October 6, 2016

Dos and Don’ts When Travelling in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, the capital city of United Arab Emirates, has gone a long way and has transformed itself from a small fishing village into becoming a hub of culture, government, business, sports, and leisure in the country.

Although not as popular as its sister emirate Dubai, Abu Dhabi is steadily gaining ground as an emerging international tourism destination. The emirate has doubled its efforts in capitalizing on the business and travel sector to increase tourist arrivals. Once thought to be nothing more than sun, sand, and shopping malls, the UAE capital is now popular for its cultural attractions, architectural marvels, word-class entertainment and dining options, luxurious hotels and resorts, and grand sporting and leisure events. Well-loved for its casual and relaxed atmosphere, it is also recognized as the new medical tourism destination, attracting high-spending medical tourists.

Abu Dhabi

If you’re thinking about holidaying in Abu Dhabi, please remember that although it is an “open city,” very modern, tolerant, and may have restrictions that are less stringent than other places, its rich local culture is deeply rooted in religious traditions and beliefs. You should be culturally aware and sensitive in your dealings with the locals and other tourists throughout your stay. Be responsible and respectful of the culture at all times.

To make your trip as enjoyable and as hassle-free as possible, we compiled a list of important things you need to take heed of before you pack your bags and jump on the next flight to Abu Dhabi.


1. Wear the appropriate clothing. When making the rounds of Abu Dhabi’s attractions, wear clothing that are not revealing, figure-hugging, and those that do not contain messages or prints that might offend the locals, the ruling family, or the government. Knees and shoulders should be covered. When in beaches and pools, swimwear is allowed but nudity is prohibited.

2. Keep you valuables and important travel documents with you at all times. Leave other valuables locked in a hotel safe, if necessary. Wear minimal jewellery.

3. Know the address and important contact numbers of your embassy before you land.

4. Drive carefully and follow traffic rules because UAE imposes heavy fines on violators. Jaywalking is also illegal.

5. Show respect for the Islamic religion and its followers. Islamic practitioners pray five times a day and you should respect that. If you are a non-Muslim, avoid touching a Q’uran.

6. Protect yourself from the scorching hot weather, especially during the very hot months between May to August. Keep hydrated and wear cool and light clothing. Don’t forget to apply a sun protection cream or lotion when you go out in the sun as well.

7. Have your fill of Abu Dhabi’s many tourist attractions and experience the local culture as much as you can.


1. Never drive if you don’t have an international driving license, or if the one you have with you has expired to avoid being fined.

2. Never take, distribute, or sell drugs, or have them in your possession. Abu Dhabi enforces strict drug laws. The consumption and possession of drugs can result in deportation and imprisonment. The distribution and selling of drugs is punishable by life imprisonment. The possession of certain medications is restricted and/or prohibited as well. Obtain a verified list of all the restricted medications from the nearest UAE consulate to be sure.

3. Never drink and drive. We couldn’t stress this enough. Not even a drop of alcohol is allowed if you’re driving. Nor is possession of alcohol allowed in vehicles. Doing so could land you into prison.

4. Never drink alcohol and/or get drunk in public. Drink alcoholic beverages only in licensed bars and restaurants and if you are aged over 21. Take note that tourists cannot purchase alcoholic beverages from stores in Abu Dhabi because only non-Muslim residents are granted the license to purchase alcohol and consume it at private places or at home.

5. Never take photos of official buildings and strangers, especially women. Taking photographs is not against UAE law but you should only take photos of attractions, of yourself, and your family.

6. Never dance or manifest unruly or offensive language and behaviour in public. Dancing should be limited to the confines of your home or at licensed places. Shoving your friends and horsing around in public is also frowned upon.

7. Never smoke in government offices and public places, even if you are above 18 years of age. Only smoke in designated areas.

8. Never engage in improper conduct and behaviour. This applies to strangers, and married/unmarried couples. Examples of these are public displays of affection between heterosexual and same sex couples, sitting on another person’s lap, directly addressing or calling a woman’s attention, or even something quite common as staring at people or touching or holding hands between unmarried couples can result in hefty fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Accessing pornographic websites or possessing pornography is illegal as well.

9. Never engage in a sexual relationship or cohabit with anyone outside of marriage while in Abu Dhabi as it is deemed illegal. This covers your stay in resorts or hotels as well. Take note that pregnancy out of wedlock results in imprisonment for you and your partner.

10. Never manifest homesexual behavior while in UAE. Homosexual behavior, including cross-dressing is prohibited. Violators can be fined, deported, or face imprisonment.

11. Never work without a working visa. Dire consequences await violators.

12. Never accept drinks or food from strangers. Protect your person from harm at all times.

Ready to check Abu Dhabi off your travel bucket list? Here are the most thrilling tours and activities to complete your itinerary.

By: Brendelyn Balaga

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