Dubai is definitely a cool place to visit. There is something satisfying about a giant urban oasis in the middle of the desert.
But beneath the veneer of shiny malls and luxury hotels, there are a lot of rules in Dubai. Local laws and customs forbid many things that you wouldn’t consider crimes at home, and a fair few tourists get caught out, fined, arrested, or even deported (if you’re unlucky).
These rules, plus a location amidst a few potential problem countries mean that it’s fair to ask “Is Dubai safe?”
In this guide, I’m going to be covering a whole range of relevant topics, from whether or not it’s safe to drive in Dubai to putting aside concerns for the travelling ladies. Whatever your questions may be, I’m here to help you figure it all out and travel smart!
Let’s see what Dubai has to offer…
There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, and this article is no different. The question of “Is Dubai Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on the parties involved. But this article is written for savvy travellers from the perspective of savvy travellers.
The information present in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing, however, the world is a changeable place, now more than ever. Between the pandemic, ever-worsening cultural division, and a click-hungry media, it can be hard to maintain what is truth and what is sensationalism.
Here, you will find safety knowledge and advice for travelling Dubai. It won’t be down to the wire cutting edge info on the most current events, but it is layered in the expertise of veteran travellers. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practise common sense, you will have a safe trip to Dubai.
If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. We strive to provide the most relevant travel information on the web and always appreciate input from our readers (nicely, please!). Otherwise, thanks for your ear and stay safe!
It’s a wild world out there. But it’s pretty damn special too. 🙂
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- Is it Safe to Visit Dubai Right Now?
- Safest Places in Dubai
- 20 Top Tips for Travelling Safely to Dubai
- Is Dubai safe to travel alone?
- Is Dubai safe for Solo Female Travelers?
- Is Dubai Safe for Families?
- Getting around Dubai Safely
- Crime in Dubai
- Dubai Safety in a Snapshot
- FAQs about Staying Safe in Dubai
- So, Is Dubai Safe?
Is it Safe to Visit Dubai Right Now?
Yep, travelling to Dubai is typically safe. Crime rates are low, security is kept sharp, and general day-to-day existence is pretty menial.
But it’s still an Islamic country – many foreigners often find themselves on the wrong side of the law for things you wouldn’t think twice about doing at home. Needless to say, this isn’t the usual stuff that lands you in jail in your home country, and staying out of trouble can be a surprising task.
Some Dubai citizens recognise that their laws don’t keep up with modern-day society, but this doesn’t stop them from being real and acted upon.
On the other hand, because the laws are so strict and the penalty severe, it means Dubai has a low crime rate. Swings and roundabouts…
Because of things going on in the Middle East, terrorists have been threatening the Gulf region. So it pays to be vigilant and to keep an eye on local news reports, for any change in the Middle East peace situation.
There have been instances of terrorists targeting the UAE, especially from Yemen using missiles and drone strikes. While missiles are usually shot down, terrorism is a real threat that is difficult to prepare for. Thankfully, it is still a low risk.
Also, since June 2017 there have been no diplomatic relations with Qatar. Be careful what you say on Facebook. Sympathising with Qatar will not be taken well (with a high possibility of arrest and/or prison).
So whilst Dubai is safe to visit from a technical, it’s not a very liberal one and is extremely complicated. Consider thin ice, in a sense.
Safest Places in Dubai
While pretty much all of the city is super safe, some neighbourhoods in Dubai are simply better than others. I’ve listed the best (and safest) below. It is well known that Dubai is a supremely expensive place to habit, so be prepared for some truly unfair prices!
- Jumeriah: Jumeriah is a stunning district along the Persian Gulf shoreline and is where you will find the most diverse population. You’ll find the iconic Burj al Arab hotel near this area, Jumeirah beach, and many hidden gems that will blow your mind. The district is full of luxury resorts and hotels, plus some high-end shopping malls and top-notch restaurants.
- The Marina: If you’re looking to enjoy a few drinks, dance the night away, and find the best restaurants in Dubai, then The Marina is the best neighbourhood for you. This area is more for business travellers and tourists, and is more glitzy and glamorous rather than historical. It’s quite touristy and so one of the safest neighbourhoods.
- Downtown Dubai: You’ll find the most attractions in Downtown Dubai, such as the incredible Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, famous indoor ski slopes, and Dubai Fountain. There are some nice parks and recreation grounds here and it’s got easy transport links to anywhere you want to go. It’s probably the safest area to stay in and ideal for first-time visitors or families.
Places to Avoid in Dubai
Luckily, Dubai is a safe place and most neighbourhoods would be fine to stay in. There’s really only one or two areas in Dubai that are known for being slightly dodgy. However, they still have a low crime rate because of Dubai’s serious consequences.
- Sonapur – the ‘ghetto’ of Dubai, this district is packed with the low paid international ‘workers’ (Dubai has questionable ethics when it comes to LIC foreigners). It’s near the airport, and there is nothing to see, so it’s likely you won’t even know it is here.
- Deserts (seasonal) – in the summer, the deserts become boiling seas of sand which can melt a man. Stay away!
- Diera – this town just outside the city is home to another wave of international workers (mainly Asian). Whilst it is predominantly safe (more so than Sonapur), it might be worth avoiding if you really want to bubble-wrap your trip.
Dubai is predominantly a super-safe city. You should have no trouble travelling here and having an excellent time!
Dubai is a very cool and safe place to visit. All that city to explore with cocktail bars and infinity pools at your fingertips, excursions out into the desert, and islands to discover just off the coast. There’s a lot going for it and a lot of amazing places to visit in Dubai.
As we said, Dubai comes packed with a whole lot of rules. Maybe that’s what makes it so safe to visit, maybe not. But this city really is strict on everybody who finds themselves there, including tourists. At the end of the day, to stay safe in Dubai and out of the eyes of the law, I’d recommend not breaking any of the extensive rules that are in place here: the best solution for a trouble-free trip!
So here are our travel tips for Dubai!
- Be conscious of Ramadan – Read up on the do’s and don’t’s of Ramadan before travelling to Dubai.
- Keep away from any drugs – Serious consequences with almost zero tolerance. Even drugs in your bloodstream count as “possession” – A very literal interpretation, but still, zero-tolerance applies.
- No pornography and no pork products – Both are illegal.
- Low crime doesn’t mean any crime – It may be safe, but you should still be mindful of your belongings and surroundings. Be smart and use a money belt when in Dubai.
- Alcohol must be drunk in licensed venues – Hotels, restaurants, bars, etc… Anywhere else and you could face arrest.
- You cannot be drunk in public – Tourists have been arrested because of this.
- Get the approval of banned substances before you go – Some medications might contain “drugs” so you must get pre-approval.
- Don’t swear in English or gesture obscenely – Again, you could go to prison, especially when talking to officials or police. This includes online behaviour too.
- Sex outside of marriage is illegal – If the UAE authorities find out, you might get arrested or deported.
- Don’t share a hotel room – Or just say you’re married or related.
- If you find out you’re pregnant in Dubai and you’re not married – You could get arrested and you won’t even be allowed to register the birth.
- Photographers, be careful – You can’t snap government buildings, military installations, anybody (without permission), aeroplanes.
- Don’t criticise or ridicule the UAE – Online or otherwise. Not just the government, but UAE organisations. People have been detained and prosecuted under this law.
- Only swim at approved beaches – Take heed of red flags and warning signs.
- The desert is hot – In the height of the extreme heat, not everything will be open.
- Don’t accept “lifts” from strangers – It’s just not a good idea.
- With all these laws to think about, keep a cool head – if you find yourself in trouble, being agitated or arguing won’t help you or your situation. It’ll probably make it worse.
Doing things on your own terms, planning a trip to Dubai your way, challenging yourself whilst you see the world, properly getting into different cultures, and learning a thing or two about yourself: these are just some of the reasons why we think solo travel is as great as it is.
But, like everything in life, there can be some downsides. One of those is the solo travel blues: a cocktail of one part loneliness, one part jaded cynicism, and one part needing a smoke and a lay. Ironically, that’s not allowed in Dubai.
All the same, Dubai has a ton of things to do and is a crazy interesting city most importantly, Dubai is safe to travel alone! Keep your nose clean and you’ll have a great time! Here are some pointers to do it like a pro.
- Book yourself a budget-friendly accommodation in Dubai. If you’re backpacking Dubai on a budget, there are hostels, however, make sure you do some research. You’re going to want to stay in a social hostel in Dubai, so read reviews and pick a hostel that suits you.
- There also are 3-star hotels in Downtown Dubai, if you can afford them. There, you can stay amongst a ton of restaurants, and busy streets, and keep yourself active and interested in the city.
- Plan the right time to go. Dubai is super hot in the summer and because of this, some attractions might not be open. Choose the best time to visit Dubai carefully to make sure you have the best holiday.
- Another option for solo travellers in Dubai is Airbnb. This is a good way to meet and interact with locals. You could also opt for a homestay, which will be a different way to see the city away from all the skyscrapers and luxury hotels.
- Book yourself on an organised tour and make some friends. Dubai is generally a social city, but if you’re by yourself it can be pretty isolating. Booking a tour is a super good way to meet fellow travellers and make new friends.
- Get yourself a Dubai SIM card at the airport. This way, you can use Google Maps and not get too lost whilst exploring the city. Not going off-grid will help if you find yourself in trouble; people will know where you are, where you’re staying in Dubai, and what you’re up to.
- Men need to think about how they dress, too. You’ll need to be covering up at least to the knee and your upper arms should be covered. You’ll get respect for being respectful.
- Take your time. Don’t feel like you have to do everything the guidebook tells you to. Take some time off and don’t get burned out by whizzing around the city trying to tick everything off.
- Know what to pack for Dubai. You don’t want to be lugging around a lot of excess baggage in any city anywhere in the world really – and definitely not in the heat of Dubai.
- Don’t be afraid to head out into the city at night! There are live music events or head to a bar – a good place to get chatting to fellow travellers and ex-pat.
Dubai is definitely safe for solo travellers, however, it’s not always the most social place. You may find yourself going to a lot of effort to try to make friends or even just get chatting to somebody.
Homestays might make the experience of a trip to Dubai a lot more interesting, but the most important thing is to remember the rules!
Is Dubai safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Surprisingly, Dubai is safe for women travellers. In fact, it’s one of the safest Middle Eastern cities for women. A lot of females do go by themselves to Dubai either for travel or work… It’s definitely one of the more liberal cities you’re going to find in this region.
There are definitely some things to keep in mind when you’re travelling to Dubai as a solo female traveller but Dubai is one of the more liberal cities in the UAE. In general, you’re going to be safe here.
However, still, apply basic travel safety precautions. That means being careful walking around at night, watching your drink when you’re out in bars, asking the right people for help, etc. Some other unique precautions applicable to Dubai are – not looking men in the eye, not talking to taxi drivers, and in some instances, lying about being married.
- Attacks and sexual assaults are pretty rare, but they do happen. Be careful if you’re heading out by yourself in places where there are not a lot of people.
- If you are sexually assaulted or raped, the burden of proof is on the victim. For example, in Dubai in 2013 a Norwegian woman who reported her rape to police was convicted of sex outside marriage and illegal consumption of alcohol.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended. And don’t accept drinks from strangers. Drink spiking happens here, too.
- Men in the Emirates often turn to foreign women for sexual encounters. Emirati women are supposed to be virgins until marriage, so Western women are seen as “the alternative”. Expect some attention.
- It might be helpful to wear a wedding ring – even if you’re not married. And another thing you may want to do is wear dark glasses as even eye contact could be seen as flirting. When you’re walking around, walk confidently and try your best not to look lost even if you are.
- Avoid walking around at night by yourself. Dubai may be generally safe, but best to be extra careful, especially in quieter areas of the city or on deserted streets. Some women travellers get mistaken for sex workers.
- If you need to get around at night, get a taxi. Use a reputable taxi company and when you do get in, sit in the backseat and don’t be too chatty with the driver. This can be misconstrued.
- Pink Taxis is a good service for women travelers and families. The drivers are all women who wear pink headscarves. Also, this company is super cool because these drivers do tours as well!
- You might see other female travellers wearing shorts and t-shirts. But don’t do what they do – you should dress modestly. That means covering your legs and upper arms. You’ll get a warmer welcome from Emirati people for being respectful of their way of life, too.
- On public transport, you should sit in the women-only section. This is usually at the front. Similarly, if you’re eating out by yourself, some establishments have family sections where you can choose to sit.
- If you need any help, – it’s probably best to ask another woman. Although some men can be helpful too.
Is Dubai Safe for Families?
Dubai is really quite safe for families. You might think it’s all skyscrapers and deserts, but there’s a lot to do with your children here.
You can keep cool in the summer with loads of beautiful public beaches in Dubai, and those resorts come complete with kids’ clubs to keep the rugrats entertained. For those who are a little more adventurous, you can try out sandboarding or even go on an overnight desert safari.
In the hottest months of the year, temperatures hit the roof, so you’re going to want to stay out of the sun and keep in the shade as much as possible. The heat can be dangerous, but there are huts and places along the beach to rest up & hydrate. Picking the right time to visit Dubai is essential!
You can take your kids to the more high-end restaurants, but it’s probably going to be a little stressful keeping them under control! Food courts in shopping malls are going to be filled with all the food they’re going to want anyway. Top tip: BookMunch Cafe is a fun place for kids.
Don’t expect cars to have car seats though, so bring your own if you need one. Pushchairs are ok too, especially around malls, but you won’t be walking a lot. There’s not a lot of pavements and it’s too hot. Plus, kids under five ride free on public transport anyway.
If a child is travelling with someone that has a different surname, you’ll need to have an authorised letter and a copy of the birth certificate. Split families/adoption are less of thing, so you’ll need this to prove guardianship.
Children can usually dress how they want, but teenagers will have to adhere to the same standards as adults – dress modestly.
Getting around Dubai Safely
The public transport in Dubai is safe, and you’re going to want to use it. As we mentioned before, it gets super hot in Dubai. Walking is not an option. If you try, be prepared to be a puddle in seconds.
First things first: get yourself a Nol Card. This is an IC card for all public transport in Dubai (‘Nol’ means ‘fare’ in Arabic). All you do is tap it and go. You have to have one for the bus, and the metro.
Buses run on 125 routes all over the city and they’re relied upon by every-day, working people of Dubai. They’re mercifully equipped with air-con… even the bus stops have air-con!
Then there’s the metro, which is ultra-modern. There are only two lines: the Red Line, which runs from Dubai International Airport to Jebel Ali and the Green Line, which goes from Dubai Airport Free Zone to Dubai Creek. It’s in Arabic and English, and what’s more: it’s driverless. The first of its kind in the world.
Men should be careful not to go into the female-only sections of the metro, or they’ll be fined. Also, there is no eating, no drinking, and no chewing gum allowed on the metro in Dubai, which saves on cleaning bills I am certain.
Taxis are pretty easy to find and are generally safe, and Uber is a good option too! For girls, the pink cabs are an excellent way to be extra safe when getting around.
Crime in Dubai
As previously mentioned, the crime rate in Dubai is amongst the lowest in the world. The murder rate is minimal, with the most common crimes being drug-related or theft. However, even these are statistically unlikely to occur to you, given their low levels. It is more likely that you accidentally (or on purpose) commit an offence that is against the strict Sharia law. Staying out of trouble is a more difficult task than avoiding crime, especially if you plan on butchering a couple of nights out.
The U.S. travel authority places the UAE as a level 2 country and indicates that there is still a risk of terrorist incursions from Yemen. However, given the heightened security and location of Dubai, the risk is minimal in the city.
Laws in Dubai
Staying in top of the unfamiliar Dubai law is a must. Remember that mistakes (and disrepect) are particularly common during Ramadan, and if you are visiting religious sites. Here are some laws you should keep an eye out for during your stay in Dubai:
- You must obtain a liquor licence if you plan on drinking alcohol at home. Restaurants and hotels are generally more relaxed.
- Drinking in public/being drunk in public is illegal. The drinking age is 21.
- If you engage in extra-marital relations, your partner (or any of your parents) can file a complaint which will result in heavy fines/jail time.
- Sex between two adults over 18 is acceptable (even unmarried), but anyone under 18 is considered a minor. You could be in major trouble for sleeping with a 17-year-old.
- Porn is very illegal, so make sure you aren’t carrying anything overly saucy!
- Drug tolerance is extremely low. Even having small amounts in your bloodstream (weed, anything) can land you in jail or incur heavy fines.
- Same-sex relationships are not allowed. If you are found to be doing it with another member of the same gender, it is jail for you!
- Don’t show public affection. It is considered super unacceptable.
- Don’t criticise the government (especially on social media). They will find you.
- Don’t take photos of government buildings. They don’t like it very much.
- Don’t cross-dress. They will know.
Dubai Safety in a Snapshot
Dubai, whatever you might think of it, is still pretty cool. The fact that humans have managed to build gleaming skyscrapers on a stretch of desert coastline is enough to attract curious city lovers to see what it’s all about. Since the discovery of oil in the 1960s, the city has been on the rise.
Dubai actually has a really low crime rate. Violent crime is rare. You may get some petty theft and bag snatching in crowded areas but besides this, Dubai is safe to travel to.
It’s the law itself that you’re going to want to protect yourself from. It’s an interpretation of Sharia law, which makes petty things like cross-dressing illegal. And don’t even think about kissing in public; you could get arrested. There’s a whole host of intricacies you’ll need to stay on top of in order to backpack Dubai safely.
There’s also a threat of conflict, due to its position on the Arabian Peninsula and just how near Dubai is to the Middle East and Yemen.
Simple stuff like swimming in the Gulf can also be dangerous: there are strong currents here. Even confident swimmers are at risk of being swept away. Also, the desert heat is sweltering.
The UAE as a whole ranks on 2022’s Global Peace Index at 52 out of 163 countries. Dubai Police Force is actually equipped with some pretty high-tech stuff and there’s CCTV all over the place. This combination means they’re actually pretty effective at catching crimes.
Dubai Travel Insurance
Before you get out your suitcase and start packing, there’s one other thing you might want to have a think about. Getting travel insurance for your vacation is not the most fun part of trip planning but it’s a good idea to consider it.
Basically, travel insurance can really help out when things go wrong. It could be a delayed flight, an injury, or lost luggage. All of these mishaps can and do happen to people on vacation. Having that extra cushion can really ease any problems that might occur.
There are plenty of providers out there to choose from but why not check Heymondo? Heymondo are up-to-date when it comes to combining travel insurance with technology in the digital world of 2023.
What truly sets them apart is their assistance app offering a 24-hour medical chat, free emergency assistance calls and incident management. How reassuring is that?! They also have a convenient and complication-free way to make a claim straight from your phone.
Wondering how big your travel budget for Dubai should be? The city is known for its over-the-top restaurants, lifestyles, and attractions, but that doesn’t mean the city isn’t visitable for backpackers. There are plenty of ways to keep money in your bank account while exploring Dubai!
FAQs about Staying Safe in Dubai
Here are some quick answers to common questions about safety in Dubai.
So, Is Dubai Safe?
Usually, when we’re talking about how safe a country is, we mean pickpockets, robbery, and violence. But all of this is almost non-existent in Dubai! It does happen, but it’s not what you should be the most worried about when you visit here.
Keep an eye out for the laws and traditions that might not correspond to the ones you have at home, and you should sail through a visit here without a single problem.
Think of some things you wouldn’t think would be an issue at all – like kissing in public, or even just flipping someone off who’s annoyed you. These are punishable crimes in Dubai with fines, prison time, or deportation. Don’t even think about criticising the government. Bad move.
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be outdated. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!