Travel tips before getting to Dubai

A collection of answers to some of the frequently asked questions that might come to mind when planning a trip to Dubai.
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Dubai is one of the most avant-garde cities in the world. It is the city of records, born practically from nothing in the middle of the last century and in a short time becoming one of the world’s international financial centres on a par with London, New York or Singapore.

Dubai is an ideal destination for a holiday of luxury and shopping, but also for admiring man-made works that seem impossible and unthinkable, such as artificial palm-shaped islands or ski slopes inside a shopping centre.

This section brings together most of the answers to the most typical frequently asked questions that may come to mind when planning a trip to Dubai.

Dubai time zone

Dubai’s time zone is GMT+4 in both summer and winter. Dubai is on daylight saving time and changes the time twice a year, however the days are never too long in summer and never too short in winter due to its latitude close to the equator.

Electricity

Electrical sockets in Dubai are the same as in the UK, so electrical appliances and electronics purchased in other countries will require an adaptor. It is advisable to buy this in advance (although it is not always so easy to find) or bring along an adaptor purchased on a previous trip to the UK or Ireland, otherwise you run the risk of having to buy it at rather high prices.

Alternatively, head to one of the small convenience stores in the Deira area and you can buy adapters for a few euros. Some hotels in Dubai, especially the higher-end ones, provide adapters or flexible sockets that allow you to plug in European plugs as well.

How to dress

Dubai is warm all year round, so there’s no point in filling your suitcase with coats and jumpers, better to leave it half-empty for shopping. It is easy to get around in a T-shirt and shorts at any time of the day, although on winter evenings it is best to wear a light jumper or spring jacket, because of the wind that can rise suddenly.

Don’t forget to bring your swimming costume, many hotels in Dubai have a swimming pool and especially the city has some beautiful beaches where you can spend a relaxing day.

Women’s dress code

Dubai is a very tolerant city; although the UAE is an Islamic country, Arabs are in a clear minority of the total population and are still very open to Westerners.

Women (at least non-Muslims) can safely walk around in the streets in skirts or shorts and flip-flops, showing their legs and ankles. Islamic law would also prohibit showing shoulders, back or other body parts, but in Dubai this rule for Westerners is quietly ignored. There is also no problem being on the beach in a bikini. In fact, the beachgoers at Dubai Marina or Jumeirah are practically only Westerners on holiday or in Dubai for work, so really no problem.

Inside shopping malls it would be recommended to dress modestly, but even here the rule is continually broken and ignored by westerners. Green light therefore to all kinds of dress, just as if you were in any European holiday destination.

Gays in Dubai

Middle Eastern countries are among the least open in the world when it comes to homosexuality. Dubai is also a bit of an exception here: for a start, nobody at work is interested in your private life, because usually your colleagues are European, Australian or American.

You can live freely in the city, but it is important to remember that homosexuality is a crime in the Middle East, and for this reason discretion is everything. Yes, there is a gay scene in Dubai, frequented by both locals and expats, and even a few somewhat hidden gay clubs. But homosexuality is still something that is not talked about and should not be put on display.

Tradition and Islam

Arab and Middle Eastern tradition in Dubai may be completely ignored by tourists. A luxury holiday in Dubai, perhaps in a nice hotel on the beach, will create a completely western ambience, with entertainment that we are used to and comfortable with, such as relaxation and entertainment until late in the evening.

There are not many mosques in the city and Arabs are in the minority compared to other ethnic groups, so it is possible to not even realise that you are in a Muslim country. Things change in the more traditionalist and conservative Deira area, although in truth this area is also inhabited by numerous communities of Indians, Bengalis, Chinese and Africans. Multi-ethnicity is everything in Dubai, at the expense of religion, much to the chagrin of the Arabs.

Law in Dubai

The law in Dubai is very strict and breaking it can lead directly to imprisonment. The laws in Dubai are very different from those in the rest of Europe. Beware of the actions you take and make sure they do not offend the locals, especially during the month of Ramadan if you plan to visit religious sites or buildings.

Among other things, importing pork products and pornography into the UAE is illegal. Videos, books and magazines may be subject to inspection and censored. As for drugs, there is zero tolerance.

The penalties for drug trafficking and possession are very severe, being found with even the smallest amount of drugs leads to at least four years in prison, which becomes a death sentence in the case of possession for the purpose of trafficking. Electronic cigarettes are illegal in the UAE and will probably be confiscated at the airport.

Healthcare

Healthcare in Dubai has very high standards. Residents of the city have access to high-quality medical treatment; companies with 100 or more employees must provide medical insurance for all their employees, which covers surgery, emergency treatment, maternity, laboratory tests, medicines, physiotherapy and much more. This, of course, does not apply to tourists on holiday.

Travel insurance in Dubai

Travel insurance for Dubai normally covers the costs of medical emergencies, as well as trip cancellation, lost luggage, and provides numerous other benefits that will leave you free to relax and enjoy your holiday, especially if you don’t want the unexpected to disrupt it.

It is possible to take out travel insurance before you leave for extra security. Also, tourists visiting Dubai are not entitled to free medical treatment, so travel insurance is often recommended to cover any medical expenses you may need on holiday.

Alcohol consumption

Non-Muslim residents can obtain a licence to drink alcohol at home, which is only valid in the emirate that issued the licence. Alcoholic drinks are only served in licensed hotels and clubs, but it is a punishable offence to drink or be drunk in public.

However, the minimum age for drinking alcohol is 21. Passengers in transit at Dubai International Airport under the influence of alcohol can be arrested.

Photography

Taking photographs of some government buildings and military installations is not permitted. Do not take photos of people without their permission; some men have been arrested for photographing women on beaches.

Hobbies such as bird watching and spotting aircraft can be misunderstood, especially near military sites, airports and government buildings: in February 2015, three British tourists were arrested for taking photographs at the airport, and were jailed for two months.

However, these are somewhat borderline cases, as soon as you arrive in Dubai you will find that in 99% of cases you can behave just like in Europe, both on the beach and at the airport.

Insights

Documents and visas for entering Dubai

Documents and visas for entering Dubai

Documents for visiting Dubai vary according to country of residence, but for European citizens, a valid passport is sufficient.
The Dirham, the currency of Dubai

The Dirham, the currency of Dubai

Dubai's currency is the UAE dirham, introduced on 19 May 1973. Today it is a very strong and stable currency, tied to the US dollar.
Travel insurance for Dubai and the UAE

Travel insurance for Dubai and the UAE

Before setting off on a trip to Dubai, it is important to take out a health insurance policy that covers any medical problems but also extras such as baggage protection.
Nightlife in Dubai

Nightlife in Dubai

Dubai's nightlife is multifaceted and very interesting. Bars and discos, however, are mainly located inside the hotels.
Events in Dubai

Events in Dubai

What to eat in Dubai

What to eat in Dubai

Weather Dubai

Weather Dubai

Map of Dubai

Map of Dubai

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

How to save on transport and entrance fees

City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.

Dubai: Go City Explorer Pass - Choose 3 to 7 Attractions
Dubai: Go City Explorer Pass - Choose 3 to 7 Attractions
Save up to 50%* off compared to buying individual attraction tickets. Choose from many Dubai experiences including a hop-on-hop-off bus, the Aquaventure Waterpark, the Burj Khalifa, and more.
From 174,28 €