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5 Strange and Expensive Laws in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) for Residents and Tourists

Written by Sean Smith

It doesn’t matter if you live in Dubai or are just visiting, there are rules that must be followed or else the offender can face hefty fines, jail time, or even be deported.  Here are just five of Dubai’s strangest and more expensive rules:

Checking Someone’s Phone

“It is illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to ‘invade the privacy of another person’ using computer networks or social media. This can lead to a minimum six-month jail sentence and a fine of between 100,000 and 500,000 dirhams” (between $27,224 and $136,120).  This applies to checking someone’s phone activity to even transferring information from one phone to another.

“A case hit the headlines in 2016 when a woman in Ajman was accused of breaching her husband’s privacy after transferring photos from his phone to hers via WhatsApp. She later accused him of having an affair. As well as being fined 150,000 dirhams ($40, 836), the woman was deported.”

Eating or Drinking on Public Transport

Many people eat or drink while traveling to and from places.  It’s one way of having a meal or satisfying a craving throughout the day.  The problem is eating and drinking are absolutely banned on all forms of public transport, including their stations, from metros and buses to pedestrian crossings.  If someone is caught consuming food and beverages, this can cost 100 dirhams ($27).

Using a VPN

According to the UAE’s cybercrime laws, VPN users can face fines ranging between 500,000 and 2 million dirhams ($136,120 and $544,484) if they are “using a false IP address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery.” Committing a cybercrime seems logical to punish, but everyday people everywhere access copyrighted material for a variety of purposes, especially for studying.  People in the UAE risk very large fines if caught doing this or even trying to access restricted or blocked sites.

Taking and Sharing Photos of Road or Aviation Accidents

In this age of social media, people enjoy getting news with all of its graphic details as soon as an event is happening.  People can often submit pictures and videos, and may even receive monetary compensation for them.  People in the UAE already have to be careful of the pictures they take. “As well as a prohibition against taking pictures of military buildings, courts and palaces, (they) are not permitted to take any pictures of road accidents (they) see on (their) journeys.” Doing this could cost them between 50,000 and 3 million dirhams (between $13,612 and $816,726), and they also run the risk of deportation. These fines also include aviation accidents where “posting images and videos on social media platforms is completely prohibited.”

Having a Dirty Car

 Most people who own a car have driven it while it was dirty at some point or another.  Keeping it clean can be difficult depending on the weather and where the car is kept.  Sandstorms in the UAE often cause cars to become dusty, so driving a dirty car seems possible.  Dirty cars in the UAE are “disfiguring the city image and public health,” so dirty cars are not allowed.  People with dirty cars often get them towed away, and owners have to pay fines and impound fees of 3,000 dirhams ($817).

Living in or visiting another country, especially Dubai, might seem glamorous and very exciting.  Part of this may be true, but people have to be very careful of all the rules and laws put in place.  One violation can change a life forever.


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About the author

Sean Smith