Home to famous cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) combines exotic culture with science fiction. The alluring magic of the desert with the natural beauty of the sea is the backdrop to some of the world’s most impressive modern cities.
From the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, to luxury shopping and dining experiences, plus incredible activities like falconry and camel riding safaris, there’s a lot to see and enjoy in the UAE.
But with every adventure-filled trip abroad, there’s always the possibility of unforeseen events disrupting your trip – this is where travel insurance comes in.
Do I need travel insurance for the UAE?
We recommend purchasing travel insurance no matter where you’re headed in the world, and the same is true for the UAE. While it’s one of the safer countries to visit in the Middle East, there are still some precautions you should take, as things can often go wrong.
Australia has no Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with the United Arab Emirates, meaning you have to pay for any overseas medical expenses yourself. These can be expensive, and in the UAE, you’ll need to provide an up-front deposit, proof you can pay or details of your appropriate travel insurance policy.1
Fortunately, travel insurance can cover problems such as flight or baggage delays, injuries or medical emergencies, trip cancellations and much more.
Top inclusions for a travel insurance policy when exploring the UAE
With so much to see and do across the UAE, it’s important to check what’s in your travel insurance policy, as coverage differs between policies and insurance providers. While travel insurance can cover various events, if you’re headed to the UAE, you may want to check that you’ve got the following items listed in your travel insurance.
Personal belongings and luggage
With travel insurance, you can get cover for personal belongings, passports, luggage, cash and travel documents should they be stolen, as well as any baggage loss or damage. This can give you peace of mind while you’re out exploring what the UAE has to offer.
Some policies may just cover medical or cancellation costs only. If you want to ensure that coverage for what you bring with you is included, you should check the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) of your trip policy.
Say you were exploring the Arabian sand dunes of Rub’ al Khali, the world’s largest sand desert, but fell and rolled your ankle. Not only would it be a painful commute to the nearest doctor for medical treatment, but it could be expensive, further souring your trip.
Your travel insurance cover can help foot the bill for hospitalisation and medical expenses, including medical evacuation or repatriation back to Australia, should it be necessary. While getting medical attention is never fun, at least you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re covered for the cost if you purchase travel insurance.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, getting international travel insurance can be a little more difficult, but it’s even more important in case you end up with unexpected medical bills.
The UAE is known for its opulence, but it’s also got its share of excitement. If you want to get closer to nature, there’s desert horse riding, camel riding tours and even falconry experiences to choose from. For the more daring, the city of Dubai is famous for skydiving.
Often, travel insurance providers will cover a few sports and activities in their policy, or offer cover as an adventure sports add-on to your travel insurance. This is typically for sports and activities with a higher risk of injury.
It’s definitely possible to get travel insurance coverage for activities such as sandboarding, horse riding and even skydiving, but not all travel insurers offer this type of cover.
Remember, different travel insurance policies (and insurers) will offer varying levels of coverage. To ensure you know what you’re covered for, read the PDS before buying the policy.
Travel insurance exclusions to be aware of
Having travel insurance, whether you’re visiting the UAE or elsewhere, means you can be covered for a variety of events – but there’s a limit. Exclusions can differ between insurance providers, but generally, you won’t be covered for:
- Being intoxicated. If you consume alcohol or an illicit substance, your insurer typically won’t provide cover for any related incidents.
- Breaking the law. Doing something illegal (or just acting recklessly) can put you at risk of your travel insurance claims being rejected.
- Sports or activities not covered by your policy. If you participate in a sport or activity that wasn’t on your policy and get hurt or have your belongings damaged, you may not be covered.
- Unattended luggage. Even with insurance cover for your possessions, it’s important not to leave them unattended. This makes it easier for thieves to steal them, and your insurer may not pay a claim.
- Pandemics and epidemics. Generally, costs associated with pandemics and epidemics are not included under travel insurance policies. The exception to this is COVID-19, as some comprehensive travel insurance policies will now offer COVID-19 coverage.
Travel tips for exploring the UAE
You will need to abide by the UAE’s laws, which can seem strict compared to Australian laws. Keep the following in mind when heading to the UAE.
1. Stay aware of border measures
To enter the UAE, you will need a visa; however, you can get a 30-day tourist visa on arrival in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Keep up to date with conditions of entry, as borders can close on short notice.
If you’re travelling to Abu Dhabi, PCR tests for COVID-19 are no longer mandated. However, you can pay to take one in order to activate your green pass in the Al Hosn app. A green pass will give you access to public facilities and tourist spots that will otherwise deny you entry, such as shopping malls, museums and restaurants.1
2. Check the rules on alcohol
If you want to have a drink in the UAE, you can only do so legally if you’re 21 years old and drinking at a licensed hotel or bar. Furthermore, the consumption and sale of alcohol in the Emirate of Sharjah is completely forbidden. These laws limit where you can have a drink.
It’s also illegal to be drunk in public and to offer a drink to a Muslim, as noted by Smartraveller.1
3. Be mindful of laws regarding romantic partners
There are strict rules regarding relationships and where couples can stay. Public displays of affection are generally considered impolite, and you won’t be able to share accommodation with someone of the opposite sex unless you’re married or they’re a close relative.1 This means unmarried couples will need to book separate accommodation if they plan to stay in the UAE.
On a more serious note, being in a same-sex relationship is an offence, and intercourse outside of marriage (regardless of your partner’s gender) is also illegal—all the more reason to be careful with outward displays of affection while in the UAE.
4. Dress modestly and respect the local culture
While it may be fine to show a bit of skin on the tourist beaches of Dubai, in most of the UAE, there are cultural dress codes. These dress codes are enforced more strictly in the Emirates of Sharjah and Ajman (an ‘emirate’ is effectively a state or province within the UAE).
Smartraveller recommends wearing clothing that at least covers your shoulders and down to your knees.1
As well as paying attention to dress codes, keep in mind it’s a crime to insult the UAE, the royal family, governmental officials, Islam and the UAE’s national flag.
5. Pay attention to laws about taking photos
While there’s a lot to see and take photos of in the UAE, it’s illegal to take photos of the following:
- Palaces and government buildings
- Airports and transport infrastructure
- Military buildings
- Other people (without their permission).
For more travel advice and information specific to the UAE, you can read Smartraveller’s guide.