|The United Arab Emirates is a federation of the formerly independent seven sheikhdoms of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain. It has a total population of 3.2 million and an area of about 84,000 square kilometers â three quarters of the population are “foreigners”. The country is known for its openness, tolerance and hospitality which attract visitors from all over the world.
Another important factor is security â the UAE is amongst the countries with a very low crime rate which is nearly zero. The UAE offers a unique tourist infrastructure which meets even the highest requirements:
The economy plays a vital role in the UAE, which is why it is constantly growing. More and more international companies are attracted by the excellent business conditions, which make them set up branches here. As a proof, Dubai Internet City was established in the last 2 years. In the area of conferences and conventions as well as for individual events, the hotels and suppliers provide the best location, perfect service and the most modern technology. So whatever your ideas are, there is nothing you wonât find in the UAE.
|Language||Arabic is the official language of the UAE while English is the language of business, though it competes with Urdu as the lingua franca. You will have little trouble making yourself understood, though when you venture out to the rural areas you will find that English is not as widespread. Knowing the Iranian language, Farsi, will help you get by.
Urdu and Malayalam (the language of Kerala in India) can both be reasonably useful because of the large number of Pakistani and Indian expats.
|Currency||The UAE Dirham (Dhs) is divided into 100 Fils. Notes come in denominations of Dhs 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000. There are 1 Dhs, 50 Fils, 25 Fils, 10 Fils and 5 Fils coins (although the latter two are rarely used today).|
|Visa||Over 33 nationalities can get their visa directly at the Dubai International Airport free of charge.|
|Climate||Dry and hot humid summer with comfortably soft winter.|
|Time||Plus four (4) hours GMT.|
|Shopping Timings||Open daily from 10a.m. until 10p.m., lunch break from 1pm until 4p.m.|
|Ramadan||This is the month during which Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Bars and pubs are closed for serving alcohol during the day time throughout the month. Those with a liquor license can still buy alcohol for consumption at home. Everyone, regardless of their religion, is required to observe the fast in public. That not only means not eating and drinking but no smoking as well. Although it is unlikely you will be arrested for breaking these rules, as you would be in Saudi Arabia, you may stopped by the police and told to get rid of your sandwich or put your cigarette out.|
|Alcohol||In Sharjah, alcohol is strictly prohibited.|
|Photography||In taking photographs of places or people, ask for permission from the concerned people in a very polite manner before taking the shot. Military facilities must not be photographed at all.|
|Religion||Most of UAE Muslim population is Sunni Muslims subscribing to the Maliki or Hanbali schools of Islamic law. Many of the latter are Wahhabic, though UAE Wahhabic are not nearly as strict and puritanical as the Wahhabic of Saudi Arabia. There is also a smaller community of Shiite Muslims, descendants mainly from merchants and workers who crossed to the Trucia Coast from Persia in the late 19th or early 20th century.|
|Tipping & Bargaining||Tips are not generally expected since a service charge is added to your bill (this goes to the restaurant, not to the waiter, however). If you want to leave a tip, 10% is sufficient.
Bargaining in souks can be exhausting. Hang in there, be firm and be prepared to spend some time at it. Prices probably wonât come down by more than about 20%, but if you are at a souk in the country, you will find that prices will come down by about 50%.
|Telephone||The UAE has an efficient telecommunications system. The state telecommunications monopoly is Etisalat, recognisable by the giant, sparkling golf ball on top of its Headquarter building on the corner of Beniyas and Omar bin al-Khattab roads. It is open 24 hours a day.
If you need to make a call from the airport, there are telephones at the far end of the baggage claim area where local calls (i.e. within Dubai) can be made free of charge. Some of the lounges at the gates in the departures area also make free local calls. Coin phones have almost completely taken over by card phones. Phone cards are available in denominations of Dhs 30 from grocery stores, supermarkets, petrol stations and street vendors.
To phone out from the UAE, dial 00 followed by the country code. If you want to call the UAE, the country code is 971. The area code for Dubai is 04 and mobile phones 05, though if you are calling from outside the UAE you just dial 4. The following is a list of area codes in the UAE.
|Useful Numbers||The following are some useful telephone numbers|
|Business Hours||The weekend there is Friday and Saturday. Government offices start work at 7.30am and finish at 1 or 1.30pm from Sunday to Thursday.
Shops open from 8am to 1pm and from 4.30pm or 5pm to 8 or 9pm everyday except Friday morning.
|Car Hire||If you decide to hire a car to get around the city, remember that traffic congestion in the UAE can be a real problem in peak hours, which occur three times a day: between 7 and 9am, 1 and 2pm and most of the evening from 6pm onwards.
It is compulsory to wear seatbelts in the front and it is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. As you can well imagine, UAE is not short on petrol stations. Petrol is sold by the imperial gallon (an imperial gallon is just over 4.5 liters). Regular petrol costs Dhs 0.65 per gallon and premium is Dhs 0.95.
|Road Rules||Drive on the right in the UAE. The speed limit is 60km/h, and 100km/h on the highways with a maximum of 120km/h. If you are caught speeding, you will be fined, but in some cases you will simply be sent a bill by police.
The traffic situation in UAE has improved immensely since the government started forcing people to pay for the privilege of parking throughout the core of the city. For years the flow of traffic within the city had always been congested, but now with a strictly enforced four-hour limit on parking the level of overcrowding has lessened. Tickets must be purchased from one of the numerous ticket-dispensing machines. Rates are 2 Dhs for the first hour, 5 Dhs for up to 2 hours, 8 Dhs for up to 3 hours and 11 Dhs for up to 4 hours. Place the ticket on top of your dashboard. Parking in the centre is free on Friday and holidays.
|Abras (Watertaxi)||Scores of Abras constantly cross the Creek from early morning until around midnight. On the Deira side of the Creek, the dock is at the intersection of Al-Sabkha and Beniyas Road. On Bur Dubai side, the dock is at the west end of the souk. Abras, like service taxis, leave when full, but it never takes more than a few minutes for one or them to fill up. The fare ofÂ 50 fils is collected once you are out on the water.|
|Taxis||The starting fare of Dubai Transport taxis is Dhs 3. This goes up to Dhs 0.50 after 10pm. There are also private taxis which come in all sizes and colours and do not have meters. This presents you with a choice: negotiate the fare in advance (and perhaps pay too much) or get in, tell the driver your destination, pay him what you think is an appropriate fare once you get there and hope that it is accepted without an argument. 50% premium after midnight.
Should you go for the latter option, expect to pay a little less than the metered taxis (i.e. around Dhs 5 for trips around the centre of Dubai that do not involve crossing the Creek). Crossing the Creek immediately runs the standard fare up to about Dhs 8 or Dhs 9. For a trip from the Clock Tower roundabout to Satwa you should pay Dhs 12; a trip to Jumeirah will cost about Dhs 15.
Embassies & Consulates
|Australia||04 331 3444|
|Canada||04 352 1717|
|Denmark||04 222 7699|
|Egypt||04 397 1122|
|France||04 332 9040|
|Germany||04 397 2333|
|Italy||04 331 4167|
|Japan||04 331 9191|
|Jordan||04 397 0500|
|Kazakhstan||04 224 2462|
|Kuwait||04 222 1900|
|Lebanon||04 397 7450|
|Netherlands||04 352 8700|
|Norway||04 353 3833|
|Oman||04 397 5000|
|Qatar||04 398 2888|
|Romania||04 394 0580|
|Russia||04 223 1272|
|Saudi Arabia||04 266 3383|
|Spain||04 331 3565|
|Sweden||04 345 7716|
|Switzerland||04 331 3542|
|Syria||04 266 3354|
|Turkey||04 331 4788|
|Uzbekistan||04 394 7400|
|UK||04 397 1070|
|Ukraine||02 632 7586|
|USA||04 331 3115|
Restaurants & Pubs
|Food & Drink||
|Nightclubs||Dubai âs nightclubs tend to be segregated into Arabic, western, Filipino and Indian clubs. This is just the way people socialize in Dubai â apart. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights are the biggies, with music rocking until 3 to 4am.
Kasbar (Royal Mirage)
The Apartment (Jumeirah Beach Hotel)
Planetarium (Wafi City)
Cavalli Club (Fairmont Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road)
360 Degrees (Jumeirah Beach Hotel)
Tradervics (Mina A Salam, Madinat Jumeirah)
Stars Studio (Sheraton Deira Hotel)
|Pubs & Bars||Pubs and bars in Dubai are open until 1 or 2am. They are well stocked with spirits and all theÂ major beers are available. The wines are invariably the same as the wines at licensed restaurants â mostly table wines from France, Italy, Australia and California. At most places, Tuesday and Sunday are âLadiesâ Nightâ, which means those of the right sex get not one, but two free drinks. Not surprisingly ladiesâ night tends to attract more men than women.|
Hospitals & Airports
|Major International Airports||
Shopping Malls & Souks
Even if you have no plans to buy anything, it is worth a visit to the Gold Souk simply to take in the atmosphere, and to ogle at the size of some of the jewellery on offer.
Also known as the Deira Old Souk (since it doesnât just sell spices), this is one place you must wander around for a real taste of Â traditional Dubai. The spices are mainly found at the soukâs eastern end, in the area closest to the Creek.
This area, which lies to the south of Al-Dhiyafa Road near the Satwa roundabout, is the place to buy shoes, textiles, tacky souvenirs, imitation brand watches and sunglasses.
Dos & Donât
|Dos & Donât||