Visa – United Arab Emirates tourist visa for Indian passport holders is fairly easy to procure and can be availed through various airlines like Emirates, Indigo and Air Arabia. Some nationalities are eligible for visa free or transit visa upon arrival facility. Please check the UAE Tourism Board for more information.
Getting In – UAE is catered by endless number of premium and low cost airlines and Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah airports are huge aviation hubs. Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Qatar etc cater to various destinations across United Arab Emirates. There are possibilities of overland crossing from Saudi Arabia in the south and Oman in the east. UAE highways are in excellent condition despite the heavy road traffic between Sharjah and Dubai. 4 AED toll fee is mandatory for crossing Salik toll gate and a prepaid Salik Tag is required.
Getting Around – A handful of domestic airlines like Rak Air cater to smaller domestic hubs like Al Ain, Yas Island etc. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah has public bus network and there is an excellent high tech metro connectivity in Dubai. Shared and metered taxis also make up for public transportation and chauffeured cars are also available for hire on hourly and packaged tour basis. Buying a Silver Card makes sense if staying in Dubai for a day. Taxis are pretty expensive and Dubai offers pink taxis for women travelers. Buses are easily accessible in Dubai and their route map is available online.
Language – Arabic is the official language of UAE and English is widely spoken.
Currency – UAE Dirham is the local currency of United Arab Emirates.
Travel Tip – Although not a very pocket friendly travel destination, UAE is definitely worth a visit. Dubai offers a whole range of accommodations, dining out and drinking options, which are suitable for all pockets. A 10 AED tourist tax is imposed on a daily basis on all hotel/b & b and hostel rooms in Dubai. Food is one of the highlights of a UAE visit and Dubai is a world cuisine hub. While Dubai is home to some of the most expensive restaurants in the world, its popular quick eats are both filling and cheap. A very pocket friendly eat is grilled chicken, which is easily available at most of the road side open-air cafeterias. Served with side portions of Khubz (Arabic Bread), hummus, etc, grilled chicken along with Biryani are most popular dishes of UAE.
Traditional and easily available Shawarma and falafel sandwiches are also quite cheap and delicious. Owing to the huge expat population, UAE cities have tons of affordable restaurants offering Indian, Pakistani, Jordanian, Lebanese, Syrian cuisines and Western food is also easily available. Traditional Emirati cuisine however is hardest to find in UAE cities and only a handful of restaurants serve the entire feast. Bastakiya in Dubai offers Emirati cuisine and don’t miss the traditional Arabic coffee experience of gahwa. Culture lovers should not miss the daily (except Fridays) free tours of Jumeirah Mosque and the excellent Emirati hospitality experience run by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. The tours are 75 minutes long and involves glimpses of fiercely private world of Emiratis and Islam.
Travel Caution – UAE is a very safe travel destination and even the most petty crime is rare. Anti narcotic laws of UAE are very strict and possession, partaking of even slightest of amount can lead to imprisonment and/or execution. There is also a very strict restriction on bringing in some medicinal drugs like Valium, Prozac etc into UAE and formal papers like doctor’s original prescription etc are required for bringing them into the country. Drinking alcohol in an unlicensed public place, buying alcohol without a local licence, writing bad cheques, unmarried cohabitation and public eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours during Ramadan can incur a fine, imprisonment and/or deportation. Public display of affection is a strict no no and Ramadan. Another big no-no is sexual or indecent public behaviour. LGBT activities are illegal in the UAE and while enforcement of this law is somewhat lax in the private spheres, but if caught in public punishment may include imprisonment, fines, whippings and even death penalty.
Things to Do –
Things to Carry –
I am mentioning a brief idea of travel costs in Dubai (and UAE) as incurred on 2014.
Best Time to Visit – The best time to visit UAE is between December-April and for ardent shoppers the Dubai Shopping Festival (Jan-Feb) should not be missed.
10 AED= Tourist tax/per day on hotel rooms
25 AED=Lunch (Juice and half grilled chicken)
20 AED=Taxi from Bur Dubai to Dubai Mall (approx 7 kilometers)
5 AED=Dubai Museum Fee
10 AED=1 Water Bottle
120 AED=1 Hour Abra Creek Ride
25 AED=Atlantis monorail return ticket
250 AED=Hatta Tour
136 AED=Wildlife and Falconry Tour
100 AED=Atlantis Lost Chamber ticket
Dubai is indeed like no place on earth and although recent credit crunch, halted the city’s dizzying growth, it still makes a fascinating destination to visit. A patchwork of people, lifestyles, cultures and history, Dubai is one place where sky is the limit and interestingly also beyond it.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE.