The United Arab Emirates Risk Report
Security travel advice for The United Arab Emirates
Threat level: Low-Medium
The United Arab Emirates was established in 1971 and is a federal state of seven Emirates. The UAE saw rapid growth from the start of oil production in the 1960s and the country has since become globally important not only as an oil producer, but as an international transport hub and tourist destination.
The UAE is a very stable country that does not have the terrorism problems of its neighbouring countries. The country has very good police and military forces and enjoys international co-operational and mentoring of both police and military from countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
There is a big difference between many of the Emirates, Dubai is very Westernised, whereas Emirates like Ras al Khaimah and Al Ain are quieter and more traditional. The UAE consists of:
- Abu Dhabi
- Ras al-Khaimah
- Umm al-Qaiwain
Recent Security Risk Events
While there have been no terror attacks in the UAE recently, 2015 saw the arrest of an Islamist terror cell who were planning a terrorist attack on shopping malls and hotels popular with tourists and expatriates. It is thought that the planned attack would echo the style of the attacks on the Nairobi Westgate in Kenya, an attack that saw the deaths of 67 people.
Crime is very low in the United Arab Emirates, even the smallest of crime under Sharia law carries harsh penalties. Violent attacks are very rare and whilst there have been some sexual assaults over the years, these are at a much lower rate than you would find in Western cities.
It is very safe to walk around the United Arab Emirates and you will find on the whole the local Emirati to be very helpful and welcoming. Be respectful and mindful of local laws and customs at all times and in all dealings or communication with the Emirati.
Female visitors should take particular care with dressing respectfully in public areas such as malls, and where possible should not travel alone.
The United Arab Emirates has very good international relations with many countries around the world including the United Kingdom and United States of America. The country is a member of the United Nations and the Arab League and plays an important role within OPEC, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries.
It is possible to hire a vehicle in the United Arab Emirates with a UK, US or international driving licence. Many of the top international car hire firms have offices throughout the United Arab Emirates.
The standard of driving across the whole of the UAE is not very high. The World Health Organisation has stated that you are seven times more likely to be killed in a road traffic incident in the UAE than in the UK. Speed is the main cause of death across the UAE. If you are going to self-drive, ensure that you fully understand what to do in the event of a road traffic accident. Each of the Emirates have slightly different rules: road rage can lead to imprisonment, fines or deportation. Do not give offensive gestures to other road users.
Desert driving is very different to normal “off-road” driving, if you are travelling into the desert, you should do so only in a 4x4 vehicle and with an experienced driver. Drivers should ensure that they have a good supply of bottled water on board as well as emergency supplies of fuel if travelling on long journeys or travelling out to the desert.
Most of the UAE has very good mobile telephone coverage even out into parts of the desert however this cannot be relied upon; it is advised to ensure that you have a satellite telephone if you are venturing into the desert.
It is not uncommon in the UAE for drivers to ignore road marking, lights or warnings. The best advice is to drive defensively yet to remain courteous to other road users.
Currency: UAE dirham (AED)
Time now in Abu Dhabi:
Visitors from the UK, EU and USA do not require a visa prior to travel to the UAE. A visa can be obtained (free of charge) for 30 days upon arrival which can be further extended by 30 days if necessary. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months.
It is advised that visitors to United Arab Emirates are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus, which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider a Hepatitis A vaccination. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Medical facilities within the United Arab Emirates are highly advanced, the region has many training hospitals and dental clinics. Private health care and dental procedures can work out cheaper in the United Arab Emirates than in the USA or Europe.
Visitors to the UAE should ensure that they have adequate travel and health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment in the UAE as well as repatriation if necessary. Visitors who will be travelling with prescribed medicines should carry a doctor's letter confirming the medicine is prescribed for their use and produce it if asked.
The United Arab Emirates are on the whole very strictly religious; while many allow alcohol in tourist areas and hotels, often the line can be blurred. Over the years there have been a number of arrests of tourists for acting overtly sexually or inappropriately. It is important to understand what standards of dress are expected, how to greet people, when Islamic holidays are and what changes during those times; for example during the "holy month of Ramadan".
All visitors to the UAE are reminded that although the UAE is very tolerant, they do expect a certain level of respect and behaviour. The authorities take a very dim light of local laws and customs being disrespected; arrest can result in imprisonment, fines and deportation.
A good source of tips and advice on Islamic culture and the "dos and don'ts" for visiting a Muslim country can be found here: Travelling to a Muslim country
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi
Airport Road at Rabdan (29th) Street,
Embassies District, Plot 38,
Street No. 4,
United Arab Emirates
Telephone: +971 241 422 00
British Embassy Abu Dhabi
Khalid bin Al Waleed St (Street 22),
PO Box 248,
United Arab Emirates
Telephone: +971 261 011 00
Other useful info
UAE General Police HQ 04 2229222
UAE Traffic & Licensing 04 2292222
Fire emergency: 997
Medical emergency: 998
Helicopter/Air Ambulance: 999