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United Arab Emirates

If you’re travelling to the United Arab Emirates, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information. 

Security Status

  • Normal precautions
  • High degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Do not travel
  • Overview
  • Safety and Security
  • Local Laws and Customs
  • Natural Disasters and Climate
  • Additional Information
  • Embassy Contact

Overview

Overview

General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation:

Avoid non-essential travel until further notice:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship.

If you are currently travelling outside of Ireland:

Flight restrictions and route cancellations are happening on a daily basis worldwide and there is no guarantee that air routes will continue to operate. For this reason, where commercial flights are still an option, we recommend that people who wish to do so make arrangements to return to Ireland as soon as possible.

We are working with airlines to show maximum flexibility to those passengers who need to change their existing flight arrangements. Where commercial flights are no longer available, we are working side-by-side with our international partners to identify alternative options where possible.

It may not be feasible or possible for everyone who wants to travel back to Ireland to do so in the short term. We ask Irish citizens remaining abroad to make decisions that safeguard their health and well-being and that they follow local public health and safety requirements. We ask that they remain in close contact with family, friends and their local Irish Embassy or Consulate.

We know that this is a stressful situation for citizens and our embassy network is working around the clock to provide people with all the information and assistance that we can, bearing in mind the situation is unfolding across multiple countries and is not one under our control.

What to do on entering Ireland from abroad:

The Irish Health Authorities require anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland, to restrict their movements on arrival for 14 days. Check the Irish Health Service COVID-19 Advice Page for full information on these requirements. This includes Irish residents. Exemptions are in place for providers of essential supply chain services such as hauliers, pilots and maritime staff.

Where to go for more information:

We continue to make updates to our online travel advice for over 200 countries and recommend that you download our TravelWise App and follow us on Twitter. If abroad you should register with your local Irish Embassy or Consulate and regularly check their website and Twitter accounts for details of any local public health measures and travel restrictions.

Security status

Avoid non-essential travel.

Latest Travel Alert

Coronavirus (Covid 19)

A number of cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UAE authorities have introduced a number of measures to limit the spread of the virus. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the local authorities. This could include medical screening, with the potential for further follow-up health measures and restrictions. 

All passenger flights to and from the UAE were suspended from 23:59 on 24 March until at least 8 April, and this period may be extended.

With effect from 19 March, only UAE citizens are allowed to enter the UAE. UAE residents who are abroad will not be allowed to re-enter the UAE until at least 2 April, but this restriction could be extended.

All schools in the UAE have been closed from Sunday 8 March 2020, and a number of events have been cancelled in the coming weeks and months. If you are planning to attend a specific event in the UAE, you should check with the organisers. Most public venues, with the exception of grocery shops and pharmacies, have been closed, and residents are advised to stay in their homes. 

Passenger cruises are currently not being allowed to dock in the UAE as a result of measures taken to combat coronavirus. If you are planning to travel on a cruise that is due to call at any port in the UAE, contact your travel company for the latest information.

UAE Citizens and Residents have been advised by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention not to travel abroad and that those who travel may face preventative measures, including isolation, on their return to the UAE.

See links below for details. 

Ministry of Health and Prevention UAE

World Health Organisation

If you are in the UAE, you should monitor developments regularly and follow the advice of local authorities.

Department of Health Abu Dhabi

Dubai Health Authority

Be alert to common signs of infection: respiratory problems, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Seek medical advice if you experience these symptoms.

HSE medical advice to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 is below.

Do:

• wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
• put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands

Don’t:

• touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

Additional information on COVID-19 can be found via the following links:

HSE

HPSC

ECDC

World Health Organisation

Emergency assistance

There are ongoing regional tensions and, in the event of any incidents, you should monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities. 

There is considered to be a high threat from terrorism. You should remain vigilant at this time.

The UAE is a Muslim country. Laws and customs are very different to those in Ireland and other western countries. It is important to respect local customs, laws & religions while in the UAE. There can be serious penalties, including custodial sentences, for doing something that may not be illegal in Ireland. See Local Laws & Customs section.

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, start by talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management. You can also contact the Irish Embassy if you require assistance or advice.

The Emergency services number in UAE is 999.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravel for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide 

Safety and Security

Safety and security

Political Situation

There are ongoing regional tensions and, in the event of any incidents, you should monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.

The political situation in the UAE is stable but you should avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, which can sometimes turn confrontational.

Terrorism

You should be aware that there is a threat from terrorism generally in the region. Attacks could be indiscriminate, and against Western interests, as they have been elsewhere in the region.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in the UAE but you should take sensible precautions. 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
  • Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are relatively rare, but do happen. UAE law places a high burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that sexual relations were not consensual, especially when the victim had consumed alcohol or where the attacker was known to the victim. If the sexual relations are determined to have been consensual, both parties may face prosecution for the offence of sex outside marriage. Drink spiking can occur. Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.

Photography

You should also stay away from military sites – taking photos of military or security installations, and some public buildings is prohibited. Avoid filming or photographing people without their permission. 

The UAE has strict laws regarding online behaviour, including comments made via social media, with offences punishable by fines, imprisonment and deportation. Sharing videos or photographs of others through social media can be a punishable offence. 

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in the UAE, you should be extremely careful. Road safety standards are low, particularly outside towns and cities. Accidents are frequent and are often caused by speeding, poor driving and inadequate lighting.

Drivers involved in an accident causing injuries may be detained until the injured are released from hospital. In an accident causing injuries or fatalities, those found at fault may be legally required to provide financial compensation to the injured or the family of the deceased. 

You should exercise great care as a pedestrian and only cross the road at designated pedestrian crossings. Drivers often fail to stop for pedestrians at zebra crossings. 

Offensive gestures and bad language can lead to fines, a jail sentence and deportation.

Excursions to the desert can be dangerous especially without adequately equipped 4 x 4 vehicles. Serious accidents can occur when driving on sand dunes in the desert, which can result in death. You should always travel in convoy with other cars, take a supply of water and a mobile telephone and leave travel plans with friends or relatives.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your international driving license and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and the penalties can be severe. Your insurance is likely to be invalidated, leaving you to pay claims by other parties involved
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Water 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. Only swim at pools with a lifeguard in attendance, and always check and ensure that there are qualified lifeguards present if your children will be swimming as part of their school activities or at summer camps.

The safety of tourist boats may not be up to Irish standards. Ensure that life jackets are available for all passengers.

 

Local Laws and Customs

Local laws and customs

Muslim culture

The UAE is an Islamic country and you should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions. Be aware of your actions and take care not to offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or other religious festivals, or if you intend to visit religious areas. In 2020, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 23 April.

Dress conservatively, particularly in Sharjah and Ajman emirates, where Islamic law is rigorously enforced. Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs and underwear should not be visible.

Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and there have been several arrests for kissing in public. Sex outside of marriage is illegal, as is cohabitation, adultery and homosexual behaviour. If you conduct a sexual relationship outside heterosexual marriage you run the risk of prosecution, imprisonment and/or a fine and deportation. Private life is respected in the UAE, however people are punished for sexual activity outside marriage where there is a public element or if it is brought to the attention of the police authorities.

If you become pregnant outside marriage, both you and your partner could face imprisonment and/or deportation. Doctors may ask for proof of marriage during ante-natal checks. An unmarried woman who gives birth in the UAE may also encounter problems when registering the birth of the child in the UAE, and could face arrest, imprisonment or deportation. To obtain a birth certificate from the UAE authorities, you must provide a marriage certificate and the authorities may compare the date of the marriage against the estimated date of conception.

During Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke during daylight hours. To avoid offence, you should not eat, drink or smoke in public during this time.

Forbidden products

Bringing drugs, pork products and pornographic books and material into the UAE is forbidden. Videos, books and magazines are subject to scrutiny and may be censored.

Prescription medications

Prescription medicines are tightly controlled in the UAE. Medications available over the counter or by prescription in Ireland, such as codeine may be illegal or considered a controlled substance in the UAE. You should carefully consult the UAE Ministry of Health guidelines before travelling to the UAE to see if your medication is on the list of controlled or prohibited substances. If in doubt you should consult your doctor or pharmacist. 
 
If your medication is on the controlled drugs list you will require approval to bring it into the UAE. You can apply for online approval prior to travel or on arrival in the airport in the UAE. Online approvals can take up to five working days following completion of the online application. You will require the original prescription and an attested medical report and will only be permitted to carry up to 30 days’ supply. If you arrive in the UAE without prior approval or the required documentation for approval on entry, the medication will not be allowed into the UAE and you may be prosecuted under UAE law.
 
Even if you do not bring such medications with you to the UAE, local authorities may prosecute you if blood and urine tests detect traces of a prohibited substance in your system.
 
Other medicines not on the controlled list may be brought into the UAE but you should carry your original prescription and not more than three months’ supply. Medicines should be in the original packaging and should not have expired. 
 
Some herbal remedies may be restricted or prohibited. Cannabidiol oil or CBD oil is considered an illegal drug in the UAE and there have a number of arrests for possession, including traces in vaping devices, at border entry points. Possession carries a minimum sentence of two years but for larger quantities can be ten years or more. 
 
Further information on controlled medicines and permissions can be obtained directly from the UAE Ministry of Health by emailing info@moh.gov.ae or calling +971 2 652 0500.

Criminal offences

Financial crimes, including fraud, bouncing cheques and the non-payment of bills, is regarded very seriously in the UAE and can often result in imprisonment and/or a fine. Non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for crimes involving fraud do not generally get bail. Convicted debtors will not usually be released from jail until the debt is paid or waived. Several Irish citizens have received custodial sentences as a result of non-payment of outstanding debts.

Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered obscene acts and can lead to prosecution. Take particular care when dealing with the police and other officials.

Women travellers

Women should dress in a modest way, particularly in Sharjah and Ajman emirates where Islamic law is rigorously enforced.

LGBT

Homosexual activity is illegal in the UAE.

Alcohol

Liquor licences can be obtained by non-Muslim residents to consume alcohol in private homes and licensed hotels and clubs. Tourists in Dubai can apply for a temporary liquor licence through one of the official distributers of alcohol in Dubai. Liquor licences are only valid in the Emirate in which they are 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. Drinking alcohol in the Emirate of Sharjah is illegal. It is a punishable offence under UAE law to drink alcohol or to be drunk in public. Passengers in transit through the UAE under the influence of alcohol may also be arrested.

Illegal drugs

The penalties for drug trafficking, smuggling and possession are severe. Drug trafficking penalties can include the death sentence or life imprisonment. The presence of drugs in the body constitutes possession and carries a minimum sentence of four years.

Travellers who transit in UAE airports are subject to these laws. UAE airports have excellent technology and security, so transiting passengers carrying even residual amounts of drugs may be arrested.

Weapons and related equipment

Weapons, ammunition and gun belts etc. all require permission for entry or transit through the UAE.

 

Natural Disasters and Climate

Natural disasters and climate

Climate

The UAE is hot and dry most of the year. Drink plenty of water but remember that during Ramadan it is an offence to eat or drink in public between sunrise and sunset.

Sandstorms

There are occasional sandstorms but they are not usually bad enough to affect daily life. 

Flooding

In some parts of the country, particularly in the mountains, occasional heavy rain can cause flash floods. Take precautions and seek out local advice.

Additional Information

Additional information

Entry & exit requirements (visa/passport)

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months to enter the UAE. A longer period of validity may be required if you intend to seek a UAE residency visa. If you hold a UAE residence permit, your passport must be valid for at least 3 months in order to travel into the country.

If you are unsure of what the entry requirements for the UAE are, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the UAE.

For non-residents, Irish temporary passports are not valid for entry into the United Arab Emirates. However, temporary passports are accepted for airside transit and exit from the United Arab Emirates.

Visitors must have legal status in the UAE when they depart. If your residency visa is under process, or 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. A number of Irish nationals have been arrested when departing or transiting the UAE, including as a result of unpaid debts in the country.

Buying Property

If you wish to buy property in the UAE, you should seek appropriate professional advice, as you would in Ireland.

Visitor's visa

Irish citizens can obtain a visitor's visa on arrival in the UAE. This visa has allowed the visitor to stay in the UAE for up to 30 days. The visa will terminate automatically on departure and a new 30-day visa will issue on arrival each time the same visitor returns to the UAE.

For a fee, Irish citizens can renew their initial visit visa twice for an additional 30 days without the need to leave the UAE. This can be done through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners’ Affairs (GDRFA).


If you do not renew your visa or leave the UAE within the duration of your visa, you will have to pay fines before you will be allowed to leave the country.

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

If you have any questions on the validity or expiry of your visa, contact UAE Immigration directly in Dubai on 04-3980000 or in Abu Dhabi on 02-4024500 , or contact the nearest UAE Embassy for advice.

Embassy contact

Embassy Contact

If you need emergency assistance from the Embassy, then contact us immediately. Our telephone number is: +971 (0) 2 4958200.

If you require emergency assistance at the weekend or on a public holiday, you will be asked to leave a message on the answering machine. The answering machine is monitored regularly, and the Duty Officer at the Embassy will contact you as soon as possible. When you leave a message, remember to state your name, the nature of the problem, where you are now, and the details of how the Duty Officer can contact you (e.g. leave your mobile phone number, or the phone number of the hotel/hostel where you are staying). If necessary, contact the police also. Please note that the Duty Officer will deal with emergencies only

Embassy of Ireland
Al Yasat Street off 6th Street
Al Bateen
P.O. Box 61581
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

Tel: +971 (0)2 4958200
Fax: +971 (0)2 6819233

Sunday to Thursday 09:00-13:00

Contact us