The UAE has a subtropical, arid climate with sunny blue skies most of the year. Between the months of November and March a moderate warm climate prevails during the day and a slightly cool climate throughout the night. Humidity tends to get higher between the months of June and August.
Most retail outlets, hotels and car hire companies accept internationally-recognised credit cards. However, some retailers offer better value for cash and discounts may not be so readily negotiated if payment is by credit card. Cash may be drawn on credit cards in most banks and in some hotels.
Currency and Exchange
The local currency is the UAE Dirham divided into 100 fils. Notes are in denominations of AED1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins used are in denominations of AED1, 50 and 25 fils. Approximate exchange rate: USD1= AED3.65.
Most international currencies are accepted in banks, hotels and by many licensed money changers in major shopping centres and souks. Exchange houses operate during normal working hours and offer more competitive rates. There is no exchange control and the UAE Dirham is fully convertible.
The United Arab Emirates has a reasonably relaxed dress code but being an Islamic country modest clothing is recommended, particularly in rural areas. Beachwear is acceptable at beach clubs, in the hotel, at the pool or on the beach except in Sharjah and Khor Fakkan.
Light weight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year. Sweaters or jackets may be needed during the winter months, especially in the evenings. Hats, sun block and good quality sun glasses are advisable when in direct sunlight.
Tap water is safe to use, however bottled water, served in hotels and restaurants, is recommended.
Hotels offer a diverse range of food and beverage outlets from coffee shops to fine dining and speciality outlets. Outside of the hotels, small and often inexpensive eating places are available. The enormous variety of restaurants ensure an equally wide range of prices. Traditional Arabic cuisine and a wide choice of international cuisine are available.
The official language is Arabic although English is widely spoken and understood. Most hotels and retail outlets employ English-speaking staff. Hotel staff may also speak additional languages.
A wide choice of wines, beers and spirits is available in hotel and club restaurants and bars. However restaurants situated outside hotels and clubs are not permitted to serve alcoholic beverages. Liquor may not be consumed by people less than 21 years of age. Alcohol is not available in Sharjah and Khor Fakkan.
Ramadan is the holy month in which Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Holy Koran and all Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk. Eating, drinking and smoking in public areas during daylight hours is strictly prohibited throughout this month. Live entertainment, loud music and dancing is prohibited and conservative dress is expected to be worn in public. Alcohol is not served during daylight hours but it is available in licensed bars and restaurants after sunset for non-Muslims.
Most businesses and shops open only for a few hours in the morning and re-open after sunset until well after midnight. Many of the shops and retail outlets run special promotions and sales during Ramadan.
Sunset marks the breaking of the Iftar (fast) when families and friends get together to break the fast with water and dates. Iftar tents is a common sight and most restaurants within and outside the hotel offer Iftar specials.All Arabian Adventures featured hotels make concessions for their clients and keep a restaurant open during the day for resident guests.
Note: The dates for Ramadan are not fixed as they are based on the Gregorian dates of the Islamic calendar, which is as per lunar observations. Ramadan goes back approximately 11 days each year and is expected to start around 31st July in 2011.
Islam is the official religion of the United Arab Emirates and there are a number of mosques through-out the country. However, other religions are respected and there are various places of worship including churches and temples in major cities.
United Arab Emirates has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and it is quite safe for visitors to venture out, either by taxi or on foot.
Telecommunications are excellent, both within the United Arab Emirates and with the outside world. There is an efficient international direct dialling system with most hotels offering direct dialling facilities in the room and fax, e-mail and internet services in their business centres. Internet cafes are dotted across the city. Telephone cards are readily available at shops around town and can be used at most public telephones. Please check with your hotel for the international dialling code of your country.
GMT + 4 hours.
Tax and service charges are usually included in bills, otherwise a five to 10 per cent tip is adequate. Hotel and airport porters should be given USD2 to USD3 dependent on the amount of luggage. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped.
The voltage used in the UAE is 220V. Most sockets are three-pin, although adapters for two-pin plugs are available at most hotels.