Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

United Arab Emirates

  • Reviewed: 26 June 2017, 11:00 NZST
  • Still current at: 18 July 2018

Some Risk

There is some risk to your security in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to the threat from terrorism and we advise caution.

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The United Arab Emirates has suspended all flights to and from Qatar from 6 June 2017 until further notice. Qatar has also suspended all flights to and from the United Arab Emirates. New Zealanders travelling between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, or from New Zealand via Qatar to these destinations, are advised to contact their airline or travel agent to see if their bookings are affected and make alternative travel arrangements to reach their destination if necessary.

Normal entry requirements continue to apply for New Zealand passport holders for transit and entry to the United Arab Emirates, regardless of whether you also hold a Qatari residency.

The UAE Government has announced that it is an offence to show sympathy or bias towards Qatar, or demonstrate disapproval to the Government's current policy in relation to Qatar. This includes the use of social media or any other form of communication to voice sympathy or disapproval. Offenders could be imprisoned and subject to a fine. New Zealanders in the UAE are reminded they should familiarise themselves with local laws and customs and comply with them.

While the UAE has not experienced major terror attacks, international terrorist groups continue to threaten to carry out attacks in the Gulf region, including against Western interests. UAE authorities have in the past arrested a number of alleged terrorists in connection with possible attack planning.  

Government buildings, military facilities, public and commercial areas known to be frequented by Western expatriates and travellers, and places of worship, could be potential targets for attack and New Zealanders are advised to take particular care in these places.

Local and maritime safety
Travellers entering the Gulf area by sea should be aware that many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the Southern Gulf. Mariners are advised to make thorough enquires before entering these waters or visiting ports.

General travel advice
It is recommended that New Zealanders travelling to the UAE familiarise themselves with local laws and customs. There are serious penalties for acts that may not be illegal or inappropriate in New Zealand. Laws may also vary between the seven Emirates of the UAE.

There are strict laws in the UAE on personal conduct, particularly with regard to sex and relationships. Travellers and residents alike may be asked to prove their marital status when checking in to a hotel room together. Passports are now required, by law, when checking in to hotels. Sex outside of marriage, adultery and homosexual acts and relationships are considered illegal in the UAE. There have been instances where victims of sexual assault have been detained after reporting an incident to police or seeking medical assistance.

Modesty and discretion should be exercised in both dress and behaviour, including via all kinds of social media. The use of bad language, rude gestures, and public displays of affection, and behaviour that disrespects the Government, local culture or Islam,  may result in complaints and charges being laid by the local authorities. New Zealanders are advised to respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities, and to be mindful of their contributions via social media (posts, liking, sharing and comments). 

Alcohol is strictly prohibited in the Emirate of Sharjah. Elsewhere in the UAE, alcohol must only be consumed on licenced premises or at home providing the alcohol has been purchased with a license. There is zero tolerance for drink-driving, public drunkenness or drinking in public places. Failure to comply will result in imprisonment.  

There is also zero tolerance for illegal drugs and drug-related offences in the UAE. The penalties for drug trafficking, smuggling and possession (of any quantity) are severe. Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty.

Some prescribed and over-the-counter medicines that are readily available in New Zealand are considered controlled substances in the UAE. If a traveller arrives with certain medication and without the required documentation and prior approval from the UAE Ministry of Health, they will not be allowed into the country and may be prosecuted. For more information, contact either the UAE Embassy, Wellington or  UAE Embassy, Canberra.

Photography of certain government buildings and military installations is prohibited. Hobbies like bird watching and plane spotting may be misinterpreted, particularly near military sites, government buildings and airports. You should not photograph people without their permission, as this can lead to arrest and/or fines. Posting photos and videos to social media, without express consent, can be against the law.

Local legal and judicial systems differ significantly to New Zealand. The resolution of legal issues can be prolonged and complex. You may find that there are significant periods of detention before trial and deportation. If you are arrested, or have a case before the local courts, a list of lawyers in the UAE can be provided to you by the Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the Consulate in Dubai.

New Zealanders travelling or living in the United Arab Emirates should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place.

New Zealanders in the United Arab Emirates are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Safe Travel website.

Travel tips

The New Zealand Embassy Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Street Address Suite 2503, International Tower, Capital Centre, Abu Dhabi, UAE Postal Address PO Box 62292, Abu Dhabi Telephone +971 2 496-3333 Fax +971-2-496-3300 Email Web Site Hours Sun - Thu 0830-1600 Notarial Services: Monday and Wednesday 0900-1200 hrs (by appointment only) Note Facebook: @nzembassyuae Twitter: @nzinuae

New Zealand Consulate-General Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Street Address Office 6A, 6th Floor, Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, United Arab Emirates Postal Address PO Box 23-156, Dubai, United Arab Emirates Telephone +971 4 270 0100 Fax +971 4 331 7501 Email Hours Sun - Thu 0830-1700 hrs, Consular Hours: Sun, Tue, Thu 0900-1200hrs Notarial Hours: Sun, Tue, Thu 0900-1200hrs (by appointment only)

See our regional advice for the Middle East

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New Zealand Embassy United Arab Emirates

Street Address
Suite 2503, International Tower, Capital Centre, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Telephone: +971 2 496-3333

Fax: +971-2-496-3300



Hours: Sun - Thu 0830-1600 Notarial Services: Monday and Wednesday 0900-1200 hrs (by appointment only)

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