United Arab Emirates Travel Information
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. The most frequently used plugs are the flat, three-pin type.
Arabic is the official language of the Emirates, but English is widely spoken.
No vaccinations are required for entry to the UAE, though a certificate is required for yellow fever if visitors are arriving from an affected area. Tap water in the major cities is safe to drink but sticking to bottled water may be preferable elsewhere. 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 as visitors may be prevented from using healthcare facilities without travel insurance or without the means to settle any medical fees.
Tipping practices are similar to most parts of the world. Where no service charge is included, 10 percent is adequate and many hotels and restaurants add a service charge, so it is best to check the bill.
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. Terrorists continue 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.
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.
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 considered a sign of respect and is essential, even though it is not uncommon to be kept waiting on occasion. 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, though foreigners should 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.
The international code for the United Arab Emirates is +971. Travellers can purchase local SIM cards for unlocked phones at the airports or city shops. WiFi is widespread, but the internet is censored to filter out any material and websites deemed undesirable by the authorities.
Visitors to the UAE do not need to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars and 500g tobacco; and goods to the value of AED 3,000. 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.
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