Visiting Dubai and UAE

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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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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