The country code for the UAE is +971, followed by Dubai’s dialling code 04. There are two local telecoms providers, du and Etisalat. Pay as-you-go SIM cards can be obtained at most shopping malls upon presentation of a passport.
The UAE dirham (Dh or AED) is pegged to the US dollar at $1:Dh3.67. ATMs are widely available and cash can be exchanged in most malls. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels and retail outlets.
GCC citizens do not require an entry visa to the UAE, but requirements for other nationalities vary. It is therefore recommended to confer with your country’s embassy prior to travel. Most Americans and East Asians can obtain a 30-day tourist visa on arrival, which can be extended at an immigration office or by driving to nearby Oman. The EU recently signed a short-stay visa waiver agreement allowing its citizens to stay in the UAE for a period of 90 days (the period is shorter for some countries, such as the UK). Tourist visas can be obtained in some cases through hotels or Emirates airlines, whereas sponsorship by a UAE resident is required in others. Proof of employment and income of more than Dh60,000 ($16,332) a year is necessary to obtain a residence visa. Further information can be found online www.dubaivisa.net.
The UAE uses the same square, three-pin sockets as the UK, although some outlets are compatible with Europlugs. Adapters are widely available. The electricity supply is 220/240 V at 50Hz.
Etiquette & Dress
Hospitality plays a central role in Emirati culture and longer greetings are an important prelude before proceeding to other matters, be it in business or social interactions. Dubai is more liberal than neighbouring emirates and countries when it comes to dress, but modesty is still advised.
Dining & Drinking
Dubai offers a wide variety of international cuisines. Alcohol consumption is restricted to adults over 21, and is only served in licensed hotels and selected restaurants. A personal licence is required to purchase alcohol from liquor stores, but drinking in public is strictly prohibited and punishable by a custodial sentence. Special restrictions also apply during the month of Ramadan.
Dubai’s health services are excellent and a recent law has made health insurance coverage compulsory for every resident in Dubai, with the last phase of its introduction plan taking place in June 2016. UAE nationals have access to full medical coverage provided by the state. Tourists who do not possess travel health insurance can visit private hospitals, where English-speaking staff is common and payment is expected upon treatment.
Arabic is the official language, though English is the most widely spoken language in Dubai and public signs are often in both Arabic and English. Other languages in common use include Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, Persian, Chinese, French and Russian.
Government offices are open from 8.00am to 2.30pm, while most private businesses operate from 9.00am to 6.00pm, although some are closed from 1.30pm to 4.30pm. Ramadan business hours are 9.00am to 2.00pm. As in most Arab countries, weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. The UAE National Day is on December 2. Time difference is 3 or 4 hours ahead of GMT depending on the season, since daylight saving time is not observed.
There are no strict conventions concerning tipping, although restaurants often include a 10% service charge. In the absence of such a charge it would be advisable to tip 10-15% for good service. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip but it is often easier and more convenient to round up your fare. Hotel staff can be tipped from Dh5 ($1.36) to Dh10 ($2.72).
Taxis are generally the most reliable of getting around, and the booking apps Uber and Careem are popular. The minimum fare is Dh12 ($3.27) and it costs around Dh108 ($29.40) to cross the city. The metro and tram also connect most areas.
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