United Arab Emirates
VisasVisas are required by all except citizens of the AGCC. This can be arranged by your tour operator or hotel. UK citizens and AGCC residents of certain nationalities and professions are eligible for on-the-spot visas at point of entry, but current regulations should be checked before travelling. German and US citizens may obtain multiple entry visas from UAE embassies.
ClimateTemperature range from a low of 10oC/50oF to a high of 48oC/118.4oF. The mean daily maximum is 24oC/75.2oF in January, rising to 41oC/105.8oF in July.
ClothingLight cottons in summer (July to September). Lightweight jackets or pullovers in winter. Good quality sunglasses are advised.
CurrencyUAE Dirham. US$1 = Dhs.3.67 approx. 100 fils = Dh 1.
CustomsThere are no exchange restrictions in Dubai and no customs duty is levied on personal effects entering Dubai. Visitors may also bring in the following free of duty: Cigarettes 2000; cigars 400; tobacco 2kg. Alcohol (non-Muslim adults only) 2 liters spirits or 2 liters wine. A reasonable quantity of perfume.
Credit CardsAmerican Express, Diners Club, Visa, Master Card, etc. are generally accepted in the main hotels and the larger shops.
TippingPractices are similar to most parts of the world. Some restaurants do include a service charge; otherwise 10 percent is adequate.
BargainingBargaining is expected in the souks and is quite usual elsewhere. Vendors will usually drop their prices, and often quite substantially, particularly for a cash sale.
Business HoursGovernment offices are open from 0130 to 1430 (Saturday to Wednesday). Private sector office hours are generally from 0800 to 1300 and 1600 to 2030. Many shops stay open until 2200 hours. The weekend is Thursday afternoon and Friday (or Friday and Saturday).
LanguageThe official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and understood. Other languages may be spoken by hotel staff.
CommunicationsTelecommunications in Dubai are excellent. International Direct Dialing and full telex, telefax and electronic mail are widely available. There is an efficient, reliable, postal service. Commercial courier services are also widely used.
Dubai's culture is firmly rooted in the Islamic traditions of Arabia. Courtesy and hospitality are among the most highly prized of virtues. And you are sure to be charmed by the genuine warmth and friendliness that greets the visitor.
Dubai society is marked by a high degree of tolerance for different lifestyles, Foreigners are free to practice their own religion, alcohol is served in hotels and, provided reasonable discretion is shown, the dress code is liberal. Women face no discrimination and may drive and move around unescorted.
Despite rapid economic development in recent years, Dubai remains close to its heritage. Local citizens dress in traditional robes and head dresses. Arab culture and folklore find expression in poetry, dancing, songs and traditional art. Weddings and other celebrations are colourful occasions of feasting and music. And traditional sports such as falconry, camel racing and dhow racing at sea, continue to thrive.
Sightseeing, Tours and Safaris
Except for a brief period during summer, Dubai's temperature and humidity are comfortable, and the city and surrounding areas offer a wealth of interest for sightseers and photographers.
An ideal starting point is Dubai's picturesque Creek, a natural inlet from the Gulf which bisects the city into Deira and Bur Dubai. From the Creek, traditional wooden dhows set out for the ports of India, the Gulf and East Africa, just as they have for generations. On its banks, the bustle of loading and unloading makes for a fascinating sight.
The windtowers of the Bastakiya district, the narrow alleys of the souks, the restored house of Sheikh Saeed in Shindagha, the Al Ahmadiyah School - Dubai's first educational institution - and the ancient Al Fahifi Fort, now home to the recently refurbished Dubai Museum, all offer a captivating taste of the city's past.
A wide range of tours and excursions are available. Just ask your hotel or tour operator. Among the most popular are safaris into the desert by four-wheel drive, combining the excitement of dune driving with a glimpse of Bedouin life, a camel farm visit and culminating, perhaps, in a moonlit Arabian barbecue.
Among the many other interesting experiences on offer are dhow cruises and helicopter tours. Dubai is also the perfect base for visiting neighboring emirates.
Taxis and car hire services are plentiful. And you can walk anywhere, confident of your personal safety in this clean, virtually crime-free city.
HotelsDubai is exceptionally well endowed with top class hotel accommodation. Crowne Plaza, Dusit, Hilton, Howard Johnson, Hyatt Regency, Inter-Continental, Le Meridien, Marriott, Ramada, Renaissance, Ritz Carlton, Rotana and Sheraton all have deluxe properties here, while a number of independents, including the Burj Al Arab, City Center Hotel & Residence, Dubai Marine, Emirates Towers, Jebel Ali Hotel & Golf Resort, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Metropolitan, Oasis Beach, Royal Mirage Jumeirah Beach and Al Maha Resort offer equally luxurious accommodation.
All Dubai's hotels are designed to cater to the needs of holiday-makers and business visitors equally. High standards are expected, and maintained. Recreational and leisure facilities are top class. Likewise, business, communication and conference facilities are on a par with the best in the world.
Dubai's hotels play a major role in the social life of local residents as well as visitors. They are therefore exceptionally well endowed with a wide range of imaginative restaurants, bars and other outlets, many of them featuring live entertainment from east and west.
Dining and NightlifeDubai's many fine hotel restaurants offer a microcosm of the world's cuisine. The choice is limitless - Gulf and Middle Eastern, Indian, Filipino, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, Mexican and much more.
Outside the hotels, Dubai offers the visitor a gastronomic adventure, with hundreds of small eating places scattered throughout the city. Fast food ranges from several big international chains to "shawarma" outlets, selling grilled shavings of lamb or chicken, mixed with salad and rolled inside a pocket of Arabic bread.
By night, Dubai has something for everyone. Bars and pubs can be found in all top hotels, most of them featuring live music. There are a choice of discotheques and Arabic nightclubs, An Dubai is on the regular circuit for many international stars from the pop scene, opera, Asian music and even the London theatre.
ShoppingOne of Dubai's greatest attractions for visitors is its superb shopping. Being an open port with low import duties and no taxation, the city offers the bargain hunter unbeatable value. Most major brandname products are readily available, and are often less expensive in Dubai than their country of origin.
Modern shopping malls are conveniently located throughout the city, the marble walls and efficient air conditioning providing a cool welcome to customers. whether you're looking for French fashion, Japanese electronics or Italian accessories and footwear, Dubai's malls have it all.
Souk shopping can be entertaining as well as profitable, and bargaining is expected. The sheer variety of goods available in the winding alleys is bewildering - from gold and the latest in electronics, cameras and wrist watches to spices, silks, household appliances and sports goods.
Dubai's major shopping areas include Al Rigga Road, Karama, Al Dhiyafa Road and Bani Yas Square, not forgetting the Dubai Duty Free complex at the airport.
Sports and LeisureDubai is the undisputed sports capital of the Middle East, hosting world class international events that attract some of the biggest names in their respective sports, whether in golf, tennis, horse racing, rallying powerboating, rugby, or sailing.
Apart from spectator sports, visitors to Dubai can actively participate in a wide variety of land and watersports that include golf, bowling, ice-skating, archery, horse riding, scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing, water-skiing , jet-skiing, deep sea fishing and windsurfing. Facilities are excellent, the weather is fine almost all year round and equipment can be hired at reasonable rates.
But Dubai also offers the adventurous sports fanatic some new experiences too. For example, there are local tour operators offering sand skiing and camel riding for visitors.
In addition, all major hotels boast well-equipped sports clubs, with flood-lit tennis courts, squash and badminton, swimming pools and fully equipped health and fitness centers as part of their accommodation package.