All About Dubai
Intriguing, exciting, cosmopolitan and full of possible adventures, Dubai is one amazing city. It boasts great beaches, world-class hotels and plenty of sunshine with terrific shopping as an added bonus. Expect the unexpected and enjoy traditional Arabian culture of souks, camels and deserts combined with shiny modern facilities that range from indoor ski slopes to international floodlit golf courses.
Dubai is located on the Arabian Gulf in the north west region of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is divided in two by Dubai Creek, a 12km stretch of water that extends inland from the coast. Originally a barren, salt-crusted coastal plain, the city now covers 35sq km but is expanding all the time - for example, the planned The Palm and The World projects will double the city's size.
A large area of sand dunes stretches from the south of the city to the desert, known as the Empty Quarter, while land to the north is more scrubby with water inlets that eventually lead to the mountainous northern emirates.
Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken. Due to the large expatriate population, other languages, such as Hindi, Urdu and Farsi, are also used.
The UAE has a hot and humid climate with very little rainfall - only around 13cm in an entire year. The temperature can drop to 10 degrees Celsius during winter nights and rise to as much as 48 degrees in the height of summer. On average, the daily temperature ranges from 24 degrees in January rising to 42 degrees in July and August.
The standard of medical services is good in Dubai, with four of the city's hospitals providing emergency care, and there are plenty of pharmacies, some of which open 24 hours a day. Health cover is advisable as visitors are charged for medical services.
Plenty of wonderful hotel and day spas are here including the city's first, the Cleopatra Spa, the Givenchy Spa at One & Only Royal Mirage resort, Sensasia and the Six Senses Spa. All of the city's five-star hotels also offer health clubs and there are also centres offering yoga and Pilates.
Retail therapy can be obtained everywhere, from ultra-modern shopping mall complexes to the older markets and narrow streets in the Meena Bazaar, Naif and Karama areas.
Best for gold is the Gold Souk area in Deira, or the newly built Gold and Diamond Park on Sheikh Zayed Road.
For some real bargains, visit during the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, from mid-January to mid-February, when items are offered at massively reduced prices.
Dubai Dress code
Most Emirati men and women wear traditional national dress. It's pretty much a personal choice for visitors, although very revealing clothes shouldn't be worn in public places and appropriate dress is required for places of worship. Summer clothes are suitable all year round, but bear in mind temperatures can drop sharply during winter nights.
During the holy month of Ramadan, which changes dates every year depending on the lunar calendar, eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset is strictly forbidden for Muslims, and it's appreciated if visitors are not seen dining or drinking in public. Shops outside the main shopping malls are often closed or only open after sunset, while clubs and discos remain closed for the entire period. Hotels can only serve alcohol at certain times, and only within designated restaurants or through room service.
Dubai Money matters
The official UAE currency is the Arab Emirates Dirham, which is divided into 100 fils. There are globally-linked ATMs across the city, the major credit cards are widely accepted and money changing bureaus are open until late evening. All banks open from 8am to 1pm from Saturday to Wednesday, and from 8am to 12noon on Thursdays.
There is no income tax in Dubai and there is less tax imposed on goods before they arrive at the retailers. In some cases, better bargains are to be had in the shops rather than at Dubai Duty Free.
One of the world's wealthiest countries with a GDP of more than $50 billion, the UAE has the third largest proven oil reserves on the globe. That said, the city is widening its economic activity in the areas of tourism, trading, manufacturing and real estate.
Electricity voltage is 220V AC and British three-pin sockets are fitted as standard, even though most electrical appliances in the city are sold with a two-pin plug, so adaptors are required.
Dubai Time & Telecommunications
The UAE is four hours ahead of GMT.
Dubai TV channels
There is one English station among the several local Arabic-language channels, but the majority of hotels offer satellite TV.
Dubai Internet access
Many hotels offer an Internet facility for their guests and a few now offer wireless access. Visitors can also access the Internet via their own modem, which goes through the city's Etisalat service, which is charged directly to the connecting telephone line. Wi-fi is also available at most malls and also in every Starbucks cafe.
Dubai Visa & Entry Requirements
Visitors to the UAE need at least six months validity on their passport from the date of arrival. Israeli passport holders and, officially, the owner of a passport showing an Israeli stamp, will not be allowed in the country. Those visiting UAE approved ports of entry, which include most Western European countries, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA, will be granted a free 60-day visa.
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