Dubai Currency

The AED Pegged to the US Dollar

Hey Sunil here to discuss Dubai currency with you

If you are going to Dubai or recently have moved there you must know at least the basics of the currency used in Dubai.

I like the way Dubai currency looks.

I have several one dirham coins saved as well as at least one bill of every denomination.

I find them exotic looking and the coins have a historic feel to them.

Get a hold of a one dirham silver coin and just feel its edges. They won’t be straight.

Take a close look at the emblems and writings and it seems like each coin is hand crafted. They print on the coin looks like it was done by hand.

Ok enough sentimental talk. Dubai shares the same currency that is used in the rest of the country (as you would expect), the Arab Emirate Dirham or AED.

It is called Dirham for short and you will see it abbreviated as either Dhs. or Dh.

The dirham has been long pegged (since 1980 I believe) to the US Dollar at Dh. 3.65 per $1. It is divided into 100 fils (the equivalent of cents). The notes come in denominations of 5,10,20,50,100,200,500 and 1000 Dirhams. The coins come in 1,5,10,25 and 50 fils and 1 dirham.

Dubai Currency

Dubai currency notes - front & back.

It is very rare to find coins with a denomination below 25 fils and so they are not as commonly used. In fact it's common not to receive the correct change in markets if you are using cash to shop. Be careful.

My personal rule is to use credit cards whenever possible. If your credit card works in Dubai (most US issued cards do), use it. MasterCard, Visa and American express are accepted in most places in Dubai.

Be careful about Discover though. For some reason this card is never accepted anywhere outside the US, at least in my experience. I’ve tried using Discover both in India and Dubai and it didn’t work. It does work next door in Canada though lol.

Anyway, you can convert your Dubai currency to any other foreign currencies freely. You can do the exchanges at banks and exchange houses which are everywhere in Dubai. Just go to any mall and you will find one inside.

I would recommend exchanging your currency at the airport. Unlike most other countries, the Dubai airport is actually a good place to cash in your dollars or anything else for Dirhams. You will usually find better exchange rates compared to other airports.

It’s usually smart to get Dh. 100 prior to leaving the airport for cabs, tips, etc. Speaking of tips, most hotels and restaurants will automatically add the tip change to your bill. I used to think this was smart on the waiter’s part.

But these tips actually don’t go to the poor waiter but rather to the restaurant owner! So I usually leave some extra cash on the table after paying my bill with my credit card so that the waiter or hotel maid can get their share of gratuity.

$1 USD = Dhs. 3.65

There are a ton of banks everywhere in Dubai. In fact there is a dedicated street for banks called Bank Street. Guess what you will find there? lol a bunch of banks lined up all together.

You can probably find your bank on that street as most multinational banks have locations all over Dubai now. They are close around noon time for a few hours and on Fridays which is the weekly religious holiday in Dubai.

And if you need cash when the bank is shut, you can hit up the ATM machines that are everywhere in Dubai. For every bank there are probably 54,562 ATM machines. That was an exaggeration but they are everywhere that it feels like it's true!

You can find ATM machines in shopping malls hotels, inside banks and in the newer bus stands. I recommend always carrying some cash on you, especially if you like to shop in the local markets of Dubai (the souks). If you have cash on hand, you will likely get the best bargains as you negotiate in the marketplace.

Going back to Dubai currency, the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Right regulates the currency of Dubai. It's job is to manage the valuation of Dirham in the global market (though really it's based on how the US dollar behaves in relation to other global currencies).

This brings up an interesting story. When I was in Dubai in December of 2007, there was a lot of speculation that the Dirham was going to be revalued for the first time in 20 plus years.

This is because local investors complained their portfolios were hurting because of the devaluation of the US Dollar. Because of the speculation, many exchange houses changed the typical Dh 3.65 per dollar conversion and many people lost money exchanging currency during that time.

Fortunately for me I was able to buy Dirhams for cheap and found an exchange house where I sold them for more that what I paid for them! This is when I wished I had my entire bank account based in Dubai!

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