UAE Driving license

Even besides ever more popular metro, the driving in Dubai remains the most convenient means of transportation.

While tourists and people on visit visas can drive with International Driving License from their original country, the UAE residents have to have a valid UAE driving license.

UAE-driving-licence_0For some lucky people coming from the below countries, getting UAE driving license is relatively easy. They take their (home country) driving license, passport and a letter from their sponsor (employer), go to the Police station and a hour or so later and 300 dhs poorer they come out with the driving license. These lucky guys (and girls) come from one of the following countries: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg , Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.

 The rest of the world has to go through the painful process of additional driving classes and passing a UAE driving test in one of the driving schools to authenticate their home country’s driving license. The process can take few months and costs couple of thousands of dirhams.

 To us who need to do these extra steps this might not sound fair, however those measures are part of initiative that UAE government came up in their attempts to increase road safety. I guess we can just bear it and hope this helps them reach that goal!

Drive safely!

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What NOT to do when in Dubai, UAE

As mentioned couple of times before, United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country ruled by Sharia law. The rules are more relaxed than in some of the neighbouring Muslim countries, especially compared to  Saudi Arabia or Iran, however that are still few things that are very common in Western cultures that are simply not legal or proper in UAE. Here are some of them:


  • Living with your boyfriend/girlfriend

Unmarried couples are legally not allowed to live together. This rule is not enforced a lot in Dubai, however every now and then one hears about a couple who were caught living together and are deported.  Other emirates like Sharjah or Abu Dhabi are stricter in enforcing the rule.


Respectful clothes sign in a mall

Respectful clothes sign in a Dubai mall

  •  Wearing ultra-revealing clothes

Clothes showing tummies, ultra miniskirts/shorts or spaghetti straps tops are just not acceptable here. There are signs in the malls asking you to wear respectful clothes and you might be asked to leave a mall or other public place if you are dressed too revealing. Keep your skirts/shorts knee high and wear a short sleeves top and you will be ok. Again, other emirates like Sharjah or Abu Dhabi are more conservative.


  •  Drinking or being drunk in public

 This will land you directly in jail! Limit  your ” happy mood”  to  appropriate places like bars, clubs or private homes and remember to take a taxi home afterwards.  


  •  Drinking,  eating  or smoking in public during Ramadan

 During month of Ramadan (in 2010 it falls 10 Aug – 10 Sept) the Muslims are fasting during the daytime. All the other visitors and residents are expected to refrain from drinking, eating or smoking in public or they will be fined. For more info on Ramadan please check one of my previous posts


  •  Shaking hands with members of the opposite sex

Some of the  Muslims prefer not to shake the hands with members of the opposite sex. Wait for them to take a first step and extend the hand!


  • Kissing (or more) in public

People WERE arrested for having sex on the beach, so this rule is being enforced. Refrain from kissing in public as legally even holding hands is limited to the married couples only!

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Things to see in Dubai, UAE

I have been asked recently to draft a quick list of  must- see things in Dubai, so here it is, as I (and my recent visitors) see it:

Dubai Fountain• Super-popular musical fountain and shark aquarium tunnel in Dubai Mall (

• go on the top of the tallest building in the world – Burj Khalifa (

•  Desert Safari – brilliant way to spend an afternoon in the desert: Dune bashing, sunset in the desert, camel riding, belly dancer, shisha, henna painting, traditional Arabic dinner all in a traditional Bedouin camp. A must- do for all! or

View from Madinat Jumeirah SouqMadinat Jumeirah Souq (huge complex of hotels, restaurants and a beautiful little mall built in the traditional Arabic style with the best Burj Al Arab view). A tip – spend extra 50 dhs on the canal ride – very pleasant 30 minutes ride in a traditional Arabic boat (abra) and great photo opportunities of the Burj AL Arab)

Mall of Emirates (with its indoor ski slope – Ski Dubai) and some really good shopping!

Palm Jumeirah – take a monorail (see the Palm island from the above!) and then either enjoy the rides or relax in Aquaventure (a wonderful water park with great rides, lazy river and private beach)

Jumeirah Beach Park


• For beach lovers – Jumeirah Beach Park is a must! For 5 dhs  (approx 1 euro or 1.5 US$) entrance fee you end up on the tropical beach in middle of Dubai – palms, white sand and azure sea.  In you plan to stay a whole day, rent sun beds and umbrella or have a coffee or some snacks in the beach cafe.

• To understand more about local culture and Islam – take a Jumeirah Mosque tour

• Travel back into Dubai past and experience old Dubai- visit Dubai Museum (at 3 dhs entrance fee is a bargain! – ) and then a take an abra ride to Gold and Spice souqs for some hard core bargaining!

Those are our favourites – feel free to leave a comment on yours!

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Traditional Dress – Emirati men

One of the first impression people have about Dubai is that most of the people dress very differently from the current trends shown on Fashion TV. Everyone dresses in their own traditional clothes, Gulf nationals wear dishdash and abaya, Indians wear traditional Indian suits and saris, Pakistani wear traditional Pakistani clothes etc.

traditional emirati dressThe Arabian Gulf male nationals (Emiratis, Qataris, Saudis etc) traditionally wear Dishdash. Dishdash (or Kandura in Arabic) is the long white robe. Where dishdash is usually white, it can be of any color, cream, brown, gray and even navy or black. What is amazing is that these are always crease free and spotlessly clean. How do they achieve this – the men may change their dishdash a number of times in the day to go to different events (work, prayers, dinner etc). A UAE National might have 50 or so dishdashes in his closet, and have up to 20 of those with the dry cleaners at any one time. A typical kandura is tailored to fit and it would cost anywhere between 100 and 200 Dirhams. Most people wear traditional dishdash, however sometimes they will have collars, breast pocket and/or cuffs. This would depend on the taste of the person who wears it. Dishdash can be worn with either sandals or shoes.

Along with dishdash, the guthra is the headscarf men wear. Even today, the most popular colours are the white or the red and white checks, however all the colours can be seen, depending on current fashion. The Beduin traditionally wore the red and white check headscarves as the material was tougher than the others and was a good protection against harsh desert climate. Also, the way that guthra is worn can define who someone is. Some young Emiratis even wear baseball caps instead of guthra.


The Egal is the black rope that fixes the headscarf in place. In the past these were used by Bedouin as a rope for the camel’s feet. Some younger men prefer not to wear it and tie their guthra in a different way on their head.

Emiratis wear dishdash almost exclusively at all occasions, with or without guthra. You can even see little boys barely able to walk in very cute mini dishdashes. For them it’s a symbol of their tradition and they are very proud of it.

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Moving around Dubai

Dubai is a large,  spreaded, not very pedestrian friendly city and  you as a visitor will need some sort of motorised transportation.

Dubai bus, metro and water taxi

Dubai bus, metro and water taxi

Dubai has an efficient city bus network, although unfortunately Western expat residents don’t use it much and it’s predominantly used by low-income workers from Philippines and India. As a result, women travelling solo may feel uncomfortable although there are the women-only sections at the front of the bus. On the other hand, although it’s still in its infancy (opened in Sept 2009) Dubai Metro is used by greater variety of people and are predicted to be very popular with both tourists and residents.  The services are frequent on both buses and metros. Numbers and routes are posted in English as well as in Arabic. Bus fares range from 1 -3.50 dhs and metro fare from 2.50- 6.50dhs.

The payment for all of the public transportation is done through NOL card, pre-charged cards that can be bought and recharged on the metro stations and main bus stations. There are few versions of NOL card, the one most convenient for visitors is Silver NOL card. More on NOL cards on  

Abra on Dubai Creek

Abra on the Dubai Creek

Besides metro and bus, The Roads and Transport Authority runs also water transport on  the Creek – water taxis (modern air-conditioned boats) and abras (traditional wooden boats). Abra rides are very popular with tourists  as they are the best way to cross between Gold Souk area in Deira to Bastakia area in Bur Dubai. A cross river trip costs 50 fils (10 euros cents or  15 US cents) and is paid to the driver once the boat has set out. Not only is this a convenient and economical way of crossing the creek but it also offers fantastic, picturesque views of the city. Abra can also be hired for private tours and are a very cheap way of seeing the city from the water. Sunset on a clear day is a popular time for boat trips and there are a range of more comfortable boats for hire although prices rise accordingly.

If you prefer ground transport, taxis around town are metered and are thick on the ground, although for some more distant area, it’s better to phone and book one on central booking number of Dubai Transport 04. 208 0808. If you ask for a taxi at a five-star hotel, stress you want a Dubai Transport taxi, otherwise you may be shown to an unmarked limo where you may be asked to pay double or triple the price of a standard taxi. Taxi fares at start at Dh3, except at the airport where it starts at 25dhs. If you come across a non-metered taxi in Dubai, it’s most likely from Sharjah or a northern Emirate, and it’s illegal for the driver to collect a fare from Dubai, however not unheard of. If you choose to take one of these, you’ll have to negotiate a fare.

There are a countless agencies where you can rent a car with very little paperwork. You will be asked to show your original passport and your valid International Driving licence, besides usual credit card swipe as guarantee. The minimum hire period is 24 hours and will cost about Dhs 200 (40 euros or 55 US$) for a small car. The week lease would be about 1000 dhs (200euros, 300 US $). These prices may vary if you contact a smaller local agency or if you contact them during a slow period.

Be warned, driving in Dubai is not for light hearted – the signage is often confusing with inconsistently spelt road names and junction numbers in no logical order. Also the massive amount of construction work going on can mean that temporary road layouts can change overnight and signs can be misleading or non existent. Because of the multinational nature of the city’s population driving styles are mixed and inconsistent. Dangerous driving is the norm and unfortunately Dubai has one of the highest per capita road death rates in the world.  On the positive side, the roads are all new and wide.

 If after this warning, you still prefer to see Dubai with all the flexibility that your own car gives you (and I fully understand you as I wouldn’t survive a day in Dubai without a car!!), make sure you avoid driving at morning and afternoon rush hours as traffic can often slow to a standstill and be aware that there is a major shortage of parking spaces in the city.

Ahlan Was Ahlan = Welcome to Dubai!

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Visiting Dubai – Visas

Christmas and New Year are coming and it’s a busy season for visiting Dubai. For those of you planning to come or perhaps you are expecting guests here are some important info regarding the entry visa.

passportsFirstly, everyone needs a visa to enter UAE. Certain nationalities (listed below) are automatically granted a 30 days visit visa at the airport upon arrival. The countries are: Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, South Korea, Finland, Malta, Spain, Monaco, Vatican City, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand. These visas are currently free, however in future they might be charged 100 dhs (approx 20 euros or 30 US$).

All other nationalities have to have a visa prior to arriving to the UAE. Visa can be obtained through:

  •  A hotel where the visitor will be staying or via travel agency specializing in issuing tourist visas. Also Emirates Airlines can provide the visit visas for certain nationalities when they buy a ticket to Dubai, however this needs to be checked and arranged from Emirates office in visitor’s country of origin. 
  • An individual already working in UAE sponsoring a visitor. An individual can sponsor their immediate family members only (spouse, parents, brother/sister or children) for a visit visa, providing that he/she has minimum salary of 4,000dhs (proof of salary and relationship will be asked).

Visa costs around 700 dhs (approx 150 euros or 200 US$) wheatear you sponsor your relatives or you do it for them through one of the local agencies. Needless to say, it’s much easier to do it through agency. You email the agency your passport with visa and your visitor passport and voila! – 7 days later the visa gets emailed to you. It’s advisable to contact agencies few weeks before your visitor’s need visa, as agencies have quotas, and during busy times (winter) they can ran out of their quota. Also visa online system is notorious for being down, so some planning is required.

Once red tape is finish, just pack your bags, but keep them light, you want to leave space for souvenirs and all the bargains you will find in Dubai! Welcome to UAE!

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All important question – drinking (and i do not mean water) in Dubai

wineOne of the first questions people ask me is “can you drink alcohol in Dubai?”. Let’s face it , we all like to party and for majority of us partying includes few glasses of  red. Or white (my personal favourite).  So the answer is: yes, you can drink alcohol in Dubai however there are few limits as United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country that practices Sharia law.  

Only the restaurants and bars in the hotels serve alcohol – so if you want a beer to go with your TFI Friday’s steak during your lunch in your favourite mall – make it non-alcohol one!! That said there are loads and loads of restaurants and bars in Dubai hotels so plenty of choice. Once you have that glass or two make sure you take a taxi home or order a safe-driver (a chauffer that drives (inebriated) you in your own car so you do not need to taxi back to the bar tomorrow morning to collect your car).  There is a zero tolerance for drinking and driving  – so even if you had just one glass and you feel like you can drive – don’t! That can land you with one month jail sentence at least (no kidding)!

In you prefer throwing your own parties or you like to have an aperitif before your  dinner, you can buy alcohol in the specialised alcohol shops (there are no alcoholic drinks in regular supermarkets, not even “soft alcohol drinks” e.g. beer or wine). To buy alcohol in one of those stores you need to have a alcohol licence, which you can obtain only if you are not a Muslim and if your employer agrees with it!! Certain professions like drivers cannot get this license at all. Also emirate of  Sharjah is completely dry  – local jargon for not serving alcohol anywhere (not even in hotels). 

The way around red tape (and here it seems there is always a way around!) is to go and buy your alcohol in the famous (or infamous)  ”Barracuda” – a huge supermarket with rows and rows of all possible alcohol drinks.  It’s located in Ras al Khaimah (one of the emirates in UAE) and I think every single expat had been there at least once in their UAE expat life! :)

All in all, even with certain limitations,  drinking is very much a part of the UAE life!  Salute!

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Time to start thinking about New Year’s Eve party?

burj new year eve party The New Year’s Eve party at the most famous Dubai landmark hotel Burj Al Arab is just launched.

The price for a dinner and an after dinner party is merely  7450 dhs, which comes at  approximately US$ 2000 or 1500 euros! This is per person of course.

I think I am going to stick to my plans that involve the  fireworks and mulled wine on the beach and enter 2010 two thousand and ten dollars richer!

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The sky IS the limit!!!

Dubai dinner in the skyThis is sooo Dubai! When we have the tallest building in the world and the biggest man-made island in the world, why wouldn’t we have a place where you can have your dinner hanging from a crane?

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Holidays and Public Holidays

Like many people in Dubai, I also took  my vacation during our very, very hot summer, hence the break in my blogging  about life in Dubai – I wasn’t living in Dubai! :)

 UAE law states that  all employees have 30 (calendar) days annual leave. The companies also provide annual ticket home (some companies give annual flights for the employee’s spouse and up to 3 children). As the result, most of the UAE expats go home at least once a year, and some for a whole month. During summer, lots of moms take their children for 2 or 3 months back home to escape the heat, leaving the Dubai roads (pleasantly) empty. BTW, school just started and the roads got back to their normal (very) busy level.

There are approximately 10 days of various public holidays, most of them Islamic religious holidays (both Eids, Birth and Ascension of the Prophet  Mohammed etc). Besides Islamic holidays who are based on Islamic (lunar) calendar and therefore fall on different day every year, public holidays are also New Year (January 1st) and UAE National Days (December 2nd). In short, besides the Eid al Fitr that we just celebrated, we can now look forward to quite a few public holidays in November, December and January (Eid al-Adha 28th November, UAE National Day 2nd December, Islamic New Year 18th December, Ashoura 27th December and 1st of January New year!).

In short, no breaks from vacation planning folks, keep on searching for good spots and good deals! The life is difficult, I know! :)

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