Local Laws in Abu Dhabi

The grey area attached to local laws in Abu Dhabi and the consistency in interpreting and enforcing legislation is large and often times illegible, much to an expat's disadvantage. It's essential foreigners know the "rules", are aware of their incredibly stringent consequences and realise that the police may fill a more affected role than what you may be used to in your home country.

Though certain emirates assert themselves as Las Vegas lookalikes, and the expat population found in some cities overshadows that of the local life, the Muslim religion still mandates behaviours and actions, and expats must show appropriate levels of respect.

In Abu Dhabi, if you're arrested you go to jail until your court date; no second chances and no excuses allowed. Here follows a list to best keep you out of trouble.

Laws in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Alcohol Laws

The consumption of alcohol is ONLY legal for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi within licensed restaurants, pubs, clubs, or private venues. Additionally, non-Muslim expats living in Abu Dhabi with residence status can apply for an alcohol licence, which entitles them to purchase alcohol from specialised stores and then consume their beverage of choice at home.
alcohol laws in Abu Dhabi
For legal purposes, if planning to consume alcohol in Abu Dhabi it's best to have a licence, even if only planning to drink in licenced establishes. It is recommended all expats who fancy "boozy brunches" and "liquid diets" apply for this document soon after arrival. 

This DOES NOT make an expat exempt from charges of public drunkenness, an arrestable offence in Abu Dhabi. Furthermore, for expats who expect family members to visit on a visitor's visa, be exceptionally careful if planning to consume alcohol. Those on a tourist visa cannot purchase an alcohol license, which makes consumption technically illegal.

There is a zero-tolerance policy in Abu Dhabi when it comes to drinking and driving. Even the slightest hint of yesterday's hangover still in your system can lead to jail time.

In Abu Dhabi the minimum drinking age is 18.

Abu Dhabi Public Decency Laws

These laws in Abu Dhabi leave only the most minimal room for discretion, and even local judges have recently called for an intervention that more aptly matches punishment with offence. In the meantime though, expats with a tendency to float toward the wild side should take note and temper their extremes.

These are considered crimes of honor, and are punishable by deportation.

Sexual relationships outside of marriage are strictly illegal. This rule is of the public decency laws in Aby Dhabiutmost importance to young women who are considering reporting sex crimes. In its most astounding form, this law has resulted in adolescent rape victims being charged with committing "consensual sex", rather than perpetrators pushed behind bars where they belong.

Dancing in public is considered provocative and indecent. Do so only in clubs or in your home. 

Publicly photographing women without their permission is frowned upon. Furthermore, it's illegal to take pictures of military, airport or government installations in the emirate.

Acting aggressively, cursing, spitting or using offensive language can result in imprisonment. Never address authorities, especially officers, in this manner.

Smoking is acceptable only in designated areas, otherwise it's illegal.

Kissing, hugging and generally displaying affection is against the law. It's fine for a married couple to hold hands in public, but anything more "risqué" is not normally tolerated.

Abu Dhabi Drug Laws

It's strictly illegal and forbidden to bring drugs into Abu Dhabi. Even the slightest, drug laws in Abu Dhabiresidual amount (a marijuana seed stuck in the rubber sole of your shoe) can result in arrest, a four-year imprisonment and then deportation.

This is not a law to take lightly. Even those simply transitioning through major airports are subject to strict searches.

Expats bringing prescription drugs to Abu Dhabi should bring a doctor's note and should make an effort to notify authorities beforehand.

Abu Dhabi Business Crimes (Bounced Cheques)

While cheques, especially post-dated cheques, are a commonly accepted method of payment in Abu Dhabi, if you bounce a cheque, you're liable to spend time behind bars. After you've served your jail time, you're then held captive in-country until you repay your debt.

Needless to say, money management in Abu Dhabi is a serious matter and expats considering large purchases should be well aware of the consequences of falling behind on payments.

Abu Dhabi Country Guide

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