Cultural information and tips for travellers to Abu Dhabi


Etiquette & Dress

Hospitality is a key part of Emirati culture. Long greetings before meetings, whether for business or socialising, are important. In Abu Dhabi it is common for men to shake hands in business settings, and exchanging business cards is fairly informal. However, 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” with ministers and high-ranking officials, and address men and women of royalty or tribal leadership as “Sheikh” and “Sheika”, respectively. Etiquette is also important when eating and drinking: refusing tea or coffee can be perceived as impolite, while handling food with the left hand can be considered offensive. Although Abu Dhabi’s multiculturalism creates a liberal atmosphere, it is still advisable and respectful to dress conservatively and to observe norms regarding public behaviour. Emiratis typically dress in traditional attire, men in the kandura and women in the abaya, and visitors are advised to wear Western-style suits in business settings.

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. Regular business hours are 8.00am-2.30pm in 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.


Most of Abu Dhabi’s electrical sockets are designed to use square, three-pin, UK-style plugs, 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 frequently used on road signs, shop fronts and restaurant menus. Outside the city, Arabic is predominant. 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 cheap and have easily visible fare metres. They can be stopped kerbside, found at designated places like malls, or booked by telephone calls and smartphone applications. At the airport only designated taxi services can be used. Both the city and the UAE are also well served by long-distance buses, with routes to Al Ain, Dubai and other emirates.


During the summer, the temperature rarely drops below 40°C and might bother 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, running from November to March, are more comfortable in terms of weather.


Health care facilities in Abu Dhabi are of a 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 and is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate of Dh3.67 to $1. 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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