Useful information for new arrivals

Etiquette Dress

Emiratis attach great importance to hospitality. Long greetings before a meeting, either business or social, are important. In Abu Dhabi it is common to give handshakes in business settings, but it is advisable not to shake a woman’s hand unless she initiates the gesture. Honorific titles also play an important role: one should use “His Excellency” for government ministers, and “Sheikh” with men and “Sheika” with women for royalty or tribal leadership. Etiquette is also important in food and drink settings: refusing tea or coffee when offered can be seen as impolite, and receiving or passing food with your left hand can be considered offensive. The cosmopolitan environment of Abu Dhabi makes certain there is a very liberal atmosphere, but it is still advisable and seen as respectful to dress in a conservative manner and to observe social norms regarding public behaviour. Emiratis typically dress in traditional attire, called the kandura for males and the abaya for females. Visitors are advised to wear formal business suits in official meetings.

Hours & Holidays

The UAE is three or four hours ahead of GMT, depending on the season. The country does not change its clocks with international daylight savings time, and the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. Normal business hours are 8.00am-2.30pm for the public sector and 9.00am-5.00pm in the private sector, with the exception of Ramadan, when working hours vary. In this period, it is better to confirm schedules in advance. It is imperative that non-Muslims do not eat or drink anything in public during daylight hours during Ramadan. Muslim holidays are calculated via the lunar calendar. The UAE National Day is on December 2.


The country code for the UAE is +971 followed by the national codes 02 for Abu Dhabi City and Al Dhafra, and 03 for Al Ain. GSM SIM cards can be obtained with a passport at Etisalat or du stores.


Electrical outlets in Abu Dhabi are designed to take the UK-style, square, three-pin sockets, while the electricity supply is 220/240 V at 50 Hz.


Arabic is the official language, and all legal documents must be written or translated in Arabic before they can be submitted to official state agencies. English is widely spoken, and both languages are commonly used on most road and shop signs and restaurant menus. Outside the city, Arabic is more standard. Due to Abu Dhabi’s cosmopolitan population many other languages such as Hindi, Urdu and Tagalog are common.


Passport holders from the US, Canada, Australia, Western Europe and some Asian nations can receive free visitor visas for between 30 and 90 days upon arrival at the airport. Citizens of GCC countries do not require a visa to enter. It is recommended that citizens of all other countries confirm visa regulations before travelling, as they may need sponsorship of a UAE resident, hotel or travel agency.


Taxis are reasonably inexpensive, quite modern and have metres that allow passengers to easily verify the fare. Taxis can be stopped in the streets, found at designated places such as malls, or booked by telephone or with smartphone applications. At the airport only designated taxi services can be used. The city and the rest of the country are also well served by long-distance buses, with routes to Al Ain and Dubai.


During the summer months the temperature rarely drops below 40°C and might be troublesome for visitors unfamiliar with the climate of the Arabian Peninsula. Travellers are advised to spend most of their time indoors during this period. The winter months are more comfortable in terms of climate.


Health care facilities in Abu Dhabi are high-quality, and English-speaking staff are common. Locals have free access to health care, but tourists and non-residents should purchase medical insurance.


The UAE dirham is the national currency for the whole UAE. It is advisable to have cash on hand for smaller transactions such as in shops or taxis, though credit cards are widely accepted. A wide variety of currencies can be found at airport exchanges.

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