Dubai is a bustling modern city, but it’s also a strictly Muslim city. There is a general feeling of tolerance here thanks to the huge numbers of tourists, however it’s important to remember that the local laws closely reflect Islamic practices and beliefs. Remember too, that UAE law applies to you even if you’re in transit and remain in the airport.
Australian passport holders are eligible for a free 30-day visitor visa, granted on arrival into the UAE. It’s possible to extend for a further 30 days at a UAE immigration office at a cost of approximately AED 600 (United Arab Emirates Dirhams), which equates to around $200AUD. Visa and entry and exit requirements can change at short notice, so for the most up to date information check with the UAE consulate.
The United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) is the official currency of the UAE. One AED is equal to about 34cents Australian. US dollars are also widely accepted in Dubai. Most shops, hotels and restaurants accept credit and debit cards, however it’s a good idea to carry Dirhams for services like taxis, smaller shops or small purchases to avoid exchange fees.
Thanks to its location as both a stopover destination on the way to Europe and position where the desert meets the sea, Dubai is a melting pot of international dining. Traditional Emirati cuisine is mostly made up of meat and seafood staples traditionally found in the region, like camel, fish and local birds. Most dishes are heavily flavoured with spices like turmeric, saffron, cardamom and cinnamon, thanks to the region’s long trade with India.
Tipping is commonplace in Dubai, but usually only for good service. Tips of 10 to 15 per cent are most common.
UAE power outlets run on 220 volts and use C, D and G type plugs. So if you have an adaptor for Australian to Europe or the UK, these should also work in Dubai.
Dubai's official language is Arabic, however because most people speak fluent English, navigating the city is very easy.
Dubai International Airport is one of the biggest, and newest, in the world. Emirates has its home base here, but myriad other airlines use it as a major stopover port between Asia and Europe. The airport is located six kilometres from the heart of Dubai, and is easily accessible via the Dubai Metro train system, buses and taxis. Taxis are metered and charge a standard rate of AED1.96 per kilometre.
There are a few local customs in the UAE that differ greatly to Australia, so it’s important to be familiar with them before travelling. Public displays of affection or staring at women, for example, are considered offensive and should be avoided.
Clothing: As a general rule, clothing needs to cover from shoulders to knees. Women do not need to wear Muslim dress or cover their head, however. Swimming in bikinis is acceptable, though you will need to cover up afterwards.
Alcohol: It’s illegal to drink or be intoxicated in public areas in Dubai, though you can still drink in certain restaurants and in hotels.
Greetings: Unlike in Australia, you should only shake hands when the other party initiates the greeting, and you should only use your right hand to take or give something.
Social Media: the UAE has strict social media and online laws that include comments and images. It’s best to research these before travelling to avoid being offensive.