COMMUNICATIONS: The country code for the UAE is +971, followed by Sharjah’s dialling code 06. There are three local telecoms providers, du, Etisalat and Virgin Mobile. Pay as-you-go SIM cards for du, Etisalat and Virgin Mobile can be obtained at most shopping malls upon presentation of a valid passport.
CURRENCY: The UAE dirham (Dh) is pegged to the US dollar at $1:Dh3.67. ATMs are widely available in the emirate and cash can be exchanged in malls.
DINING & DRINKING: Reflecting its diverse population, Sharjah offers a wide variety of international cuisines, with nonetheless strong Middle Eastern and South Asian influences. Alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited throughout the emirate.
ELECTRICITY: The UAE uses the same square, three pin sockets as the UK, although some outlets are compatible with europlugs. Adapters are widely available. The electricity supply is 220/240 V at 50Hz.
HEALTH: Sharjah’s health services are good, and UAE nationals have access to full medical coverage provided by the state. Tourists who do not possess travel health insurance can visit private hospitals, where English-speaking staff can commonly be found and payment is expected upon treatment.
LANGUAGE: Arabic is the official language of the emirate, but English is widely spoken, especially in business settings. Public signs are commonly in both Arabic and English. Other languages in public use include Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, Farsi and Chinese.
TIME MANAGEMENT: Government offices are open from 8.00am to 2.30pm, while most private businesses operate from 9.00am to 6.00pm, although some are closed between 1.30pm and 4.30pm. Ramadan business hours are 9.00am to 2.00pm.
As in other Arab countries, the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. The UAE National Day is on December 2, and the time difference is three or four hours ahead of GMT depending on the season, since daylight saving time is not observed in the UAE.
ETIQUETTE & DRESS: Hospitality plays a central role in Emirati culture and longer greetings are an important prelude before proceeding to other matters, be it in business or social interactions. Seeing as how Sharjah is a conservative and family-oriented emirate, modesty in dress is advised.
TIPPING: There are no strict conventions in Sharjah concerning tipping, although restaurants often include a 10% service charge. In the absence of such a charge it would be advisable to tip 10-15% for good service. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, but it is often easier and more convenient to round up your fare. Hotel staff can be tipped between Dh5 ($1.36) and Dh10 ($2.72). Credit cards are widely accepted throughout hotels and retail outlets.
TRANSPORT: Taxis are generally the most reliable way to get around Sharjah. The minimum fare is Dh3 ($0.82) at daytime (6.00am to 10.59pm) and Dh4 ($1.09) at nighttime (11.00pm to 5.59am). Crossing the border to or from Dubai will add an extra Dh20 ($5.45) charge to the bill. Tourists in possession of a driving licence from any of the 36 government-approved countries can drive without a local licence. Chauffeur-driven car services such as Careem taxis can also be booked via smartphone apps.
VISA REQUIREMENTS: GCC citizens do not require an entry visa to the UAE, but requirements for other nationalities vary. It is recommended to confer with your country’s embassy prior to travel. Most Americans and East Asians can obtain a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival in the UAE, which can be extended at an immigration office.
The EU recently signed a short-stay visa waiver agreement allowing its citizens to stay for a period of 90 days (the period is shorter for some countries such as the UK) within any 180-day period. Regulatory changes introduced to promote inbound tourism allow for Chinese and Russian tourists to obtain visa on arrival at any entry point of the UAE.
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