It might seem banal, but a glance at your watch could be a good idea, to check the time zone difference between your country and the Arab Emirates, which are 4 hours ahead compared to GMT. If you live in a country which uses daylight saving time, it is necessary to take account of the fact that in the months when this applies, it will be necessary to subtract an hour with respect to the difference for the period in which GMT applies. However, the Dubai Hotel Booking clock, which shows the correct time for the Arab Emirates, may be more useful than so many words!
Once you have verified the eventual requirement of an entry visa, depending on your country of origin (see also the article “Visas for the Arab Emirates”), and mindful of the fact that in any case no vaccine is necessary for a completely safe stay, it will be important to be informed regarding which goods, and in what quantity, one is permitted to carry in order to be able to pass through the “Nothing to declare” channel.
- 4 litres of alcohol of any kind (1,000 ml per litre). In the event of your wishing to purchase beer, a maximum of 24 cans is permitted, since 6 cans are equivalent to a litre of alcohol.
- 400 cigarettes (equivalent to 2 cartons)
- 2 kg of tobacco.
- Cigars to a maximum value of approx. € 606 (AED 3000), to be considered for personal use.
- Perfumes or other gift items to a maximum value of approx. € 606 (AED 3000), to be considered for personal use.
- Cash monies to a maximum value of approx. € 8080 (AED 39,999), even if in a different currency.
Clothing should therefore always be extremely cool and light, making use of natural fibres, and swimming costumes are generally acceptable at swimming pools and on the beaches. Altogether, clothing used will be, objectively speaking, much more casual compared to other Arab countries, necessarily with adequate regard, however, to good taste and respect. It is highly recommended that you make use of sunglasses and hats to protect yourself from the strong sunlight.
Some rules of behaviour are, furthermore, highly useful for establishing positive and pleasant contact with the place and its culture. Among these, it goes without saying that it is important to avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours during Ramadan (see also the article “Ramadan”), as it is also to avoid directly photographing people and even more so women and/or families, since this is considered a violation of privacy and therefore offensive.
Clearly, when one is photographing a square, a fountain, a building and so on, it can happen that passers by also are photographed, which is not a problem, while what is not considered pleasing is the intentional taking of pictures of specific individuals or putting them directly in focus. Misunderstandings can happen in restaurants, shopping malls and generally in enclosed places: in such cases, it is a good idea not to point the camera in the direction of a table or at people who are, for example, looking in a shop window. If in doubt, in enclosed spaces, it is a good idea always to ask permission, in this way showing good manners and respect towards local people, and this will be repaid in kind and with warm Arab hospitality.
Alcohol, served in most hotels and indoors at most of their restaurants – which are very numerous, since it is very common in the culture of Arab gastronomy that hotels have several restaurants, which are open to the public at large – is not, on the other hand, served in external restaurants. Therefore you will have to avoid drinking alcohol outside hotels.
Speaking of restaurants and hotels leads one furthermore to cite a question which is often put during a stay abroad: is it possible to leave a tip and is this well received? In the Emirates, the answer is: yes! It is advised to leave one (10% of the bill is perfectly ok, or some change for room service), even though, naturally, it is not obligatory.
Electrical sockets in the Emirates are different from those used in Europe: they are three pin and triangular in shape, so it is necessary to have the right adaptors, which are easily obtainable in hardware stores which are numerous both in the shopping malls and in shopping streets at a very low cost.
Telephony in the Arab Emirates is highly modern (see also the article “Telephony in the United Arab Emirates”): right from the moment of your arrival at the airport it is possible to purchase pre-paid phone cards for your mobile telephone, which will allow you to telephone inside the country at low cost, while for calls abroad it is a good idea to verify each case, using landlines in public phone centres or enjoying the comfort of your own hotel room.
For people in the Emirates, weekly life has a different rhythm compared to that in the West, since it is regulated by Islam: the holiday day is Friday, to which Thursday is added as a pre-festival day. In practice, the weekend is composed of Thursday and Friday in general, but for the entire public sector the weekend begins on Thursday afternoon and lasts until Saturday evening. The first working day is therefore Sunday, while for the private sector it is often Saturday.