Etiquette & Dress

Hospitality plays a central role in Emirati culture and is also present in business interactions. Whether in business or social interactions, longer greetings are an important prelude before proceeding to other matters. Handshakes are common as a greeting in business settings, but it is not advisable to shake a woman’s hand unless she initiates the gesture. Honorific titles play an important role: one should use “His Excellency” for government ministers, and “Sheikh” (with males) or “Sheikha” (with females) for members of the royal family. Etiquette also plays a role in food and drink: it can be seen as impolite to refuse tea or coffee when offered and it can be offensive to pass or receive food with your left hand.

Abu Dhabi is very cosmopolitan, which lends itself to a liberal atmosphere, but as a matter of respect it is important to dress in a sufficiently conservative manner and to observe social norms regarding public behaviour. Most Emiratis wear traditional Arab dishdashas (angle-length robes); business suits are advised for visitors in business settings. In the public sphere, visitors should avoid clothing that is too revealing.

Hours & Holidays

The UAE is three or four hours ahead of GMT, depending on the season. There is no daylight saving time when clocks are altered elsewhere. Friday and Saturday are the weekend days. The UAE National Day is on December 2. With the exception of the month of Ramadan, normal business hours are 8.00am-2.30pm for the public sector and 9. 00am-5.00pm in the private sector. Hours during Ramadan can vary, so it is best to confirm schedules in advance. Muslim holidays are calculated according to the lunar calendar and occur 12 days earlier each year.


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 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 220/240V at 50 Hz.


English is widely spoken throughout social and professional settings. Arabic is the official language and legal documents must be written or translated into Arabic before they can be submitted to official state agencies. Given Abu Dhabi’s cosmopolitan character, many other languages are spoken as well, including Hindi, Urdu, and Tagalog, among others.


Upon arrival at the Abu Dhabi International Airport, luggage will be x-rayed and DVDs, videos, CDs, magazines or books may be held temporarily until approved by officials. The limit for undeclared cash one can carry into the country is Dh40,000 ($11,000).


Passport holders from the US, Canada, Australia, Western Europe and some Asian nations can receive free visitor visas on arrival at the airport. Citizens of GCC countries do not need any visa to enter. Citizens of all other countries should confirm the visa regulations before travelling as they may need the sponsorship of a UAE resident, hotel or travel agency.


Taxis are widely available and have modern meters that allow passengers to easily verify the fare. Taxi stands are available at shopping centres, though taxis can also be hailed in the street or booked in advance by telephone. The city is well served by buses, and there are also routes to Al Ain and Dubai.


Visitors unfamiliar with the Arabian Peninsula region may find the weather difficult to handle. In the summer months the temperature rarely drops below 40° C. During the hottest months, travellers are advised to spend most of their time indoors.


Abu Dhabi is home to high-quality health care facilities, and English-speaking staff are common. Locals have free access to health care, but tourists and nonresidents should have medical insurance.


The UAE dirham (AED or Dh) is the national currency of the UAE. While credit cards are widely accepted, it is advisable to have some cash on hand. Airport exchanges carry a wide variety of currencies, though less widely circulated currencies should be converted to US dollars or British pounds before arrival.