Burj Al Arab hotel, Dubai
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Burj Al Arab hotel, Dubai

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United Arab Emirates Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

83,600 sq km (32,278 sq miles).

Population

9,269,612 (2016).

Population density

99 per sq km.

Capital

Abu Dhabi.

Government

Federation of seven autonomous emirates. The highest federal authority is the Supreme Council of Rulers comprising the absolute rulers of the seven emirates. Decisions reached by the council must have the agreement of at least five members, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two largest members. The council appoints a president to act as head of state. There are no political parties.

Head of state

President Sheikh Khalifa ibn Zaid Al Nahayan since 2022.

Head of government

Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum since 2006.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are standard.

Comprised of little more than sand dunes, crumbling forts and fishing villages a century ago, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has grown into a show-stopping, headline-grabbing destination which offers an intriguing blend of traditional Islamic culture and rampant consumerism. 

Powered largely (but by no means exclusively) by oil wealth, the UAE today is defined by opulent resort hotels, ultra-modern architecture and a seemingly unending thirst for new and innovative mega-projects. Manmade islands in the shape of palm trees? Tick. Billionaire royals taking over Premiership football clubs? Tick. Tallest building on the planet? Naturally.

Seven separate emirates make up the country, but visitor attention falls mainly on Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Both are home to an ever-growing spread of luxury accommodation, gourmet restaurants, branded nightclubs and gleaming shopping malls. Dubai’s most iconic sights include the sail-shaped “7-star” hotel Burj Al Arab, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper and the sea-themed Atlantis Resort, which are microcosms of the UAE’s lofty ambitions.

The regular fountain show in the Downtown area rivals that of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, while vast shopping complexes like Dubai Mall (complete with one of the world’s largest aquariums) and Mall of the Emirates (complete with ski slope) are packed with premium international labels.

Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, doesn’t have quite the same verve but boasts some remarkable attractions, from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to the Ferrari World theme park. And in both destinations, there’s the option to delve into the UAE’s blend of Islamic culture and modernity, from spice souks to falcon hospitals. Meanwhile, the vast natural desert offers endless discoveries via exciting modes of transport from hot air balloon and quad bike to helicopter or sandboard.

And don’t be dazzled by Abu Dhabi and Dubai alone – the other emirates are also worthy of exploration. Among them, coastal Fujairah offers nature walks and a host of outdoor adventures, including mountain biking and scuba diving, while Ras al-Khamiah has excellent off-road driving and hiking in the rugged Hajar Mountains.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for the United Arab Emirates on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You should contact your airline - Emirates Etihad Airways or British Airways or local health authorities for Dubai and Abu Dhabi for information on testing facilities.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in the United Arab Emirates.

You should contact your airline - British Airways, Emirates and Etihad or local health authorities for Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel within the United Arab Emirates

COVID-19 cases continue to be recorded in the UAE and public health measures are in place in response to the outbreak. These can vary between each Emirates and the ease of movement between regions may be affected. The local rules may change, including at short notice. You should check them carefully before you travel and whilst you are in the UAE, and ensure you comply.

The UAE authorities have stated that any violation of instructions and procedures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 will be treated as a crime punishable by law.

The rules for entering and remaining in Abu Dhabi may change. You should check the current requirement from the Abu Dhabi Media Office website and on the Emirates News Agency website.

Public spaces and services

Most shops, restaurants, tourist attractions and religious establishments across the UAE are open but there are restrictions and requirements in place to help contain the spread of COVID-19. With effect from 26 February the rules for mask wearing have changed and although mask wearing remains mandatory in public indoor spaces it is now optional when outdoors. Further information is available on the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority website.

Most schools across the UAE reopened at the start of the 2021/22 academic year with a number of COVID-19 measures in place. Some schools may close or move to remote learning if there are outbreaks of COVID-19. In Abu Dhabi, students aged 16 years and above are required to be vaccinated to enter school.

Abu Dhabi Emirate has made it mandatory for residents aged 16 years and above and international tourists to have a “green pass” on the “AlHosn” app in order to access public places. A green pass is acquired and maintained by full vaccination and regular negative PCR tests. Medical exemptions from vaccinations and PCR testing may apply. The AlHosn app is the UAE’s official app related to COVID-19.

From 17 March 2022, non-vaccinated visitors to events, tourist attractions and cultural sites in Abu Dhabi may now enter with a negative PCR test received within 48 hours. Further information is available on the Abu Dhabi Media Office website and on the Etihad Airways website.

Healthcare in the United Arab Emirates

You should keep up to date with local public health measures and comply with instructions. If you fail to do so you risk being fined or imprisoned.

Information about the UAE’s approach can be found on the website of the Ministry of Health and Prevention through its COVID-19 Information Centre. You can also keep up to date with information via official sources such as the UAE Government Portal, Dubai Media Office and Emirates News Agency.

If you develop coronavirus symptoms whilst in the UAE, you should contact your travel insurance or healthcare provider for further advice.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

View Health for further details on healthcare in the UAE.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance whilst in the UAE contact:

All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Crime

Over 1.5 million British visitors travel to the UAE every year and more than 100,000 British nationals are resident there. The vast majority of visits are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. Don’t accept lifts from strangers. Use only licensed taxis or other recognized forms of public transport.

Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are relatively rare, but do happen. The UAE imposes life imprisonment for males who rape a female and the death penalty can be applied in certain cases. However, UAE law places a high burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that the sexual relations were not consensual, especially when the victim had consumed alcohol or where the alleged attacker was known to the victim. If the sexual relations are determined to have been consensual, either party may still face prosecution for the offence of sex outside marriage in certain circumstances. See Local Laws and customs page

Female visitors and residents should take care when walking or travelling alone, and should use a reputable taxi company, particularly at night. Drink spiking can occur. Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.

Beach safety

Rip currents can occur at any beach, and can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea. Always comply with warning signs, especially red flags, and only swim from approved beaches.

Road travel

If you’re visiting the UAE, you can drive a rental car using your UK driving licence. If you intend to drive a private vehicle as a visitor, you should check that you’re covered under the vehicle’s insurance.

If you’re applying for residence in the UAE, you can use your UK licence until your residence permit is issued, after which you’ll need to immediately get a UAE driving licence from the traffic department.

Driving standards in the UAE are not always as disciplined as in the UK and there is a high rate of traffic accidents. The World Health Organisation has reported that UAE road users are almost 7 times more likely to be killed than their UK counterparts and that the UAE has one of the highest rates of road deaths. Speeding is common.

It is a criminal offence in the UAE to drink and drive, no matter how small the amount. Your insurance is also likely to be invalidated in the event of an accident. Offensive gestures and bad language directed at other drivers can lead to fines, a jail sentence, and possibly deportation. Flashing your lights in the UAE can mean a driver is coming through, rather than giving way.

If you have an accident you should follow the rules of the Emirate in which you are travelling. In Abu Dhabi, if no one has been hurt and vehicle damage is minor, drivers should move vehicles to the side of the road to avoid blocking traffic; otherwise, the vehicles should not be moved. In Dubai, you should only move your vehicle if it is causing an obstruction to other motorists. In the other Emirates, you may only move your car if the accident is minor and both parties agree who is responsible. In all cases, call the police. It is an offence to leave the scene of an accident before the police have arrived.

Excursions to the desert can be dangerous unless you’re in a properly equipped 4 x 4 vehicle. Always travel in convoy with other cars, take a supply of water and a mobile telephone, and leave a copy of your travel plans with friends or relatives.

Pedestrians should take great care. Only cross roads using designated pedestrian crossings, failure to comply can lead to prosecution. Vehicles often don’t stop at zebra crossings marked on the roads.

Sea travel

Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected. Mariners should make careful enquiries before entering these waters.

You should consider how regional tensions may affect your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of maritime attack.

Be careful when travelling by tourist boat. The safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets are available for all passengers.

Political situation

Events in the Middle East can affect local public opinion. Follow news reports and be alert to local and regional developments, which might trigger public disturbances.

Since 2018, numerous missiles have been launched into Saudi Arabia from Yemen, including attacks on aviation interests. The vast majority of these have been intercepted and destroyed but there have been a small number of casualties. Claims have been made in public media suggesting that there may also be attempts to target missiles and unmanned aerial systems (drones) aimed at the UAE.

A number of missiles and unmanned aerial systems (drones) were launched into the UAE from Yemen in early 2022, targeting infrastructure and high profile locations, some of which were in populated areas. The vast majority of these missiles and drones were intercepted and destroyed but there were a small number of casualties. On 17 January 2022, the UAE authorities confirmed a Houthi attack on civilian facilities in Abu Dhabi, which caused the death of three civilians. On 24 January 2022, the UAE authorities announced that their air defence forces had intercepted and destroyed two Houthi ballistic missiles targeting the UAE and that there were no casualties. On 31 January 2022, the UAE authorities announced their air defence forces had intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile targeting the UAE and that there were no casualties.

Further attacks are likely. In the event of any incidents, you should monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in the UAE. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region. These include references to attacks on western interests, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests as well as crowded places, including restaurants, hotels, beaches, shopping centres and mosques. You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places and at public events.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

UAE laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. Be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK. You are strongly advised to familiarise yourself with, and respect local laws and customs.

In 2023, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 22 March and finish on 21 April. See Travelling during Ramadan

You can read more about living in the UAE here.

Importing goods

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

Drugs

There is zero tolerance for drugs-related offences. The penalties for trafficking, smuggling and the possession of drugs (including residual amounts) are severe. Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty. Possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum three-month prison term or a fine not less than AED 20,000 and not exceeding AED100,000. The Emirati authorities count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession. Some herbal highs, like Spice, are illegal in the UAE. Possessing and concealing money from drugs related offences, and performing transactions using money from drug-related offences are also crimes, which could lead to imprisonment and a fine.

Many people stop off in UAE airports on their way to other destinations. UAE airports have excellent technology and security, so transiting passengers carrying even residual amounts of drugs may be arrested.

Some skincare products and E-cigarette refills may contain ingredients that are illegal in the UAE such as CBD oil. If found in possession of such products, they will be confiscated and you may face criminal charges. A list of narcotic, psychotropic and controlled drugs where this rule applies, allowed quantities and documents to present can be found on the UAE Ministry of Health website.

Alcohol

UAE Residents can drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues. Liquor licences are still required for Residents in Dubai but are no longer required for Residents in Abu Dhabi and other Emirates (save for Emirate of Sharjah) to purchase alcohol for personal consumption.

In Dubai, tourists are able to obtain a temporary liquor licence for the duration of a month from the two official liquor distributors in Dubai. Tourists will be provided with a code of conduct document and will be asked to confirm they understand rules and regulations in relation to purchasing, transporting and consuming liquor in Dubai. This licence is only for use in the Emirate where it is issued.

Liquor licences are not available to non-residents in the other Emirates, but it is possible for tourists and visitors to buy and drink alcohol in licensed venues, such as hotels, restaurants and clubs. However, you should be aware that it is a punishable offence under UAE law to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public. British nationals have been arrested and charged under this law, often in cases where they have come to the attention of the police for a related offence, such as disorderly or offensive behaviour.

Generally, the legal age for drinking alcohol is 18 in Abu Dhabi, but a Ministry of Tourism by-law prevents hotels from serving alcohol to those under the age of 21. In Dubai and all other emirates besides Sharjah, the drinking age is 21. Drinking alcohol in Sharjah is illegal.

Dress code

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.

Hotels

It is normal practice for hotels to take a photocopy of your passport or Emirates ID. You can’t stay in a hotel if you’re under 18 years old and not accompanied by an adult.  

Offensive behaviour

Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered obscene acts and offenders can be jailed or deported. Take particular care when dealing with the police and other officials.

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

Sexual relationships outside marriage

If you become pregnant and give birth to a child in the UAE outside marriage, to obtain a local birth certificate both you and your partner will need to ensure that you either get married or you and/or your partner must singly or jointly acknowledge the child and provide identification papers and travel documents in accordance with the laws of your country considering the applicable laws of that nation. If you become pregnant outside of marriage, you may not be covered by your medical insurance, and you should consult with your medical insurance provider before giving birth in the UAE.

Consensual sexual relationships between a male and female outside marriage where both are over the age of 18 years, including extra-marital sexual relationships, is generally permitted under UAE law. However, in the case of an extra-marital consensual sexual relationship, if either person’s spouse or parent/guardian files a criminal complaint, then both parties of an extra-marital consensual relationship shall be liable to a jail sentence for a period not less than six months.

If either person in a sexual relationship is under the age of 18 years, he/she is deemed a minor, and the other person over the age of 18 will be prosecuted for having a sexual relationship with a minor. If both people are under 18 years of age they will both be prosecuted but punishment is likely to be limited to a caution, parental supervision, judicial supervision, professional training or psychiatric treatment.

Same-sex relationships

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

The UAE is in many respects a tolerant society and private life is respected, although there have been some reports of individuals being punished for homosexual activity, particularly where there is any public element, or the behaviour has caused offence. This applies both to expatriate residents and to tourists. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Photography/media

Photography of certain government buildings and military installations isn’t allowed. Don’t photograph people without their permission. Men have been arrested for photographing women on beaches. Hobbies like bird watching and plane spotting, may be misunderstood - particularly near military sites, government buildings and airports.

Posting material (including videos and photographs) online that is critical of the UAE government, companies or individuals, or related to incidents in the UAE, or appearing to abuse/ridicule/criticise the country or its authorities, or that is culturally insensitive, may be considered a crime punishable under UAE law. There have been cases of individuals being detained, prosecuted and/or convicted for posting this type of material.

If you wish to carry out media activity related to the production, transmission and/or distribution of printed, digital, audio, video and/or visual information, you will be required to obtain the appropriate permission from the Emirati authorities in advance. Failure to do so could result in imprisonment and a substantial fine.

Further information about media activity and how to obtain the necessary permits can be accessed by registering on the National Media Council website.

Fundraising/charitable acts

If you’re considering undertaking or promoting fundraising or other acts of charity in (or while passing through) the UAE, bear in mind that these activities, including where conducted online and via social media, are heavily regulated. You should be fully aware of the legal requirements and seek professional advice as necessary. Non-compliance can incur criminal penalties, including heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

Buying property

If you want to buy property in the UAE, you should seek appropriate professional advice, as you would in the UK. A list of lawyers for Abu Dhabi and Dubai is available on the British Embassy website.

Financial crime

Financial crimes, including fraud and the non-payment of bills (including hotel bills) can often result in imprisonment and/or a fine. Bank accounts and other assets can also be frozen.

Bail is generally not available to non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for financial crimes. Those convicted will not generally be released from jail until the debt is paid or waived and they may even remain in jail after a debt has been paid if there is an outstanding sentence to be served.

Weapons, ammunition, body protection and related equipment (like cleaning kits, gun belts, etc), however small the quantity and whatever the purpose, all require permission before entering or transiting the UAE.

Technical equipment

Equipment like satellite phones, listening or recording devices, radio transmitters, powerful cameras or binoculars, may require a licence for use in the UAE. Seek advice from the UAE Embassy in London.

This page has information on travelling to UAE.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in UAE set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how the UAE’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.

All travellers

COVID-19 entry requirements may change at short notice, and all travellers to the UAE are strongly encouraged to check the specifics before departure with their airline before they travel. Further details are available on British Airways, Emirates and Etihad websites. Further information is also available on the IATA Travel Centre website .

Travellers to the UAE do not need to take a COVID-19 PCR test before they travel if they are fully vaccinated or:

  • They hold a COVID-19 recovery certificate with a QR code dated within 30 days of departure
  • They are under 16 years of age for arrivals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai
  • They have severe disabilities

Residents, tourists and visitors travelling from or through the UK and arriving in the UAE must still have a negative COVID-19 PCR test, taken no more than 48 hours before departure, and present the certificate at check in if they are not fully vaccinated and do not hold a COVID-19 recovery certificate.

Travellers transiting the UAE will need to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test if a test is required at their final destination.

Travellers arriving in the UAE may be required to take a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival and travellers arriving in Dubai will have to isolate pending the result of the COVID-19 PCR test.

If you test positive for COVID-19 on arrival, depending on your symptoms and your accommodation plans, you may be required to self-isolate in a government facility, a hospital, your hotel or privately arranged accommodation for at least 10 days. The only type of COVID-19 test result that is recognised by the UAE authorities is a COVID-19 PCR test. Other test results including antibody tests are not accepted.

Further information about COVID-19 updates is available on the UAE Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates webpage and on the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority website. Further information about testing facilities in the UAE is available on the UAE Government Portal. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

If you’re fully vaccinated

There are different rules depending on where in the United Arab Emirates you are travelling to.

Entry to Abu Dhabi if you’re fully vaccinated

Vaccination is not a condition of entry.

Further information is available on the UAE Government Portal and Etihad Airways website.

The rules for entering and remaining in Abu Dhabi may change at short notice. You should check the current requirement from the Abu Dhabi Media Office website and on the Emirates News Agency website.

Visitors must register via the ICA Smart Travel Service prior to travel and download the Al Hosn App.

Entry to Dubai if you’re fully vaccinated

Further information about what visitors need to do before they travel and what will happen on arrival in Dubai is available on the Emirates Airline website.

Visitors must have international health insurance before travelling.

All visitors to Dubai must adhere to all public health measures issued by the Dubai authorities including any requirements to quarantine.

If you’re not fully vaccinated

There are different rules depending on where in the United Arab Emirates you are travelling to.

Entry to Abu Dhabi if you’re not fully vaccinated

If you are not fully vaccinated, you must take a PCR test 48 hours before your flight to Abu Dhabi, and it’s optional for you to take a PCR test when you arrive at the airport. You may not be permitted to enter public places in Abu Dhabi if you are not fully vaccinated. Further information is available on the Etihad Airlines website.

The rules for entering and remaining in Abu Dhabi may change at short notice. You should check the current requirement from the Abu Dhabi Media Office website and on the Emirates News Agency website.

Entry to Dubai if you’re not fully vaccinated

Unvaccinated travellers from the UK to Dubai may be required to have a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival. Further information is available on the Emirates Airlines website.

The rules for entering and remaining in Dubai may change at short notice. You should check the current requirement from the Emirates Airlines website and on the Emirates News Agency website.

Residents of Dubai

Further information about what returning Dubai residents need to do before they travel and what will happen on arrival in Dubai is available on the Emirates Airline website.

If you’re transiting through UAE

If you are transiting through the UAE to a country that requires a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival, then you must obtain a negative COVID-19 PCR test before travelling.

In all circumstances, the test must be a COVID-19 PCR. Other test results including antibody tests are not accepted.

If you are transiting through Dubai

Transit passengers from some countries are required to conduct a COVID-19 PCR test prior to departure for Dubai. The pre-travel test is also mandatory for transit passengers if their destination country requires them to do so. Further information is available on the Dubai Media Office website.

Exemptions

Children under 16 years arriving in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, individuals with official exemptions, and those with severe or moderate disabilities, do not need to take a PCR test upon arrival. Further information is available on the Visit Abu Dhabi website and the IATA Travel Centre website .

Cruise ships

A small number of cruise operators have restarted calls into some ports in the UAE. You should talk to your cruise operator about arranging COVID-19 PCR testing if necessary.

If you are planning to travel on an international cruise that is due to call at any port in the UAE, contact your travel company for the latest information.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

You should consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into the UAE. If you hold a residence permit, your passport must be valid for at least 3 months in order to travel to the UAE.

If you’re transiting the UAE (and not passing through Immigration) your passport only needs to have a minimum of 3 months validity from the date of transit.

Visas

Holders of full British passports will be granted a free of charge visitor/tourist visa upon arrival in the UAE. No application in advance of travel is needed. Your passport will be stamped with the visa as you pass through Immigration. The visa issued at the airport for British passport holders is valid for 30 days.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) has a visa hotline: +971 (0)9 208 3344.

If you have any questions on the validity or expiry of your visa, contact UAE Immigration directly. You can find out further information about visas on the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs website for Dubai or the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship website for the rest of the UAE.

If you’re living outside the UAE, contact the nearest UAE Embassy for advice.

All individuals who wish to remain in the UAE beyond the validity of their visa must contact the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs website for Dubai or the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship website for the rest of the UAE well in advance or they may be subject to fines for overstaying.

Living and working in the UAE

If you have entered Dubai on a visit visa and you wish to work then you should get a probationary work permit, valid for up to 3 months, from the Ministry of Labour. If you don’t get this permit and are caught working while on a visit visa, then you risk being jailed or fined and deported.

For further information, including on how to stay in the UAE for longer than 60 days, visit the websites of the UAE Embassy in London, the Naturalisation and Residency Department – Dubai or the UAE Federal E-Government Portal.

If you apply for a residence visa, you will have to take a blood test. Those testing positive for HIV or hepatitis are detained and then deported. There is no appeal process.

UAE employers may ask foreign employees to deposit their passports with the company as part of the terms and conditions of employment. While this is not an unusual practice, it is illegal under UAE labour law.

You should cancel your work visa before leaving the UAE permanently. If you don’t do this, you risk being reported as an absconder and could be arrested if you return to the UAE, even if you are in transit to another country. Failure to repay debts or resolve any outstanding cases against you may also result in your arrest on return or transit through the UAE.

If you have any doubt about your status before returning to the UAE seek advice from a local lawyer.

Medication

If you’re planning to travel with any prescribed or over the counter medicines for personal use, you’ll need to meet the UAE’s specific requirements for your medicine to be allowed into the country.

If you’re entering the country with medication that the UAE classes as narcotic, psychotropic, controlled or semi-controlled, approval is needed from the UAE authorities.

Approval should be requested in advance. To gain approval prior to travelling, you can apply for a permit online using the electronic application form on the UAE Ministry of Health website. The UAE authorities advise that applications are normally processed within 5 working days.

If you arrive in the UAE without prior approval or the required documentation, the medication will not be allowed into the UAE and you may be prosecuted under UAE law. If you need more information on controlled medicines or the process for obtaining permission, you should contact the UAE Ministry of Health by emailing info@moh.gov.ae or calling +971 800 11111.

If you’re travelling in transit through a UAE airport and do not intend entering the UAE, or are entering the UAE with other types of medicine, you’re not required to go through this approval process.

In all cases, there are limits on the amount of medication that can be brought into the UAE legally. The Ministry of Health advise that you can bring up to 3 months’ supply of medication as a visitor, reduced to one month’s supply if the medication is included in the list requiring approval.

Previous travel to Israel

UAE immigration authorities have advised that British nationals with valid or expired Israeli visas or stamps in their passports should not face any difficulties entering the UAE as long as they don’t intend to work. If you do intend to work, further checks may be required and there is a risk that entry may be refused.

If you are a British-Israeli dual national and have any concerns about entering the UAE, contact the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in London.

Regular exit requirements

Visitors must have legal status in the UAE when they depart. If you are subject to a travel ban, involved in legal proceedings, have unpaid debt or are a child subject to a custody dispute, you may be prevented from leaving the country.

Thermal scanning is in operation at airports. Departing passengers may be subject to testing, quarantine and medical treatment in the UAE.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into the United Arab Emirates but are accepted for airside transit and exit from the UAE. If you are requesting an ETD to leave the UAE, you should approach UAE Immigration to obtain an ‘out-pass’. If you are a UAE resident using an ETD, your visa might be cancelled and you will need to reapply for a new residency visa on your new Full Validity Passport if you wish to return to the UAE. This includes Golden visas. You should check with Immigration in the Emirate where your visa was issued, before completing the ETD application. If your passport has been lost or stolen you will need to obtain a police report through the Dubai Police website application or from a local police station in other Emirates. Allow enough time, as it could take a number of days to receive the lost report which might delay your travel plans. If your destination is not the UK, you will need proof of residency for your destination country. An emergency travel document does not grant you entry. You are responsible for checking you have the correct documents to enter the country.

If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. In the UAE, some prescribed and over the counter medicines are considered controlled substances and can’t be brought into the country without prior permission from the UAE Ministry of Health. See Medication

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Other health risks

For the latest information and advice, see the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Medical treatment

Healthcare facilities in the UAE are generally comparable with those in the UK, but visitors may be prevented from using them without travel insurance or without the means to settle any medical fees. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. 

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.