|Currency||Emirati Dirham (AED)|
|Area||total: 83,600 km2|
|Population||4,484,000 (2008 est.)|
|Language||Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu Somali|
|Religion||Muslim 94% (Shi'a 16%), Christian, Hindu, and other 6%|
|Electricity||220/50Hz (UK plug)|
The United Arab Emirates , often referred to as the U.A.E, is a federation of seven emirates on the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. It has coastlines on the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia to the west and southwest, and Oman to the southeast and also on the eastern tip of the Musandam Peninsula as well as an Omani enclave within its borders. It is a country rich in history and culture and an easy starting point for travels in the Middle East
For most Western tourists, the U.A.E. offers an environment that is extremely familiar. The malls are extraordinarily modern, filled with virtually any product available in the West (save sexually explicit material; movies are censored, as are, to some extent, magazines). The less well known side of the U.A.E. includes remote, magnificent desert dunes on the edge of the Empty Quarter and craggy, awe-inspiring wadis in the north-east bordering Oman.
Alcohol is widely available at many restaurants and bars in Dubai and in the tourist hotels of every other emirate save Sharjah. There is a legal but roundly overlooked requirement to have a license to buy alcohol. The alcohol license is proof that the bearer is a non-Muslim. A passport will not suffice. However, you can purchase alcohol duty-free at the airport to bring into the U.A.E. Sharjah emirate is completely dry. An alcohol license is required in the emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Ajman; the remaining emirates of Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, and Umm al Quwain do not require any type of license. The requirement is sometimes overlooked at certain stores.
The roads and other public facilities are modern if, at times, extremely crowded. Supermarkets offer a vast assortment of products from Europe and the U.S., depending on the shop, along with local and regional items. Major international chains such as Ikea and Carrefour have a presence and fast-food chains (nearly all from the U.S.) such as McDonald's and KFC operate widely. On the other hand, there are still a few crowded traditional souks filled with products from around the world, rug stores. These can be hard to find for the average traveler, as the malls tend to gain an overwhelming amount of attention. (Please note that contrary to what is printed in guidebooks, the souks in Abu Dhabi were torn down in 2006 and no longer exist. The souks in Dubai are still wonderful to explore, though).
The combinatuion of Emirati Arab culture mixed with Southeast and South Asian as well as African and other immigrants who live here adds to an already vast and vibrant melting pot of cultures.
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven different emirates, each with its own king (or Sheikh). The capitol emirate, Abu Dhabi, covers about 70% of the nation's land. Each emirate retains considerable autonomy, most notably over oil revenues. In theory, the President and Prime Minister are elected by the Supreme Council, which is composed of the kings of each of the seven emirates. However, in practice, the king of Abu Dhabi is always elected President while the king of Dubai is always elected Prime Minister, making the posts de facto hereditary. As a result the rulers--or Sheikhs--of each emirate are revered and can radically affect the way of life in his respective Emirate. For example, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum of Dubai is very modern, so Dubai is forward-thinking and cosmopolitan. The ruling sheikhs of Ajman and Sharjah are more conservative, thus the rules there are more strict concerning religion, alcohol, and general living conditions.
The country is extraordinarily dry, getting only a few days of rain a year. Despite that, Emiratis use water at an alarming rate: there are broad swaths of grass in the major public parks, for example, and landscaping can be extensive in the resorts or other public places. The majority of this water comes from desalinization. Visitors do not pay for their water use. The weather from late October through mid-March is quite pleasant, with high temperatures ranging from around 27 °C (85 °F) to lows around 15°C (63 °F). It is almost always sunny. Rain can happen between November and February, and can cause road hazards when it does. In the summer, the temperatures soar and humidity is close to unbearable — it is widely suspected that the officially reported temperatures are "tweaked" to cut off the true summer highs, which can reach 50 °C (122 °F), or even higher!
The population is incredibly diverse. Only some 20% of the population of the Emirates are 'real' Emiratis; Most the rest come from the Indian Subcontinent: India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh (some 50%); other parts of Asia, particularly the Philippines, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka (another perhaps 15%); and "Western" countries (Europe, Australia, North America,; 5-6%), with the remainder from everywhere else. On any given day in, say, Dubai or Sharjah, you can see people from every continent and every social class. With this diversity, one of the few unifying factors is language, and consequently, nearly everyone speaks some version of English. Nearly all road or other information signs are in English and Arabic, and English is widely spoken, particularly in the hospitality industry. The country is still in touch with its religious root, and the sight of fully veiled women is commonplace.
Exact dates depend on local astronomical observations and vary from one country to another.
The weekend in the the U.A.E. for most government and public services as well as businesses runs from Friday to Saturday; for many, Thursday may be a half day (although most often work all day Saturdays). In nearly every city, commercial activity will be muted on Friday mornings, but after the noon services at the mosques most businesses open and Friday evenings can be crowded.
The major exception is during the fasting month of Ramadan, when the rhythm of life changes drastically. Restaurants (outside tourist hotels) stay closed during the daylight hours, and while most offices and shops open in the morning from 8AM to 2PM or so, they usually close in the afternoon while people wait (or sleep) out the last hours of the fast. After sundown, people gather to break their fast with a meal known as iftar, often held in outdoor tents (not uncommonly air-conditioned in the U.A.E.!), which traditionally starts with dates and a sweet drink. Some offices reopen after 8PM or so and stay open well after midnight, as many people stay up late until the morning hours. Just before sunrise, a meal called sohoor is eaten, and then the cycle repeats again.
The seven emirates (imarat, singular - imarah) that make up the U.A.E. are:
- Abu Dhabi - The capital of the UAE
- Ajman - The smallest emirate, One of the budget destinations.
- Al Ain - Inland and close to the Omani bordertown of Buraimi, Al Ain comprises a triangle between the proper cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
- Dubai - The most common entry point for travelers, it is the transport and commerce center of the UAE.
- Khor Fakkan
- Sharjah - A cheaper destination, dusty and chaotic in places but with its own unique charm.
- Umm al Quwain - The most peaceful Emirate of UAE, free from the hussle and bussle of city-life.
Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations do not require a visa, may enter using a National ID card, and may stay, work and travel in the Emirates indefinitely.
Citizens of the European Union (except Ireland and the United Kingdom), Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Seychelles, Switzerland and Vatican City do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
Citizens of Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, United Kingdom and the United States, in addition to persons holding British National (Overseas) passports may obtain a free visa on arrival valid for 30 days. Extension is possible for a fee.
Citizens of India holding a valid US visa or Green Card do not require an advance visa for visit purpose and can get a visa on arrival, valid for 14 days, from any port of entry. It costs AED 100. The US visa/GC must be valid for 6 months beyond the date of arrival. An extension is possible for another 14 days for an additional fee.
Citizens of any country except Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger, Somalia and Yemen may enter the United Arab Emirates for up 96 hours (4 days) after obtaining a transit visa at the airport. The time difference between the two flights must be over 8 hours and the passenger must continue to a third destination. Passengers also must have a hotel booking.
Several other countries are eligible for free hotel/tour-sponsored tourism visas. See U.A.E Interact  for the latest details.
All other nationalities will be required to apply for a visa in advance, which will require a sponsor from inside the U.A.E. Your travel agent will usually be able or arrange this for you if you book your hotel through them.
The UAE and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, and as such Israeli passports will not be recognized at the border. Holders of Israeli passport need to make advance arrangements for an entry permit. If you are traveling for business with a U.A.E. company, they would normally be able to organize it fairly quickly; chances of getting one for tourism purposes are very small (unless you are a high net worth individual; your specialist travel agent should be able to advise on it in such case). However, despite much online misinformation to the contrary, Israeli visa stamps are — by official policy  — not a problem at all, and neither is having been born in Israel or Palestine.
If you are traveling from India (not sure of the procedure from other countries), please get a stamp of 'OK to Board'. Most of the times, it is arranged by your travel agent. In case he hasn't then as soon as you get your Visa; take your Visa, Passport and Ticket to your Airlines office and get the stamp of 'OK to board'. Without this you might not be allowed to travel to UAE.
Each non-Muslim adult can bring in 'four items of alcohol, eg four bottles of wine, or four bottles of spirits, or four cases of beer (regardless of alcohol content).
The UAE takes a strict line on medicines, with many common drugs, notably anything with containing codeine, diazepam (Valium) or dextromethorphan (Robitussin) being banned unless you have a notarized and authenticated doctor's 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 when having all the correct documentation in both English and Arabic have not been enough to be able to bring in some medication and have resulted in both refusal of entry into the UAE and in some cases fines or jail time. It is advised 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.
The main hub for air transport in the United Arab Emirates is Dubai airport, which is served by several major airlines, most notably Dubai-based Emirates . Direct flights connect Dubai to Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town , London, Sydney, Melbourne, Karachi, Tehran, Riyadh, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hong Kong, Paris, Zurich, Frankfurt, Houston, Milan, Madrid, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, São Paulo and many other major cities in Europe, Asia, Australia, North America and Africa.
After Dubai, the airport at Abu Dhabi has the next best international connections. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways  now offers direct flights from New York, Toronto and many other airports in Europe and Asia.
For low-cost flights, Air Arabia  has set up a hub at Sharjah airport (which is very close to Dubai), and flies there from many cities in the Middle East and India. fly dubai is another low cost airline (based out of Dubai), which offers competitive rates.
There is road access to the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia in the south and Oman in the east. All highways in the UAE are in excellent condition, but there is a huge amount of traffic between Sharjah and Dubai, as well as a 4 AED charge to cross the Salik toll gate. A prepaid Salik Tag is required for this.
There is a large network of dhows which transport goods throughout the Gulf and India. It may be possible to buy passage on one of these boats. They call at all coastal cities in the UAE, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Distances in the UAE are relatively short. The roads are generally in excellent condition; however, signage is poor in some of the emirates.
By public transport
Public transportation within most cities remains rudimentary. Dubai is building extensive Metro, monorail and tram networks, and has invested heavily in the local bus network in recent years. The other emirates offer very little public transportation. Abu Dhabi has a network of city buses that cost Dh2 per trip and are fairly reliable, but can be overcrowded for male passengers. Intercity bus services are fast, comfortable and reasonably frequent.
In the cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, taxis are widely available. They are relatively cheap in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. A ride to anywhere within the city of Abu Dhabi will cost approximately US$10, as they charge solely by distance traveled. A night surcharge of US$3 may be added after 10PM, depending on your driver.
The legal driving age in the United Arab Emirates is 18.
The UAE has a modern road system. Renting a car or driving in the UAE requires an international driver's license, which is simply a translation of your standard license and can be acquired at a local automobile association. If you have UAE residency status, you must obtain a local driver's license. This can be a simple process that must be completed and can be done in 20 min but only if you are from a specific list of countries (predominantly Western). If you are from an Asian country, you currently have to undergo 40 classes at a local driving school and get through a pretty tough license exam. This is changing, though, and it may apply to all nationalities soon.
Car rentals are slightly cheaper than in the US. There is a flat fee per day for renting a car, based upon the car's size. Petrol (gasoline) is, by US and European standards, inexpensive. The road system is based along European standards, with many roundabouts and highly channeled traffic. But the signs are readily understandable and are, in most places, clear and coherent. Drivers in the UAE, particularly in the urban areas, tend to be highly aggressive and often use tactics that range from the stupid to the disastrous. This may perhaps stem from the traffic, which can be extremely congested in the urban areas, or from other factors.
People in the UAE drive extremely fast, and some are completely reckless: overtaking by the right is the rule, speed limits are ignored by many, even heavy trucks. Last-second lane change seems to be a national sport. The UAE has one of highest death-rates in the world.
Be especially careful when you spot a tinted-window SUV at night: the black windows make the driver not see you and change lanes. Theoretically forbidden, tinting windows is widespread among young Arabs and is generally associated with poor driving skills and fast driving.
There are now some good local city maps, particularly for Dubai (the Explorer series of books). Be aware that construction is on-going, sometimes rapidly changing the road networks, so maps capture only a "point in time." Sharjah remains poorly mapped. A website  offered the first decent online maps of the UAE. Google Earth does offer solid satellite pictures but at a level of detail good mainly for broad reference purposes. The lack of good maps or signage makes the use of a compass or GPS sometimes useful if you want to get off the highway.
Desert safaris or "wadi bashing" are good attractions in the vicinity of Dubai, but great care needs to be taken while choosing a hired vehicle; it should be a four wheel drive. Desert safaris are also generally pre-designed with travel agents and can give you good deal as well on quantity.
The official language is Arabic, but it is safe to say that the majority of the population doesn't speak it. This is especially true in Dubai, where Iranian, Indian, Asian and Western expatriates - who usually have very limited knowledge of Arabic - are more numerous than Arabs. Generally speaking, Arabic is spoken by government departments and the police; however, in Abu Dhabi and in the Northern Emirates, Arabic is much more widely spoken.
English is the lingua franca; most shops, hotels and commercial businesses conduct their business in English. As the UAE was a British protectorate, most Emiratis have learnt English in school and know at least basic English. Most people possess at least a basic command of English, though it is not uncommon to meet people whose English is limited.
Due to immigration from the Indian subcontinent, Hindi and Urdu are widely spoken and understood. Other languages widely spoken in the UAE include Malayalam, Tamil, Farsi (Persian), and Tagalog (Filipino), as well as many other languages from other expat countries.
- Some of the largest sand dunes in the world in the south of Abu Dhabi in the Liwa Oasis area.
- Beautiful beaches on the east coast.
- Rugged, remote wadis in the northern emirates.
- Archeological sites and natural rock formations in the Hajar Mountains.
- Resplendent oases in Al Ain.
Although at first glance the outdoors may seem dull and uninteresting, and even dangerous due to the desert conditions, there are actually amazing natural destinations in the UAE - the difficulty is in knowing where to find them! There are pristine waterfalls, cliffs lined with fossils, even freshwater lakes - Weekenduae is a blog that freely shares ideas, routes and plans for weekend adventures in the UAE (and Oman) with all trip details including description, GPS track, interactive map, and photos.
One of the main focuses of tourist life (other than shopping) is the beach. The waters of the UAE, although definitely more cloudy in recent years due to heavy coastal construction, are still, for those from less torrid climes, remarkably warm, clean, and beautiful. There are long stretches of white-sand beaches, ranging from completely undeveloped to highly touristed (even in cities like Dubai). The snorkeling and diving can be magnificent, especially along the eastern (Indian Ocean) coast. Vast swaths of desert stretch to the south of the major urban areas, offering dramatic views and terrifying rides in fast-driven safaris. The mountains are dramatic, steep rocky crags, and a visit to them (for example, the town of Hatta) is well rewarded with amazing views. Women wearing bathing suits will draw unwanted attention at the public beaches; it is advisable to pay for a one-day entry pass to a private beach at a hotel.
Ski Dubai in Dubai Emirates Mall opened in December 2005. It is the world's third largest indoor ski slope, measuring 400 metres and using 6000 tons of snow. Ski Dubai resort  is the first UAE indoor ski slope to open, and more are planned. All equipment, except for gloves and a hat, are provided--skis/snowboards, snowsuits, boots and socks are all included in the price (the socks are disposable). The adjoining ski store sells equipment, including gloves.
The Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open an indoor ski slope as well in 2007 - 2008. A ski slope in Ra's al Khaimah is also in the works.
'Desert Safari' trips can be a fun experience for tourists. They can be booked ahead, but can often be booked as late as the day before, and most hotel receptionists can arrange this for you. Trips normally start late afternoon and end late evening. You will be collected from your hotel and driven to the desert in a 4x4 vehicle. Most packages include a heart-pumping drive over the dunes, a short camel ride, an Arabic buffet and perhaps a belly dancer. Another option would be renting/buying a 4x4 and joining the many growing 4x4 clubs in the UAE, which are varied and each carry their own different flavour: ad4x4 , uaeoffroaders , arabianoffroader , me4x4 , emarat4x4 , etc. They offer a free learning experience for all newcomers with scheduled weekly trips to suit all levels of driving skills, some of them have over 2,000 members from many nationalities.
The currency is the United Arab Emirates dirham (AED, local abbreviation dhs). Conversion rates are 3.67 AED for 1 USD, 4.89 AED for 1 EUR and 5.68 AED for 1 GBP. The Dirham is pegged to the USD, so rate variations with this currency are unlikely. Notes are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 dirhams. There is a one dirham coin with sub-units of 25 and 50 fils coins (100 fils = 1 dirham). There are 5 fils and 10 fils coins but these are rarely seen (and provide an excuse for traders to 'short change').
Cash and travellers' cheques can be changed at exchanges located at the airports or in all the major shopping malls. ATMs are numerous and generously distributed. They accept all the major chain cards: Visa, Cirrus, Maestro etc. Credit cards are widely accepted.
If you pay with an overseas credit card, most merchants will attempt to apply dynamic currency conversion, charging several percent more than the issuer conversion would have cost. The credit card terminal will offer the choice of whether the conversion should be accepted. The merchant will not ask you about this, and will choose to accept the conversion. If you pay attention, you can intervene and ask for "No" to be answered. If you ask upfront, some merchants will have no idea what you mean, but many will.
Basic commodities used to be cheaper than in most western countries, although prices are increasing. Hotels rates can be costly--there is a shortage of hotel rooms available, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which keeps the hotels often at above 90% occupancy. Vast numbers of new hotels are scheduled to come on line during the next five to ten years, but as tourism is on the rise, it is unlikely that prices will come down. All things touristy also tend to be rather expensive. Rents in Dubai are starting to compete with cities like Paris or London but start at $500 a month all inclusive all inclusive. Some places have shared accommodations available and are quite reasonable at $410 all inclusive and up. Food can start at $1.4 (4 AED) for cheap curry bit most meals are 10 AED to 20 ($2.5-$5)
One of the things the UAE is most famous for is shopping. It is very difficult to find any real bargains anymore as inflation is at an all-time high. If you are interested in shopping, you can't leave the UAE without visiting Dubai. Dubai boasts the best places for shopping in the whole of the Middle East, especially during the annual shopping festival, usually in January till the beginning of February. 5% VAT has been introduced from the year of 2018.
Dubai and, to a lesser extent, Abu Dhabi offer a vast spread of food from most of the world's major cuisines. By Western standards most restaurants are quite affordable although it is easy to find extremely expensive food too. Most upper-end restaurants are located in hotels.
Due to the large expat populations, Indian and Pakistani restaurants abound, offering affordable and succulent choices. Also popular are Turkish, Syrian and Saudi Arabian restaurants.
A popular favorite is grilled chicken, available at most of the open-air cafeterias by the roadside which can be relished with other accompaniments like Khubz (Arabic Bread), hummus, etc., and the most popular rice dish is Biriyani, with grilled chicken or fish or lamb. Traditional Shawarma and falafel sandwiches are readily available and are quite cheap and delicious.
Very few traditional Emirati dishes are served at restaurants; and the closest is the Mendi-style cuisine of Yemen, in which platters of fragrant rice are topped with lamb, chicken or fish that has been slow-roasted in a pit.
Despite common misconceptions, pork is not illegal in the UAE but it can be hard to find. Supermarkets such as Carrefour do not sell it. However, it is possible to find pork in Spinneys stores (a British supermarket chain). Stores that sell pork are generally forbidden to Muslims, and are more hidden for the same reason that the liquor shops. In the big cities such as Abu Dhabi or Dubai, you should find easily pork ribs, sausages, and bacon. Some restaurants currently serving pork products are Dubai Marina Yacht Club, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, Le Royale Meridien and Reform Social and Grill, as well as Chinese restaurants.
The legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 21.
Dubai has a burgeoning nightlife scene and even formerly straitlaced Abu Dhabi has loosened up and tried to catch up. Alcohol is available in alcohol stores, 5-star hotel restaurants and bars in all emirates except Sharjah, where you can only drink in your home or in an expat hangout called the Sharjah Wanderers. As a tourist, you are permitted to buy alcohol in bars and restaurants to drink there. If you are a resident, you're supposed to have a alcohol license (never asked for in bars) which also allows you to buy alcohol at alcohol stores (they do check).
During Ramadan, no alcohol is served during daylight (fasting) hours. Dubai and Abu Dhabi permit bars to serve alcohol at night, but bands stop playing, background music is off or quiet, no dancing is allowed and nightclubs are usually closed. On certain holy days in the Islamic calendar, no alcohol is served publicly in any of the UAE.
Do not under any circumstance drink and drive in the UAE. If by chance you are in an accident, this becomes a card for going directly to jail — especially during Ramadan. Taxis are widely available if you have been drinking and are a much safer and wiser option given the insane driving habits in the region.
For the visitor, the UAE has one of the most spectacular ranges of tourist accommodations in the world. There are staggeringly beautiful, modern hotels, which can be staggeringly expensive, along with more modest housing. Low-cost accommodations are available but, as anywhere, vary alarmingly as to their condition.
There is an impressive number of super-luxury hotels, most notably the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab (Tower of the Arabs), a Dubai landmark popularly known as a "7-star hotel" — a nonexistent category, but still opulent by any standard. The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi also aspires to the same standards, at a fraction of the price.
Much of the work force in the UAE are foreign expatriates - hence the country's population makeup being so diverse, with Emirati citizens being a minority in their own country. All Emirati citizens receive profit sharing cheques from the government and mostly opt to work in the government sector. Migrant workers from the Indian Subcontinent and the Philippines are mostly employed in the service and construction industries for low wages. Many mid-level jobs are filled by expats and Emarati nationals who work in the private sector, in addition to expats who work in high-skilled and managerial positions and typically enjoy a very good standard of living. If you're interested in working in the UAE there are opportunities in oil and gas, banking, engineering and education. The public school system in Abu Dhabi is hiring a large numbers of English-language teachers from Western countries. These teaching jobs in the UAE are accessible through official recruiters of the Abu Dhabi Education Council.
Be Aware: The U.A.E.'s legal system is known to be flawed for foreigners moving and working there. Many expats from various countries have had their passports taken away from them for crimes that they weren't involved in. And the legal system will keep them there for many years or for the rest of their life.
UAE, being the hub of the economic activities. People from all around the world visit for tourism and business purposes. If you are traveling to explore business, investment opportunities or starting exchange business you would need to know about money exchange companies, which can be easily found online. Here are few of the money exchange providers in UAE
- UAE Exchange
- Al Ansari Exchange
- Al Ghurair Exchange
- Lulu International Exchange LLC
- Sharaf Exchange LLC
Emiratis are a proud but welcoming people and, when not in their cars, are generally extremely civil and friendly. Like most peoples of the world, they welcome visitors who are willing to show some amount of respect and can be extremely generous. (Some expats and visitors do not understand that revealing clothing can be quite offensive to some people, even if nothing is said to the offenders). Their culture is unique and can be highly conservative, but overall they are quite attuned to the ways, customs, events, media, and manners of the world.
Local men usually wear a "Kandoura" (more commonly known as a dish-dash), a long robe (typically white), and ghutra, a red-checked or white headdress. Local women wear a black robe-like garment (abaya) and a black head scarf (shayla).
The UAE is more conservative than most Western societies, though not as much as some of its neighbors. Travelers should be aware and respect the more traditional outlook in the UAE, as there are behaviors typical in the West (for example, making "rude and insulting gestures") that will result in arrest in the UAE. On the other hand, Western travelers will find most of the UAE quite comfortable.
Although women are not legally required to wear the hijab, revealing fashions such as tank tops and shorts should be avoided. Below-the-knee skirts are somewhat more acceptable, although you will still incur stares. Aim to cover the shoulders and knees and everything in between. However, there are quite a few tourist or expatriate-dominated zones where even "provocative" dress may be seen, although not necessary respected. These include many areas of the Emirate of Dubai and, for example, beach resorts in Ajman or Fujairah. Public nudity anywhere is strictly forbidden and will be punished. Sharjah is the most conservative of the Emirates with public decency statutes (i.e., forbidding overly revealing clothing or certain kinds of beach wear), but few of them are enforced (although that varies).
The crime rate is extremely low in the United Arab Emirates, although of course one must use common sense.
There are a couple of things you should be aware of that have to do with drug laws in the UAE. Some common painkillers in western countries are illegal narcotics in the UAE like codeine. Don't bring any with you unless you carry a copy of your prescription or you may join others who have received jail sentences. In contrast, antibiotics are freely available over the counter at pharmacies. If you receive a prescription for controlled drugs in the UAE, such as some painkillers and antidepressants, be sure to keep the copy of the prescription with you when traveling out of the country.
Another trap for the unwary is that if you are suspected of being under the influence of drugs, a blood test can be taken, and if it shows evidence of substances that are illegal in the UAE, then you will probably end up in jail even if the substances were ingested in the country that you were previously in. In addition to testing your blood, they will likely check your belongings. People have been jailed for possession for finding microscopic specks of drugs on them with highly sensitive equipment.
Another cause for concern is the very high rate of automobile accidents: besides due care while driving a vehicle, crossing the road on foot can be quite dangerous as well.
General medical care in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah is quite good, with clinics for general and specialized care widely available, including some which are now open 24 h. Hospitals in the major centers are well-equipped to deal with any medical emergencies. There is an ambulance system in all major population centres; however, coverage can be patchy in the more remote areas. Ambulances are designed for transportation rather than providing care as first responders, so don't expect top-flight on-site care.
The main government hospital in Abu Dhabi is one of the best in the Middle East; as is the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, now managed by Cleveland Clinic.
In Dubai, the government hospitals are Rashid hospital, which has a new Trauma Centre and Dubai Hospital which are very good. Welcare Hospital American Hospital Zulekha Hospital NMC Hospital, and Belhoul Hospital in the private sector all have a good reputation. In Sharjah, the Kuwaiti (Goverrnment) Hospital accepts expatriates. The private hospitals in Sharjah are the Zahra hospital, Zulekha Hospital and Central Private Hospital. Prices including healthcare are generally cheaper in Sharjah and although all hospitals meet the Ministry of Health standards the Central Private Hospital and Zulekha Hospitals are considered more affordable.
Al Ain is served by a number of modern hospitals and care centers: Tawam Hospital, now managed by Johns Hopkins, and host to the UAE University Faculty of Medicine and Health Science; Al Ain Hospital (also called Al Jimi Hospital as it is in the district of Al Jimi), now managed by the Vienna Medical University; and the private Oasis Hospital, previously known as Kennedy Hospital, which was founded and run by Christian missionaries, and which was the first hospital in the city.
The country is free of malaria and prophylaxis is not needed.
The water is safe to drink in the UAE, although most people prefer bottled water for its taste. The food is clean and in most restaurants is served to Western standards, particularly in tourist areas; however, hygeine can be an issue in some establishments outside, particularly roadside stalls. That said, food poisoning does happen, so use your common sense!
The heat in summer can reach 50°C (122°F), so avoid outdoors activity at the height of the day and watch out for signs of heat stroke. Be sure to drink lots of water as dehydration happens easily in such heat. If travelling off road (most of the country is desert), ensure you carry sufficient water to allow you to walk to the road should vehicles become bogged.
Although the UAE is somewhat more accommodating to handicapped travellers than other countries in the Mideast, it would nonetheless be a difficult country to navigate in a wheelchair. Curbs are high and there are few, if any, ramps or other accommodations.
The country code is 971. The mobile phone network uses the GSM technology (as in Europe and Africa) and use is widespread. There are internet cafes in the major towns. The format for dialing is: +971-#-### ####, where the first "#" designates the area code. Key area codes include Dubai (4), Sharjah (6) and Abu Dhabi (2). Calls to mobile phones use the operator's area codes: (50/56) for Etisalat and (55/52) for Du. Like other countries, when dialing locally, "00" is used to access an international number (and followed by the country code) and "0" is used to access a national number (followed by the area code).
Internet cafés are fairly common in the larger cities, and web censorship is at times odd but rarely obtrusive. Users should be well aware of the fact that any website that contains the Israeli domain .il is blocked. Not much information is known of how to bypass this blocking for people who need to visit Israeli websites; VPNs may help. Pornographic websites are blocked too. Instant messaging and voice-over-IP services such as Skype, Zoom sometimes work, mostly at the airports; since 2017, all VOiP services have been blocked by Etisalat. The government owned telecommunications operator, Etisalat, blocks access to these services to varying degrees. WhatsApp Calling does not work in U.A.E. either. Even if the services are not blocked, you will be able to hear the ring tone and pick up the call, but the person on the other side will not be able to hear you.
Most people use a VPN Service to bypass all these blockages; download them before you arrive in U.A.E.
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