Entry and Exit
Safety and Security
The UAE is generally safe and has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. In Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, the incidence of serious crime is reported by the local police at about 1 per 100,000 people, compared with the international average of 5 per 100,000. Violent crimes and crimes against property are rare, but do occur. Travellers should therefore ensure their personal items and travel documents are secure at all times.
Given the global threat of terrorism, travellers are advised to remain vigilant and maintain a high level of security awareness especially in large public places, such as shopping malls, commercial areas and tourist attractions.
Road accidents are commonplace. If you are driving, always stay alert and drive carefully. Road deaths in the UAE has been reported at about 24 per 100,000 people. Unlike Singapore, road traffic drives on the right. All road accidents must be reported to the Police
Before planning a trip to any destination, it is prudent to be familiar with the basic laws and regulations of the destination you plan to visit. In the case of arrest or imprisonment, travellers will be subject to the criminal justice system of the UAE.
While the UAE can be viewed as modern and cosmopolitan, it is fundamentally an Arab Muslim country where local laws and social norms are more conservative than what travellers might be used to.
As in other Gulf States, the legal system in UAE is a mix of Sharia (Islamic Law), Civil and Criminal Laws, implemented by the Federal Judiciary, comprising courts of first instance and Supreme Courts. The Supreme Council of Rulers is the highest ruling body in the UAE. It appoints the five members representing the Federal Supreme Court, who preside over matters like constitutional law. Local government is also involved and plays a vital role in legislation within each Emirate.
In Sharia Law, just as in other legal systems, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Both the plaintiff and defendant are equal in a Court of Law. Crimes that carry definite penalties are apostasy, murder, fornication, adultery, homosexuality and theft.
Ignorance of the law is not acceptable in Court as a defence. Hence, it is advisable for all visitors to acquaint themselves with the laws of the country. Here are some basic laws and information on the UAE, ranging from dress code to alcohol consumption rules, which may be of help.
Working Illegally: Any attempt to work illegally is considered a crime and can result in imprisonment or deportation. Expatriates seeking to reside and work in the UAE are required to present authenticated personal documents such as birth and marriage certificates, adoption and custody degrees, and other educational documents. The authentication of documents is a lengthy and complex process involving federal and local offices, and may take several weeks for completion.
Non-payment of Bills and Bounced Cheques: Issuing cheques that subsequently bounce is a criminal offence and not merely a civil matter in the UAE. Non-payment of bills, and passing on bad cheques, are taken seriously in the UAE, and can result in fines or imprisonment.
Military/Police Equipment: Travellers should avoid the transport of any firearms or military/police equipment, such as weapon parts, tools, ammunition, body armour, or handcuffs. People carrying such items, even in small quantities, will be arrested and may face stringent criminal penalties, including huge monetary fines, imprisonment and forfeiture of the items.
Drugs: Certain medications and drugs are classified as narcotics in the UAE, and therefore the possession of which is illegal. The possession of even trace amounts of illegal drugs can result in years of imprisonment. If you are carrying prescribed medication, it is advisable to carry a copy of the doctor’s prescription.
Traffic Laws: Throughout the UAE, stringent penalties are imposed for certain traffic violations, particularly for drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol. Violators are often jailed and may be given demerit points and substantial penalties. A driving license is mandatory to drive in the UAE. Singapore license holders are allowed to drive in UAE for a period of 30 days.
Smoking & Alcohol: Drinking or possession of alcohol without a Ministry of Interior liquor permit is illegal and may result in a fine and/or imprisonment. Alcohol is served at bars in some major hotels, but is intended only for the hotel guests. Others who are not guests of the hotel, and who consume alcohol in restaurants and bars here, are required to have their own personal liquor licenses. Liquor licenses are issued only to non-Muslims who possess UAE Residency Permits. Alcohol cannot be transported in public without a proper license. Smoking is banned in public offices and places such as shopping malls.
Behaviour/Dress Codes: The behaviour and dress code in the UAE basically reflect the Islamic traditions of the country, and are more conservative than those of western nations. Public decency and morality laws throughout the UAE are very strict, in comparison to western and European nations. Any public display of affection or immodesty is not tolerated in the UAE, and may be subjected to imprisonment.
While dancing with a few friends after a night out may not be considered offensive in several countries, dancing in public is considered indecent in the UAE. However, dancing at home, or at official clubs, is accepted.
Emiratis dress conservatively and expect expatriates also to dress conservatively when in public. While beachwear is allowed at beaches, any form of nudity is not accepted. Cross-dressing is considered a crime.
An expatriate man addressing a local woman in public, taking a picture of her without permission, or bothering her in any way, is considered unacceptable behaviour. Unmarried couples are not permitted to live together or share a room.
Taking photographs of potentially sensitive military and civilian sites or foreign diplomatic missions may result in arrest or detention.
Islam is the main religion throughout the UAE and there is a strong tolerance for other religions. However, anything that is anti-Islam will not be tolerated at any level and can result in fines and imprisonment. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Eating, smoking or drinking in public places during this month are not acceptable.
General Travel Advice
Overseas Travel - Be Informed & Be Safe [18 November 2017]
In 2017, there have been various attacks on civilian targets which affected areas popular with tourists and locals. Widely-reported incidents in recent months include the attacks in Lower Manhattan in New York (31 October 2017), at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (1 October 2017), at Las Ramblas street in Barcelona (17 August 2017), at the London Bridge and Borough Market in London (3 June 2017), and at the Drottninggatan street in Stockholm (7 April 2017).
As a precaution during this holiday travel season, we advise Singaporeans of the following:
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance and be familiar with the terms and coverage.
- Take a few minutes to eRegister with MFA (online or via the MFA@SG mobile app).
- Always take care of your personal safety, and remain vigilant and alert to local security developments.
- Obey the laws and respect the local customs of the countries you are visiting.
- Keep your passport and identity card separate to minimise the risk of you losing both your ID documents.
- Never carry too much cash and valuables. Never leave your valuables unattended.
- Make sure you know the local rules of the road. Ensure that you, your passengers and the vehicle are covered by insurance.
- Exercise caution around large gatherings and avoid locations known for demonstrations or disturbances.
- Monitor the local news and heed the instructions of the local authorities in an emergency.
- Stay in touch with your family and friends in Singapore so that they know you are safe. Inform them of your whereabouts and activities.
In the event that you require consular assistance, please call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Duty Office (24-hours) at +65-6379 8800/+65-6379 8855, or get in touch with the nearest Singapore Overseas Mission.
Overseas Travel - Respect and Abide by Local Laws and Regulations [19 October 2016]
Recently, a number of Singaporeans have been arrested overseas for breaking the laws of the countries they were visiting.
Foreigners visiting or residing in Singapore have to abide by our laws. Likewise, Singaporeans abroad also have to adhere to the laws and regulations of the countries they are visiting or residing in. Violation of foreign laws could lead to immediate arrest and detention. In some countries, the judicial process could take months. Singaporeans convicted of offences overseas could face heavy fines and/or long prison sentences. For drug-related offences, offenders could face a long prison sentence or even capital punishment.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) will render appropriate consular assistance to Singaporeans who are arrested and detained overseas. However, MFA cannot intervene in the legitimate law enforcement and judicial workings of another country. Therefore, Singaporeans should exercise due care and personal responsibility when travelling overseas, including respecting and abiding by local laws and regulations.
In the event that Singaporeans overseas require emergency consular assistance, please call the MFA Duty Office (24-hours) at +65-6379 8800/+65-6379 8855, email us at email@example.com, or get in touch with the nearest Singapore Overseas Mission.
Advisory: Email Scams [Updated: 12 May 2016]
There has been an increasing number of reports in recent years of individuals receiving scam emails purportedly sent from friends in distress overseas. These emails typically originate from an email address known to the receiver bearing claims of the sender getting into trouble overseas and urgently requesting financial assistance. The sender would also claim to have approached a Singapore Embassy/Consulate and the local Police for help to no avail.
MFA takes the safety of all Singaporeans very seriously. Singaporeans in distress approaching our Overseas Missions for assistance will be rendered with all necessary consular assistance. If you receive such emails from purported friends seeking funds transfers, we strongly advise you to call them first to verify the authenticity of the emails before responding to their request. It is also not advisable to give out any personal information such as NRIC/passport nos., address, telephone number, etc. Any form of reply, even one of non-interest, could result in more unsolicited emails. Members of the public who suspect that they have fallen prey to such scams should report the matter to the Police immediately. Should Singaporeans abroad require consular assistance, they can contact the nearest Mission or call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 24-hr Duty Office at +65-6379 8800/+65-6379 8855.