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The United Arab Emirates is a destination that has been on the rise in popularity for many years now. If you are interested in travelling to this part of the world, there are some important things to know before you go.
In this blog post, I will share with you 16 Things To Know Before Travelling To The United Arab Emirates!
- Where In The UAE Have We Been To?
- The Best Time To Go To UAE
- Book Ahead
- Currency To Take To UAE
- Tipping In UAE
- Getting Around In UAE
- Renting A Car In UAE
- Other Ways To Get Around The UAE
- Alcohol In UAE
- Smoking in UAE
- Drugs In UAE
- Prayer Time
- Shopping In UAE
- Taking Photographs
- Women Travelling Alone
- Showing Public Affection
Where In The UAE Have We Been To?
Abu Dhabi and Dubai have a completely different vibe from each other. Abu Dhabi is more family friendly and a bit conservative meanwhile Dubai feels like the party zone and is very busy.
Most people tend to visit Dubai and take a day trip to Abu Dhabi, however I feel like Abu Dhabi needs its own trip.
You can read my blog posts for both below:
The Best Time To Go To UAE
The best time to go to the UAE is in the winter months, from October – April. It will be hot, but not so hot that you can’t enjoy it!
Temperatures in the summer months will hit 45 degrees Celsius and it can be quite uncomfortable.
Another thing to consider is that many of the most interesting places to visit close in summer, such as the Miracle Garden in Dubai.
However, the summer months are cheaper and there are lots of great offers available, so this may be a factor if you are on a budget.
Try not to visit during Ramadan – the holy month of Islam. It is a time when Muslims fast during the day, so there’s no eating or drinking in public until after sundown. The dates for Ramadan change each year, so make sure to check before your trip.
You’ll be fine visiting during Ramadan, I know that because I too have visited a Muslim country during that time – Read my blog on Egyot for more – and had no issues finding food to eat, however it is important to be cognizant of the reason why some restaurants may or may not be open.
Start checking out flights 6 months ahead of your trip to find the best offers. November through to March are peak times for travelling to the UAE. If you plan to visit then, you need to book ahead not only your flight, but also your hotel and any major attractions you want to visit.
In the UAE, most people dress conservatively in order to respect and maintain their religious beliefs.
It is best for women to avoid short skirts, revealing tops or tight-fitting clothes in public places as well as at religious sites. Men are also expected to dress respectfully – make sure shoulders and knees are covered and you’ll be fine.
However, in your hotel it’s another matter. No one will frown on you for walking through the hotel lobby dressed in shorts and flip flops.
The United Arab Emirates has a stable government and is predominantly a safe country for travel. Crime levels are low but take care and be vigilant as you would even when you are home. I personally feel much safer out of the U.S.
Currency To Take To UAE
The currency in the UAE is called Dirham and is written as AED (Arab Emirates Dirham) or sometimes DH.
It’s worth having cash on you for taxis and shopping in the souks, but you can pay by credit or debit card almost everywhere else.
You’re allowed to enter the Emirates with up to 100,000AED. More than that needs to be declared on arrival.
Tipping In UAE
Tipping is not expected in the UAE. Of course, if you get particularly good service, then you can leave a small tip in the restaurant or for your taxi driver.
In restaurants you’ll find a 10-15% service charge is usually added to your bill. If not, you can add 10% yourself. Restaurant tips are divided between all staff, not just for your waiter.
If you want to tip your taxi driver, round up to the nearest note, or leave around 5dh as a tip.
Getting Around In UAE
Public transport systems within cities are generally quite good and even make for an interesting way to sightsee.
You may find it difficult to get from city to city in the UAE without a car though. The public transit system is not fantastic for national travel, so if you plan to travel between cities, rent a car.
Renting A Car In UAE
To rent a car you need to be over 21. You will need to present your driver’s licence and passport when you pick up the car.
Both car rental prices and fuel are cheap in the UAE. Most hotels offer free parking too, so renting a car makes a lot of sense.
We rented a car in Abu Dhabi and drove it around the city, as well as drove it to Dubai with no issues. Just be very careful about not getting any traffic violations such as speeding or running red lights as there are cameras everywhere.
Other Ways To Get Around The UAE
Taxis are a great way to get around and they’re not usually too expensive either.vThey can be flagged down anywhere or booked by phone ahead of time.
All taxis are metered with a starting price of 20AED from airports or 3AED if you flag them on the street. Make sure you have a small bills to pay the taxi driver – he probably won’t accept large notes.
Uber is also available, and much easier. We used Uber to get around for two days in Abu Dhabi before we rented a car and it was very easy to use.
Another option is Careem which is basically another form of Uber.
Make sure to download both the Careem App and the Uber App so that you can have it handy as needed. Both charge about the same so you won’t go wrong with either one.
Alcohol In UAE
The only places licenced to sell alcohol in the UAE are restaurants in hotels and resorts. The restaurants are open to anyone, not just residents of the hotel, so don’t worry if your hotel doesn’t have its own restaurant. Just pick another!
Alcohol is not permitted in any other public spaces. Also, don’t over-indulge and then take a walk – you can be locked up for being drunk in public places.
Can You Bring Alcohol With You To UAE?
According to the Abu Dhabi Airport website, you are allowed to enter the UAE with 4 litres of alcohol or one carton / 24 cans of beer. However, I would advise that you check the latest allowances before you fill your suitcase with your favorite alcohol!
Smoking in UAE
If you’re a smoker you might be wondering ‘Is public smoking allowed in UAE?’. UAE smoking law prohibits smoking in shopping malls, offices and government areas. Look out for designated areas where smoking is permitted.
Whilst smoking is allowed, vaping and e-cigarettes are not. If you try to take vaping and e-cigarette items with you to the UAE they will be confiscated at the airport.
According to the Abu Dhabi Airport website, you are allowed to enter UAE with AED 2,000 worth of cigarettes or 400 sticks of cigarettes. Again though, check the latest allowances before you pack your suitcase with your cigarettes.
Drugs In UAE
Drug laws are extremely strict in UAE, including medication drugs. Possession of certain drugs is punishable by death.
Can I take prescription drugs to the UAE?
Most medications are available in pharmacies and hospitals. Be aware though that if you plan to enter UAE with your own medication, you will need a permit. If you get approval to bring your prescription medicine with you, you can only bring a 3-month supply. Make sure you keep it in its original packaging, with the prescription itself.
Find out more on this government website.
Muslims pray 5 times each day so you’re sure to hear the call to prayer at some point. You might be surprised by the loudspeaker sound broadcasting out across your neighborhood – it is a reminder for people to come together and pray. However, there’s no expectation for non-Muslims to pray if they don’t want to.
Some smaller, independent shops might close during prayer time.
You can see a list of prayer times here.
Shopping In UAE
If you’re looking for shopping, Dubai is the place to go! The malls in Dubai are huge and have all sorts of shops – from luxury boutiques down to your more local grocery stores.
If you’d like to buy gold, then head to the Gold Center in Abu Dhabi. We saw so many options and couldn’t figure out which one to choose from. Do note that when you are heading back to the U.S. you have to disclose this purchase especially if you purchase a lot of gold. This is so that you can pay taxes on it.
You can take scenic shots of tourist attractions with people in them, but if you want to take photographs of particular people, make sure that they are happy with it – don’t try to take photos of anyone without their permission.
Don’t take pictures of government buildings, military sites or airports.
Women Travelling Alone
If you’re a woman planning to travel alone, you’re probably wondering ‘is UAE safe for solo female travellers?’. You’ll be glad to know that it is, but take precautions, as you would anywhere else.
To make your trip more comfortable, consider wearing a wedding ring, whether you’re married or not. Make sure you dress modestly, covering knees and shoulders.
Women are sometimes pestered on beaches so to avoid that, take advantage of the ladies only days at Jumeirah beach park and Al Mamzar beach. Check ahead for which days of the week are ladies only days.
Showing Public Affection
Public displays of affection are not just frowned upon in UAE, they are illegal. Sexual relationships outside of marriage are also illegal. Whether you’re married or not, avoid holding hands, hugging or kissing in public.
In theory, an unmarried couple can’t share the same hotel room, though many hotels ignore this rule. If you’re not married, refer to your partner as your wife or husband, not girlfriend or boyfriend.
Homosexual relationships are illegal too so if you are gay or lesbian travelling with your partner, book separate rooms in the hotel or request a room with twin beds.
However I did not notice some Americans showing PDA in hotel lobbies and more. I decided to be respectful of the culture and not do any of that. It’s really just that simple.
While there are some things you should know ahead of time before traveling to the United Arab Emirates, it’s a great place for travelers.
In this article I’ve outlined the most important aspects of what to expect before travelling to the UAE. I hope you find them helpful in preparing for your trip!