If you’re planning to go to either of the United Arab Emirates countries anytime soon, such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah or Umm al Qaiwain. It is important that you know certain legal information pertaining to your health before you travel.
General Safety Tips and Staying Healthy in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is a relatively safe travel destination, and most incidents arise from either cultural differences and/or the weather–both of which can be managed with the appropriate knowledge and preparation.
Desert Life. The UAE is a subtropical desert. The country typically experiences very hot summers – peaking in heat in July and August – and fairly dry, mild winters. The country rarely receives rainfall making dust storms a hazard, although when rain occurs, flooding can also be an issue. Heat stroke is one of the most common issues travelers to the UAE experience. Be sure to drink plenty of water, however, you should avoid drinking tap water or beverages containing ice made with tap water. Bottled water or carbonated beverages in a can will be the safest choices to drink.
Clothing. Due to the hot climate, tourists are often tempted to wear loose-fitting, casual clothing. Dress codes in the UAE are closely tied with religious views and even the legal system. Men should dress conservatively and show very little skin. Women should follow the same rules to a greater extreme, making sure not to show bare shoulders, knees, legs, or arms. In some areas – although usually not in the touristy parts – women may be required to cover their faces as well. While this may be inconvenient, covering up is also the best way to protect against extreme sun exposure, in addition to wearing sunscreen whenever outdoors.
Vaccines, Necessary Medicines, and Pharmacies When Traveling to the United Arab Emirates
Insurance. it is not only a high recommendation to obtain health insurance for your trip to the United Arab Emirates, but also illegal to enter the country without it. So make sure you purchase travel medical insurance before you go.
Vaccinations. Before departing to the UAE, it is important to check that you are current with all routine vaccinations. The CDC recommends that travelers and expats in the UAE get a booster shot for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, both of which can be spread through food. The best way to avoid these diseases is to avoid undercooked food or game meat that would not be served in the US. Some travelers may want to also get a Hepatitis B shot, however, this disease can be avoided by avoiding sexual contact, abstaining from drug use that requires injection, and not getting piercings or tattoos while abroad. Rabies vaccinations are only recommended if you will be traveling through remote areas or working closely with animals. There are a variety of international sites to help you stay up to date on any changes or advice that applies to a safe trip abroad.
MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is a viral respiratory illness that has occurred in countries throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Its symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. There are no advisories about avoiding travel because of it, but it is smart to take precautions such as washing your hands, avoiding ill individuals and avoid consuming raw camel milk (which has been linked to the disease in other countries). People with weakened immune systems, diabetes, kidney disease, or chronic lung failure are considered high risk for MERS. There is currently no vaccination or standardized treatment. The disease is rare and very close contact is needed for transmission.
Medicines. Some prescribed medicines from other countries are considered controlled substances in the UAE (and therefore illegal). Check with your local embassy for a list, and to see if you need permission from the UAE Ministry of Health prior to your stay in the UAE. Without this permission, you may be subject to prosecution under UAE law.
Pharmacies. Most pharmacists in the UAE are expats themselves and it’s a growing industry there. You’ll be able to find pharmacies in most private and public hospitals, and the number is increasing due to its rapid growth in expatriates. Besides Abu Dhabi and Dubai, 24-hour pharmacies may be difficult to locate. Most are open Saturday-Thursday. Some may be open for limited hours on Friday, but most are closed due to religious activities.
In-country facilities. If you are to have an issue, the UAE has fantastic medical facilities available, with many being accredited by international and American medical and hospital associations. The country has also been working since 2008 to unify and stabilize their health care system. You must have health insurance to receive any kind of visa to enter the UAE, regardless of nationality. Tourists may have access to free medical services in case of emergency as part of the national health care plan and coverage under visas, but you can’t get said visa without having a plan. Dubai started implementing new national health insurance in 2014, and it’s scheduled for completion by 2016. It covers all of its citizens–nationals and expats alike.
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