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Abu Dhabi Crime & Security

Abu Dhabi is very safe when compared to any large international city. Crime is rare and serious crimes virtually unheard of. However, the UK foreign office and US State Department still deem there to be a threat of terrorism against Western interests and gathering points in Abu Dhabi, particularly entertainment venues. One should ensure that they are kept informed of developments and are vigilant when frequenting places where westerners typically gather. For the same reason, it is wise also to avoid political gatherings and demonstrations in Abu Dhabi.

In Abu Dhabi, it is unlikely that you will be the victim of a scam or a robbery, but it still pays to keep your wits about you. Keep your valuables and travel documents locked in your hotel safe, and when in crowds, be discreet with your money and don’t carry large amounts of cash on you. Don't use an ATM if it looks likes it may have been tampered with and inform your bank. Money and gem related crimes run by con-men are on the increase, as are a whole variety of unbelievable scams, so don't be bullied into anything.

With a multitude of driving styles converging on Abu Dhabi’s roads, navigating the streets either on foot or in a vehicle can be a challenge. Don’t be too polite to tell your taxi driver to slow down if he is driving too aggressively, and if you are crossing the road on foot use designated pedestrian crossings (jaywalking is illegal), and make sure the cars are really going to stop before crossing. If you plan on driving yourself, make sure you know the rules of the road, exercise extreme caution, pay much more attention to your mirrors that you do normally, and be aware of what's happening around you at all times. Never drive without the correct documentation and insurance.

The most common reason for expatriates getting on the wrong side of the law is driving under the influence of alcohol. In the UAE there is a zero-tolerance policy – forget blood alcohol ratios or ‘one safe pint’ – if even a sip of alcohol has passed your lips, you are not allowed to drive. While there are few spot checks, if you have an accident (even a minor accident, and even if you were not at fault), you could be breathalysed and the consequences will be extremely serious. Even driving the morning after a heavy night is risky, since you will still have alcohol in your system. You will be arrested, and the usual penalty is two months in prison and a fine of not less than Dhs.20,000, 24 black points instantly, which leads to confiscation and temporary suspension of the driver's licence, confiscation of your car for 60 days – and possible deportation. You should bear in mind too that your insurance company could refuse to pay the claim if you were in an accident, even if you were not to blame. It’s just not worth the risk – cabs are cheap and there are plenty of them.

Taking illegal narcotics is absolutely forbidden in the UAE; even the smallest amounts of marijuana or hashish could earn you a prison sentence of four years or more. This will almost certainly be followed by deportation. If you are found guilty of dealing or smuggling, you could be looking at a life sentence, or even the death penalty (although this is uncommon). Even some medications that are legal in your home country, such as codeine and temazepam, may be banned here. Do check before you come, and if you are in any doubt, try to find an alternative or at least have a copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor.

Harming others, whether physically or verbally, will get you into trouble – at the very least a heavy fine, but if the other person was injured a jail term may be in order. If the victim chooses to drop the charges then you will be released. If you are detained for being drunk and disorderly you may spend a night in the cells, but if you are abusive you could be looking at a fine or longer sentence. And you should remember that ‘giving the finger’ to someone in the UAE is a very serious offence. If you do it to a policeman or other official then you’ll be arrested and could even go to jail.

Note that Al Qaeda continues to threaten to attack Western interests in the Gulf region, including residential compounds, as well as military, oil, transport and aviation interests. Abu Dhabi expatriates are not overly concerned, however, and in practice you will find very few Westerners seriously concerned for their safety in Abu Dhabi.




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