We have included a wide range of travel tips in order to make your trip to the UAE an outstanding success. But do be aware that these are guidelines and some information, such as entry formalities, are subject to sudden changes and should be checked with your nearest UAE embassy before departure.
There are no currency regulations and foreign currency of almost any denomination is readily exchanged in the UAE. The dirham (pronounced dir-ham) is the official currency of the UAE. Dirham notes are in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 denominations. The dirham is divided into 100 fils, coins include Dh1, 50, 25, 10 and 5 fils (10 and 5 fils are rarely used). The prefix is also written as AED.
The dirham is index linked to the dollar and the official exchange rate is Dh3.671 = US$ 1.00. The best exchange rates for other currencies are generally available at private moneychangers found throughout the UAE, but especially in the more popular souqs and shopping malls, where you will also find ATMs. The UAE Exchange Centre (associated with Western Union) has branches throughout the UAE. Thomas Cook Al Rostamani (authorised representative of Thomas Cook’s financial division) and Al Razouki International Exchange Company are also well represented.
The UAE is one of the safest places in the world to visit. In fact, it has been designated the worlds safest holiday destination by the international travel industry on two occasions. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to take out travel insurance and to take the normal precaution to safeguard yourself and your valuables.
|Ambulance||998 or 999
Tipping is not compulsory, but is common practice. Gratuities to staff at hotels are at your discretion. Most restaurants add service charges to the bill (Abu Dhabi 16 per cent; Sharjah 15 per cent; Dubai 10 per cent). If this charge is not included, add 10 per cent of the total to the bill. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped. Supermarket baggers, bag carriers and windscreen washers at petrol stations are generally given a tip.
Ask permission before photographing people in general. Avoid photographing Muslim women and do not photograph airports, docks, telecommunications equipment, government buildings, military and industrial installations.
The UAE is four hours ahead of GMT. The time does not change during the summer. This means that there is a three-hour difference between UK and UAE local times in summer and a four-hour difference in winter.
Domestic supply is 220 volts. Sockets suitable for three-pin 13 amp plugs of British standard design are the norm. However, it is a good idea to bring an adaptor with you. Alternatively, adaptors can be purchased in local supermarkets. Appliances purchased in the UAE will generally have two-pin plugs attached.
Telephone and internet
The landline network, operated by the main national telecommunication organisations ETISALAT and Du, is superb: local calls are free and direct dialling is available to over 150 countries. The international dial code for UAE is +971.
|UAE Exchange||National Access Code||International Access Code|
|Abu Dhabi||02||+ 9712|
|Al Ain||03||+ 9713|
|Jebel Ali||04||+ 9714|
|Khor Fakkan||09||+ 9719|
|Ra’s al-Khaimah||07||+ 9717|
|Umm al-Qaiwain||06||+ 9716|
|ETISALAT information service||144|
* Sharjah, Ajman and Umm al-Qaiwain share the access code 06 and Fujairah and Khor Fakkan the access code 09
The UAE also has an excellent and extensive mobile phone network. Pay-as-you-go cards are available for visitors who do not wish to use their home services.
Most hotels offer guests internet access and Wifi hotspots are provided at many cafes.
Emirates Post (EmPost) runs an efficient postal system with red post collection boxes dotted throughout the cities and towns. Mail is usually collected morning and evening. Express postal facilities are also available at post offices, which are open Sunday to Thursday. Note that telephone, fax and poste restante facilities are not available at UAE post offices.
Lightweight summer clothing is ideal with a wrap, sweater or jacket for cooler winter nights and air-conditioned premises. Although the dress code in the UAE is generally casual, guests in the larger hotels do tend to dress more formally in the evening. Since you are visiting a Muslim country, bikinis, swimsuits, shorts and revealing tops should be confined to beach resorts. Women are usually advised not to wear short skirts and to keep their shoulders covered. Note that in Sharjah women are prohibited from wearing swimsuits on public beaches.
Health and Hygiene
As with all travel, health insurance for your trip to the UAE is a must to cover all eventualities. However, a successful government immunisation programme, the provision of adequate clean water and high standards of cleanliness and food hygiene in hotels and restaurants virtually guarantees you an illness-free visit. No special immunisations are required. Nevertheless, it would be wise to check beforehand if you are travelling from a health-risk area.
There are very few mosquitoes in the towns and cities and, since it is not considered to be a risk, malaria tablets are not prescribed for travel to the UAE. It is likely, however, that mosquitoes will find you if you are camping near the mountains or exploring wadis or date groves in the evening, so cover up and use a suitable insect repellent as it is always safer to avoid being bitten.
Drinking water is usually produced by desalination so it is normally safe to drink, nevertheless you may prefer the taste of bottled water. In any case it is advisable to drink plenty of water in the heat so carry a bottle with you at all times.
Shopping hours are from 9.00 a.m.–1 p.m. and 4.00 – 9.00 p.m. However, most shops, particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi stay open all day and many in tourist areas close later. Shopping malls open from 8 a.m to 10 p.m – frequently 12 p.m. Some supermarkets are open for 24 hours. Although shops and shopping malls are fully air conditioned, the cool of the evening is a favourite time for shopping. Shopping malls and most shops are open on Friday, the Islamic day of rest. But they all close for Juma (Friday) prayers from 11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.
Government offices open at 7.30 a.m. and officially close at 2.30 p.m. but you would be wise to visit early in the morning. Private offices tend to keep longer hours, coming back to work in the evening after an extended mid-day break. Many private businesses open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. All government offices close for the weekend on Friday and Saturday. Many private companies also recognise this two-day weekend. Some offices outside the public sector close only on Friday.
Since Muslim festivals are timed according to local sightings of phases of the moon, the dates for Islamic religious holidays are approximate and the precise dates are not announced until a day or so before they occur. If a public holiday falls on a weekend, the holiday is usually taken at the beginning of the next working week.
A three-day mourning period is usually announced when a member of the ruling families or a government minister or the head of a neighbouring state dies. Government offices and some private companies will close for the period.