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.
Medicines and Drugs: Since October 2018, approval for the carriage of controlled medicines and drugs may be obtained online from the UAE Ministry of Health & Prevention (MOHAP). For more information on the types of controlled drugs, the allowed quantities, and the online approval process, please refer to the webpage http://www.mohap.gov.ae/en/services/Pages/361.aspx.
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 Safe and Be Informed [29 May 2019]
In view of the upcoming school holidays, Singaporeans planning overseas travel are reminded to take necessary precautions, including being prepared to deal with accidents, natural disasters or terrorism. Singaporeans are also reminded to be familiar with your destination’s local laws and customs restrictions, including immigration procedures and entry requirements.
Singaporeans travelling to and from Malaysia, in particular via the land checkpoints, are reminded to ensure that your passport is presented to a Malaysian immigration officer and stamped correctly before leaving the Malaysian immigration booth. Failure to do so is an immigration offence in Malaysia and the penalties can be severe, including detention, a fine, and a ban from future entry into the country.
In 2019, demonstrations have occurred in several major cities across the world. Such demonstrations can sometimes escalate into violence. It is important for Singaporeans to keep abreast of local news, avoid any protests or demonstrations and to heed advice of the local authorities.
For those planning to travel, here are some tips:
- Familiarise yourself with our network of overseas missions.
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance and be familiar with the terms and coverage.
- Equip yourself with research about your destination’s entry requirements, current situation, local laws and customs.
- eRegister with us on our website (https://www.mfa.gov.sg) so that we may reach out to you during an emergency.
- Always take care of your personal safety, remain vigilant and monitor local weather news, advisories, and security developments.
- Exercise caution around large gatherings and avoid locations known for demonstrations or disturbances.
- Be prepared for possible delays and last-minute changes in travel plans especially during unforeseen events such as natural disasters or terror attacks.
- Stay connected with your friends and family. Inform them of your whereabouts and provide them with your overseas contact details.
In the event that you require consular assistance, please contact the nearest Singapore Overseas Mission or call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Duty Office at +65 6379 8800/8855.
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.