In the past few years there have been a number of newspaper articles about tourists getting into trouble in Arab countries. These problems often occur when some tourists do not take the time to understand local or national customs and regulations. Here are some do’s and don’ts when travelling to an Arab country.

  • If you are travelling in Arab countries, you should avoid public displays of affection. Avoid walking hand in hand with your partner or hugging or kissing your partner in public places. (You may see Arab men walking hand in hand. This is quite normal in Muslim societies.)


  • Although shaking hands in the Arab world has become quite widespread, if you are a man, only greet an Arab woman with a handshake if she stretches her hand out. If you are a woman, be prepared that an Arab man might shake hands with your husband/partner but not with you.


  • Avoid talking about controversial political issues and do not criticise the leader of the country you are visiting. It is advisable not to discus religion or say that you are an atheist.


  • If you visit the market, or souq, keep an eye on your bag or wallet. Souqs are popular places for thieves. Be prepared to haggle at the souq, nobody expects you to pay the asking price. You can always ask for the “last price” and be prepared to walk away.


  • When you are in Muslim society, choose your clothes carefully. If you are a woman dress modestly and avoid wearing short, tight clothes. Always cover your shoulders and your knees. Cross-dressing could lead to detainment by authorities.


  • When visiting a mosque, make sure that you are wearing appropriate clothes and, if you are a woman, don’t be surprised if you have to wear a veil or a scarf. Don’t forget to remove your shoes before entering the mosque. You should also leave before prayer times.


  • Swimming in the sea is great fun, but again choose your clothes carefully. Avoid bikinis and short, tight swimming trunks on public beaches. As a tourist, it is often better to go to private beaches  near the large hotels where you can relax and wear bikinis or swimming trunks.


  • In many Arab countries it is strictly prohibited to drink alcohol in public. You can, however, get alcoholic drinks in hotels in countries that are not completely dry. Being drunk in public is unacceptable.


  • Also, there is no such thing as a safe limit for driving after having had a drink. Most Arab countries have zero tolerance with drink driving. 


  • Any obscene hand gesture while driving or in public can land you in prison, too. Also avoid pointing with your finger.


  • Take care when taking photos. Do not take photos of women without permission. 

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