The crime rate is extremely low in the United Arab Emirates, although of course one must use common sense.
There are a couple of things you should be aware of are to do with drug laws in the UAE. Some common painkillers in western countries are illegal narcotics in the UAE like codeine. Don't bring any with you unless you carry a copy of your prescription or you may join others who have received jail sentences. In contrast, antibiotics are freely available over the counter at pharmacies. If you receive a prescription for controlled drugs in the UAE, such as some painkillers and antidepressants, be sure to keep the copy of the prescription with you when traveling out of the country.
Another trap for the unwary is that if you are suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a blood test can be taken, and if it shows evidence of substances that are illegal in the UAE, then you will probably end up in jail even if the substances were ingested in the country that you were previously in. In addition to testing your blood, they will likely check your belongings. People have been jailed for possession for finding microscopic specks of drugs on them with highly sensitive equipment.
Another cause for concern is the very high rate of automobile accidents: besides due care while driving a vehicle, crossing the road on foot can be quite dangerous as well.
General medical care in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah is quite good, with clinics for general and specialized care widely available, including some which are now open 24 h. Hospitals in the major centers are well-equipped to deal with any medical emergencies. There is an ambulance system in all major population centres; however, coverage can be patchy in the more remote areas. Ambulances are designed for transportation rather than providing care as first responders, so don't expect top-flight on-site care.
The main government hospital in Abu Dhabi is quite good; as is the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, now managed by 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 free of malaria and prophylaxis is not needed. In Sharjah, the Kuwaiti Goverrnment Hospital accepts expatriates. The private hospitals in Sharjah are the Zahra hospital, Zulekha Hospital and Central Private Hospital. Prices including healthcare are generally cheaper in Sharjah and although all hospitals meet the Ministry of Health standards the Central Private Hospital and Zulekha Hospitals are considered more affordable.
Al Ain is served by a number of modern hospitals and care centers: Tawam Hospital, now managed by John Hopkins, and host to the UAE University Faculty of Medicine and Health Science; Al Ain Hospital also called Al Jimi Hospital as it is in the district of Al Jimi, now managed by the Vienna Medical University; and the private Oasis Hospital, previously known as Kennedy Hospital, which was founded and run by Christian missionaries, and which was the first hospital in the city.
The water is safe to drink in the UAE, although most people prefer bottled water for its taste. The food is clean and in most restaurants is served to Western standards, particularly in tourist areas; however, hygeine can be an issue in some establishments outside, particularly roadside stalls. That said, food poisoning does happen, so use your common sense!
The heat in summer can reach 50Â°C 122Â°F, so avoid outdoors activity at the height of the day and watch out for signs of heat stroke. Be sure to drink lots of water as dehydration happens easily in such heat. If travelling off road most of the country is desert, ensure you carry sufficient water to allow you to walk to the road should vehicles become bogged.
Although the UAE is somewhat more accommodating to handicapped travellers than other countries in the Mideast, it would nonetheless be a difficult country to navigate in a wheelchair. Curbs are high and there are few, if any, ramps or other accommodations. This includes an almost complete lack of handicapped-friendly bathrooms.
Emiratis are a proud but welcoming people and, when not in their cars, are generally extremely civil and friendly. Like most peoples of the world, they welcome visitors who are willing to show some amount of respect and can be extremely generous. Some expats and visitors do not understand that revealing clothing can be quite offensive to some people, even if nothing is said to the offenders. Their culture is unique and can be highly conservative, but overall they are quite attuned to the ways, customs, events, media, and manners of the world.
Local men usually wear a "Kandoura", a long robe typically white, and ghutra, a red-checked or white headdress. Local women wear a black robe-like garment abaya and a black head scarf shayla.
The UAE is more conservative than most Western societies, though not as much as some of its neighbors. Travelers should be aware and respect the more traditional outlook in the UAE, as there are behaviors typical in the West for example, making "rude and insulting gestures" that will result in arrest in the UAE. On the other hand, Western travelers will find most of the UAE quite comfortable.
Although women are not legally required to wear the hijab, revealing fashions such as tank tops and shorts should be avoided. Below-the-knee skirts are somewhat more acceptable, although you will still incur stares. However, there are quite a few tourist or expatriate-dominated zones where even "provocative" dress may be seen, although not necessary respected. These include many areas of the Emirate of Dubai and, for example, beach resorts in Ajman or Fujairah. Public nudity anywhere is strictly forbidden and will be punished. Sharjah is the most conservative of the Emirates with public decency statutes i.e., forbidding overly revealing clothing or certain kinds of beach wear, but few of them are enforced although that varies.
The Emirates are not gay-friendly, and consensual homosexual activity is potentially subject to the death penalty. However, discretion is the key: like many things in Emirati society, what happens behind closed doors is - well - what happens. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for Emirati men or women to show physical affection but not across gender--Emirati men often kiss one another's noses in greeting and women greet one another with cheek kisses and may hold hands or link arms.
The official language is Arabic, but it is safe to say that the majority of the population doesn't speak it Iranian, Indian, Asian and Western expatriates are more numerous than Arabs in Dubai, and usually have very limited knowledge of Arabic. English is the lingua franca. As the UAE was a British protectorate, most locals would have learnt English in school and would know at least basic English. Hindi or Urdu is another language widely spoken and understood.
Other languages widely spoken in the UAE include Malayalam, Tamil, Farsi Persian, and Tagalog Filipino. Most people possess at least a basic command of English, though it is not uncommon to meet people whose English is limited.
In Dubai, most shops, hotels, and commercial businesses conduct business in English. Generally speaking, Arabic is spoken by government departments and the police; however, in Abu Dhabi and in the Northern Emirates, Arabic is much more widely spoken.
Internet cafÃ©s are fairly common in the larger cities, and web censorship is at times odd but rarely obtrusive. Users should be well aware of the fact that any website that contains the Israeli domain .il is blocked. Not much information is known of how to bypass this blocking for people who need to visit Israeli websites. Instant messaging and voice-over-IP services like Skype sometimes work. The government owned telecommunications operator blocks access to these services to varying degrees. The blocking does not always stop calls and may vary depending on the network used. It also appears to be able to block Skypeout calls whilst allowing Skype-Skype calls. Even if the services are not blocked, connection speed can be an issue.
Most people use a VPN Service to bypass local Internet restrictions in UAE.
The country code is 971. The mobile phone network uses the GSM technology as in Europe and Africa and use is widespread. There are internet cafes in the major towns. The format for dialing is: +971-#-### ####, where the first "#" designates the area code. Key area codes include Dubai 4, Sharjah 6 and Abu Dhabi 2. Calls to mobile phones use the operator's area codes: 50/56 for Etisalat and 55 for Du. Like other countries, when dialing locally, "00" is used to access an international number and followed by the country code and "0" is used to access a national number followed by the area code.