The United Arab Emirates consists of seven independent city-states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain, Fujairah, Ajman and Ra’s al-Khaimah. Four-fifths of the UAE is desert but has contrasting landscapes—from the towering red dunes of the Liwa to the rich palm-filled oases of Al Ain, from the precipitous Al Hajar Mountains to the more fertile stretches of its coastal plains. Though small in size (similar to the State of Maine), the UAE has become an important player in regional and international affairs.

Yearly Weather

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In Dubai you will experience a warm desert climate, The winters are generally mild making Dubai a very popular winter sun destination. With temperatures that are still around 25 degrees Celsius (77° Fahrenheit) during the coldest months. And with night temperatures that drop to about 15 degrees Celsius (59° F), the weather is excellent in winter (November-March).

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Travel Facts

VISA & PASSPORTS

US citizens with a US passport that is valid for more than six months do not need to obtain a visa prior to entry to the UAE if the duration of their visit will be less than one month. This includes US citizens with visas or entry stamps from other countries in their passports.

HEALTH

No special immunizations are required; however, it would be wise to check beforehand if you are traveling from a health-risk area. Tetanus inoculations are usually recommended if you are considering a long trip. Polio has been virtually eradicated in the UAE and hepatitis is very rare and can be avoided by taking precautions. Hepatitis A is transmitted by contaminated food and water, Hepatitis B, C, D through sexual contact, the use of unsterilized needles, and blood transfusions.

MOBILE DEVICES

GSM services are available and the mobile phone code within the UAE is 050. “Speak Easy” is a GSM mobile service for those visitors and tourists who cannot use their own mobile phones in the UAE. You can either buy a new mobile phone and purchase a temporary SIM card or use your own handset with a temporary card. Contact ETISALAT for details.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

Since Muslim festivals are timed according to local sightings of phases of the moon, the dates outlined below for Islamic religious holidays are approximate. The precise dates are not announced until a day or so before they occur. If a public holiday falls on a weekend, the holiday is usually taken at the beginning of the next working week.

A three-day mourning period is usually announced when a member of the ruling families or a government minister or the head of a neighboring state dies. Government offices and some private companies will close for the period.

Jan 1- New Year’s Day

Dec 2- National Day

Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year)

Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet)

Leilat al-Meiraj (Ascension of the Prophet)

Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)

Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)

SAFETY

The UAE is one of the safest places in the world to visit. In fact, it has been designated the world’s safest holiday destination by the international travel industry on two occasions. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to take out travel insurance and to take the normal precaution to safeguard yourself and your valuables.

CURRENCY

The currency in Dubai is the UAE dirham (Dhs or AED), which is pegged to the US dollar at the rate of Dhs3.675 to US$1. There are 100 fils in a dirham. The notes in circulation are Dhs 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000. Be warned that the brown Dhs1,000 note looks a lot like Dhs200. Generally, it’s good to carry Dhs100 notes and lower values for day-to-day transactions. The most common coins are the silver Dhs1, 50 fils, and 25 fils.

TIPPING

Tipping is not expected but is common practice. Gratuities to the staff at hotels are at your discretion. Most restaurants add service charges to the bill (Abu Dhabi 16 percent; Sharjah 15 percent; Dubai 10 percent). If this charge is not included, add 10 per cent of the total to the bill. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped. Supermarket baggers, bag carriers and windscreen washers at petrol stations are generally given Dh2.

Our suggestions for daily tipping are the following:

Drivers: $ 2.00 to $ 5.00

Tour Guide: $ 10.00 to $ 20.00

House Keepers: $ 2.00

Porters: $ 1.00 per luggage

PHOTOGRAPHY

Film is readily available, so too are processing facilities and color prints are produced in record time. Ask permission before photographing people in general. Avoid photographing Muslim women and do not photograph airports, docks, and telecommunications equipment, and government buildings, military, and industrial installations.

ELECTRICITY

Domestic supply is 220 volts. Sockets suitable for three-pin 13 amp plugs of British standard design are the norm, however, it is a good idea to bring an adapter with you just in case. Adapters can be purchased in local supermarkets. Appliances purchased in the UAE will generally have two-pin plugs attached.

CLOTHING

Lightweight summer clothing is ideal with a wrap, sweater or jacket for cooler winter nights and air-conditioned premises. Although the dress code in the UAE is generally casual, guests in the larger hotels do tend to dress more formally in the evening. Since you are visiting a Muslim country, bikinis, swimsuits, shorts and revealing tops should be confined to beach resorts.

Women are usually advised not to wear short skirts and to keep their shoulders covered. Note that in Sharjah women are prohibited from wearing swimsuits on public beaches.

FOOD & DRINK

The standard of food hygiene and water quality is extremely high, especially in all of the larger centers. You should take the time to investigate conditions in smaller cafés in remote areas, although again standards are usually good. Raw salads and shawarmas (meat cooked on a spit and served in a pita bread sandwich) are to be avoided if you have any doubts.

Water is usually produced by desalination so it is normally safe to drink, nevertheless, you may prefer the taste of bottled water. In any case, it is advisable to drink plenty of water in the heat so carry a bottle with you at all times.