Local Laws... A Good Idea To Know Them

I'm in full on prep mode for my trip to South Africa and to Dubai. One thing that we as travelers must be aware of is that local laws may be very different from what we are used to. Knowing some of the most important ones can be very important.

When it comes to preparing for South Africa... well South Africa is on par with many of the US laws, not a whole lot of difference there. While we cannot dismiss the fact that there are going to be differences, they are small enough that I'm not terribly worried. Much of my focus has been around using my camera. South Africa doesn't have many restrictive laws on camera use, so I'm not particularly worried about this.

United Arab Emirates is a bit different on that front. UAE while it has become a major destination for tourists, they can be much more restrictive than the west. Touching on camera use again, there have been a number of incidents with foreign travelers running into the law with camera use. In the UAE, it is illegal to photograph people without their permission, or to photograph government or military sites. Most cases of arrests come from someone capturing a building they were not aware was a military or government site. In this case, general pictures are best, focus on public buildings for architecture.

I was mostly worried about the Burj Kalifa, while it is almost blatantly obviosu this is ok to photograph, it doesn't hurt to check... and yes it is ok to photograph, as are most building in Dubai. 

There was a recent law passed banning the use of VPN services in the UAE as well. This actually deeply impacts me. Using a VPN is not for purposes of passing a firewall for me, but rather one of security. Hotel wifi is far from secure and the VPN helps alleviate that issue. I'm not in the UAE for long, so this shouldn't be too much of an issue for me.

Lastly, there was one law I was not aware of until I ran across it looking at the metro system in Dubai. The metro train always has a car reserved for women and children. While women and children can use any car on the train, there is one that is reserved solely for them. This is a very different culturally for me than any other metro/subway system I've used in the world. Men often board this train unknowingly, and it can result in a fine. While the fine isn't steep, it is best to avoid run ins with the law in foreign countries. The car is very well marked, so just keep an eye out for it and I'll be good to go.

Overall most countries are easy to travel in, but some countries are known for being more restrictive, just be aware of the big laws to respect and you'll be fine.