Do’s and Don’ts; Tips for Newcomers to United Arab Emirates (UAE)

April 20 , 2021 by: Tash Boudville

Are you planning on visiting the UAE for the first time? Have you ever thought as an Expat or Nomad to learn the United Arab Emirates etiquette and values? Do you want to know how you can show respect to locals and gain their respect back? This article will give you everything you need to know when traveling to any country within the UAE.

First off, do you know what countries get classed as UAE? If you do not know. That is okay. The UAE covers the following seven emirates, which include Dubai. Abu Dhabi. Sharjah. Ras Al Khaimah. Fujairah, and lastly, Umm Al-Quwain. All of which joined a singular federation by 1972.

Typically the UAE law system is strict, and travelers, expats, and nomads do not get a lesser treatment than the locals. So it is highly recommended that you understand the local laws and respect the Islam religion before making your way into any of the seven emirates.

In this article you will find the deal breakers for personal space and the preferred payment method a traveler should use. I will also give you tips on how to greet the locals. I will mention the rules of alcohol in the UAE.

Lastly, I will talk about the gender etiquette that typically arises in the UAE only and gestures that show respect to the locals.

Personal Space/Personal Hygiene

When it comes to personal space, you need to understand and respect that many people do not like to be touched by complete strangers. In the UAE, it is a cultural etiquette that person space and hygiene fall underneath. Typically when greeting a local as a tourist, you do not go in for a hug nor handshake unless they are family or make the first move.

Personal hygiene is crucial in the countries within the UAE. For instance, the left-hand gets reserved for cleaning yourself. Typically in the UAE, most households and restaurants use their hands for eating, and it gets seen as unclean if you use your left hand for picking up your food. This rule applies to both left and right-handed people. In short, do not use your left hand to eat your food.

Payment methods

There are at least ten different payment methods that get accepted in the UAE. Although, the preferred and old-fashioned way of paying is by cash. However, if you do not have money on you, you can always use a credit or debit card as most places accept card payments.

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Islamic standards for Expats and Nomads


When traveling in the UAE as an expat or nomad, you must obey the local laws. Following the law is the main thing to bear in mind. You will find that traveling through the Islamic world is a safer, welcoming, and enjoyable experience for expats and nomads when understanding the local law.

Make sure to observe the local customs. If you are not too sure, you can always google the UAE laws as a traveler. This trick will make traveling in the Islamic world a safe, easy, and memorable experience. Typically if you forget crucial laws or customs, people are generally kind and will offer help. 

Do not:

Do not visit the mosques on Fridays. Due to the high density of Muslims within the UAE, Fridays are way too busy to wander around. Please note that Fridays get reserved for praying.


When it comes to alcohol in UAE, drinking starts at 21 years old, and smoking is allowed when you turn 18 years old. The UAE and many other Middle Eastern countries typically do not allow drinking to get permitted on the streets and, surprisingly, for Americans, not even in your own home. To enjoy alcoholic beverages at your home, you require an alcohol permit. 

Another thing you must know. If you plan on drinking a lot of alcohol, is do not get too wasted. This behavior is highly frowned upon, and you can face jail time and fines for being drunk in a public place and causing disorderly conduct.

Why does alcohol have rules? Due to religious and cultural restrictions of the religion Islam, everyone gets required to follow the no drinking in public and Avoid getting too intoxicated. This rule must be followed even by travelers. 

The Gender Etiquette

Although many parts of the world collectively treat men and women the same with the same rights. In Islamic countries, especially in the UAE, do not stray from their old culture and traditions. This difference means that women get treated unequally and that women get perceived as the inferior gender vs. male.

How does this affect you? Well, as a man or woman visitor, you must not shake hands with a person of the opposite sex if they are not in the same family. However, when meeting someone of the opposite sex, you can always place your hand over your heart to show that they are welcome. Although, you may shake hands with a local if they extend their arm out first. 


Gestures are crucial in the world of Islam. Kind or honorable gestures get seen as you being admirable. These gestures are also highly appreciated in the Middle East and Arab cultures, especially in the UAE.


If you are at a restaurant or a café, it gets shown as you showing politeness if you offer your food to others first, even if there is only enough for one person. Most of the time, they will politely decline in return. But it is always reassuring to ask anyway. 

Do not: 

When in an Islamic country, Dress modestly or appropriately. This rule applies to both men and women. In the Islam community, it is a custom for women to wear a headscarf. Women also must wear long sleeves tunics and long trousers/skirts. For men, the same rule applies. But instead of a headscarf, they can wear either a ghutra, Bisht, or serwal. 

The most recommended dress code out of the lot is for expats, nomads, and digital nomads women to wear a hijab or headscarf to avoid unwanted attention from local men. 



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