Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

United Arab Emirates

ALERT - COVID-19 Do not travel overseas at this time. Due to the difficulty travellers are experiencing returning home, New Zealanders overseas need to take steps to stay safely where they are and shelter in place....Read more

ALERT - COVID-19 Do not travel overseas at this time. Due to the difficulty travellers are experiencing returning home, New Zealanders overseas need to take steps to stay safely where they are and shelter in place....Read more

  • Reviewed: 19 March 2020, 14:30 NZDT
  • Still current at: 19 September 2020

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COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
There have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the United Arab Emirates.

Local authorities in countries and territories with confirmed cases of COVID-19 may impose containment measures including travel restrictions and quarantine requirements to prevent the spread of the virus.

Such measures may be imposed at short notice and specific details may change rapidly, including where and to whom they apply to and for how long. All travellers should stay informed of measures being taken by authorities in the areas they are travelling to. We recommend that all travellers consult the official website or the nearest embassy or consulate of your country or territory of destination to find out about any border controls and other measures that may apply to you.

For information on countries and territories which have COVID-19 related border restrictions affecting foreign nationals, including travellers in transit, please check the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website before you travel.  IATA provides a comprehensive list of all countries and territories that have imposed COVID-19 related border restrictions and is being continually updated.

As part of its response to managing the COVID-19 outbreak, the New Zealand Government has some temporary travel restrictions in place in New Zealand. Please refer to the New Zealand Ministry of Health website for up to date information.

For further travel advice and information about COVID-19, please see our webpage here. We encourage all New Zealanders living and travelling overseas to register with us.

Regional Tensions
On 3 January 2020, an Iranian military commander and Iraqi paramilitary leaders were killed in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad International Airport.

The security situation in the Middle East region is unpredictable and may become increasingly volatile.

There is a threat of terrorism in the UAE. Broader conflicts in the Middle East and Gulf region have the potential to affect the UAE. Terrorist and rebel groups continue to threaten to carry out attacks in Gulf countries, including against Western interests. UAE authorities have, in the past, arrested a number of alleged terrorists in connection with possible attack planning.

Attacks could be indiscriminate. Government buildings, military facilities, transport hubs such as airports, places of worship, and public and commercial areas known to be frequented by Western expatriates and travellers could be potential targets.

Since 2018, cross-border attacks originating from Yemen have targeted infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, including aviation interests. This has included missile, rocket, and drone attacks. Armed groups in Yemen have publicly stated their intent to target neighbouring countries, including the UAE, using missiles and unmanned aerial systems (drones).

New Zealanders are advised to be aware of their surroundings and maintain a high degree of security awareness at all times. You should closely monitor local and international media to stay informed of developments affecting the Gulf region. In the event of a security incident, follow the advice of local authorities.

Regional Travel
All air and sea travel between the United Arab Emirates and Qatar is suspended. 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 or voice sympathy or bias towards Qatar, or demonstrates disapproval to the Government's current policy in relation to Qatar. This includes the use of social media or any other form of communication. 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.

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, the Tunbs in the Southern Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Mariners are advised to make thorough enquires before entering these waters or visiting ports, as vessels have been inspected and people detained and arrested.

Local laws and customs
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, 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 social media involvement (posts, liking, sharing and comments). 

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 New Zealand Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the New Zealand Consulate in Dubai. 

Alcohol, drugs and medicines
Alcohol is strictly prohibited in the Emirate of Sharjah. Elsewhere in the UAE, alcohol must only be consumed on licensed 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 the UAE Embassy, Wellington.

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

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.

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 Level 25, 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: Mon and Wed 0900-1200 hrs, and Thu 1330-1530 (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
Level 25, 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: Mon and Wed 0900-1200 hrs, and Thu 1330-1530 (by appointment only)

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