Memo for American expats in the UAE


The United Arab Emirates is really wonderful country. There are a great number of expatriates living here. Over 50 000 Americans are living in Dubai and Abu Dhabi today.

Is UAE safe for Americans?

What you need to remember about this Gulf country?

Crime and safety in UAE

It is difficult to measure criminal statistic in UAE due to host government’s policy of not releasing crime information.

If we compare similar cities in the world, we can find out that Abu Dhabi’s crime rate appears to be significantly lower.  Crimes such as pickpocketing, petty theft, scams, assault, and sexual harassment do occur, although weapons are rarely used.

Tip to remember:

! There are laws against taking photos in areas designated “No Photography Zones” like the embassy district, government buildings, military bases, and key infrastructure sites. Also, taking photos of women or individuals in public locations may also result in confrontation or reaction by security or police.

Roads Safety

Traffic accidents are on the first place as a cause of death in the UAE and unsafe driving practices are common throughout the country.

Unsafe road conditions: fog, unmarked speed bumps and drifting sand create.

Police patrols and cameras are located at most intersections, and traffic enforcement is taken very seriously. Fines are expensive and target speeders, erratic drivers and those using cell phones while driving. Red light offenses are especially serious, resulting in large fines, points on a driver’s license, and possible jail time combined with impounding vehicle for up to 30 days. Traffic lights go from green to red quickly, and due to the presence of police cameras, drivers often come to a stop hurriedly, causing rear-end collisions at intersections. Vehicles frequently turn from non-designated turning lanes at major intersections, so it is important to pay close attention to surrounding traffic.

Persons involved in accidents in which another party is injured automatically go to jail until the injured person is released from the hospital. In addition, if the Saaed officer (contracted by the Abu Dhabi police to respond to accidents) at the scene cannot determine who is at fault, an Abu Dhabi traffic police officer will be contacted to resolve the situation. If fault cannot be determined, both parties will be taken to the local police station to resolve the situation. Even relatively minor accidents may result in lengthy proceedings, during which both drivers may be prohibited from leaving the country.


Be careful riding by taxi. It is better do not set in the front seat and do not engage in idle conversation. Being too friendly with the driver may cause him to misunderstand your intentions. Tell the driver where you want to go and end the conversation.

Alcohol and driving

Drinking and driving (any trace of alcohol is punishable) and alcohol-related incidents are considered serious offenses and can result in arrest, jail time, heavy fines, and deportation.

Always keep your vehicle doors locked and windows closed; do not leave valuables in plain view.

Drug-related Crimes

The UAE intensify security at airports, land routes, seaports, border crossings, and coastline patrols.
The possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs can result in long jail sentences, heavy fines, and even the death penalty if convicted for drug trafficking.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. nationals detained or arrested should request that the authorities contact the Embassy consular section; The American Citizen Services phone number is (+971) 2 414-2200.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Situational Awareness Best Practices

Americans in the UAE should exercise a high level of security awareness. Failure to follow basic security measures and complacency has resulted in theft and harassment cases. It is important to follow the same security guidelines that you would follow in any major city. This includes basic principles such as locking doors, securing personal items, and maintaining situational awareness.

While the UAE is western in its outlook, the local culture is conservative and Americans should be careful not to offend local (Islamic) sensibilities. Dress should be conservative and women should avoid wearing shorts, short skirts, and sleeveless attire. Western females are occasionally harassed, particularly on the Corniche. Women should dress modestly when walking outdoors and are advised to travel in groups. Public display of affection should be avoided and is considered a violation of local law in the UAE.

Vary routes and times. Vary routines and places of activities.

Carry your mobile phone with emergency numbers pre-programmed and do not use your phone while driving. If possible, let a friend or acquaintance know when you’re out, where you will be and where you can be reached.

If approached by a police officer, ask for identification and be prepared to show your identification that permits your presence in the country.

Control the keys to your residence and lock doors even when home. If you will be away from your residence for any length of time, have a friend check on the residence. Leave lights on and ensure that doors and windows are locked.

If you are being followed, do not drive home. Go to a safe location (a police station or a familiar populated area). Draw attention to yourself to ward off suspicious person(s). If your follower is in a vehicle, try to obtain a license plate number and vehicle description.

Be secure in the Internet

It is highly important to stay secure in the Internet. Using vpn is a good solution for this.