Dubai City Information Site

Dubai Traveling Tips




Hi, Sunil here to share some Dubai traveling tips with you

You are on this website either because you are preparing for a trip to Dubai, have recently moved there or are planning to go sometime in the future.

For that reason I thought this quick synopsis of tips for travelers to Dubai would be helpful.

SOME BEGINNER BASICS

Here are some basic facts that I thought I’d start off with.
  • The local time is fixed (no daylight savings time lol). It is GMT + 4 hours.


  • Dubai and the UAE are on the metric system of measurement (meters and kilometers….centigrade for temperature)


  • The electrical system is 220 volts. You can buy converters everywhere. They are normally cheap. You can pick one up at the airport as well, though I suggest waiting to hit the convenience store for a better bargain. Most hotels have them in the wall outlets.


  • The plus are similar to the UK. So grab an adapter if you have a US based electronic equipment.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR TOURISTS: Take all the photos you want as Dubai is beautiful. But be cautious when taking photos of locals. Always ask permission before taking pictures of people in Dubai, especially Muslim women. In fact just avoid taking pictures of them all together. The same goes for any government facility (including the Dubai International Airport)

What did I miss? What should I add to this list?

IS DUBAI SAFE?

Not a single doubt. It experiences one of the lowest crime rates (if any at all). People always fear getting deported by the strict government. There is absolutely NO tolerance for crime. The entire city is under strict surveillance. There is no such thing as privacy in a single man governed Sheikdom. I call it the “Patriot Act” on steroids.

The international travel industry as a whole has repeatedly designated Dubai to be one of the SAFEST places to go for travel fun. That said, keep the information below close to you and handy during your travel:
  • Dubai Police 04-229-2222


  • Dubai Police hotline 800-4888


  • Water Emergency (Coastguard) 04-345-0520


  • Police Emergency (Similar to 911 in the United States) 999


  • Ambulance Service 998 or 999


  • Fire Emergency 997

The police departments guarantee a helicopter service within 8 minutes of your emergency call if your situation calls for it. This is something I have not seen or heard done anywhere else (as of 2007 at least).

Visit the section on Dubai Police for more information and details

VISA

First things first. You are going nowhere if you do not have a visa to Dubai. Of all the questions Kish and I receive through this website, our blog and newsletter, visa related questions rank the highest. For this reason we have prepared a detailed section on this website dedicated to Dubai visa information that you can use to plan your trip.

Not everyone needs to pre-arrange a visa to Dubai as there are some exceptions to this. Read our detailed section on Dubai visa information to learn more. Then come back here to finish reading this section.

WHAT KIND OF VACCINATIONS ARE NEEDED FOR TRAVEL TO DUBAI?

Luckily Dubai is not a disease prone area and thus there are no special vaccinations required. I personally have a copy of my immunization card in my passport holder that I take anywhere I go. It is also good to check from time to time if requirements have changed.

For example, in 2009 there was a Swine Flu caution in North America, especially in the South West region near Mexico. For this reason travel to Mexico was stopped by many Americans. So it is good to check from time to time regarding vaccinations and restrictions on travel.

As a general advice however, I recommend that you stay up to date with your vaccinations and have the basics covered such as polio, small pox, hepatitis and tetanus. That is just good advisable practice for anyone.

GENERAL HEALTH TIPS DURING YOUR TRAVEL TO DUBAI

Take sunscreen - Dubai is in the desert and it gets very hot especially in summer months. Heatstroke is a very common occurrence. So stay hydrated while you are there. Drink plenty of water. Wear sunscreen when going out, take your sunglasses and seek shaded areas whenever possible. be extra cautious if you have previous history of heatstroke or dehydration. Protect kids especially.

Take insect repellent - Though not a big problem, it can come handy if you go out for adventures in the mountainous and water areas. It might also help during dune bashing or your desert safari trip.

IS IT ADVISABLE TO TRAVEL WITH KIDS?

Of course. Dubai is one of the leading tourist destinations globally. Many families travel to Dubai during the holidays and when the kids have vacation from school. Venues are catered to kids just as much as they are to adults. This is where I think Dubai as whole has done a wonderful job. There are all kinds of parks, beaches, museums, theme parks that you can enjoy as a family. Make sure you ask for kids discount wherever you go.

Kids are usually not allowed at most restaurants and bars after a certain hour. Most hotels have babysitting available in case you and your loved one want to head out and have a private night of fun in town.

CAN WOMEN TRAVEL ALONE?

Certainly. And many do. Whether for business or pleasure, Dubai and the entire UAE is safe for women. However, I always suggest traveling with someone (whether a man or a woman). It is always good to have company.

No matter where you are from, you wouldn’t find Dubai very much different when it comes to a woman’s day to day lifestyle. Remember that Dubai is more forward, modern and liberal compared to other Muslim nations. That said, it is important to understand the local laws, rules and regulations as well as the Muslim religion. A good understanding of these will ensure you do not cross the lines and enjoy your stay in Dubai.

A perfect example of that is in social settings. Many Arab men would rather not shake the hand of a woman. For that reason, never extend your hand first. Wait until you are greeted. And as far as attire is concerned, there is no restriction. Just be mindful of the country you are in and try to err on the conservative side whenever in doubt. Dubai men are notorious for starring down a woman wearing “inviting” / exposed attire.

But all that said, women in Dubai are highly respected and favored (at least on paper and in public). So don’t be surprised if you are allowed to cut the line at the fast food restaurant, or served first the post office or police stations. In fact, many government facilities have a separate line for women.

If you are a woman traveling alone to Dubai, I generally recommend staying in a hotel with pool and beach access. This way you won't have to go to the public beach dressed in your swimwear and attract the unnecessary attention from men.

Read this discussion on women living in Dubai for more on this topic

WHAT IF YOU ARE DISABLED?

No worries. Dubai is not much different that the USA when it comes to accommodating for the disabled person. If you are disabled, you can still go to most places in Dubai. Whether a shopping center, hotel or a restaurant, most are built to provide convenience to disabled individuals.

And just like we have handicapped parking space in the USA, Dubai has similar reserved parking spots near the venues reserved for disabled individuals. To use this spots you need a disability sticker or badge similar to the blue tag in the USA.

I also recommend flying Emirates airlines for your trip to Dubai. Back in the early 2000's they had started a special program for disabled passengers and those with special needs. So if you fit in that category and would like personalized assistance, Emirates is definitely the best way to go for you.

PHONES

Take a GSM phone with a removable SIM card / chip. Make sure it is unlocked. You can apply for a local card through Etisalat (as of 2009 the only cell provided in Dubai). Always keep copies of your passport. You will need one when you apply for the card. You can refill your card by buying credits at any convenience or grocery store in Dubai. The cell phone code is 050, so start every dial with this three digit prefix.

You can also buy a yellow page directory from Etisalat (their main office is open 24/7). UAE’s international dial code is +971. International calls are cheaper from 9pm to 7am as well as all day on Fridays and public holidays. A list of rates can be accessed behind a telephone directory. No code is needed when dialing a local number. But make sure to start dialing with an 04, which is the starting two digits of any local landline number.

As of 2009, a Dubai phone number had 7 digits just like the USA. There are pay phones all over Dubai so calling cards and coins will also work. It takes about 2 Dirhams to make a call using coins. For a list of local and international calling codes, see my discussion on calling cards to Dubai section.

FAX

The best place to send or received a fax to or from is a private fax machine at someone’s residence, your hotel or a photocopy store (there are a ton). The same service provided (Etisalat) handles fax communication.

INTERNET

This is available everywhere, in cafes, offices, residences and hotels. I have gotten lucky many times detecting unlocked wireless signals using my laptop. You will also find internet kiosks at a reasonable price in locations like malls, the airport and other major buildings. If you have a laptop with a wireless card, the Dubai International Airport (DXB) offers free wireless (as of 2008 at least).

MAIL

Good luck with that. Everyone has a PO Box in Dubai (located everywhere). As of 2009 the road / street naming infrastructure was not as developed as we are used to in Western countries. The main roads have always been labeled (i.e. Jumeirah beach road, Sheikh Zayed Road). However, what about the hundreds of smaller ones and streets where the homes (villas) are? Yes, MapQuest or Google maps doesn’t (or didn’t) work quite well.

Post office hours and mail times are similar to anywhere else. Mail is collected twice a day (morning and evening) and dropped off once daily. Post offices are open from 8am to 1pm and then again from 4pm to 7pm Saturday through Wednesday. As of 2009 there were about 6 post offices throughout Dubai. Just ask anyone you see on the streets if you need to go one.


All in all, communication arrangements in Dubai are very good (except for the street/road names. I am guessing by 2012 this problem would be solved and you will be able to mapquest everything as well as send and receive mail at home instead of a PO Box address)

HEALTHCARE & TRAVEL INSURANCE

Healthcare is taken very seriously in Dubai. You wont see or hear about many cases of sickness or disease while you are there. The government is dedicated to providing top notch medical care and keeping the environment as disease free as possible. Top dollar has been invested in the water works infrastructure to ensure clean water is provided in each and every household.

That said, Dubai has some of the best and most qualified doctors and physicians. Hospitals are in very good shape and equipment is top notch. Although healthcare is free at the public hospital for emergency cases, I strongly recommend you obtain coverage for your travel to Dubai. It is always good to take precaution. Top notch care can come at top notch price if God forbid something happens.

Read more here on hospitals in Dubai, pharmacies, doctors and health insurance.

ARRANGING TIME FOR BUSINESS, SHOPPING & PLEASURE

Businesses in Dubai work like most of its Asian neighbors. They open up in the morning, pause during the middle of the day, then reopen again to serve folks that get off work. Typical hours can be from 9am to 1pm and then from 3:30pm to 9pm at night.

That said, there are stores that are open later, and there are others that are open 24 hours of the day. Expect air condition at full blast in each of the stores. Many are closed on Friday, the official religious day in Dubai (similar to Sunday in the United States).

Government offices close early, typically by 3pm so get your official business done first. They are also closed on Thursday and Friday for the “Dubai weekend” and reopen again on Saturday. Most businesses are also closed on holidays. Read this for a complete schedule of holidays in Dubai.

DINNING & HANGING OUT

Dubai is in the desert, so dress accordingly. It does get chilly during winter so always take a shawl, fleece or a sweater with you. You won’t need a heavy duty down winter jacket, but you will need some protection. Most places will have air condition on full blast.

I always recommend formal attire for fancy dining in the evenings. Try to cover up as much as you can. It is after all a traditional Muslim country. It is not a good idea to attract unnecessary attention. That is not to say you wear a veil or a scarf over your head, but try to cover your shoulders, avoid short skirts and shorts if you are a woman.

Always drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and even heat stroke. It can get very hot, especially if you are a traveling tourist. Carry a water bottle in your bag at all times along with the emergency numbers I gave you above. When you dine in restaurants, know that water is generally safe. As a precaution however you may prefer bottle water.

Likewise for hot, warm cooked food. If you have a weak immune system, I would avoid raw and cold food if I were you. I may even consider avoiding meat. In all the years I have travelled, I have never gotten sick. I have a high trust and confidence in Dubai when it comes to safety and sanitization.

After dining, you may chose to leave your waiter or waitress a tip. It is generally not expected, but people do it because of the heavy touristy concentration. The locals started to do it too after observing the tourists (the locals are generally very rich anyway). The typical 10-15% is standard. I go the length up to 20% if I am really happy with the service.

OUR PRIMARY TIP?

Travel to and from Dubai in style. Get yourself a private airport transfer to enjoy luxury experience. You will travel like a king for dirt cheap.

Dubai Airport Transfer



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