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THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

General Tourist Information

Seven Emirates came together to form the UNITED ARAB EMIRATES in 1971 - Abu Dhabi (the capital), Dubai (the Commercial centre), Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah. Every Emirate has its own unique flavour that will not fail to impress. If you are planning to visit the region, the information given below will be helpful. Surfer queries have been answered here.


VISAS

The UAE Immigration authority rules entry visas are required for all nationals with the exception of British citizens born in Britain and the nationals of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council member countries Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia), Western Europe (France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Finland, Spain, Monaco, Vatican City, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino and Liechtenstein), USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. click here.


CUSTOMS
Duty free allowances : 2,000 cigarettes; 400 cigars; 2 kg tobacco; alcohol (non-Muslim adults only)-2 litres of spirits and 2 litres of wine; perfume - a reasonable amount.

LOCAL TIME
The UAE is 4 hours ahead of GMT.


LANGUAGE
Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken.

RELIGION
Islam is the official religion of the UAE. Other religions are respected. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter mosques.

CURRENCY
The Dirham is the UAE's currency and this is divided into100 fils. The Dirham (Dh) is held constant against the US Dollar at approximately US$=Dh 3.67. Banks operate from 8 am to 1pm, Saturday through Wednesday and 8 am - noon on Thursday. Currency exchange houses open until late in the evening. International credit cards are widely accepted.

SHOPPING
Shops are generally open from around 10 am until 9 pm, although many close from 1 pm to 4 pm.
Dubai has an exciting profile with the creek (an inlet from the Arabian Sea) dividing the city into two distinct parts, Deira and Dubai. ( Click here for area-wise details of Dubai) With an excellent network of roads, no area in Dubai would seem too far away.

Taxis
Unlike in the west, Taxi drivers are not 'trapped' in a bullet-proof enclosure. Professionally run and well maintained, these metered taxies are manned by trained and courteous drivers. With most of the taxis equipped with the Global Positioning System, there is little chance of you getting lost. The fare is Dhs. 3/- for pickup (Dhs. 3.50 between 22:00 - 06.00) followed by Dhs. 1 per kilometre. The starting fare for a pickup inside the airport area is inevitably higher at Dhs. 20/- and no private taxis are allowed to pick up here. The journey to the town centre from the airport costs around Dhs. 30- 35 in specially registered airport taxis.

Abra, traditional Arabian boats are the popular and cheapest mode of crossing the creek between Deira and Bur Dubai. Priced nominally at 0.5Dhs, this is also an interesting way to feel the pulse of this dynamic city.

Buses are air-conditioned and comfortable and for the cost-conscious resident/visitor, the public transport system especially between the Emirates of Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, is ideal.

Car Hire
Depending on the agent, cars can be hired with or without a driver, and the minimum hire period is usually 24 hours. Prices range from Dhs. 90 a day for smaller cars, up to Dhs. 1,000 for limousines. Comprehensive insurance is essential! The rental company will also arrange temporary local driving licences for visitors. Check out the car-rental companies.

Visitors from the Europe and USA, in particular, will find the driving standards low on courtesy and basic safety norms. Sudden swerving, lane hopping, speeding and not maintaining required distance between vehicles are commonplace. Wearing a seat-belt (front passengers) and children to be seated in the rear are some welcome safety regulations introduced recently.

Walking and Biking
These activities are pleasurable only during the winter months (November - March). Sidewalks are spacious, though lacking in special biking trails.


CLIMATE
Sub tropical, arid climate, Sunshine and blue skies most of the year. Infrequent rainfall can be expected during the winter. Temperatures range from a low of about 10.5C/50 F to a high of 48C/118 F.Click here for more on the weather.

CLOTHING
Lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year, although it can get cool during winter evenings. Swimwear is acceptable on the beach and at the swimming pool. Bring sunglasses and a hat.

PHOTOGRAPHY
Normal photography is acceptable, but photographing Muslim women is likely to cause offence.

CAR HIRE
Self-drive cars are widely available and the rental company will arrange for temporary driving licences for visitors.

COMMUNICATIONS
International telephone services are excellent - one of the best in the Middle East. Calls can be made from public telephone booths with a phone card.
Also, if you are away in another country, international phone cards can assist you to make cheap calls to Dubai.

MEDICAL CARE
The UAE has excellent health facilities with both government and private clinics and hospitals.

ELECTRICITY
The electricity supply is 220/240 volts. US made appliances may need a transformer.

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