Things to know before travelling to Dubai - Attraction

Top 15 things to know before travelling to Dubai

Essential things to know before your journey to Dubai

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There are a few things to know before travelling to Dubai that can make your trip as seamless and enjoyable as possible. I am sure you might have many questions, especially if it is your first visit to Dubai. Planning a trip to a new destination can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Moreover, in the excitement of the preparation, it just happens that we overlook certain things.

But do not worry! I have made this helpful Dubai checklist to guide you through the essentials to ensure you’re fully prepared for your adventure. I am a frequent visitor to Dubai, so the information I am going to share is my first-hand experience.

15 things to know before travelling to Dubai

Weather and when to travel to Dubai

The best time to visit Dubai is from October to April, and this period largely revolves around its weather. The city experiences a desert climate, which means hot summers and pleasantly warm winters. Temperatures begin to drop at the end of October, and you can enjoy all the outdoor attractions comfortably. This is the season when the city comes to life thanks to many events and tourists flocking back to Dubai. The average temperature ranges from 20 to 30°C. Occasionally, there can be several rainy days, especially in February.

From June to September, temperatures often soar above 40°C (and even reach 50°C), making outdoor activities quite challenging. Air-cos, waterparks and pools with cooled water will be your best friends during the summer season. If you decide to go, keep in mind that many outdoor attractions, such as Dubai Miracle Garden, Global Village and Dubai Garden Glow, will be closed. Furthermore, the city agenda will be quite thin.

Things to know before travelling to Dubai - Dubai Miracle Garden

What to pack

Wondering what clothes to pack for Dubai? Considering the weather, your suitcase should include lightweight and breathable clothing for the daytime. Furthermore, bring a light jacket or shawl for cooler evenings if you are travelling in winter (especially if you plan desert activities after the sunset). Even though winter days are very warm, there can occasionally be chilly winds from the sea at night. Sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat or a cap and strong sunscreen are essential to protect against the intense sun.

Comfortable walking shoes are also recommended, as you’ll likely do a lot of walking, whether it’s exploring souks or strolling along the marina. Bringing slippers for beach and pool activities is definitely a good idea. Read more about general dress code rules in Dubai below.

Local language

Arabic is the official language of Dubai, but English is widely spoken, making communication for tourists easy. Learning a few basic Arabic phrases, such as “As-salamu alaykum” (peace be upon you) for hello and “Shukran” (thank you), can be a good idea.

However, most of the personnel in the service industry are of international origin. They come predominantly from countries such as India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Bangladesh. That means that whether you go to a mall, a supermarket, a hotel, a restaurant, an attraction or a cinema, you will have absolutely no trouble finding someone to speak English to.

Local currency

Dubai’s local currency is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED or Dhs). The exchange rate to major world currencies, including the Euro, US Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar and Chinese Yuan, is stable without big fluctuations.

Have Fun Dubai’s Tip: Check the current exchange rate using a helpful widget. You can find it on the right side of this page if you are browsing a desktop version or below the post if you are viewing it on mobile.

All major credit and debit cards, such as Mastercard, Visa and American Express, are widely accepted. However, some small vendors and traditional markets may be an exception. Moreover, it’s handy to have some cash to give tips. I recommend exchanging some money before travelling or using one of many ATMs and exchange points in the city. Keep in mind that currency exchange kiosks at Dubai International Airport offer less favourable rates. Read more about money in Dubai here.

Things to know before travelling to Dubai - UAE money

Time zone

Dubai operates on Gulf Standard Time (GST), which is four hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+4). There’s no daylight saving time here, so the time difference remains consistent throughout the year. Read more and check the current time in Dubai here.

Dress code

Reviewing your Dubai travel checklist, let’s not forget about general guidelines regarding what to wear. Dubai is a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population, but it’s still rooted in Islamic traditions, which are reflected in its dress code. In most public places, you can wear your regular clothes without problem as long as it is not too vulgar or provocative.

The general recommendation is to dress modestly. For women, it is recommended to cover shoulders and knees, and avoid transparent clothes. You can wear your regular beachwear by the pool or on the beach. For visiting religious sites though, a conservative dress code is in place which includes fully covering your body. Learn more about Dubai customs and traditions here.

Things to know before travelling to Dubai - Dress code

Alcohol consumption and buying

Alcohol is available in Dubai, but it’s regulated. You can consume it at home or in licensed venues such as hotels, bars, restaurants and clubs. Purchasing alcohol from a store requires a licence, which tourists can easily obtain. However, I should warn you that you will not find alcohol in Dubai’s supermarkets. You will need to visit one of the dedicated stores or you can bring alcohol to the UAE with you. Read all the details via the link above.

Have Fun Dubai’s Tip: Keep in mind that drinking alcohol in Dubai’s streets is strictly forbidden and illegal. Moreover, avoid causing any trouble if you are intoxicated. You risk a fine for showing loud or other inappropriate behaviour in public places.

Drugs and medication

One of the things you should know before going to Dubai is that drugs are prohibited in the UAE. Moreover, strict rules extend to some prescription and over-the-counter medications. Medicines containing codeine or similar narcotic-like substances are prohibited. Always check the legality of your medications before travelling and carry your prescription. You may also need to submit a special form before entering the UAE. Read more about it here.

When is a weekend

In Dubai, the weekend now falls on Saturday and Sunday. The shift came into effect in 2022, mainly in order to sync business operations with the rest of the world. Keep in mind that government offices may close earlier on Friday to respect the Friday prayer tradition. Moreover, in some emirates, the weekend is still observed on Friday and Saturday. Planning your itinerary with this in mind ensures you won’t miss out on any experiences due to timing.

Visa for Dubai

What else do tourists need to know before going to Dubai? Most travellers need a visa to enter Dubai and the UAE. However, citizens of certain countries can get a visa on arrival. The duration of stay varies from 30 to 90 days, depending on your nationality.

Always check the visa requirements for your country well in advance of your trip. For some nationalities, applying for an e-visa online before travel can save time and streamline the entry process. Find the up-to-date visa information on the official UAE portal.

Travel insurance

When visiting Dubai and the UAE it’s a great idea to get travel insurance. It covers unforeseen circumstances such as trip cancellations, medical emergencies and lost luggage. Keep in mind that healthcare costs in Dubai are high. Travel insurance may still be obligatory for citizens of certain countries applying for a UAE visa.

SIM cards and mobile data

Staying connected is easy in Dubai, as there are several options for tourists to buy SIM cards with prepaid data plans. You can either purchase physical SIM cards at the airport from local telecom providers like Etisalat or Du or order an e-SIM card online. Having a local SIM card will save you a lot of money because you will avoid roaming charges. Read more about UAE SIM cards and the internet here.

Transportation in Dubai

The city offers so many attractions, so I can imagine you are wondering how to move around. Good news! Dubai boasts a modern and efficient public transportation system, including the metro, buses, water transport and taxis. To use most of the public transport in Dubai, you need a NOL card. The Dubai Metro is a great way to travel between major attractions and to/from Dubai International Airport, as it’s affordable and avoids traffic. However, the metro is not yet available in all city areas.

Taxis are quite cheap, and you can also use popular ride-sharing services like Uber and Careem. For a unique experience, try the traditional abra boats to cross Dubai Creek. Renting a car in Dubai is very easy thanks to multiple rental points, great infrastructure and cheap gas prices.

Things to know before travelling to Dubai - Dubai Metro

Health, hygiene and safety

I can assure you that Dubai is one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world. It maintains high standards of health and hygiene, and it’s reflected in its world-class healthcare facilities. Tap water is generally safe to drink, but I still recommend using a filter or bottled water. Public restrooms are clean and well-maintained, so finding hygienic facilities while out and about is typically not a concern.

Due to the high presence of video surveillance and low crime rates, you will feel safe everywhere in Dubai. From my experience, Dubai is much safer than many cities in Europe or the USA. However, it is still recommended to stay alert and not to leave your belongings unattended.

Tax refund

Another bonus of visiting Dubai is that tourists can claim a VAT refund for purchases made in the UAE. If you are 18 or above and do not have a UAE residency, you can get back 5% tax refund. Ask a shop assistant to register your purchase, keep your receipts and ensure that the goods are unused.

The refund process is relatively straightforward, and there are designated counters and Planet machines at the airport where you can claim your tax back. This can save you a great deal, especially if you’ve indulged in some serious shopping during your stay. The maximum refund cap is AED 7000 per person.

Things to know before travelling to Dubai - Tax refund

Prepare for your Dubai trip

Dubai Trip Essentials

All essentials for a hassle-free journey to Dubai. Book here to save money.

Hotels

Attractions

Flights

NOL Card

Car rentals

Insurance

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