A trip to the United Arab Emirates is exciting for many reasons; a first-time visit to the Middle East, a luxury shopping vacation, getaway from the cold etc. Dubai has earned the reputation as a top international tourist destination, thus it is more liberal than the other Emirates and its neighbour Saudi Arabia. Having said that, please bear in mind that it is still a conservative Islamic country in some respects! In order to have an enjoyable time it’s advisable to pre-plan and review the country’s laws. Please read below for Dubai, UAE trip planning – my top tips!
Find out if a Visa is Required to visit the UAE
This should be the first question in your mind ! Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) nationals must have a visa prior to entry. Citizens of the USA , UK and many European countries can obtain one on arrival.
Note: Keep checking the UAE’s immigration policies regularly for updates as information can change! The following link can be helpful, please click here.
For citizens of Third World countries:
If there is no UAE embassy or consulate in your country, a tourist visa can be obtained online from Emirates Airlines. You MUST fly with them since they are processing the visa ! Book your flight and use the Manage a Booking tool to follow the procedure. I received mine via email in less than a week.
Plan When you Want to Go
I recommend visiting during October to April when temperatures range from 24 -33 degrees Celsius. Dubai comes alive at this time and one can enjoy activities such as concerts, festivals, exhibitions and sporting events. Experience the UAE National Day celebrations, Taste of Dubai, Dubai Shopping Festival , Rugby Sevens or spend the day lounging on Jumeirah Beach!
Dubai has something for everyone! For a calendar of events please click here.
How to Get to the UAE
Flights are available from major North American, British , European & Indian cities on Emirates Airlines and other top carriers. T&T nationals have the option of boarding via London’s Gatwick and Heathrow Airports as well as New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Plan Where you Want to Stay
Dubai, as I mentioned earlier, has emerged as a top tourist destination in recent years. Hotel prices are therefore competitive with a plethora of accommodation options from which to choose, depending on the district and type of hotel you’re after. Air BnB has become a popular way to save on hotel costs in Dubai ! A luxurious and well-appointed apartment, suite or bungalow can be yours for well under USD $100 per day, minutes away from all the action !
Plan Your Wardrobe
Personally, I encountered no problems with my everyday attire while visiting Dubai, and found the dress code to be somewhat in contradiction to what one usually reads in travel guides. However, I recommend dressing appropriately in public places to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to oneself i.e. Ladies – keep the shoulders and chest area covered, no hot shorts and outfits that reveal too much skin. Gents- keep the torso covered. You can relax these restrictions in the hotel pool and beach areas but make sure to cover yourself when leaving the water’s edge to enter a restaurant/bar.
It is not uncommon to see Western women wearing mini dresses to dinner or a nightclub! So… what to pack for your trip ? Some basics include:
- A long pair of jeans
- Tee shirts – baby tees, long or 3/4 sleeved
- Blouses – not too sheer
- A long cardigan for the shoulders and chest
- Kaftan for the hotel swimming pool and beach
- Comfortable walking shoes and sandals for sightseeing
- Heels for a night out
- Cocktail dress for a nightclub or dinner
- Pashmina to cover your hair (if entering a mosque) and the shoulders on the way to nightclub or dinner
- Heavy sweatshirt for evening into night desert tours. Remember, temperatures plummet to low double-digit figures in that environment!
Learn some Helpful Arabic Phrases !
Because of large numbers of foreign nationals in Dubai, communication is easy as English is widely spoken. However, it wouldn’t hurt to learn some Arabic words and phrases to immerse yourself in this Middle Eastern city! Some popular ones include:
As- salam ‘alaykum Hello or Peace be upon you
Wa ‘alaykum as-salam And peace be upon you too
Shukran Thank you
Ana asif (m) Ana asifa(f) I’m sorry
Sabah al-Khair Good morning
Masa al-Khair Good afternoon
Layla Saeeda Good night
Ma’a salamah Goodbye
Get some UAE Currency
Go to a currency exchange in the airport and convert some US dollars or British pounds sterling to UAE dirhams. You’ll need local currency to pay your taxi drivers and make small purchases in the markets. When in the UAE, it is better to use the currency exchanges rather than banks to get more for your money. Alternatively, use your credit card or withdraw cash from any ATM using an international debit card.
At the time of this post:
1 USD = 3.67 AED
1 GBP = 4.76 AED
To help you keep track of your spending, download the XE currency app available on the iOS , Android, and Windows platforms.
Be Aware of Do’s and Don’ts
- DON’T BREAK THE LAW ! If you’re not from a first world country your chances of leaving jail are especially dismal
- Be intoxicated and disorderly in public places
- Pack anti-Islamic and pornographic materials
- Drive under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. You WILL be jailed
- Traffik narcotics into the country. You can face the death penalty !!!
- Engage in excessive PDAs in public
- Accept drinks from strangers or even people you think you know well enough. You can be drugged and robbed/assaulted
- Research the laws and cultural norms of the country and be respectful of them
- Be aware of Customs laws. Illegal drugs and even many OTC medications are not allowed into the country.
- Avoid visiting during the holy month of Ramadan if you can help it. No eating or drinking is allowed in public places from dawn till dusk. This also applies to foreigners
- Be aware of your surroundings! Leave any place/company that makes you feel uncomfortable. Taxis and Ubers are always available to take you back to your hotel
- Alert a guard or policeman if you’re being followed or harassed
- Ask permission before taking photos of locals in their traditional garb, especially females. Not doing so is considered rude!
- Enjoy yourself !