Visiting the United Arab Emirates
DO YOU NEED A VISA?
All US citizens must have a round-trip ticket and a passport, valid for more than six months, to enter country for any length of time. Tourists planning to stay in the United Arab Emirates 30 days or less may obtain a visitor visa, available at no fee, at the point of entry.
IS THE UAE A DRY COUNTRY?
The emirate of Sharjah is completely dry. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi alcoholic beverages are available in most restaurants of 5-star hotels, but only a few independent establishments. Expats with residency visas may purchase alcohol from a liquor store in Dubai and Abu Dhabi; however, a license is required.
Public intoxication is not tolerated; it is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in public, on the street, beaches, in parks, etc.
The UAE Dirham (AED or Dh) is pegged to the US Dollar. Notes are in denominations of Dh1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of Dh1, and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 fils. One dirham = 100 fils.
Moneychangers and ATM’s can be found in the main cities; occasionally in hotels. You can also change money at the airport, banks and most hotels The latter at a higher rate of exchange.
Credit Cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available. There are no restrictions on the import and export of both local and foreign currency.
Notify your USA bank of travel plans so that use of your credit and/or debit card purchases are not denied in the UAE due to the appearance of fraud.
Best Banks in the UAE
CBD-Commercial Bank of Dubai
ADCB-Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
Emirates Bank NBD
FGB-First Gulf Bank
Islamic Bank of Abu Dhabi
NBAD-National Bank of Abu Dhabi
Standard Chartered Bank
Banking hours are generally Saturday to Wednesday 7:30am-1:00pm, Thursday 7:30am to 12:00noon. Some also open in the afternoon from 4:30pm to 6:00pm Saturday to Thursday. Friday-Saturday is the weekend.
GRATUITY / TIPPING
Though tipping is not mandatory, it is always expected (and appreciated) of foreign visitors, particularly, western expats. AED10-20 / US$2.75-5.50 is the appropriate gratuity for taxi drivers. Hotel bellman, airport porters, AED 10 per bag; Minimum 10% tip in restaurants, bars and cafés.
Refer to the UAE Embassy “Guide for Carrying Personal Medications with Travelers to the United Arab Emirates”.
The UAE takes an infamously strict line on medicines, with many common drugs, notably anything containing codeine, diazepam (Valium) or dextromethorphan (Robitussin) being banned unless you have a notarized and authenticated prescription. Visitors breaking the rules, even inadvertently, have found themselves deported or jailed. The US Embassy to the UAE maintains an unofficial list of what may not be imported.
However, as many people have noticed even having all the correct documentation
in both English and Arabic has not been enough to be able to bring in some medications and have resulted in both refusal of entry into the UAE and in some cases fines or jail time. It is advisable to not bring any kind of medication with you if you can manage without them.
Don't even think about bringing in narcotics: possession of even trace amounts leads to a minimum of four years in prison. Using Khat/qat (a flowering plant that contains an alkaloid called cathinone) which is popular in other nearby countries (notably Yemen) is also illegal, with life prison sentences possible.
ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
THERE IS A STRICT, CONSERVATIVE DRESS CODE FOR VISITORS TO THE ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE and ATTIRE IS CHECKED BY STAFF AT THE VISITOR ENTRANCE.
For men and women, legs and arms must be covered. No shorts.
Skirts, dresses and pants must cover the ankle. Socks may be worn to assure that ankles are not visible.
A woman's upper body is to be completely covered with loose fitting attire—long sleeves, high neckline.
Clothing—pants, skirts, dresses and tops—are also to be loose fitting.
Fabric of your clothes is to be totally, opaque, as see-through garments are inappropriate in a religious environment.
Female visitors to the mosque will be asked to cover their hair. It will be easier to keep a head scarf in place if you pull back and secure your hair in a bun or ponytail if your hair is long enough.
You will be asked to remove your shoes, so it will be most convenient to wear a style that is easy to slip on and off. Note: The area where shoes are removed is outdoors and the walking surface can become quite hot. You may wish to wear socks with rubber grips as the service is slippery .
NO SMOKING, EATING OR DRINKING
ONE SHOULD REMAIN AS QUIET AS POSSIBLE
NORMALLY, THE MOSQUE IS VERY CROWDED
ELECTRICITY IN THE UAE
Electricity in United Arab Emirates is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to United Arab Emirates with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. Outlets in United Arab Emirates generally accept 3 types of plug:
Two round pins
Two parallel flat pins & ground pin
Three round pins arranged in a triangle (most common)
If your appliance plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the future, it may be worthwhile to get a combination voltage converter and plug adapter.
Hotels normally have hair dryers and for other appliances they are often able to provide adapters. Be aware that hair dryers and other electronics brought into the UAE must be 220V/110V to use only an adapter.
Partially from ExpatWoman.com
Based on respect for the culture and religion of the UAE and to avoid causing any of the many nationalities any offense.
While out in public everything from shoulders to knees should be covered. Do not wear clothing that is too tight or see through. Cleavage should be covered.
Public places to which the dress code applies includes malls, souks/markets, cinemas, on the street, on the road in a vehicle, super markets, public areas of hotels etc.
Dos and Don'ts
1. Wear the right swimwear. Bikinis and swimsuits are permitted around pools or at the beach, but there are some limitations. Do not wear a thong swim suit. Change your swimwear before you leave the pool or beach area. It’s a violation of the dress code to wear wet swimsuits under clothing if the clothing then becomes see through. Choosing a one-piece swim suit is probably a good idea. At public beaches, wearing a T-shirt and shorts is a better idea.
2. Do not wear beach attire on the street or when visiting a shop or mall with short or see through cover up or under clothing that a wet swimsuit makes the clothing see through. Make sure you get fully redressed after being by the pool or sea.
3. Wear the right clothes when working out. Normal workout gear in a hotel or private gym. Women can get away with wearing running leggings as long as they go past the knee. After the gym get fully clothed again.
4. Undergarments should be covered at all times—no panties, bras etc. on show or viewable through fabric.
1. Pashminas are handy cover-ups for all sorts of circumstances.
2. Capri pants are not full length so lower legs keep cool.
3. Boleros with a cap or short sleeve allow a woman to wear strappy tops and dresses and still keep your shoulders covered stay cool and not have too much clothing weight added during the heat.
4. Leggings for a dress that is really a little bit too short and not covering the knees but still want to wear it out and about. Put lightweight leggings on underneath the dress.
5. Cardigans are great to cover shoulders. AC in malls and cinemas can get a bit arctic sometimes.
1. Bare chests are not allowed in public; no tank tops.
2. While shorts for men are only recently acceptable, prefer for our tours that long, sport fabric pants be worn except around the pool or at the beach. When running or walking for exercise outside, wear longer shorts and a lightweight top. Shorts should be to the knee.
3. Swimwear should not be worn away from a pool or beach e.g. don't walk down the street in your swim trunks.
UAE Tour Participants
No blue jeans, please
Comfortable walking shoes, but prefer that there be no sneakers except for beach goers or for exercising.
Pack one “dressy” outfit for evening as the trend is to dress for dinner.