Passport/Visa Requirements: Citizens of the U.S. and Canada need passports valid for at least six months. Americans and Canadians arriving in the U.A.E. will receive an automatic 60-day-visit visa on arrival. Those wishing to stay longer should be able to extend for up to an additional 60 days but should confirm details with their appropriate embassy or consulate. Charges will apply.
Those intending to take up employment in the U.A.E. should seek advice from the U.A.E. embassies in Washington, D.C., or Montreal, remembering that an offer of employment letter from a U.A.E. sponsor will be required. All foreigners planning to work or live in the U.A.E. will be tested for HIV, and those found to be HIV positive will immediately be deported. HIV certificates issued by foreign medical authorities are not accepted.
U.S. and Canadian citizens may face significant delays or be denied entry altogether when trying to enter or transit U.A.E. if their passport contains a valid or expired Israeli visa or stamps. Holders of Israeli passports will be denied entry to the U.A.E.
Reconfirm travel document requirements with carrier before departure.
Languages: Arabic, Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, Farsi. English is more widely spoken than Arabic.
Time Zone: 4 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.
Voltage Requirements: 220/240.
Telephone Codes: 971, country code; 4, city code;
The currency of the U.A.E. is the dirham, and it is linked to the U.S. dollar.
Currency-exchange bureaus are the best places to exchange money. They can be found all over the city and are usually open until 8:30 pm. Try to avoid exchanging your money in banks or hotels because they don't offer the most competitive rates. You can withdraw local currency from ATMs all over the city. These are conveniently scattered everywhere around the city, and you'll always find one in major shopping centers and in or near supermarkets. Avoid traveler's checks, as these are not as easily dealt with.
Be aware that as Dubai becomes more popular with global tourists, prices continue to rise.
Banks are generally open Saturday-Wednesday 8 am-1 pm and Thursday 8 am-noon. Currency-exchange bureaus stay open until later in the evening.
There are a number of tax-free zones in Dubai, but overall taxes run the gamut. On most services and entertainment there is a 5% tax, which is already included in the price. In most restaurants there is a 15% tax added for service to your bill. Alcohol carries a 30% sales tax. Dubai has introduced a tourism tax called the Tourism Dirham, which went into effect in 2014. Depending on the accommodations, the tax ranges 7 AED-20 AED nightly. The Dubai Government reports that the revenue will support marketing and tourism initiatives.
Where service charges are not included in a bill, a 10% tip for hotel bellhops, restaurant waitstaff and taxi drivers is appreciated, but not required.
Dubai has a subtropical, arid climate, with lots of sunshine and blue skies for most of the year. Rainfall is infrequent—mostly during the winter months—but it often results in flash flooding, as the city's draining system is inadequate. Temperatures range from a low of about 50 F/10 C to a high of 118 F/48 C. The best time to visit Dubai is during the winter months, November-March. April and May are still pleasant, although it will be warming up. Summers are hot and humid and worth avoiding if at all possible.
WHAT TO WEAR
Lightweight summer clothes are suitable for most of the year, but it's a good idea to pack a light jacket or sweater because the air-conditioning in restaurants and cinemas can be pretty powerful. In winter, it can cool down tremendously in the evenings, so a heavier jacket is necessary if you are out in the desert or dining alfresco. In summer, take along a few more underclothes and T-shirts as you'll likely go through a few changes of clothes in a day because of the excessive heat and humidity.
Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, long-sleeved T-shirts and light pants are all essentials for protection from the sun—particularly in the summer months or if you're planning on heading into the desert. A pair of flip-flops for the beach is a must because the sand is too hot to walk on most of the year. Few restaurants have strict dress codes, but most frown on flip-flops or shorts.
Despite the heat, business dress is of the formal suit-and-tie variety. Women should wear pantsuits or modest skirts.
Women may want to take along a shawl to cover up if needed in a traditional area.
All phone calls within the emirate of Dubai are considered local calls, but still require you to dial the prefix 04. To call a number in another emirate, dial the city code first (beginning with a 0) and then the number. To call a Dubai number from outside the U.A.E., dial your country's international access code, then the country code for the U.A.E., 971, then Dubai's city code, 4, followed by the local number. Toll-free numbers begin with 800.
Pay phones are going the way of the dodo bird and are getting harder to find, especially in this heavily blinged oil-rich city. The ones you do find will most likely be abandoned or vandalized. Your best bet remains the airport and some hotel lobbies. For most public phones you'll need a prepaid phone card, which can be bought in shops, supermarkets and Etisalat offices. Useful numbers include 100 (international operator) and 181 (directory assistance, with a charge for each call). There are two telecommunications providers in Dubai, the Emirates Telecommunications Corporation, known more commonly as Etisalat, and du. It is possible to pick up a pay-as-you-go SIM card from either Etisalat or du from one of their many booths and shops around town.
Cell phone numbers in Dubai begin with 50, 55 or 56 followed by the seven-digit number. Cell phone coverage is generally good throughout Dubai—and even into the surrounding and more remote regions—and dropped calls are rare.
The country's biggest Internet company, Etisalat, boasts the highest connection speeds in the UAE. The company also has Wi-Fi hot spots known as iZones in central locations like shopping malls, shisha places, restaurants and cafes such as Starbucks. You can use them by purchasing a prepaid card (15 AED an hour). Even though companies such as Oracle, Microsoft and Cisco have all built headquarters in Dubai's "Internet City", it's been reported that the UAE government is monitoring Internet traffic.
The best Internet cafes are on Dhiyafah Street in Satwa, Dubai's popular cafe strip on the Bur Dubai side of the Creek. Bank Street, also in Bur Dubai, has a number of Internet cafes as well. They are usually open daily 8 am-10 pm; they're especially busy in the afternoon after school gets out and during holidays.
Many hotels have Internet connections available for their guests, and most shopping centers have at least one Internet cafe that is open daily, and plenty of cafes give you free access to Wi-Fi for the price of a coffee.
Internet keys are available from Etisalat and Du, but cost generally several hundred dirhams, so you'd be better advised to seek out free Wi-Fi cafes or mall areas.
MAIL & PACKAGE SERVICES
There is no direct postal service delivery to addresses currently operating in Dubai. Residents have their mail delivered to post office boxes. You may have difficulty finding a postal box or postage stamps. Hallmark stores generally carry stamps, as well as some grocery stores. Postage from Dubai is expensive, and delivery to locals is infrequent. It takes roughly two weeks for delivery to North America.
Zabeel Road, Karama
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Category Mail & Package Services
The main Post Office, in Karama, is open Saturday-Wednesday 8 am-midnight and Thursday 8 am-10 pm. Smaller post offices are located conveniently around the city. Zabeel Road, Karama, Dubai. Phone 337-1500.
NEWSPAPERS & MAGAZINES
Gulf News, Gulf Today and Khaleej Times are the daily English-language newspapers in Dubai, although Abu Dhabi's The National is widely read and available. Most of the international daily newspapers are available in Dubai, costing about double the price of local papers, but they are usually a few days behind their publication date. Newspapers and magazines are available from all supermarkets, bookstores and most hotel shops.
Time Out is a weekly entertainment guide available for purchase in most hotels, supermarkets and bookshops. You'll often find a complimentary copy in your room at high-end hotels. It's worth picking up a copy to find out about entertainment and restaurants.
There are several guide magazines available through hotels and tourist outlets only. Some good ones are Concierge and In Dubai. Dubai Explorer is a comprehensive leisure guide published annually. It covers dining, nightlife, sports, shopping and lots more. It is available in bookshops and supermarkets. 7 Days is a free daily that gives information about upcoming local events as well as world news. Available in most coffee shops or online at https://7daysindubai.com.
One expense you might find worthwhile is that of the Entertainer(https://www.theentertainerme.com/Dubai-N-Emirates/products). Essentially a coupon book, the price is high, some 395 AED, but for a family of four, the cost can be recouped with one visit to Wild Wadi. Plus you get plenty of two-for-one deals on fast-food outlets, cafes, other attractions such as Sega Republic, and more. It might not be worth the expense for a couple. There is also a fine-dining and spa version of the Entertainer, so that may also be worth looking at as well. Available as a download on Android or Mac mobile devices.
The best ways to get around Dubai are by taxi or the Dubai Metro, which links the airport area with the other end of town, towards Jebel Ali, with plenty of stops in between. There is also a local bus service, but buses can be crowded at rush hours and are not always on time because of detours and delays caused by construction projects.
Walking is a good option in certain areas, such as along the Creek or in the souks, but the weather is generally too hot for you to cover long distances on foot in summer, and the city is not designed for pedestrians.
Dubai International Airport (DXB) is 3 mi/5 km southeast of the city. It's an ultramodern place with an award-winning duty-free area that stocks jewelry, electronic items, perfume and even cars (but only as raffle prizes). Note that the Dubai airport has eye-scan technology that is used on individuals whose passports raise concern from customs officials. Once you've cleared the usual international security procedures, you can kill time shopping, drinking in the Irish Village pub or sipping coffee at the numerous cafes.
The airport's Terminal 3, used solely by Emirates Airlines, is a huge, clean and efficient space. It is complemented by Al Maktoum International Airport, a new 54-sq-mi/66,000-sq-m facility which recently completed the construction of its first phase. Once completed (tentatively scheduled for 2027), this state-of-the-art international airport will have the capacity to process 160 million passengers and will be considered the world's largest airport. http://www.dubaiairport.com.
Abu Dhabi International Airport, only a 90-minute drive away, is also an option for those wishing to get to the U.A.E. and Dubai. Extensive renovations have been done to this airport as well. Etihad Airways flies in and out of Abu Dhabi, and it is less congested and easier to navigate than the Dubai airport. Etihad offers bus connections to and from Dubai for its passengers. http://www.abudhabiairport.ae.
Dubai has VIP luxury cabs and its slogan, “a new meaning for luxury in transport,” means just that (phone 04-208-0808). The meter starts at 50 AED. The Dubai Taxi Corporation is the official government-run taxi service at the airport. Available 24/7, these cabs can be found outside the terminal arrival areas. The meter starts at 25 AED and then costs 1.75 AED for every kilometer until you reach your destination. Expect to pay around 94 AED but fare prices vary depending on traffic and location of hotel. http://dubai-taxi.com
The Dubai Metro links all three terminals at the airport with the major spots in town, including the Mall of the Emirates, Deira City Centre and the Dubai International Financial Centre. Fares range 2 AED-11.60 AED, and an all-day standard-class ticket is 14 AED.
Rental car companies have booths at the airport. The legal driving age is 18 years, and you can drive with valid driver's licenses from the EU, U.K. and U.S., but check with the rental company if you have a driver's license issued in other countries. Most of the more expensive hotels have airport shuttles, although you may have to arrange transport at the time of booking.
There are buses from the airport that travel to most areas of the city, but the timetable can be difficult to understand.
Dubai has an impressive system of roads, and ample signage directs you to different parts of the city (blue and green signs indicate main areas, brown signs indicate heritage sites and places of interest). Driving is on the right side of the road. Seat belts must be worn in the front seat. Speed limits are about 62 mph/100 kph on the main highways and about 37 mph/60 kph in the city. Be aware that the city has one of the world's highest per-capita death rates because of traffic accidents. Speeding and erratic driving are very common. Photo radar cameras can be seen on most major highways, so watch your speed. Fines are stiff.
The legal minimum age for driving 17 years. For car rentals, the minimum age is 21. Seatbelts are mandatory and should be worn at all times. It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving.
Parking is readily available around the city, but keep an eye out for municipal lots where you have to pay to park. They are marked with orange signs. Generally, parking is free 1-4 pm; it's also free on Friday.
Within the city, small boats called abras ferry passengers across the Creek. There are two stations on the Deira side and one on the Bur Dubai side. A 10-minute trip from one side to the other generally costs 1 AED. The abras operate 5:30 am-1 am daily except Friday, when the first trip sets off after morning prayers are over.
More than 30 bus routes crisscross the emirate. Service has much improved in recent years, with buses and bus stops being air conditioned and offering time tables that are more or less accurate, depending on traffic. The Deira station is near the Gold Souk, and the Bur Dubai station is near Plaza Cinema on Ghubaiba Road.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Category Public Transportation
Opened with great fanfare in 2009, the Dubai Metro links various parts of the city that previously were only reachable by tedious car journey. Driverless and fully automated, the Dubai Metro is made up of two lines—Red and Green. All trains and stations are air conditioned. The Red line goes from Al Rashadiya to Jebel Ali, with 27 stops in between, including the Mall of the Emirates, Burj Khalifa, Deira City Centre and Dubai International Airport. The Green line runs from Al Qusais to Al Jaddaf and has 20 fully operational stations. The metro is an efficient and inexpensive way to see the city, with taxi stops near the stations. Prices range 2 AED-11.60 AED for Gold Class tickets across all zones. http://dubaimetro.eu.
Cruise ships call at the Port Rashid terminal in Jebel Ali.
Your best bet for transportation in Dubai is to hire a taxi, as the roads can be chaotic and accident rates are high. Reputable companies include Dubai Taxi (phone 04-208-0000) and National Taxi (phone 04-339-0002). Most malls have their own taxi ranks brimming with waiting cabs.
If you are a woman traveling alone, call Dubai Taxi and ask for a pink taxi, which is dedicated to women and families, with female drivers. You will also spot them at the airport taxi rank and more rarely at shopping mall ranks.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai Transport Company (Dubai Taxi)
This is the most common and reliable taxi service. Phone bookings are accepted and very efficient. These cream-colored, metered taxis are run by a government franchise. Most drivers speak English and know all the local landmarks. It's also helpful to know the name of a nearby landmark rather than a street name, because the streets are often called something other than the official name. Fares are calculated on a meter (standard minimum charge is 10 AED), which is switched on when you enter the taxi; all cars are marked with a reference number in case you run into any difficulties. You can hail a taxi on the street or call and arrange to have one pick you up. Phone 04-208-0000. http://dtc.dubai.ae/en/Pages/default.aspx.
Dubai: Gateway to the Gulf by Ian Fairservice (Motivate Publishing). This book is full of current information, good photos and easy-to-understand text.
Dubai Cultural Guide (Dubai Cultural Council). This 225-page coffee-table book encapsulates the ever-changing artistic movement in Dubai. Available in local bookstores.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Category Tourist Offices
Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing
Information and brochures on the tourist attractions and facilities in Dubai. Sunday-Thursday 7:30 am-2:30 pm, closed Friday and Saturday. Baniyas Street (National Bank of Dubai Building, 10th-13th floors), Deira, Dubai. Phone 04-223-0000. http://www.dubaitourism.ae.