United Arab Emirates, Travel Tips
Travelling with Children
The UAE is a family-oriented environment and small children
are welcome and appreciated everywhere. The larger hotels
have a good selection of kids’ meals, especially in room
service. Very small children do not normally eat out at
night, but are often welcome. Phone ahead to check. In any
case baby-sitting services are available in the main hotels.
There are lots of activities for
children, both in and around the five-star hotels, special
amusement parks and the many green areas. Children under 12
usually qualify for discounts on admission fees to most
museums, amusement parks, swimming pools and entertainment
The UAE is extremely safe for women travellers, nevertheless
women travelling alone are a novelty and you may find
yourself the focus of unwanted attention. You will probably
have a more relaxed visit if you stay in one of the four or
five star hotels, especially if you can use the hotel’s
private beach facilities.
Women in the UAE have a much more
liberal lifestyle than many of their Gulf counterparts (i.e.
women are permitted to drive, work etc) however, women
travellers should be aware that they are visiting a society
which has strong traditional roots.
If you wish to avoid hassle or risk causing offence, do not
wear tight or revealing clothes away from the beach clubs
and resorts. You will also find that clothing suitable for
the more cosmopolitan cities may not be comfortable or
convenient for independent travel in rural areas. Loose
trousers and a long sleeved cotton shirt will satisfy a wide
range of situations.
When socializing in local company
wait until a hand is offered to you for a handshake, some
devout Muslims prefer not to shake hands with a woman.
Ignore unwelcome comments and above all maintain a sense of
humour! Remember that one advantage of being a woman in the
UAE is that women are normally served first and banks and
post offices, police stations and other government offices
frequently have separate queues for women.
Several five-star hotels have specially-adapted rooms and
other facilities for handicapped people.
In June 2001 Emirates airline designated a special handling
area at departures and arrivals for passengers with special
needs. As a result, wheelchair passengers will receive a
more personalized service.
Remarkably, the UAE was one of only two countries with no
reported cases of holiday illnesses recorded in a survey by
the leading British consumer magazine, Holiday Which? This
is a tribute to the success of government immunization
programmes, the provision of adequate clean water and high
standards of cleanliness in hotels and restaurants.
No special immunizations are required, however it would be
wise 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.
There are very few mosquitoes in the towns and cities and,
since it is not considered to be a risk, malaria tablets are
rarely prescribed for travel in the UAE. However, mosquitoes
will find you if you are camping near the mountains or
exploring wadis or date groves in the evening, so cover up
and use a suitable insect repellent as it is always safer to
avoid being bitten. If you are in any doubt consult your
doctor or your nearest tropical medical centre before your
The sun can be fierce throughout the year so heatstroke and
heat exhaustion are always a risk. Adequate sunglasses, hats
and high factor sun creams are essential, especially for
Public hospitals, where the medical facilities are very
good, will deal with emergencies free of charge, however it
would be wise to take out medical insurance to cover all
eventualities, especially if you need to attend a private
hospital or clinic where treatment can be quite expensive.
In all instances, medical procedures, including the use of
sterilized needles and the provision of blood transfusions
are very reliable.
If you need a doctor, ask at your hotel, or ring your
embassy for recommendations. If you need emergency treatment
and are unable to contact a doctor, try one of the major
hospitals listed below.
Most medicines are readily available at pharmacies. Each
emirate has at least one pharmacy open 24 hours a day. Check
in local newspapers for information. In some emirates a
24-hour municipality emergency number (Abu Dhabi 02 777 929;
Dubai 04 2232323) lists the locations of open chemists.
Good dentists are readily available, including
Chinese medicine is readily available. There is also a
Ambulance service 998 or 999
COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA
Telephone and fax
The telephone network operated by the national
telecommunication organization ETISALAT is superb: local
calls are free and direct dialling is available to 150
The international dial code for
UAE is +971. Cheap rates for international direct calls
apply from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and all day on Fridays and
public holidays. There is a complete list of rates at the
back of each telephone directory. You do not need to use the
emirate access code when dialling an internal number in that
emirate. In other words to ring a number in Dubai from Abu
Dhabi you must use the 04 prefix. If you are dialling a
number in Abu Dhabi from another location in that emirate
you will not need to use a prefix.
Yellow page directories are
available for each emirate (see also
These can be purchased at ETISALAT offices. Pay phones, both card and coin
operated, are located throughout the UAE. Phone cards for
local use (Dh30 or Dh45) are usually available from ETISALAT
offices, supermarkets, pharmacies etc. Coin operated phones
take Dh1 and 50 fils.
Local and international area
Abu Dhabi 02 + 9712
Ajman 06 + 9716
Al Ain 03 + 9713
Dubai 04 + 9714
Fujairah 09 + 9719
Jebel Ali 04 + 9714
Khor Fakkan 09 + 9719
Ra’s al-Khaimah 07 + 9717
Sharjah 06 + 9716
Umm al-Qaiwain 06 + 9716
* Sharjah, Ajman and Umm al-Qaiwain share the access code 06
and Fujairah and Khor Fakkan the access code 09
All hotels offer fax facilities.
Faxes can also be sent from ETISALAT (http://www.etisalat.co.ae/)
offices throughout the Emirates. The offices are
recognizable by the distinctive ‘golf ball’ structures on
top of each building. The main ETISALAT office in Abu
Dhabi is on the corner of Zayed the Second and Sheikh Rashid
bin Saeed Al Maktoum St. It is open 24 hours a day.
ETISALAT’s main office in Dubai is on the corner of Beniyas
and Omar ibn Al Khatab roads. It is also open around the
clock. In Sharjah the main office is located in Al Manakh,
close to the dhow roundabout. Opening hours are Saturday to
Wednesday 7 a.m.- 3 p.m., however you can send and receive
fax and telex messages 24 hours a day. Shops advertising typing and
photocopying services often have fax facilities.
GSM services are available and the mobile phone code within
the UAE is 050.‘Speak Easy’ is a GSM mobile service for
those visitors and tourists who cannot use their own mobile
phones in the UAE. You can either buy a new mobile phone and
purchase a temporary SIM card or use your own handset with a
temporary card. Contact ETISALAT for details.
Most five-star hotels offer guests internet access. Email
cheap rates are from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. At the time of writing
public internet access kiosks were being established in the
UAE, initially at the major airports. The minimum charge for
public access is Dh2 and 60 fils per minute. Payment can be
made by credit card.
If you have brought your laptop
with you, along with a modem and browsing software, you can
dial 500 5333 to get connected to the internet. A charge of
15 fils per minute is billed to the telephone to which you
are connected. For more details call 800 5244. The British Council Library in
Dubai (04 3371540)
The General Postal Authority runs an efficient postal system
with red post collection boxes dotted throughout the cities
and towns. Mail is usually collected morning and evening.
Stamps can be purchased and post mailed from your hotel.
Express postal facilities are also available at post
In general, post office opening
hours are from 8 a.m.- 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Saturday
to Wednesday. Closed Thursdays and Fridays. 8 a.m. - 12 noon
on Public Holidays, but closed on the first day of Eid
holidays. Note that there are no telephone or fax facilities
at post offices in the UAE and poste restante facilities are
The main post office in Abu Dhabi
is on East Road between Al Falah and Zayed the Second St.
Open Saturday to Wednesday 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Thursday, 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. Friday. In Al Ain the main post
office is near the clock tower roundabout. Opening hours 8
a.m. - 1 p.m., 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Saturday to Wednesday, 8a.m.
- 11 a.m. Thursday, closed Friday.
The main post office in Dubai is
on Za’abeel Road, Bur Dubai (8 a.m. - 11.30 p.m. Saturday to
Wednesday, 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. Thursday and
closed Fridays). There is also a smaller post office in
Deira on Al Sabkha Road. Other post offices are located in
Satwa, Karama and Jumeirah.
The main office in Sharjah is
located by the Municipality roundabout in the centre of
town. Opening hours are Saturday to Wednesday 8 a.m. - 8
p.m., Thursday 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Hours and Holidays
Shops Normal shopping hours are from 9.00 a.m. - 1 p.m. and
4.00 - 9.00 p.m. however many shops, particularly in Dubai
and Abu Dhabi stay open all day. Most shopping centres open
from 10 a.m to 10 p.m - frequently later. Some supermarkets
are open for 24 hours. Although shops and shopping centres
are fully air conditioned, the cool of the evening is a
favourite time for shopping. Shopping centres 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. All shops are required to close at
prayer times in Ra’s al-Khaimah.
Government offices open at 7.30 a.m. and close at 3.00 p.m.
but you would be wise to visit in the morning. Private
offices tend to keep longer hours, coming back to work in
the evening after an extended mid-day break. Some private
businesses open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. All government offices
close for the weekend at mid-day on Thursday and do not open
again until Saturday morning. Some offices outside the
public sector are open on Thursday and close on Friday and
Since Muslim festivals are timed according to local
sightings of phases of the moon, the dates outlined below
for Islamic religious holidays are approximate. 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.
1 Jan - New Year's Day
12/03/03 - Eid al-Adha (Feast
of the Sacrifice at the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca
5/03/03 - Ras al-Sana (Islamic
12/05/03 - Mawlid al-Nabi
6 Aug - Accession of HH Sheikh
Zayed as Ruler of Abu Dhabi
24/9/03 - Lailat al-Mi’raj
(Ascension of the Prophet Mohammed)
2 Dec - National Day
24/11/03 - Eid al-Fitr (3 days
at end of Ramadan)
Security Personal safety
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.
Police Headquarters Abu
Dhabi 02 4461461
Dubai 04 2292222
Sharjah 06 5631111
Ajman 06 7436000
Umm al-Qaiwain 06 5656662
Ra’s al-Khaimah 07 2333888
Fujairah 09 2370000
Dubai Police hotline (Al Ameen service) 8004888
Ambulance 998 or 999
Coastguard 04 3450520
East Coast Coastguard 09 2380380
If you dial 999 or 04 2821111, Dubai Police guarantee that
in an emergency a police helicopter will be with you within
Tipping is not
expected, 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). If this charge is not included,
add 10 per cent of the total to the bill. Taxi drivers do
not expect to be tipped. Supermarket baggers, bag carriers
and windscreen washers at petrol stations are generally
Film is readily available, so too are processing facilities
and colour prints are produced in record time. 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. This means that there is a three hour
difference between UK and UAE local times in summer and a
four hour difference in winter.
Domestic supply is 220 volts. Sockets suitable for three-pin
13 amp plugs of British standard design are the norm,
however it is a good idea to bring an adaptor with you just
in case. Adaptors can be purchased in local supermarkets.
Appliances purchased in the UAE will generally have two-pin
Weights and Measures
The UAE uses the metric system, although British and US
standard weights and measures are understood.
Lightweight summer clothing is ideal with a wrap, sweater or
jacket for cooler winter nights and air-conditioned
premises. Although the dress code in the UAE is generally
casual, guests in the larger hotels do tend to dress more
formally in the evening. Since you are visiting a Muslim
country, bikinis, swimsuits, shorts and revealing tops
should be confined to beach resorts.
Women are usually 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.
Most shopping centres, public gardens, museums etc have
clean, well-maintained public toilets. Public toilets in
souqs and bus stations are usually just for men. Outside of
the cities, you can find public toilets at restaurants and
petrol stations, however they may not be in good condition
and will generally lack toilet paper.
Food and Water
The standard of food hygiene and water quality is extremely
high, especially in all of the larger centres, as is
evidenced by the Which survey. You should take the time to
investigate conditions in smaller caf้s in remote areas,
although again standards are usually good. Raw salads and
shawarmas (meat cooked on a spit and served in a pittta
bread sandwich) are to be avoided if you have any doubts.
Water is usually produced by desalination so it is normally
safe to drink, nevertheless you may prefer the taste of
bottled water. In any case it is advisable to drink plenty
of water in the heat so carry a bottle with you at all
United Arab Emirates
Shopping in UAE
Nightlife and Dining Out
Fishing in UAE