For urgent consular assistance call
+61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
1300 555 135 from within Australia
For information about COVID-19, read our article.
Do you or someone you know need help?
26 March 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global travel to an unprecedented extent.
A travel ban is in place for all Australians. You will not be able to depart Australia to travel overseas.
If you’re trying to get home, and can still book commercial flights, do so as soon as possible.
If you cannot leave or prefer to stay where you are, make plans to remain for an extended period. Ensure you have a safe place to stay, follow the advice of local authorities and minimise your risk of exposure to COVID-19. Stay in touch with family and friends so they know you are safe.
Our network of embassies and consular posts around the world will provide you with up to date local advice and support throughout this difficult period. We also encourage you to subscribe to Smartraveller for the latest advice.
For more information see our Coronavirus (COVID-19) – information for Australian travellers page.
For urgent consular assistance contact:
For non-urgent inquiries, email email@example.com
Do you or someone you know need help?
For urgent consular assistance call
+61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
1300 555 135 from within Australia
For information about COVID-19, read our article.
Do you or someone you know need help?
Full travel advice: Safety
Full travel advice: Health
Full travel advice: Local laws
Full travel advice: Travel
The security situation in the region remains unpredictable and could deteriorate with little or no warning.
On January 3, 2020, an Iranian senior commander and Iraqi paramilitary leaders were killed in a US airstrike near Baghdad International Airport. On 8 January, Iran fired missiles against two military bases in Iraq. Iranian authorities have also acknowledged responsibility for the shooting down of a Ukrainian International Airlines flight shortly after take-off from Tehran on 8 January.
Conflicts in the Gulf region could affect the UAE.
Rebel groups in Yemen have threatened to target neighbouring countries with unmanned aerial systems such as drones and missiles. This includes the UAE.
There have been drones and long-range missiles launched into Saudi Arabia. These have targeted populated areas and civilian infrastructure.
Be alert and monitor local and international media. In the event of a security incident, follow the advice of local authorities.
Demonstrations in the UAE are rare. They must be authorised by the government.
To protect yourself in periods of unrest:
UAE authorities have arrested several alleged terrorists for possibly planning attacks.
Several terrorist attacks have happened in the wider Gulf region in recent years. More attacks could occur.
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Attacks could occur at any time and could target:
The UAE has a low crime rate.
Pickpocketing and bag snatching occurs but is rare.
Incidents of drink spiking are reported.
Physical and verbal harassment and sexual assaults occur. Avoid walking alone after dark in isolated places, including pedestrian underpasses.
If you experience sexual assault, you may not be considered the victim of a crime. You may face criminal charges.
Sexual assault victims have been jailed after reporting incidents to local police or when seeking medical help.
If you're a victim of sexual assault, find out about support services as quickly as possible from the:
Consular officers can't provide legal or medical advice. However, they can provide lists of English-speaking service providers who may be able to help.
See Local contacts
At the beach, be aware of strong currents and obey warning signs.
Transport and tour operators don't always follow safety and maintenance standards. This includes adventure activities.
If you plan to do a tour or adventure activity:
If proper safety equipment isn't available, use another provider.
The UAE experiences extremely high temperatures. The hottest months of the year are June to September. The temperature can exceed 50°C.
In extreme heat, stay out of the sun and drink water to avoid dehydration.
Sandstorms and dust storms often happen.
In winter months, morning fog can significantly reduce visibility. This can cause flight delays and road hazards.
Take extra care if you're driving. Plan your travel in advance.
Although they're rare, the UAE can experience severe thunderstorms, strong winds and heavy rain, particularly during spring and autumn.
Flash flooding can cause dangerous driving conditions.
Flash flooding in river canyons (wadis) has caused some deaths in recent years.
In severe weather, stay indoors and avoid driving if possible.
Monitor the media and local government websites, such as:
The NCEMA Facebook page (Arabic) is updated during a crisis.
Earth tremors occur in the UAE, particularly following a major earthquake elsewhere in the region.
Access more information about natural disasters from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.
If a natural disaster happens, follow the advice of local authorities.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave. Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
If you need counselling services, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305. Ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you arrive with certain medication, you may not be allowed into the country or may be prosecuted. Get pre-approval and the required documents before you arrive.
There are also laws about bringing certain medications into the UAE. Authorities have detained or deported travellers for:
Before you leave Australia:
You can only bring a 3-month supply of medicine, whether entering or transiting the UAE.
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has confirmed a number of COVID-19 cases. Local authorities have also introduced strict measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 and announced severe fines for breaches.
Monitor the media for latest information and follow the instructions of local authorities.
Cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been reported in:
Other countries have reported imported cases from returned travellers.
Avoid contact with camels. Don't consume raw camel milk, undercooked camel meat, or anything contaminated with camel secretions.
Get medical advice if you have a fever, cough, breathing difficulties or diarrhoea.
Waterborne, foodborne, parasitic and other infectious diseases sometimes occur. Get medical advice if you develop a fever or diarrhoea.
Dust storms and sandstorms can make breathing issues worse.
Red tide algal blooms sometimes affect beaches. This can cause:
Don't swim in affected water. Check with local authorities about outbreaks.
If there's a red tide alert, follow local warnings. This algal bloom can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. Avoid shellfish and seafood because they may be affected.
The standard of public medical facilities in major cities is adequate. However, services might not be available in remote areas.
Several private facilities meet international standards. You can find these in:
There's no reciprocal healthcare agreement between Australia and the UAE. Before treating patients, hospitals often ask for:
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
Behaviour that could be considered offensive or antisocial, but not criminal, in Australia could violate UAE law. Anyone breaking UAE laws, even without knowing, may face severe punishments.
UAE law applies to you even if you're only transiting and don't leave the airport.
The UAE is a mostly Muslim country. Local laws closely reflect Islamic practices and beliefs.
Sharia or Islamic courts work alongside the civil and criminal courts in the UAE. This can make legal issues and systems complicated.
Even simple legal issues can be complex and take time to be resolved. Custodial sentences are served in local jails.
If you come to the attention of UAE authorities, your case will be dealt with by the local legal and judicial system. This differs significantly from Australia's legal system.
If you're arrested, authorities may hold you for a long time before your case goes to trial. UAE authorities can hold your passport and stop you from leaving the country. Even simple legal issues can take a long time to resolve. Custodial sentences are served in local jails.
If you're going to be deported, you'll be in immigration detention for at least 24 hours before being allowed to leave the UAE.
To get a list of lawyers who can represent you, either:
If you're arrested or jailed, we will do what we can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
The UAE is made up of 7 emirates, each with its own justice system. Laws, legal procedures and penalties vary between systems.
There's a federal court system with a final court of appeal in Abu Dhabi. This is called the Abu Dhabi Supreme Court. Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah aren't part of this system.
Australians are often involved in disputes where local firms or courts have taken their passport. This prevents them from leaving the UAE until the dispute is settled.
You can be jailed or stopped from leaving the UAE for offences, including:
If you travel to the UAE with an unpaid UAE debt, authorities are likely to detain you on arrival. This applies even if you're only in transit and don't plan to leave the airport.
Bail is generally not available to non-residents arrested for fraud. You can be jailed until debts are settled.
If you take part in activities involving local legal matters, get professional legal advice. This is particularly relevant for family law matters including:
Ask a legal professional about your rights and responsibilities.
If you have children or assets in the UAE, get local legal advice about preparing a local will.
Child custody decisions are based on Islamic law.
The UAE has a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs, including for travellers transiting through the country. No one accused of drug crimes is eligible for bail.
Penalties for drug trafficking may include the death penalty, or a sentence up to life imprisonment.
Penalties for having or using illegal drugs include lengthy jail terms and heavy fines. These laws also apply if you're transiting through the UAE.
If illegal drugs are found in blood or urine tests, this is considered possession. It won't matter where or how long ago you consumed the drugs.
You can be charged with possession if trace amounts of drugs are found on your body, clothing or luggage. You can be convicted for 0.05g or less.
Avoid carrying substances that could be mistaken for drugs or drug equipment. This can include, for example, marijuana-flavoured or branded:
Lab testing on suspicious substances could take days or weeks. During this time, authorities could detain you without bail.
You can be fined, jailed or deported for:
It's illegal to harass women in the UAE. Behaviour that may offend or be considered illegal includes:
Taking photographs of people, particularly women, without permission can lead to arrest or fines. This also applies to people you've just met.
Posting photos of people or their personal belongings on social media without their consent can be illegal. This includes people in the background of photos.
You can be arrested for intimate public displays of affection, including kissing. This behaviour can attract the attention of local authorities. See Local customs below.
If you engage in unauthorised preaching or distribute non-Islamic religious material to Muslims, you can be jailed and deported.
If you make offensive comments about Islam either in writing or verbally, you could be jailed or subject to other penalties.
The UAE has strict laws about online behaviour, including comments.
Online behaviour that may be considered a crime includes:
Punishments for these crimes include:
Charity and fundraising activities are closely regulated, including when conducted online and via social media. Make sure charity or volunteer organisations are registered with the UAE Government before you take part.
Sex outside of marriage (adultery) is illegal in the UAE. Foreigners have been jailed for having sex with people they aren't married to.
De facto relationships and civil unions aren't recognised in the UAE. Sexual acts within these relationships are considered as outside of marriage.
It's illegal to live with, or share accommodation with, someone of the opposite sex who is not either:
You may be asked to prove you're legally married when checking into a hotel as a couple. This applies to UAE residents and visitors.
Authorities have targeted foreigners for sub-leasing accommodation from someone of the opposite sex.
Same-sex relationships are illegal and may lead to severe punishment, including prison and fines.
Cross-dressing is also illegal.
If you're transgender or intersex, or your gender on your passport doesn't match your appearance, you may:
If you're travelling on an Australian passport showing 'X' (indeterminate, intersex or unspecified) in the gender field, you won't be able to enter the UAE.
Prostitution is illegal in the UAE.
Severe penalties apply to:
If you're unmarried and fall pregnant or give birth in the UAE, you may face legal problems. These can include:
You'll also have trouble registering a birth if the date of your marriage (with the parent of the child) is less than 9 months before the birth of the child. It won't matter where conception took place.
The father may have to face court before a birth certificate is issued.
The UAE has specific laws about alcohol.
There are limits on how much duty-free alcohol you can bring in. These limits are strictly enforced.
The Emirate of Sharjah is 'dry' which means the sale or consumption of alcohol is illegal. You can't carry alcohol in your car if you're:
It's illegal for Muslims to have or drink alcohol in other parts of the UAE, including:
It's illegal for non-Muslims to sell or offer alcohol to Muslims.
Non-Muslim UAE residents must hold a government-issued liquor licence to:
This includes drinking in your home.
A liquor licence is only valid in the Emirate that issues it. For example, a liquor licence issued in Abu Dhabi isn't valid in Dubai.
Alcohol is sold in a few designated stores. Only liquor licence holders can buy it.
Alcohol is served in bars and clubs at many major hotels. Only non-Muslim hotel guests and liquor licence holders can drink in these venues.
The legal drinking age in Abu Dhabi is 18 years. However, a Ministry of Tourism by-law means hotels can only serve alcohol to people aged over 21 years.
The legal drinking age in Dubai and the northern Emirates is 21 years.
It's illegal to be intoxicated in public outside of licenced venues. You can be arrested. Authorities have arrested travellers at the airport for becoming intoxicated on a flight or while in transit.
Be careful if you're using a taxi when intoxicated. If you have a dispute with a driver or vomit in a taxi, you may be:
If you commit a crime after drinking alcohol, you'll probably be charged with both that offence and with intoxication.
Penalties for alcohol-related offences include fines, jail or deportation.
You must have a valid work permit from the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation for any type of employment.
If you plan to work, sort out terms and conditions or sponsorship before starting. This will minimise the risk of a dispute.
If you get into a dispute, a special department of the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation can review and help settle your claim.
Your UAE employer may ask to hold your passport as a condition of employment. This is illegal, but not unusual.
An employer can hold your passport for a short time when arranging, renewing or cancelling your visa or work permit. If your passport is held for a longer period, either:
If you’ve been a resident in the UAE, make sure you cancel your work visa before leaving the country permanently. If you don't, it may seem like you're running away. In this case, you could be arrested if you return to or even transit through the UAE.
You have to take a full medical exam to get a work or residence permit. This includes an HIV/AIDS test. HIV certificates issued by foreign medical authorities aren't accepted.
Serious crimes can attract the death penalty. Serious crimes include:
The UAE Government has a list of groups it considers to be terrorist organisations.
If you're associated with groups, you could be refused entry or arrested and detained.
In the UAE it's illegal to:
Penalties for discriminating and vandalising can include:
You must have written approval from the UAE Ministry of Defence to transport law enforcement or military equipment into or through the UAE.
This equipment includes:
Australians, including those transiting through UAE airports, have been punished for transporting this equipment without written approval. Some have been jailed or deported.
It's illegal to photograph:
Taking part in some hobbies, particularly around these sites, can break the law. These include:
Register drones with the Civil Aviation Authority of the relevant Emirate before you use them.
It's illegal for residents to drive without a UAE driver's licence once they have residency. Non-residents and travellers must have an International Driving Permit (IDP).
Although common in the UAE, it's illegal to use a mobile phone, eat or drink while driving.
Other illegal activities include:
It's illegal to drive after drinking alcohol. You may be jailed or fined if you have any alcohol in your blood when driving. These laws are strictly enforced in the UAE.
Police must be called to all road accidents, including single vehicle accidents. It's illegal to leave the scene of a traffic accident.
If you have an accident, don't take photos of the other car without the driver's permission.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
The UAE doesn't recognise dual nationality.
If you're a dual citizen, this limits the consular services we can give if you're arrested or detained.
Dual nationals must enter and depart the UAE on the same passport.
Children born in the UAE to Emirati fathers automatically become UAE citizens. They must enter and leave the UAE on UAE passports.
Child custody decisions are based on Islamic law. Speak to a lawyer about custody disputes. Find out if your children could be prevented from leaving the country.
The Islamic holiday month of Ramadan will be from late April to late May in 2020. Respect religious and cultural customs and laws at this time.
During Ramadan, it's illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset. This includes in private vehicles.
Avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public or in front of people who are fasting.
The UAE is a mostly Muslim country with strict standards of dress and behaviour. Take care not to offend.
Get familiar with local customs, culture and attitudes before leaving Australia.
Research dress codes for tourist attractions, shopping malls, beaches and other public places. These are often displayed onsite or available on websites.
Dress modestly, especially in Sharjah and Ajman where Islamic law is strictly enforced.
If you're a woman, cover your shoulders and knees.
Get local advice if in doubt about appropriate dress.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders.
Make sure you meet all entry and exit conditions. If you don't, the Australian Government can't help you.
The UAE has already suspended entry of all visa holders until at least 2 April. This includes visa on arrival and the visas of UAE residents who are currently outside the country. Only UAE citizens are allowed to enter the UAE.
Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the nearest UAE Embassy or Consulate-General for details about visas, entry permits, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
Diplomatic and official passport holders must obtain a visa before travelling.
UAE has suspended all passenger flights, including transits and closed its ports to cruise liners until further notice. Monitor media for the latest information and follow the advice of local authorities.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has established hotlines (+971 (0) 9 208 3344 and +971 (0) 2 496 5228) and a webform for the UAE residents.
If you have unresolved criminal charges, including unpaid debts in the UAE, authorities may detain you when you arrive. Immigration officials may then transfer you to police custody. This can be the case even if you only plan to transit through the airport. See Local laws
Immigration authorities can refuse you entry if you have a criminal record. It won't matter how long ago the offence took place.
If you're worried about authorities denying you entry, contact UAE embassy or Consulate-General before you leave Australia.
It's illegal to import:
Authorities may examine and censor or confiscate videos, books and magazines.
It's illegal to carry weapons or replica weapons, including used bullet cartridges, into the UAE.
Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
If you're travelling on an Australian passport showing 'X' (indeterminate, intersex, or unspecified) in the sex field, you won't be able to enter the UAE. You can only enter or transit through the UAE if you carry a passport that shows the sex specified as ‘F’ (female) or ‘M’ (male).
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
The UAE only accepts Australian emergency passports for transits of up to 96 hours. You must carry an onward ticket if transiting on an emergency passport.
If you're a UAE resident and lose your Australian passport while overseas, contact your nearest UAE embassy. They can give advice on re-entering. Do this before applying for an emergency passport.
If you lose your passport before passing through UAE immigration, you must return to Australia on the next available flight.
Once you're in Australia, you can apply for a full passport. The Australian Embassy can't issue you a new passport if you haven't cleared UAE immigration.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
Foreigners must provide their passports for scanning when checking in to a hotel.
If UAE law enforcement take your passport for any reason, make sure they give you a receipt. You'll need the receipt to collect it later and when checking in to accommodation.
The local currency is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED).
Currency exchange outlets and ATMs are readily available throughout the UAE. Credit cards are widely accepted.
You must declare cash above AED100,000 or the equivalent in other currencies. This covers all forms of currency, not only cash.
If you're on a tourist visa and want to drive, you must get an International Driving Permit before leaving Australia.
You're twice as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in the UAE as in Australia.
Accidents often occur due to:
When driving, be aware of other dangers, including:
Pedestrian deaths and serious injuries on the road are common in the UAE. Only cross the road at marked crossings. However, still take extra care. Vehicles won't always give way.
Off-road driving can be dangerous. Ensure vehicles are well equipped and properly maintained.
If you're driving in desert areas, travel with at least 1 other vehicle. Use a GPS and take enough petrol and water.
Land border crossing points may close without notice. If you plan to leave the UAE by road, check the border crossing is open before you depart.
If you're entering the Gulf area by sea, be aware that many areas are sensitive about security and territory.
Maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf are under dispute between Iran and the UAE.
Relevant authorities have inspected vessels, and detained and arrested people. Make enquiries before entering these waters.
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check the UAE's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
For consular assistance, contact:
8th Floor, Al Muhairy Centre
Zayed the First Street
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Phone: (+971 2) 401 7500
Fax: (+971 2) 401 7501
25th Floor, Burjuman Centre Office Tower
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road (Trade Centre Road)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Phone: (+971 4) 508 7100
Fax: (+971 4) 355 1547
The working week of the Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate-General in Dubai is Sunday to Thursday. This is in line with local practice.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all visitors to the Australian Embassy (Abu Dhabi) and Consulate-General (Dubai) must have an appointment. Check the Embassy website for more information, including details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
Be the first to know official government advice when travelling.