The British Foreign Office has advised its citizens that there is a high risk of terrorist attacks in the Gulf region, and is now more likely given the impending invasion of Iraq. It warns its citizens to be wary of public places that are likely targets such as bars, hotels and nightclubs. This is the warning for the United Arab Emirates:
SAFETY AND SECURITY
In view of the risk of hostilities with Iraq, there is an increase in the threat to British nationals in countries in the region, including from Iraq.
We believe that the UAE, in common with all the Gulf region, is a place where the threat to British individuals and organisations from terrorism is now high. It will rise further in the event of hostilities with Iraq.
You should maintain a high level of vigilance, particularly in public places frequented by foreigners such as hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. There is heightened concern about potential threats in places of entertainment. You should exercise extreme caution and follow good security practices
Developments on Iraq and any further increase in regional tension could affect our travel advice. You should check it daily and follow developments closely.
Domestic Political Situation
Travellers to the region should be aware of the impact that violence between the Israelis and Palestinians has had in the region and the risk of public disturbance in response. Recent developments in Iraq will also have had an impact on local public opinion in the whole of the region and this might be expressed by some people. You should follow news reports and be alert to regional developments which might trigger public disturbances. You should take sensible precautions for your personal safety and avoid political gatherings and demonstrations. Any increase in regional tension might affect travel advice.
Crime and Local Travel
Some 375,000 British nationals visited the UAE in 2001 and the vast majority enjoyed a trouble-free stay. Although incidents are not common, female visitors should take care when travelling alone at night and are advised to use one of the reputable taxi companies.
Excursions to the desert can be dangerous unless undertaken in adequately equipped 4 x 4 vehicles. You should always travel in convoy with other cars, take a supply of water, a mobile telephone if you have one and leave travel plans with friends or relatives.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
With the exception of rental cars in Abu Dhabi, driving is not permitted on a valid UK licence or International Driving licence. In Abu Dhabi, visitors can drive hire cars using a UK Internationals Drivers licence. In Dubai, a visitor can drive a hire care only with a valid local temporary licence. This can be arranged by the rental company on production of a valid UK licence or a valid International licence issued in the UK. Once visitors obtain a residency visa, they must contact the local Traffic Department to obtain a full UAE driving licence, as they will no longer be permitted to drive on a UK or temporary licence.
Violating speed limits or drinking and driving can incur detention, severe fines, and prison sentences. If you have a motor accident, remain with your vehicle. It is an offence to leave the scene of the accident or move your vehicle before the police have arrived.
The importation of narcotics, pork products and pornographic books and material is forbidden. Videos are subject to scrutiny and may be censored. The penalties for drug trafficking, smuggling and possession are severe. Those arrested on suspicion of alcohol or drugs will have to undergo blood and urine tests. The presence of drugs in the system is counted as possession and carries a minimum sentence of four years.
It is a punishable offence to drink or to be drunk in public. Offenders may incur a prison sentence, fine and deportation.
You should dress modestly, behave courteously and respect local customs and sensitivities. The holy month of Ramadan will start in early November 2003. During this time, you should observe the Muslim tradition of not eating, drinking or smoking in public from sunrise to sunset each day.
British citizens do not require a visa for the UAE but if you plan to stay longer than 60 days, contact the UAE Immigration officials on arrival. All other British passport holders must obtain a visa before travelling to the UAE.
Potential job seekers should be aware that those testing HIV positive whilst applying for their residence visa are detained prior to deportation. There is no appeal process. Taking a blood test shortly before travelling to the UAE would therefore be advisable.
British Embassy, Abu Dhabi (+971 (2) 610 1100), or British Embassy, Dubai (+971 (4) 309 4444).