Dubai, United Arab Emirates

It is incredibly important to have your wits about you whenever travelling to a new location.

There are, of course, always levels of risk but we hope that this guide gives you a better understanding of what to look out for and how to minimise it.

Travelling anywhere in the world has its own fair share of risk attached and travelling to Dubai is no different. Many large cities throughout the world are prone to pickpockets and scams especially concerning tourists.

It is always advisable to get travel insurance to insure your belongings in case of loss or theft. Travel insurance is also advised in the event that you get ill or injured whilst travelling and you need emergency care. Company 1 & Company 2 both offer competitive rates for Travel Insurance.

Emergency Number – 999 (Police) 998 (Ambulance) 997 (Fire)

Time Zone – GMT+4
Currency – د.إ (United Arab Emirates dirham)
Population – 3.3 Million

Size – 4,114 km²
GDP – $102.67 billion


Foreign nationals from countries including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, China & Hong Kong, Japan, Ireland, New Zealand and some other countries are exempt from needing a visa.

Citizens from countries including Austria, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands, Portugal, Uruguay and some other countries can apply for a 90 day visa which is valid for 6 months from the date of issue, and for a stay of 90 days in total.

If you hold a Mexican passport you’re eligible for a multiple entry 180-day visit visa that’s valid for 6 months from the date of issue, and for a stay of 180 days in total.

National ID cards are also required from passport holders of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran.


What is the currency?

The currency used in Dubai is the United Arab Emirates dirham (د.إ).

Note denominations include 1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 & 5 dirhams and coins including denominations 1 dirham and 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 fils.

Where can I get it?

The easiest way to get cash in Dubai is via the ATM machines located around the city, although you may want to check the exchange rate charged by your bank first.

Alternatively, you can pay on your debit or credit cards at most restaurants, bars and attractions.

How do I exchange it?

You can exchange money in the airport but you will pay a higher exchange rate.

There are exchange shops scattered all over Dubai and in the Malls. Al Ansari is a popular exchange shop for tourists.

To get the best deals on exchange rates, we advise changing your local currency into dirhams before you travel. XXX is reliable, trustworthy and delivers dirham’s within 24 hours.

If you don’t like the idea of carrying cash but still want a good exchange rate, then the XXX is a travel card with favourable exchange rates.

You can check exchange rates here

Tips & Gratuities

In Dubai, there is no social or written requirement to tip or leave a gratuity.

Most restaurants will include taxes and a service charge on the bill, However, if you received good service or thoroughly enjoyed the food in a restaurant, then a customary tip, around 5-10% of the bill is acceptable.

Tipping in taxis is easy, you can round your fare up or leave a 5-10 dirham tip to the driver.

In summary, there is no requirement to tip or leave a gratuity in Dubai, however, this of course is up to you.

Average costs

Pint of imported Beer (Average Cost) – 45.00AED ($12.25)
Bottle of water (Average Cost) – 1.77AED ($0.48)
Coffee (Average Cost) – 19.17AED ($5.21)

The Law

Importing pork products and pornography into the UAE is illegal. Videos, books, and magazines may be subject to scrutiny and may be censored.

There is zero tolerance for drugs-related offences. The penalties for trafficking, smuggling and possession of drugs (even residual amounts) are severe. Even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum 4-year jail sentence. The Emirati authorities count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession.

Some skincare products and E-cigarette refills may contain ingredients that are illegal in the UAE such as CBD oil. Check ingredients here before you travel.

It is a punishable offence under UAE law to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public.

Women should dress modestly when in public areas like shopping malls. Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs, and underwear should not be visible. Swimming attire should be worn only on beaches or at swimming pools. Cross-dressing is illegal.

Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered obscene acts and offenders can be jailed or deported.

Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and there have been several arrests for kissing in public.

All sex outside marriage is illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in other parts of the world.

All homosexual sex is illegal and same-sex marriages are not recognised.

Photography of certain government buildings and military installations isn’t allowed.


Reliable Numbers

In an emergency, contact 999 (Police) 998 (Ambulance) 997 (Fire). The numbers are free to call – only use them in a genuine emergency.

  • Only use registered taxis or a reputable company that can track you such as Uber
  • Try to avoid walking alone at night. Keep to well-lit main roads
  • Beware of wearing headphones – they reduce awareness of your surroundings.
  • In Dubai, cars drive on the right. To ensure you cross roads safely, only use designated crossings, only cross when the green light is showing.

Staying safe in bars and restaurants

It is paramount that travellers who are in unfamiliar cities are extra vigilant when in late night venues.

  • Make sure you keep your property out of sight and safely under the table.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
  • Check up on your friends by phone or text to make sure they got home safely and vice-versa.

Petty Theft

Petty theft can occur in Dubai as it can anywhere else in the world. The key here is to be prepared before your travel.

  • Don’t leave your bag unattended anywhere in Dubai – this can lead to a security alert
  • Keep your purse or wallet close to your body and don’t carry too much cash.
  • When using an ATM, check that no one is looking over your shoulder and that the ATM hasn’t been tampered with. Cover the keypad so no one else can see your PIN number.
  • Keep your mobile phone, MP3 player, camera, and other gadgets out of sight in your pocket or handbag when not in use.
  • Record details of your electronic serial numbers (ESNs).
  • Inform your service provider and police if your phone or other valuables are stolen or lost. Dial 112 for the police

Taxi Safety

In general, taxis in Dubai are safe and there’s nothing to worry about, however, there are some do’s and don’ts to ensure your safety.

  • Don’t let an overly drunk friend travel alone
  • Always use registered taxi firms such as Uber
  • Try not to travel alone if you’re too drunk
  • Ensure your phone is charged before the night out
  • Ensure the vehicle is licensed and has an ID badge
  • Sit in the backseat instead of the passenger seat

Some taxis may not take card so make sure you have enough cash on you to pay for it, this is safer than having to pull over to an ATM to withdraw cash. Alternatively, you can use a pre-booking service or Uber.


Unofficial Dubai taxis
Taxis in Dubai are run by various companies and run at similar rates, at AED 1.75/km ($0.47), with the minimum charge capped at AED 12 ($3.21).

Taxis in Dubai are regulated by the Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) and Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). Always be sure to take taxis with the yellow taxi sign on top and a registered number inside.

Fake Gold
Dubai is famous for its sprawling gold souks, always be aware of where you’re shopping. If you’re browsing at a major shopping centre, you can be rest assured the items being sold are genuine and you can shop with confidence.

However, if you’re shopping for gold and jewellery at local stores, it’s important to be sure that the store you’re in has a registered number.

Financial and Investment Frauds
Be careful when investing in Dubai, as there are some scammers posing as financial consultants or representatives for fake companies.

They work by encouraging you to invest in fake companies, Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) or Pyramid Schemes where you will be asked to pay a certain amount to start your own “get-rich-quick business”, or to put your funds in offshore banks for higher returns.

Contactless Card Readers
One of the newest scams to hit the city is people carrying contactless card-readers in hidden places, such as bags or coats. Scammers will brush up against where you’ll typically keep your card (in a back pocket or the front of a rucksack). It only takes a few seconds for the payment to scan, so you might not even notice it’s happening.

Protect yourself by wrapping your cards in foil, which acts as a barrier to the contactless signal or try Defender Note.

Areas of Caution

Dubai is an incredibly safe city to visit and the city centre does not have any areas in which you should avoid.

You should not go to Sonapur, the migrant work camp on the outskirts of Dubai, It is a dangerous place for tourists to visit.

Some neighbourhoods in Deira and Bur Dubai, with their seedy hotels and backstreets, are known for being Dubai’s hubs of prostitution and other shady goings-on.

Terror Alert

Attacks can be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region. These include references to attacks on residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests as well as crowded places, including restaurants, hotels, beaches, shopping centres and mosques.

You should always maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places.


Dubai is a thriving city and is internationally buzzing with people from all over the world. English is widely spoken and written here.

If you would like to prepare yourself and learn Arabic or brush up on your skills then why not download a language learning app to get to grips with this fascinating language?

Alternatively, this Arabic phrasebook will come in handy on your travels.

It is also a good idea to download the Google Translate App as this will help you easily with words that you don’t understand on menus, train stations etc.

Popular Phrases

Common phrases to use on your visit are:

Hello – Marhaba
Goodbye – Maasalaamah
Thank You – Shukran
Yes – Na’am
No – La
Let’s Go – Yallah
Finish / Done – Khalaas
Where is? – Wayn al


Of course, much of what we have covered is common sense. But now you should be aware of the risks posed to tourists whilst visiting Dubai.

As one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations, it is worth remembering that the city relies on tourists and therefore police carry out foot patrols throughout the city to ensure the safety of tourists and the local population.

As we have already highlighted, please ensure that you have valid travel insurance that covers you for loss, theft and medical cover in the event that something happens to you or your family.

So now that you are equipped with this information, please enjoy Dubai and let us know how you got on by tagging us at #totalguide.

If you believe we have missed some information that may help other travellers, please let us know at