The gem of all Arabian lands is the United Arab Emirates. Until the 1970s, the nation was under British rule. However, soon after the withdrawal of British control, it has made an economic comeback. Can you believe its economy has multiplied two hundred and thirty-one times? This amazing turnaround is due to the discovery of oil reserves!
The United Arab Emirates depends on oil and tourism to keep its economy robust. It is named one of the forty best countries for business. Consequently, many Indians have migrated to this country seeking jobs and business opportunities.
Abu Dhabi may be the capital of the country, but Dubai ranks as the fifth best destination for tourists in the world. Along with the tallest Burj Khalifa towers, Dubai has many other tourist attractions. What was once a fishing village, has now turned upside down into one of the ultra-modern cities in the world.
Places to See in the UAE
If you are a beach enthusiast, the UAE will be a perfect destination for you. White sand, warm clear waters, luxury resorts – all these will make your vacation perfect. However, if you are tired of lying on a beach, there is always something to do and see in the United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Gulf are excellent for deep-sea fishing. You can hire a fully-equipped boat with a crew via any hotels or tourist agency and go on a trip to the marina. Or go to one of these places:
Situated near Dubai, in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains, the ancient fortressed villages of Hatta and Wadi Hatta are an attractive tourist destination. The area is also known for a number of natural pools, where you can cool off after the tiring day of sightseeing.
The stone tombs, the famous Great Sculpture, a camel market, a zoo and a museum, which contains artifacts from Mesopotamian period – you will find all these in Hili, just 10 km away from Al Ain. It also offers excellent hiking opportunities at nearby Jebel Hafeet.
Abu Dhabi’s Islands
Explore the eight natural islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi. These include the spectacular Sir Bani Yas, which hosts famous Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa and around 30 free Arabian and African animal species.
A manmade island, created in a shape of a palm, is one the country’s most famous spots and is rumored to be seen even from the Moon. We are not sure about that, but you can definitely see it while flying low over the city. The Aquaventure Water Park is an absolute must-visit, if you are up for a day, full of wet fun.
When to Go
The arid climate might get to you if you are not used to the heat. Moreover, temperatures soar to a shocking forty-five degrees centigrade in July and August. Thus, the Oases are a pleasant reprieve from the hot sands. The best time to visit is from October till April, when the temperatures are the most pleasant and the Gulf is perfect for swimming. The hottest time is from June to September. On the other hand, from January to March, the weather is rainy and windy.
What to Wear
Wear light clothes during warm time, but get a jumper or a sweatshirt for the air-conditioned buildings. During winter months, you will need warm clothes, and layers will be your best bet. During hot days, don’t forget about a hat and a sunscreen.
The official language is Arabic. English is widely used as a second language.
One United Arab Emirates Dirham (UAED) is equal to 0.2722 USD. The currency exchange is available in most hotels, major banks, and exchange offices in shopping malls. All international credit cards are widely acceptable and ATMs are available throughout the country.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
Mobile coverage is excellent in the UAE. There are two mobile providers – Du and Etisalat, both government owned. You can buy a pre-paid SIM card if you have an unlocked phone. There are very good visitor packages available. Keep in mind, local calls within the same area code are free. Also, you will need a credit card and a passport to purchase a SIM card. Recharge cards are available at grocery’s, supermarkets, and petrol station.
You will have no problem getting online in the UAE. Most hotels provide their guests with free Wi-Fi connections. So do most cafes, restaurants, and shopping malls. However, in public areas, you may need a UAE mobile number to connect. Also, many websites and programs, such as Skype, are blocked in the country.
The United Arab Emirates is a country which follows Islam. The orthodox culture and the conservative atmosphere are in contrast with the booming business here. The country has ethnic architectural examples of this contract that you cannot miss. For example, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a masterpiece of culture and modernity.
Keep in mind, that though the UAE is a modern country, it still obeys to Islamic traditions and laws. Women should dress modestly. Although, the country is liberal to foreign visitors, female tourists are still required to cover their shoulders and knees in public places. Men are also advised to dress with respect.
Adultery and homosexuality are forbidden by law, as well as pre-marital sexual relationship. Non-married couples are not allowed to stay in the same hotel room, although this rule is not often obeyed. And remember to keep your affection towards one another private in public. Holding hands is fine, but not more.
Alcohol is tolerated for non-Muslims. You are allowed to drink in hotels, bars and restaurants. Tourists over 20 years old are also allowed to bring four liters of alcohol into the country. However, it is illegal to drink, eat or smoke in public during the daylight of the holy month Ramadan. Drugs are strictly forbidden. In fact, they may forbid you to bring some medicine or pain-killers in the country.
The UAE offers its visitors a really wide choice of cuisines available. Many internationally famous chefs have opened their namesake branches in the country. Those are, for example, Nabu Matsuhisa, Gary Rhodes, and Giorgio Locatelli. Hotels serve both European and Arabic food. There is also a variety of Arabic, Persian, Indian, and Pakistani restaurants. Most restaurants add service fee to the bill, so tipping is not necessary. However, if service charge is not included, tipping is encouraged.
Modern Emirati cuisine is a mixture of different regional flavors, however, the basics stay the same for centuries. You are likely to find lamb, beef, fish, and rice in the local cuisine. Local specialties include hummus, tabbouleh, ghuzi, warak enab, dates, shawarma, khameer and chebab, falafel, hamour, and luqaimat. Alcohol is allowed for non-Muslims over 21 years old. The main non-alcohol drinks are ayran (the refreshing yoghurt drink) and strong black coffee.
The national airlines are Emirates and Etihad. Low-cost airlines FlyDubai and Air Arabia also operate between the emirates and neighboring countries.
Good well-lit roads connect all emirates. There are good tarmac roads, which run along the west coast, between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Dhaid, Dubai and other northern states and the interior.
You can take an abra boat trip across the creek from the Deira Old Souk and Sabkha Abra Station at Dubai Old Souk Abra Station. It costs AED1 per passenger. The Dubai Ferry runs between Al Ghubaib and Dubai Marina. Also, in Abu Dhabi, there is a ferry service from Jebel Al Dhanna port to Delma Island. And if you want a private journey, you can always rent a private boat from Abu Dhabi to various islands.
Roads are well maintained. Road signs are written in Arabic and English. However, Dubai is known for bad traffic and careless driving.
Renting vs Bus, Train, Taxi
Taxis are a quick and convenient method of travel within the UAE, as cabs are available everywhere and they all have meters. Also, car hire is available at airports, hotels, and malls. A passport, a credit card and either a valid international or national license are necessary for tourists.
Right or Left Driving
Cars drive on the right side of the road here.
The United Arab Emirates Trip Cost
Dubai has amazing shopping malls where you can buy nearly anything. It might be a bit expensive to stay here for long. Plus, luxurious hotels and huge shopping malls are bound to hurt your pockets a little.
Electricity & Plug Type
As for electricity, the country uses types C, D and G sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 220 V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
How to Reach
Flights to the UAE are operated by Emirates, Etihad, British Airways, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic. Also, the following low-cost airlines fly to the UAE: FlyDubai, Air Arabia.
Currently, there are no international railways, which go into the UAE. However, the Etihad Rail is planning to start passenger transportation across UAE by 2020 and maybe expand their service to the neighboring countries.
Border crossing between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman is easy and quick. You can enter the country from these bordering towns: Sila in Saudi Arabia or Hili in Al Ain and Hatta in Oman. Keep in mind that you will have to pay a departure tax, if you are leaving the country by road.
Where to Stay
Most international hotels chains are presented in the UAE. However, when it comes to luxury, the country has its own standards. The Burj al-Arab, the Emirates Palace and the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa will show you the levels of luxury you’ve never seen before.
Of course, there are cheaper facilities. Small budget hotels exist in the areas of Deira and Bur Dubai in Dubai. Hotel rates also go down during summer months, when most UAE’s residents escape into the cooler climate.
What you can’t take away from the UAE hotels, is their creativity. You can even find a winter-themed hotel in the middle of a desert.
There are no official campsites in the UAE. However, you are allowed to camp in almost all rural areas. You can try camping in Wadi Hatta, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Or, if you are an experienced camper, go into the desert off the road to Dhaid.
There is a very small number of hostels in the country. However, the United Arab Emirates Youth Hostel Association operates three hostels in Dubai, one in Sharjah and one in Fujairah.
How Safe is the United Arab Emirates
The UAE is considered to be safe country and most visits are trouble-free. However, you should still take basic precautions to protect your belongings and yourself. Rules are simple: don’t accept lifts and help from strangers, use only licensed taxis, don’t walk along at night and don’t flash your valuables in public. Sexual assaults and rapes are rare, but still happen. Also, you can fall victim of alcohol spiking, so don’t accept drinks from strangers and don’t leave your drinks unattended.
You should only swim on approved beaches and watch out for warning signs, especially red flags. Sometimes, even the strongest swimmers can be swept into the sea. If you get a coral cut, when snorkeling or scuba diving, you should disinfect the cut immediately, because the coral contain a big number of bacteria. If you don’t do the disinfection immediately, you will have to take a course of antibiotics.
Food and Water Safety
Water in the UAE is safe to drink, although may taste weird. However, most visitors prefer bottled water, which is widely available and cheap. Food standards in the country are high in main cities, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But you should be careful, when in smaller desert towns, where the standards of hygiene may not be as strict. Be particularly aware, when eating meat, such as shawarma or kebab, which has been sitting in the summer sun for hours.
Before coming to the country, you need to get vaccinations against the following disease: tuberculosis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, measles, diphtheria, and sometimes rabies and tetanus. Medical facilities in the UAE are of a very high quality, but very expensive, so medical travel insurance is obligatory. If you need to take any medicine on a trip with you, you are advised to take prescriptions with you, not to be confused with a drug carrier. There is zero tolerance for importing illegal drugs and medicine, even some pain-killers.
August 2, 2016 12:00 am 1 Comment