The UAE is often hailed for its impeccable safety record and the life of luxury expats can enjoy with no fear of crime. In contrast to other highly populated cities, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have a high standard of safety, and violent crime is extremely rare, but petty crimes do occur and normal precautions should be taken.
The UAE is governed by an Islamic mandate, and it follows that local laws are stringent; in some cases, more so than home-country policies. To stay on the right side of the law, it’s vital that expats familiarise themselves with the legalities of the area.
Crime in the UAE
Burglaries can and do occur, especially during the summer months when many expat families return to their home countries, leaving houses vacant. On the other hand, it is considered safe to walk around late at night and to take taxis independently.
Women on their own are not considered to be targets or at risk. However, female expats should ensure that they dress modestly as there have been occasional reports of women being harassed.
The penalties for breaking laws in the UAE are severe and expats should familiarise themselves with local laws and customs in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention or being punished for behaviour that may not be considered offensive or illegal back home.
Terrorism in the UAE
The UAE does not have a high threat of terrorism, although some governments have warned of the possibility of extremist attacks in the country due to its proximity to other volatile countries in the Middle East and its large Western expat community.
Protests in the UAE
The UAE was largely unaffected by the Arab Spring of 2011. The country’s wealth and the high standard of living enjoyed by all means that there is not much economic and social dissent against the government and protests and public demonstrations are generally rare.
Road safety in the UAE
Road safety in the UAE is a major concern. Driving is not for the faint-of-heart and the UAE has one of the highest road death tolls in the world. Every day there are reports of serious, often fatal, accidents on the highways. Although there are financial penalties for dangerous driving and speeding, they are well within most people's financial means and therefore are not a successful deterrent.
Those involved in a traffic collision, however minor, are required by law to contact the police immediately and stay with the vehicle until they arrive. The UAE penalties for drinking and driving are severe. There is no such thing as a ‘legal limit’ and drinking and driving offences are punishable by at least a month in jail.
Cultural differences in the UAE
There is a zero-tolerance outlook on drugs in the UAE. Furthermore, public drunkenness and using offensive language, among other things, can land expats behind bars. Expats are urged to familiarise themselves with local customs in order to avoid any missteps.
►Learn more about adjusting to life in the Emirates on our Culture Shock in the UAE page.
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