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. The prefix is written as AED or Dh.
The dirham is index linked to the dollar and the official exchange rate is Dh3.671 = US$ 1.00.
Foreign banks have branches in the UAE and ATMs are readily available in all urban centres.
The UAE is one of the safest places in the world to visit. In fact, it has been designated the world’s 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).
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.
Domestic supply is 220 volts. Sockets suitable for three-pin 13 amp plugs of British standard design are the norm. 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.
Weights and Measures
The UAE uses the metric system, although British and US standard weights and measures are understood.
Respect for local culture and customs is highly desirable: bikinis, swimsuits, shorts and revealing tops should be confined to beach resorts. Men should not be bare-chested away from the beach and women are 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 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 and it is always safer to avoid being bitten.
Tap water, produced by desalination, is normally safe to drink. Nevertheless you may prefer the taste of bottled water.
Shopping hours are from 9.00 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4.00 to 9.00 p.m. 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. 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.