Although Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is widely spoken by the general population. Most airlines, hotels, malls and restaurants employ multi-lingual staff or crew who are conversant in Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, Russian, French, German or Chinese, among other languages, besides English and Arabic. Taxi drivers are conversant in English, Arabic or Urdu/Hindi.
Islam is the official religion of the UAE, which is widely practiced by Emirati nationals as well as expatriates originating from other Arab countries, Pakistan, Africa and India, amongst others. The UAE is tolerant of other religions and residents and visitors who profess a different faith are entitled to perform their religious duties.
The UAE’s climate is subtropical, with temperatures that vary from warm in the winter months to hot in the summer. Sunny blue skies prevail throughout the year and rainfall is infrequent. The weather in the UAE is most appealing in the period between November (average 23° C/73.4° F) through March (average 22° C/71.6° F). The thermometer starts to climb in April, and continues to climb steadily to reach the Emirate’s hottest month in August at an average temperature of 44.9° C/112.8° F; humidity can be high in the summer months.
Currency and Foreign Exchange
The official currency of the UAE is the dirham (abbreviated to Dhs or AED), with each dirham divided into 100 fils. Dirham notes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 denominations, while coins come in Dhs 1, 0.5, 0.25, 0.10 and 0.05. The latter two denominations are rarely used.
There is some limitation on the import of currency into the country. Cash exceeding Dhs 40,000 or its equivalent in foreign currency must be declared to airport customs control upon entry. The dirham is pegged to the US Dollar at the official exchange rate of Dhs 3.6725 to every US Dollar. There are no foreign exchange restrictions in place in the country, and foreign currency of almost any denomination is readily exchanged. Banks and money exchange bureaus can be found throughout Abu Dhabi, the latter located in most shopping malls and key locations. All major hotels will also readily exchange currency for guests.
Credit cards, such as MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club, are widely accepted in the UAE, as are traveler’s cheques. ATMs typically provide the best exchange rates (even when factoring in possible currency exchange fees from your home bank), but traveler’s cheques in either US Dollar or UK Pounds Sterling are recommended to avoid additional exchange rate charges.
The dress code in the UAE is generally relaxed however visitors should take note not to wear excessively revealing clothing in public places, as a sign of respect for local culture and customs. Some Emirates adopt a more conservative dress code as well as some hotels. Swimwear is acceptable on the beaches and at hotel swimming pools.
As for the weather requirements, lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year (summer, spring and autumn), though a light sweater or cardigan could be handy when visiting a shopping mall, hotel or restaurant where the temperature might be kept too low to counter the outdoor heat. Slightly heavier clothes are needed for the short winter season, especially in the evening.
Emergency, Public Safety and Police Services
The UAE has a low crime rate, but the emergency services in each emirate are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, should visitors require assistance.
998 - Ambulance services
999 - Abu Dhabi Police
997 - Fire
999 - Helicopter Service
Embassies and consulates are generally open from 08:45until 13:30 p.m. They are closed on Fridays; many also close on Saturdays. For more information visit: www.uaeinteract.com
Vaccinations: No special immunizations are required. Nevertheless, it is advisable to check beforehand if you are travelling from a health-risk area. Tetanus inoculations are usually recommended if you are considering a long trip. Polio has been virtually eradicated in the UAE and hepatitis is very rare and can be avoided by taking precautions. Hepatitis A is transmitted by contaminated food and water, Hepatitis B, C, D through sexual contact, the use of unsterilized needles and blood transfusions. All permanent residents undergo an annual medical check for HIV.
Malaria:Since Malaria is not considered to be a risk, tablets are rarely prescribed for travel in the UAE. However if you are camping near the mountains or exploring wadis or date groves in the evening, ensure to cover up and use a suitable insect repellent.
Sunburn: The sun can be fierce throughout the year so heatstroke and heat exhaustion are always a risk. Adequate sunglasses, hats, high-factor sun-screen creams and water are essential, especially for children.
Individuals may bring medicine into the country for their personal use. Up to three months’ supply of a prescription item can be brought into the country by a visitor and 12 months’ supply by a resident if they can produce a doctor’s letter or a copy of the original prescription. Narcotic items can only be brought into the UAE in exceptional cases with prior permission from the director of medicine and pharmacy control. These guidelines relate to medicines brought in by an individual through an airport or border crossing and medicines arriving by post.
Visitors must take care to ensure that medicines and medications prescribed in their home countries are not restricted before travelling to the UAE. The UAE Ministry of Health’s Drug Control Department
publishes a list of controlled medicines and medications. Visitors should contact the Ministry of Health drug control department to check whether their medication is on the controlled list, and needs prior permission for importation. The Customer Service Centre of the drug control department can be contacted by emailing email@example.com
, by telephone on +971 2 611 7240 or by fax +971 2 632 7644.
Hospitals and Medical Clinics
Health policies differ from emirate to emirate. The UAE’s healthcare system consists of an extensive network of hospitals, clinics and medical facilities. Healthcare treatment in the UAE is not free for visitors. You or your insurance provider will be required to pay for treatment. For a list of hospitals please visit www.uaeinteract.com
There are four daily English-language newspapers: The National; Gulf News; The Khaleej Times; and Gulf Today. Many international newspapers and magazines are available in supermarkets and corner shops, and cost between 12 – 30 Dhs. All four papers are also available online.
Mosques are generally accessible to non-Muslims at times other than the mid-day Friday prayer service. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi explicitly welcomes non-Muslim visitors, who are expected to be respectful in dress and demeanor. Traditional clothing, the abaya and shayla, is provided to women at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, and men wearing shorts will be provided with a dishdasha. It is advisable to call ahead or check with a tour guide as to the best visiting times.
Ramadan is the holy month for Muslims. Muslim holidays are observed according to the lunar calendar, which is about 10 days shorter than the Western, or solar, calendar year. This means that Ramadan’s occurrence shifts back by about 10 days each year. Islamic holidays are legal holidays in the United Arab Emirates.
During Ramadan eating of any kind, smoking and drinking liquids in open and public areas until the fast is broken at dusk (Iftar) is an offense. Many restaurants are closed until after sunset and those that are open will not allow food to be transported or served openly.
Eid al-Fitr is the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr is a three-day celebration and is called “The Smaller Eid.” Since the day depends on the sighting of the moon, the exact date varies from country to country.
Eid al-Adha is one of the two most important Islamic observances, beginning on the 10th day of Dhu'l-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar
. Lasting for three days, it occurs at the conclusion of the annual Hajj
, or pilgrimage to Mecca
. Muslims all over the world celebrate, not simply those undertaking the Hajj, which for most Muslims is a once-a-lifetime occurrence.
Other important 2010 Dates
1 Jan New Year's Day
26 Feb Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet)
9 Jul Leilat al-Meiraj (Ascension of the Prophet)
11 Sep Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
17 Nov Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
2 Dec National Day
7 Dec Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year)
16 Dec Ashoura
A three-day mourning period is usually announced when a member of the ruling families or a Government minister or the head of a neighboring state dies. Government offices and some private companies will close for the period.
The UAE is a modern country and telephone and internet services in its cities are of a high standard. The main government service provider is Etisalat (www.etisalat.ae
). Visitors can get connected with a temporary SIM card on a pay-as-you-go basis. Calls and text messages are cheaper than in many western countries, even for overseas calls.
Off-peak hours for mobile phone services (both voice calls and SMS) are between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm and between 12:00 midnight and 7:00 am local time. Internet cafes are not as common as in some big cities but many shopping malls offer wireless connections, as do some coffee houses.
GMT +4 four hours
Water and electricity
The electricity supply is 220/240 volts at 50 Hz. British-style square, three-pin sockets are standard. Most hotels can supply adapters but visitors should bring one just in case.
Tap water is safe to drink, but if you prefer the taste of bottled water, locally bottled mineral water is readily available in supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere.
The workweek in the UAE is Sunday to Thursday, with office hours typically running from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm or 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Information / Resources
Please visit the Useful Links section on this website for more information.
The United Arab Emirates is a moderate and progressive Muslim state, and many non-Muslim beliefs and ways of life are tolerated and accepted. However, there are some rules of which every resident and visitor should be aware.
It is against the law for Muslims to drink alcohol. Each emirate has its own rules regarding alcohol consumption. Non-Muslims may legally drink only in specified locations which have licenses, such as restaurants located within hotels, or through purchase of alcohol on the basis of a liquor license, obtainable under strict conditions.
Drunkenness is a serious offense in the UAE and there is a zero tolerance policy for driving after consuming alcohol.
The UAE adopts a zero tolerance policy for the possession of illicit drugs. Drug possession and trafficking are extremely serious offenses, with offenders receiving penalties for prohibited substances, regardless of the amount. Blood and urine samples can be taken for those suspected of drug offences.
Public Displays of Affection
Public shows of affection, regardless of marital status, are ill-advised, and can cause offense. If a complaint is made against you, the outcome may lead to criminal charges. Cohabitation outside of marriage is illegal.
Normal tourist photography is acceptable in the UAE but visitors should avoid photographing women without their permission. It is forbidden to photograph military, government and airport buildings and facilities.
Many restaurants add a service charge, which is incorporated into the customer’s bill. An additional courtesy tip (customarily around 10 percent) for good service is appreciated. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, but appreciate it when one is provided.