as occasionally diminished visibility due to heavy fog are the most
common causes of the more serious accidents. Drive defensively. For more
information on self-driving, review OSAC’s reports, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, Road
Safety Abroad, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
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 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. Review OSAC’s report, Security
in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Taxicabs are widely available
throughout the metropolitan area. Most cabs are tan except for the roof, which
can be red, blue, green, or yellow, indicating a specific company; or pink, indicating
female drivers/passengers only. Dubai law requires that all taxicabs 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
All 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 (i.e. Uber,
Careem) are safe and reliable. For more information on ride-sharing, review
OSAC’s report, Safety
and Security in the Share Economy.
UAE airports have extremely
rigorous screening standards, strictly forbidding seemingly innocuous items.
Items such as small cutting blades, any weapons, any inert or live ammunition
or component (even expended), law enforcement tools, and specialized
communications equipment have created delays for travelers. In addition, any
items containing THC or cannabis oil can result in detention or arrest. Even
accidentally carrying these items through the airport can incur penalties or
subject you to arrest and criminal prosecution.
occasions in past years, the Iranian Coast Guard detained small groups of
expatriate recreational boaters for alleged violation of Iranian territorial
waters while fishing near the island of Abu Musa, approximately 20 miles offshore
from Dubai. The UAE and Iran have had a long-standing dispute concerning
jurisdiction of Abu Musa. Fishing or sailing in these waters may result in
seizure of vessels and detention of passengers and crew in Iran. Obtaining
consular assistance in Iran for U.S. citizens is difficult and is only possible
through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which
acts as a Protecting Power, providing limited U.S. consular services.
Local, Regional, and
International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Dubai as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. The Department cannot rult out possibility of a terrorist attack
against U.S. interests in the UAE, given its proximity to hostile and unstable
countries, importance as a major transit hub for regional travel and commerce,
and large expatriate population. UAE participation in the anti-ISIS coalition
and the ongoing Yemen conflict has raised the overall likelihood of terrorist
attacks against Emirati and Western interests alike. Although the UAE has
reportedly withdrawn most of its troops from Yemen, terrorist groups operating
in Yemen have threatened to target the UAE on several occasions. 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
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Dubai as being a LOW-threat
location for civil unrest directed at or affecting official U.S. government
The UAE government must
pre-authorize political demonstrations, which are extremely rare.
frequently hosts large-scale conference or events attracting international
visitors. Expo 2020 Dubai – the first World’s Fair in the Middle East – may
have participation from over 170 countries and attract 15 million visitors, generating
25 million visits. The Expo coincides with the UAE’s 50-year golden jubilee,
and runs from October 2020 to April 2021. Expect Dubai’s two international
airports to be very busy during this timeframe. Relevant authorities are
developing plans to support and provide security for the event.
While Dubai presents a Western
image and is more tolerant than other countries in the region, the local
culture is conservative. Be mindful not to offend local (Islamic) customs.
Manner of dress, particularly for women (teens and adults alike), should be
conservative and respectful. Women should remain vigilant, particularly during
hours of darkness. Harassment of unaccompanied females occurs occasionally. Women,
should take precautions against the possibility of verbal and physical
harassment or sexual assault when walking alone, consuming alcohol, or riding
in a taxicab. Female travelers should be cognizant that unwitting actions may
invite unwanted attention. Avoid sitting in the front seat of a taxicab and be
sensitive that some taxi drivers can misinterpret "small talk" as
over-friendliness or even a form of propositioning. Taxis driven by women for
the exclusive use of female passengers are available in some airports and by
dispatch; identify these dedicated vehicles by their pink roofs.
Enhance recognition of religious
sensitivities during Ramadan or other holy periods. Individuals may worship as
they choose, and facilities are available for that purpose. However, religious
proselytizing is illegal in the UAE. Authorities may imprison or deport those
violating this law, even if they do so unknowingly. Read OSAC’s report, Freedom
Consensual same-sex sexual
relations are illegal in the UAE. Penalties may include fines and imprisonment.
Under interpretations of sharia, the punishment could include the death
penalty. Although the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General are not aware of
any recent arrests or prosecutions for such activities, they remain illegal.
Cross-dressing is also a punishable offense and there have been reports that
the government took action against cross-dressing individuals. Review the State
Department’s webpages on security for LGBTI+
Public displays of affection are
discouraged and may be a violation of local laws.
While in the UAE, individuals with
disabilities and reduced mobility may find accessibility and accommodation very
different from that in the United States. Although the UAE has several modern
cities, the level of service, especially outside of newly constructed areas, is
not comparable to the United States. This includes the availability of public
transportation attuned to the needs of those with disabilities and reduced
mobility, well-designed sidewalks and road crossings, and accessible
businesses. Public transportation in Dubai is wheelchair accessible. However,
the buses that connect Dubai with the other emirates in the UAE are not
wheelchair accessible. Review the State Department’s webpages on security for travelers
UAE has 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 followed by deportation.
Consuming or possessing alcohol
without an alcohol license is illegal. The law strictly prohibits public
drinking. Driving under the influence of alcohol, with any amount of alcohol in
the system, is a crime; the UAE has a zero-tolerance policy in this regard. Bars
in most major hotels serve alcohol to guests of the hotel. Persons who are not
guests of the hotel, and who consume alcohol in the restaurants and bars, must
have their own personal liquor licenses. Authorities only issue liquor licenses
to non-Muslim persons who possess UAE residency permits; these are valid only
in the emirate that issued the license. Authorities regularly detain those
arrested on alcohol-related offenses for many days as they await a court
hearing. Penalties may include hefty jail sentences, substantial fines and, for
Muslims (even those holding U.S. citizenship), lashings.
Taking photographs of UAE military
facilities, sensitive civilian sites, airports, some beaches, or foreign
diplomatic missions – including the U.S. Consulate General – may result in
arrest, detention, and/or prosecution by local authorities. Travelers should be
aware of signs indicating where photography is prohibited. It is illegal to
take photographs of other people without their consent. In addition, engaging
in mapping activities, especially mapping that includes the use of GPS
equipment, without coordination with UAE authorities, may have the same
consequences. Review OSAC’s report, Picture
This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
Arrests, fines, and/or deportation
may result for committing any of the following acts: making rude gestures,
swearing, touching another person without his/her permission, and making
derogatory statements about the UAE, the royal families, the local governments,
or other people. Keep in mind the cultural differences among the many people
who coexist in the UAE and be cognizant that unwitting actions, including
clothing choices, may invite unwanted attention.
The UAE has strict laws regarding
use of the internet and social media. Authorities have arrested and criminally
convicted those deemed to have posted information determined to have disturbing
to public order on social media sites. Social media users should be cautious
about online posting of information authorities might deem insulting or
challenging the local or national government. Avoid posting insults or
derogatory information about governments, institutions, or individuals. Review
OSAC’s report, Lèse
Majesté: Watching what you say (and type) abroad.
Charity and fundraising activities
are closely regulated by the UAE government, and it is against the law to
conduct any private fundraising activity online (including those conducted on
popular fundraising websites for personal causes).
The UAE National Media Council
implemented new rules in 2018 for conducting business as a social media
influencer in the UAE. Influencers must apply for trade and e-media licenses in
order to promote brands on social media in the UAE. For more information please
review the website of the National Media Council.
Read the State Department’s
webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out
of other countries. For more information,
review OSAC’s report, All
That You Should Leave Behind.
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.
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, and wear
tan/khaki uniforms; many have studied in Europe or the U.S., and are fluent in
English. 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
Police do not respond to minor
traffic accidents. Unless there are injuries, the concerned parties should
report the accident through the Dubai Police’s mobile App or go to the police
station to get the police report.
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
U.S. citizens detained or arrested
should notify the Consular section of the Consulate. Authorities usually deport
expatriates involved in criminal activity following incarceration.
Call 999 for police, and 997 for
fire emergencies. English-speaking operators are always available. Dubai’s
emergency call-in network has captured many international emergency phone
numbers with the understanding that, in an emergency, people tend to revert to
familiar numbers; a caller dialing 911 or 112 during an emergency will still
connect to Dubai police and emergency services. Download the State Department’s
Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
When seeking emergency assistance,
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. Ever-changing construction zones further aggravate the problem,
as Dubai builds and updates its infrastructure. Identifying landmarks or
businesses near the location is essential in helping emergency personnel
The Dubai Police recently started
using the smartphone Emergency Locator System (ELS), designed to provide precise location information to first
responders during an emergency. Once the caller contacts emergency numbers, the
phone sends a free text message containing his/her location to the Dubai
Police. This service is only available on smartphone devices using Android 4
System Version and above, as well as any iPhone with IOS 13 or above.
U.S. citizens are subject to UAE
laws and regulations. Four of the seven Emirates (Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, and
Umm al-Quwain) share a federal judicial system. However, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and
Ras al-Khaimah each have judicial systems, legal procedures, and penalties
independent from the other Emirates. The Dubai Police Force has jurisdiction
over the Dubai emirate. Violating Emirati law can result in arrest, prison,
fines, and deportation.
Report medical emergencies and
request assistance at 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. Find contact information for available medical services and
available air ambulance services on the U.S. Consulate’s Passport
and U.S. Citizen Services page under the Medical Assistance tab.
The U.S. Department of State
strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance
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 a traveler did not request and receive approval
prior to arrival, they must declare the medication with Customs and request approval
upon arrival; failing this, authorities may 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. 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, refer to OSAC’s reports, The
Healthy Way, Traveling
with Medication, I’m
Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken:
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire
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. To reach out to OSAC’s Middle East & North Africa
Team, email OSACNEA@state.gov.
U.S. Consulate Contact Information
The U.S. Consulate General in
Dubai is located at Umm Hurair-1, First Street, Bur Dubai.
Hours of Operation: 0830- 1700
Sunday to Thursday
Embassy Operator: +971-4-309-4000
American Citizen Services Section
(Abu Dhabi): +971-2-414-2200
State Department Emergency Line:
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts In the UAE
Abu Dhabi,Plot 38, Sector W59-02, Street No. 4
(Embassies Area). Call +971-2-414-2200.
Before you travel, consider the
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Country Information Sheet
Department Traveler’s Checklist