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The United Arab Emirates is a constitutional federation of seven emirates; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. The federation was formally established on 2 December 1971. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) occupies an area of 83,000 sq km along the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar lies to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman to the north and east. The capital and the largest city of the federation, Abu Dhabi, is located in the emirate of the same name.
Four-fifths of the UAE is desert, yet it is a country of contrasting landscapes, from awe-inspiring dunes to rich oases, precipitous rocky mountains to fertile plains. The United Arab Emirates, one of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations, has all the right ingredients for an unforgettable holiday, sun, sand, sea, sports, unbeatable shopping, top-class hotels and restaurants, an intriguing traditional culture, and a safe and welcoming environment.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a union of seven sovereign sheikhdoms, formed when the British withdrew from the Gulf in 1971. It boasts mountains, beaches, deserts, oases, camel racing, Bedouin markets and the legendary duty-free shopping of Dubai, all packed into a relatively small area.

It also has the most relaxed entry regulations in the region, the best tourist infrastructure and, despite promoting itself exclusively to tourists with a buck or three (or four) to spend, it's extremely accessible to independent budget travellers.

When to Go

The best time of the year to visit the UAE is between November and April, when the weather is at its best. The rest of the year you're more likely to be running from one air-conditioned environment to the next instead of getting out and about and exploring. Ramadan, the muslim month of fasting, is strictly adhered to in the UAE; that means no eating, drinking or smoking in public from sunrise to sunset. Places that normally serve alcohol stop serving it during this month. Ramadan is in December-January for the next couple of years.

Money & Costs

Currency: UAE Dirham

  • Budget: Dh10-15
  • Mid-range: Dh15-20
  • High: Dh20-40
  • Deluxe: Dh40+

  • Lodging
  • Budget: Dh55-150
  • Mid-range: Dh150-500
  • High: Dh500-1200
  • Deluxe: Dh1200+

The UAE is not a low-budget country, but it is possible to keep costs under a semblance of control. Plan on spending around US$50 a day for budget to mid-range travel; perhaps half that in Dubai and Fujairah, which have good youth hostels, and perhaps double that in Abu Dhabi, which has no cheap hotels.

You can change money at moneychangers or banks; moneychangers sometimes offer better rates than banks but they can be fussy about changing traveller's cheques. The best currency to bring is US dollars, followed by British pounds. Credit cards are widely accepted and there are plenty of ATMs connected to one or more of the global ATM systems.

Tips are not generally expected in the UAE, but they are certainly appreciated as most waiters earn extremely low salaries. The service charge added to your bill usually goes to the restaurant, not the serving staff. Most hotels are willing to negotiate discounts but virtually all other prices in the UAE are fixed.

Full country name: United Arab Emirates
Area: 83,600 sq km
Population: 2.4 million
Capital City: Abu Dhabi (pop 500,000 est.)
People: Arab (61%), South Asian (22%), Iranian (8%), other expats (9%)
Language: Arabic, English, Persian, Urdu, Hindi
Religion: Muslim (96%) Hindu, Christian and other (4%)
Government: federation with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emirates
Head of State: President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan
Head of Government: Prime Minister Maktum bin Rashid al-Maktum
GDP: US$40 billion
GDP per capita: US$17,400
Annual Growth: -5%
Inflation: 5%
Major Industries: Oil, gas, petrochemicals, fishing
Major Trading Partners: USA, EU, Japan, South Korea, India
United Arab Emirates

Facts for the Traveler

Visas: British citizens and nationals of most Gulf countries do not require visas; Gulf citizens can stay as long as they want, Britons for up to three months. All other visitors are required to have visas. Your hotel can sponsor you for a 15-day, nonrenewable transit visa or a one-month renewable visit visa. Note that if your passport shows evidence of travel to Israel you will be denied entry to the UAE.
Health risks: hepatitis
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +4
Dialling Code: 971
Electricity: 220V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric


Religious holidays are tied to the Islamic Hijra calendar, so dates vary from year to year. Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan), Eid al-Adha (Pilgrimage), Lailat al-Mi'raj (the Ascension of the Prophet), the Prophet's Birthday and the Islamic New Year are the main celebrations. Secular holidays include New Year's Day (1 January) and National Day (1 December).

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