UAE Economy, Living & Culture
The best times to visit UAE are in December, March and April which hosts the Sharjah Ramadan Festival, Abu Dhabi Festival of Sales, Dubai Summer Surprises and the Dubai Shopping Festival, which may be of interest to shoppers looking for good bargains. These are also the cooler months, a good time to explore the UAE. For the culturally oriented, December 2nd, the National Day of the UAE is one of the best times to visit. Abu Dhabi ruler and President of the UAE, H H Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has taken an active interest in promoting culture and this month is full of cultural activities. Various international sporting events, exhibitions and trade shows create a festive atmosphere and is a good time to visit.
Being a country of booming metropolises and a melting pot of different cultures, various events are held all the year around, so keep an eye on the Event calendar to decide on the time you want to visit.
How to get there
From outside the Gulf:
You can reach Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah and other emirates by air from almost all the international destinations. Most of the emirates have world-class International airports and many flights stop here en route from Asia to Europe or vice versa.
From outside the UAE:
If you are in a neighboring country like Oman or Muscat, it is very easy to drive down into the UAE provided you have the visa.
The Emirates is sunny all the year around. July and August are the months when summer is as its peak. Usually from September, the climate turns cooler. Winters are pretty cool with light jackets and sweaters recommended and lasts till mid March.
International Hotel chains have their residence here as well as other reasonably priced hotels, so you have no dearth of places to stay. Hotels cater to every budget and taste.
Duty Free Allowances
Visitors are allowed 2000 cigarettes or 400 cigars or 2 kg. of tobacco and a reasonable quantity of perfume. Awards winning Duty Free shops are located in both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai airport.
There is no restriction on the amount of currency that can be brought into the UAE and no customs duty on personal effects.
There are car rental offices in each of the emirates offering all makes and sizes of cars. Cars can either be rented alone or complete with driver. Rates vary but are around Dhs. 120 a day for a small car, up to Dh 1000 a day for a driven limousine. You will need to provide a copy of your passport and one of your drivers license if paying by credit card.
Individuals from the following countries do not need an international license: EEC countries, Canada, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Turkey and USA.
Helicopters and some fixed wing aircraft can be hired in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. You need a license from the authorities to access the airport and must submit a flight plan. Rates range from around US$ 1200 to US$ 6000 per hour
Taxis are a common means of getting around town. Abu Dhabi and Dubai now have plenty of metered taxis that get you around town for Dh 5 - 20. There are still many un-metered taxis as well, so it is best to agree upon their fare in advance. The same can be said for going outside of town. For long distances, it is common to share taxis.
The electricity supply is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles. Visitors from Europe can use their appliances although outlet adapters may be necessary. Appliances from the USA will need transformers.
Water comes from desalinization plants and is safe to drink. Many people still prefer to drink bottled water which is readily available in shops and restaurants.
Telephone service is excellent throughout the UAE Calls within cities are free with a small charge for calls within the rest of the country. Pay phones are operated with a phone card that is issued by the telecommunications company in various amounts and is then used as a debit card. These are generally available at a variety of outlets about town. Major hotels have fax and telex services and can arrange for modem access if necessary.
There are nine television stations originating in the UAE. Some broadcast in Arabic some in English and some have special programming in Urdu, Hindi and French. Several additional stations are available via satellite and cable.
Stations broadcasting in Arabic and English transmit 24 hours a day. FM channels are very popular. Tune into Abu Dhabi Capital Radio at 93.5 FM, Dubai FM at 92.0, Channel 4 FM at 104.8.
Shopping - Business Hours
Shops are generally open from 9:30 - 1:00 and from 4:30 -9:30 on Saturday through Thursday. Many shops in the malls are remaining open all day which can offer a time for shopping without crowds. On Friday, the Islamic holiday, shops do not generally open until 2:00 or later.
Part of the tradition of shopping in the UAE is bargaining over the price. In the souk, a rule of thumb is to offer half of the first price and work your way up. In other shops except for truly fixed price stores, a bit of negotiating will bring a reduction in price. If you have to ask the price of something, the price is not fixed.
Most hotels and finer restaurants accept credit cards such as American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and Diner Club. Some larger shops do as well, but generally a better deal can be made with cash.