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Ways to Get Arrested in Dubai

It's scarily easy for unwitting tourists to get arrested in Dubai. Don't believe it? Take a look at some of the ways others have gotten cuffed in this super-strict region.

Getting in trouble with the law is scary as can be, especially if it's the first time for you. When you're in a foreign country, it's even worse, simply because you might not realize why you're being cuffed. 

Despite being a thrilling and cool place to visit (fun fact: it's even home to one of the world's craziest water slides), Dubai has a reputation for being particularly strict—and for having lots of tourists getting arrested due to things that would be seemingly minor infractions (or total non-issues) elsewhere. 

Truth be told, a lot of it is due to culture clashes and not being aware of what's considered to be taboo. This is true, even in places in Dubai that are often seen as more progressive. That being said, a lot of people would be shocked when they hear some of the ways to get arrested in Dubai. 

Swearing or Making Rude Gestures in Public

Dubai is a really, really manners-oriented area. This might be the only city in the world where even the construction workers avoid saying swear words. Then again, they have every reason to avoid swearing or making rude gestures.

According to local laws, this is one of the easiest ways to get arrested in Dubai. Freedom of speech really isn't a "thing" here, at least when it comes to swear words and raising the middle finger to people. 


If you thought that the illegalization of swearwords was bad, wait until you hear this. You don't actually have to speak any words in order to get arrested while in Dubai. 

A couple of years ago, an Indian couple who went to Dubai were arrested for exchanging flirty text messages. Save the eggplant emojis for a different trip, OK?

Intimate Gestures in Public

In the United Arab Emirates, having an affair is an arrest-worthy offense, so it's really not surprising that PDA doesn't have a nice reputation in Dubai, either. Typically, you'd think this means actually being caught in the act, right?

What most people would be shocked to find out, though, is that things as innocent as kissing or hand-holding are ways to get arrested in Dubai. Generally speaking, it's best to act as if your spouse is a friend while in this city. Anything else may be considered lewd. 

Sharing a Hotel Room While Unmarried

Watch out if you want to book a room in Dubai! It's illegal in the United Arab Emirates to share a hotel room with someone of the opposite sex who isn't married to you or a close relative. Even getting into the country as an unmarried couple can be rough, if not impossible to do in most situations. So you're not married? Well, then Dubai is likely not one of the best vacations for a romantic getaway

If you're an unmarried couple traveling to Dubai, you will likely need to have different hotel rooms—or better still, you might want to skip this location until you're married. 

Drinking Alcohol in Public

Though Dubai isn't entirely a dry city, drinking alcohol isn't really a wise choice. One of the more common ways to get arrested in Dubai, at least if you're a tourist, is to drink alcohol in an unlicensed venue or make the mistake of drinking in public.

The United Arab Emirates is a country that enforces a lot of elements of sharia law—especially when it comes to alcohol. As a result, finding liquor will be tough, and generally speaking, will be frowned upon.

Obviously, public intoxication would also be one of the ways to get arrested in Dubai. 

Smuggling Illegal Drugs, Selling Them, or Using Them

Like in most other countries, bringing drugs into the UAE is a quick and easy way to get arrested. In the UAE, the policies against drugs are as strict as they can get. Being caught with even a small amount of drugs will get you a minimum four years in prison. A large amount could cause you to get the death penalty. 

You don't even have to be caught with drugs to get drug charges. A positive urine, blood, or hair test is all you need in order to end up behind bars. 

Promoting a Charity on Social Media

It really doesn't take much to get detained in Dubai. Perhaps one of the most shocking ways to get arrested in Dubai is for...doing good? The UAE has exceptionally strict laws against fundraising without government approval. 

Promoting foreign charities via social media, in particular, has caused a number of tourists to get arrested and detained by police. One major case involving illegal charity promotion occurred in 2015 and resulted in the detention of a charity's founder. 

Accidentally Using Fake Currency

Counterfeit money is a major problem in the Middle East, and unfortunately, that doesn't bode well for tourists who aren't very good when it comes to noticing minor differences in cash. 

One of the ways to get arrested in Dubai is to be caught using fake currency. Though it's understandable why this is illegal, it can still be a shock to the poor individual who makes this mistake unknowingly. 

Posting ANYTHING Anti-Government or Anti-UAE Online

Social media is something you're probably going to want to avoid, simply because there are so many ways to get arrested in Dubai by using it. The easiest way to get arrested in the UAE is to post anything even remotely dissenting about the way the government runs things.

Speaking out against the government, or complaining about Dubai can get you thrown in jail, detained, or worse. Even posting a parody can get you in trouble. One foreigner made the mistake of posting a parody about Dubai youth culture, only to find himself in cuffs. 

Protesting in Public

Considering how quick the government is to clamp down on dissent, it's unsurprising that public protests are really not appreciated here. Protesting in public isn't allowed, and is one of many ways to get arrested in Dubai and the surrounding regions. 

Shocked? Don't be. The laws and customs here are notoriously strict. 

Dancing in Public

This American Dad clip may have taken place in Saudi Arabia, but it could have also happened in Dubai. Singing and dancing is illegal in Dubai—and it's safe to say that a lot of those gestures would have also been banned under the "lewd gesture" laws. 

That being said, Dubai isn't the worst place in the world, nor is Saudi Arabia—though there are also important things you should know before traveling to Saudi Arabia. However, if you want to enjoy it in its fullest, you need to be aware of all the laws, traditions, culture, and customs that people follow here.