Facts for visitors: Useful information for newcomers


DRESS: Many Emiratis prefer to wear traditional garb. For those living in Abu Dhabi, the dress code is relatively relaxed when compared to neighbouring states. Western-style attire is acceptable, but women should be careful to adhere to a conservative dress code. Business suits are the standard clothing for most meetings.

ETIQUETTE: Although foreign influences in Abu Dhabi have contributed to the country’s liberal atmosphere, one should still be careful to show respect to local social convention. When offered a tea or coffee in the emirate, it can be viewed as impolite to refuse, while passing or receiving anything with your left hand can be viewed as offensive. Also, titles are important. “His excellency” is used when addressing ministers, while “sheikh” (males) and “sheikha” (females) are honorific titles for members of the royal family.

VISAS: With the exception of GCC citizens, all nationalities must obtain a visa to enter Abu Dhabi. Nationals from the US, Western Europe and East Asia can obtain a visa upon arrival, while citizens from all other countries, including Canada, need the sponsorship of a UAE resident, hotel, travel agency or company for a non-renewable visa costing Dh100 ($27), valid for 30 days. It is advised that all non-GCC nationals check with their nearest UAE embassy or consulate to keep abreast of changes in visa requirements.

LANGUAGE: Abu Dhabi is renowned for the diversity of its workforce. For this reason, English is commonly spoken at the workplace, along with Arabic, the country’s national language. Legal documents have to be written or translated into Arabic before they can be submitted to official government agencies.

BUSINESS HOURS: Office hours in the UAE vary but are commonly between 8am and 5pm, with the exception of government offices, which operate from 7.30am until 2pm. The workweek in the UAE starts on Sunday and finishes on Thursday. During the month of Ramadan, working hours vary, so it is advised to check in advance. Muslim public holidays occur 12 days earlier each year and are calculated according to the lunar calendar.

CURRENCY: The UAE dirham (AED) is the national currency of the UAE. Banknotes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 dirhams, while coins are available in 25 and 50 fils, as well as 1 dirham. The currency is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of $1:Dh3.67. Most airport exchanges handle foreign currencies, but it is advisable to convert more obscure currencies into USD or GBP before arrival. Credit cards are widely accepted; however, it is sensible to keep some cash on hand.

TIPPING: The majority of restaurants add a service charge of between 10% and 15%, eliminating the need for tipping unless particularly good service warrants it.

TRANSPORT: Car hire establishments can be found at the airport or at several locations throughout the country. Another very popular way to get around in Abu Dhabi is by taxi. Taxi stands are only available at shopping centres; however, passengers can always hail a taxi on the street or book one in advance. Many drivers speak Arabic, as well as English, Urdu or Filipino. Bus service in Abu Dhabi is ubiquitous and there are a number of services with routes to Al Ain and Dubai.

COMMUNICATIONS: The country code for the UAE is +971, followed by the national codes 02 for Abu Dhabi City and Al Gharbia, and 03 for Al Ain. GSM SIM cards can be obtained through Etisalat or du, but be sure to bring your passport with you. To get a phone and internet connection, residents have to visit a provider’s branch and bring a copy of their passport.

HEALTH: Both public and private health facilities in UAE are excellent. UAE nationals enjoy special benefits in form of full medical coverage provided by the state; however, visitors should make sure they have comprehensive health coverage prior to travel as payments are expected upon treatment.

ELECTRICITY: Electrical outlets in the UAE supply electricity of 220/240V at 50 Hz, using the same three-pin system as in the UK.

LOCAL TIME: The UAE does not adjust for daylight savings. Depending on the time of year, the Abu Dhabi time is either three or four hours ahead of GMT.

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