Stay safe in United Arab Emirates
Visitors should be less concerned about crime than about harsh law enforcement.
Homosexuality can be heavily sanctioned, so gay and lesbian tourists need to be very discreet.
There are a few things you need to know about drug laws in the UAE. Some painkillers commonly used in Western countries are illegal narcotics in the UAE, such as codeine. Do not bring them with you unless you have a copy of your prescription or join other people who have been sentenced to prison. Antibiotics, on the other hand, are available over the counter at pharmacies. If you get a prescription for controlled drugs in the UAE, such as certain painkillers and antidepressants, make sure you have a copy of the prescription with you when you travel outside the country.
Another pitfall for the unwary is that if you are suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a blood test may be carried out and if this reveals the presence of illegal substances in the UAE, you are likely to end up in jail, even if these substances were taken in the country you were in before. In addition to blood tests, they are likely to check your personal belongings. People have been jailed for drug possession because they found microscopic traces of drugs on their bodies using very sensitive equipment.
Another area of concern is the very high rate of road accidents: In addition to the caution required when driving a vehicle, crossing the road on foot can also be very dangerous.
Stay healthy in United Arab Emirates
General medical care in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah is quite good. General and specialist clinics are widely available, some of which are now open 24 hours a day. Hospitals in the major centres are well equipped to handle all medical emergencies. An ambulance system is available in all major urban centres; however, coverage may be uneven in more remote areas. Ambulances are designed for transport rather than primary care, so do not expect highly skilled care on site.
The main Abu Dhabi government hospital is quite good, as is Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, now run by the Cleveland Clinic.
In Dubai, the government hospitals are Rashid Hospital, which has a new trauma centre, and Dubai Hospital, which are very good. Welcare Hospital American Hospital Zulekha Hospital NMC Hospital and Belhoul Hospital in the private sector all have a good reputation. The country is malaria-free and prophylaxis is not necessary. In Sharjah, the Kuwaiti (government) hospital accepts expatriates. Private hospitals in Sharjah are Zahra Hospital, Zulekha Hospital and Central Private Hospital. Prices including healthcare are generally cheaper in Sharjah and although all hospitals meet Ministry of Health standards, the Central Private Hospital and Zulekha Hospitals are considered more affordable.
Al Ain is home to a number of modern hospitals and health centres: Tawam Hospital, now run by John Hopkins and housing the UAE University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences; Al Ain Hospital (also called Al Jimi Hospital because it is located in the Al Jimi district), now run by the Medical University of Vienna; and the private Oasis Hospital, formerly known as Kennedy Hospital, which was founded and run by Christian missionaries and was the city’s first hospital.
Water is safe to drink in the UAE, although most people prefer bottled water for its taste. Food is clean and served to Western standards in most restaurants, especially in tourist areas; however, hygiene can be a problem in some outdoor venues, especially street stalls. Still, food poisoning can occur, so use common sense!
In summer, the heat can reach 50°C. Therefore, avoid outdoor activities during the maximum temperature of the day and watch out for signs of heat stroke. Be sure to drink plenty of water as dehydration can easily occur in such heat. If you are travelling off-road (most of the country is desert), carry enough water to run to the road in case vehicles get stuck.
Although the UAE is slightly more accommodating to disabled travellers than other countries in the Middle East, it would still be a difficult country to navigate with a wheelchair. Pavements are high and there are few, if any, ramps or other facilitators. In particular, bathrooms for the disabled are almost non-existent.