Information & Facts
The United Arab Emirates, although a very warm country, requires formal business attire from both men and women. Women should dress conservatively, being careful to cover up as much as possible; it is unlikely that visitors will come into contact with local women in business, as it is an overwhelmingly male-dominated society. Punctuality is not always observed and it is not uncommon to be kept waiting on occasion, and with interruptions in meetings quite prevalent, patience is expected. The Arabic greeting of 'Salaam Aleikum' is advisable instead of 'Hello' and politeness helps to build strong relationships. Shaking hands is common, but men should only shake the hand of a woman after she offers it, otherwise a simple bow of the head will suffice. Often agreements are verbal and will be acted upon. Dates in documents should be detailed in both Gregorian dates and the Hijrah date. Gifts are appreciated but not necessary, however be sure to avoid anything involving alcohol or pig-related products, as the UAE is a Muslim country. Friday is the day of rest and most likely very little business will occur on this day. General business hours are 9am to 5pm Sunday to Thursday. During the holy month of Ramadan businesses may halt in the middle of the day and only continue after the fast has been broken in the evening.
Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, the UAE has a sub-tropical arid climate and is warm and sunny in winter, but hot and humid during the summer months. The humidity is particularly high in the coastal areas. Rainfall is virtually non-existent, with occasional short showers occurring mainly in winter (December to March). Localised thunderstorms sometimes occur in summer.
The International code for the United Arab Emirates is +971. The outgoing international code is 00. City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)2 for Abu Dhabi and (0)4 for Dubai. The Etisalat mobile phone network provides wide GSM 900 coverage throughout the country. Guest starters packs including a SIM card and credit can be bought on arrival at the airport, providing 3 months' of cellular access. Internet cafes are widely available, and most hotels have high speed internet access. The internet is censored to filter out any material and websites deemed undesirable by the authorities.
The Emirates states are all Muslim, therefore alcohol is not served except in hotels. It is an offence to drink or be drunk in public and penalties are severe. Some prescribed and over the counter medicines from outside the country may be considered to be a controlled substance within the UAE and will not be allowed into the UAE without prior permission from the UAE Ministry of Health Drug Control Department (DCD). A passenger arriving with such medication without permission may be subject to prosecution. Dress and behaviour should be modest, particularly during the month of Ramadan when it is disrespectful to smoke, drink or eat in public between sunrise and sunset. Women's clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs. Cohabiting, adultery and homosexual behaviour are illegal in the UAE, and it is an offence to swear or make rude gestures, or show a public display of affection. In general, the country has a tolerant approach to Western visitors, but local laws and sensitivities should be respected.
Visitors to the UAE do not need to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes, cigars to a maximum value of 3,000 dirhams and 2kg tobacco; and perfume for personal use to the value of 3,000 dirhams. Alcohol allowances vary. Dubai: 24 cans of beer or 4 litres of any other alcohol; Abu Dhabi and Fujairah: 4 litres of alcohol provided traveller is not Muslim; Sharjah: 2 litres of alcohol and 1 case beer. Fruit and vegetables from cholera infected areas are strictly prohibited.
Electrical current in the UAE is 220 and 240 volts, 50Hz. The most frequently used plugs are the square three-pin type.
No vaccinations are required for entry to the UAE, however a certificate is required for cholera and yellow fever if arriving from an affected area. Tap water in the major cities is safe to drink, but elsewhere only bottled water should be drunk. Medical care is excellent in the main cities, but extremely expensive, while medicines and medical care are not always available in the outlying areas. Health insurance is essential; in Abu Dhabi particularly a health insurance law has been implemented that makes it mandatory for all travellers to Abu Dhabi to have health insurance. In general, travellers who require medical treatment will have to cover the cost of any medical fees incurred.
Arabic is the official language of the Emirates, but English is widely used.
The currency of the United Arab Emirates is the Dirham (AED), which is divided into 100 fils. There are no currency regulations in the UAE and all major currencies are readily exchanged at banks and large hotels. The Dirham is fixed against the US Dollar. The best exchange rates are found at private moneychangers who operate throughout the territory, particularly in the more popular souks (markets) and shopping centres. Most major credit cards are accepted, as are travellers cheques (best carried in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling). ATMs are common throughout the UAE. Banking hours are generally Saturday to Thursday from 8am to 1pm, but some are also open between 4pm and 8.30pm.
All visitors to the United Arab Emirates must hold a passport that is valid for three months from the date of entry, or six months if visiting for longer than 90 days. All passport photographs are to be recent colour photographs. Visitors must hold documents and confirmed tickets for their next destination and have a sponsor in the UAE to cover their stay. Holders of passports containing an Israeli visa or stamps, need to obtain a clearance issued by the C.I.D. (Crime Investigation Deptartment) before arrival. It should also be noted that UAE citizenship is only ever granted to persons whose father is from the UAE. The onlyway a person becomes a UAE citizen is through paternity. (The UAE does not recognize dual nationality and all UAE citizens are required to enter and exit the country using UAE passports.) This means that regardless of how long a person has lived in Dubai, they will never be granted the same status as a citizen of the UAE and residence permits either by way of property ownership or employment remain the only option for a long term residence in the country. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Most visits to the UAE are trouble free. Crime is not a problem, but there is deemed to be a threat of terrorism against Western interests and gathering points, particularly entertainment venues. It is therefore wise to be vigilant when frequenting these. It is also wise to avoid political gatherings and demonstrations. Al Qaeda continues to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region, including references to attack Western interests, such as residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests.
Local time in the UAE is GMT +4.
Tipping practices are similar to most parts of the world. Where no service charge is included, 10% is adequate and many hotels and restaurants add a service charge, so it is best to check the bill.