Everything you need to know about travelling to Dubai

WT Writer
Oct 14, 2019

From how long you can stay to the cultural sensitivities to bear in mind, we answer common questions about travelling to Dubai on holiday

Where is Dubai?

Situated on the southeast coast of the Arabian Gulf in the Middle East, the glitzy metropolis of Dubai is one of the seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates. The other emirates are Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. Dhose travelling to Dubai should also know that it is also the most populated emirate, with over three million residents. 

Is Dubai a safe city to visit?

The Economist Intelligence Unit Safe Cities Index 2019 lists Dubai at number 12 for Personal Security, ahead of the likes of Zurich, London and Melbourne.  

How long can I stay in Dubai for?

Stays can start from 30 days and go as long as 90 days depending on the visa type, your nationality and purpose of planned visit. Citizens of select nationalities are eligible for visa on arrival for the duration of 30/90 days and don’t require advance visa arrangements to enter the UAE. Note that visa rules vary according to your nationality so make sure to check online for the visa requirements of your country. 

What transportation is available from the airport?

There are plenty of public taxis available at the airport and woman can hop into one of the pink-roofed taxis reserved especially for female travellers and families. The airport is also connected to Dubai Metro at Terminals 1 and 3, with trains running every 10 mins from 5am (or 10am on Fri) to midnight Sat to Wed and until 1am on Thur and Fri.  

Journey into the Dubai desert
Journey into the Dubai desert

What is Dubai’s climate?

Dubai mainly has two seasons: summer and winter. The months between October and April are known as the winter months and introduce blue skies and perfect beach weather (save for the odd rainy day), with an average daily temperature of 25°C (77°F). The months between May and September account for the summer season, when high-humidity and scorching temperatures are the norm – often as high as 48°C (118°F). But don’t be discouraged, there’s a lot of indoor activities to enjoy when the heat becomes too much to bear.

What is the currency of Dubai?

The UAE Dirham is the official currency of Dubai and its official symbol is AED (which stands for Arab Emirates Dirham). However, Dhs is also used to represent it. Notes come in 1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 with a value pegged at Dhs3.67 = USD1. You’ll find currency exchange services all over the city, mainly in shopping malls and at metro stations.

When is Dubai’s weekend?

The UAE weekend falls on Friday/Saturday. Friday is the holy day when Muslims gather for congregational prayers.

Can I buy a SIM card in Dubai?

Tourists can now pick up a free SIM card for local use upon arrival. The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship’s (ICA’s) SIM 24 project offers all visitors a free local sim, pre-charged with three minutes of voice calls and 20GB of data. Available at the passport gate at the airport, it’s valid for the duration of your visa, and you can top it up as needed.

Do I need vaccinations before traveling to Dubai?

No vaccinations are required to travel to Dubai, however, for safety measures do check with your doctor about any boosters or routine vaccinations before you travel.

Do I need medical insurance when visiting Dubai?

It’s not mandatory but it’s advisable to have a medical insurance plan (usually as part of a wider travel insurance plan) in the event of an emergency. Dubai’s hospitals are private and medical assistance at them can prove very costly without insurance in place.  

Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai
Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai

What is the main language in Dubai?

Arabic is the emirate’s official language. But being home to large expatriate population (over 80%), English is spoken and understood pretty much everywhere, with a variety of other languages including Hindi and Tagalog also spoken. 

What is the religion in Dubai?

Islam is the official religion of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. However, the emirate is well-known for its tolerance and respect for all religions. Travellers are free to practice their religious beliefs and can easily find places of worship such as churches and Hindu temples.

When is Ramadan in Dubai?

Celebrated during the ninth month of the 12-month Islamic calendar, Ramadan 2020 is expected to begin on Thursday 23 April and end the evening of Saturday 23 May (depending on the sighting of the moon).

What do I need to know about Ramadan in Dubai?

The holy month of Ramadan is a sacred time in the UAE and is a wonderful opportunity to experience the local culture of the city. Just bear in mind to be respectful of people who are fasting by avoiding eating, drinking or smoking in public places before sunset. If you’re up for a true taste of the city’s religious spirits, join the Iftar Ramadan programme at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Here you can learn everything there is to know about the holy month while delving into a delicious spread of traditional Emirati dishes for Iftar. 

What should I avoid doing in Dubai?

Avoid public displays of affection and making rude hand gestures out of respect for the city’s cultural values. Also, when visiting the city’s shopping malls and souks, be mindful of your clothing choices (save the bikini tops and for the beach). T-shirt and shorts are fine. 

Am I able to drink alcohol in Dubai?

Yes, on licensed premises like bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The vast majority of these places are found within hotels, although there is an increasing number of licensed independent spots. You can purchase alcohol from Dubai Duty Free on arrival and you can also obtain a free 30-day license and buy alcohol from liquor stores operated by two MMI, who have stores dotted throughout the city – for a full list of stores, visit mmidubai.com/retail/retail-stores Just note that it’s illegal to drink in public and there is a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving. 

How old do I need to be to drink alcohol in Dubai?

The legal age to drink alcohol (and enter a nightclub) is 21, so if you’re blessed with youthful looks, be sure to bring your ID.

Is it affordable to travel by taxi in Dubai?

Taxis in Dubai are relatively inexpensive (when set against other major cities) and available to hail everywhere, with fares starting from 5AED. There is a minimum fare of 12AED. The final price depends on a few factors including road tolls, traffic, and the time of day. You can also book your own taxi beforehand with a fixed starting fare of 12AED on the Roads & Transport Authority website, rta.ae. If you prefer to book your ride through an app, Uber and Careem are two to download. 

How do I travel on Dubai Metro?

It’s as simple as purchasing a Nol card from the metro ticket offices and riding your way to your destination on either the Green line or the Red line. Considered one of the world’s longest driverless rail services, the Dubai Metro boasts 49 stations throughout the emirate (the Green line has 20 stations while the Red line has 29 stations). If you ever need to change between lines, there are two transfer stations, Union Square and the Khalid bin Waleed (BurJuman) Centre where the Green and Red Lines intersect. In 2020 a new metro route will be unveiled that aims to connect travellers to the highly awaited Expo 2020.

How do I travel on Dubai Tram?

It’s quite similar to the Dubai Metro and you can use easily use your Nol metro card to pay for your ride. The tram runs in a loop around Dubai Marina and the JBR area and links up with the Dubai Metro and the Palm Monorail.

Other transportation options in Dubai?

If you’re looking for a special way to see the old part of the city, hop on a water taxi (called abra in Arabic). It’s the fastest and cheapest way to travel between Deira and Bur Dubai, with a 1AED fare. Or, better still, board a Dubai ferry and explore different routes that showcase the city’s historical sites and coastal views. 

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