United Arab Emirates holidays

Experience United Arab Emirates

Best Places to Visit

By far the most popular of the Emirates, Dubai has managed to turn itself into a world-class destination virtually overnight. Dubai is certainly a city of superlatives and prides itself providing tourists with incredible amounts of luxury. With the best bars, the best shopping opportunities and the most famous restaurants, there is absolutely nothing average about this city. There are many notable landmarks - the Burj Al Arab the most iconic building of them all, the Burj Kalifa (the world's tallest building) and the Palm Islands, a big draw for many travellers. The idea for the Palm Islands came from the Prince of Dubai and work started on creating the islands in 2001. They comprise of two manmade archipelagos; Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali, both featuring palm-shaped fronds that extend out into the Persian Gulf. The plan is that these will host hotels, villas, marinas and visitor attractions such as water parks and theme parks. In the meantime, visitors with an urge to spend will be pleasantly catered for by the huge Dubai Mall, the Wild Wadi Water Park and the dozens of high-end hotels that line Jumeirah Beach.

The largest of the emirates and the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is one of the most modern and advanced cities in the world. Abu Dhabi offers tourists everything from top-notch golf courses and camel racing events to high-rise malls and the most ornately beautiful mosques. Travellers in Abu Dhabi are bound to find activities to suit their requirements.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in the UAE, Al-Ain is the fourth largest and greenest of the emirates. A popular holiday destination with the Emirati elite, Al-Ain is the natural yin to Dubai's and Abu Dhabi's considerably developed yang. There are several resorts in the area which are home to, among other interesting attractions, a camel market, Al-Ain Zoo and the Al-Ain National Museum.

For travellers looking for a slower pace of life than the hustle and bustle of Dubai, Umm al-Quwain is just the place. Umm al-Quwain's terrain is some of the most interesting and most varied in the region as the city spans the coastal greenery of the Persian Gulf shores all the way to the golden sand dunes which envelop the desert town of Falaj Al Moalla. A visit to Umm al-Quwain will probably be the closest example of traditional Middle Eastern living tourists will find in the UAE.

Top Landmarks

The region's most recognisable landmark is the Burj Al Arab. A contemporary architectural masterpiece, this tower houses the fourth largest hotel in the world. The Burj Al Arab is to the Emirates what the Petronas Towers are to Kuala Lumpur. Whether tourists are interested in architecture or not, this massive structure makes for a great photo opportunity.

The largest mosque in Dubai, the Jumeirah Mosque, sits at the north end of Jumeirah Road and is the most photographed religious building in the entire country. Built in 1979, the mosque is an example of the Egyptian Fatimid architectural style. The mosque's appeal also lies in the fact that, unlike many other places of worship, non-Muslims are permitted to enter and tour. The Jumeirah Mosque is something to behold at night when it is gently lit and appears to be glowing.

Hili Archaeological Park is a prime example of Bronze Age civilisation, and the park houses many important finds, including stone tombs like the well-known Great Sepulchre. Many of the excavated materials can be found in the nearby Al-Ain National Museum, which is located in the centre of the city.

Khalifa Park in Abu Dhabi is one of the largest and arguably the best parks in the country. Home to a train, an aquarium, gardens and a museum, this site is more like a mini city than a local common. Great for afternoon picnics or simply a nice place to end a busy day in the city, Khalifa Park is worth a trip.

Entertainment

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are largely known for two things: shopping and their lively nightlife scenes. As a result of the large expat population, there is a wide range of bars, clubs and pubs. Whether tourists want to dance until the sun rises or simply knock back a few pints at an Irish-style pub, Dubai and Abu Dhabi will deliver. There are also several places which provide traditional Arabic entertainment in the form of Arabic singers and dancers.

Lovers of live music will not be disappointed either as Dubai plays host to some of the best live music joints in the region. With everything from African, French and Caribbean jazz to classical music and heavy rock, Dubai has made sure to include most popular genres in its live music repertoire.

There is also a range of festivals which take place throughout the year, providing lots of entertainment for those who'd prefer to avoid the club scene. The Dubai International Jazz Festival takes place in February and is popular with locals and tourists alike. In the same month, the Dubai Shopping Festival is well worth a visit. Attracting nearly three million people each year, this festival is a feast of culture, fashion and entertainment.

It is important to remember that the UAE is largely an Islamic region. Alcohol laws are strict but alcohol can be purchased in hotels and restaurants everywhere except Sharjah. Drinking in public is prohibited and during Ramadan, alcohol cannot be purchased during daylight hours.

Dining Out

Regardless of what you're looking for, whether it's authentic Italian cuisine, the finest sushi, a hearty Indian feast or traditional English pub grub, the UAE has it all. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have become known for not only their vast array of dining options but also the high-quality dishes served. Many renowned chefs, including the likes of Giorgio Loctalli, have opened up establishments in these luxury cities.

A few local Emirati delicacies which should be given a try are hummus (chickpea and sesame paste which is a Middle Eastern staple), tabbouleh (a refreshing salad made with bulgur wheat, parsley and mint), warak enab (grape leaves stuffed with rice and lamb) and finally, delicious dried dates.

The UAE is a predominantly Islamic region, which means that alcoholic beverages are only sold at Western establishments and in major hotels. There are, however, a few non-alcoholic drinks which are specific to the area and are well worth a try. Ayran is a cold yoghurt drink which is popular during the sweltering summer months. There is also a robust coffee tradition in the UAE, with many establishments serving it black and strong.

Beach

Several of the most beautiful beaches have been taken over by large resorts. For a small fee, however, travellers can still enjoy the white sands and warm waters of beaches like Kite Beach in Dubai and Al Mamzar Beach Park in Sharjah. The east coast offers travellers a chance to bathe on its calm shores and serves as a much needed respite from the bustle of Dubai and other larger centres.

Romance

If the myriad of five-star luxury resorts are not romantic enough, then a night under the Arabian stars will surely do the trick. Couples can ride camels through the breathtaking dunes, enjoy the best Arabic cuisine in a Bedouin-style tent and enjoy the rhythms of local musicians and dancers who provide after-dinner entertainment. There are also several established resorts in the desert for those who prefer a more formal dining experience.

Family

Dubai has plenty of amusement parks which are bound to keep the little ones occupied. The Wild Wadi Water Park is not only a great deal of fun, but also the best place to be when temperatures become unbearable. Ferrari World, which is the largest indoor theme park internationally, is also a good option. It offers patrons thrilling car rides and a range of top-notch dining options.

Adventure

An experience not to be missed is a submarine journey to the Caribbean Sea bed aboard the Atlantis. With the vessel reaching depths of 150 feet, you will have breathtaking views of coral reefs and ancient shipwrecks. If you are looking for more energetic pursuits, there is always deep sea fishing, surfing or kite-surfing. With no need for any extra gear other than good footwear, it is possible to hike across the Bajan landscape for special memories of the island.

If the maze of nightclubs and bars is not adventure enough, it is possible to swap nocturnal exertions for activities in the surrounds of Benidorm. Jeep safaris give a different outlook on the Costa Blanca terrain, as do canoeing, horseback riding and archery. Book a log cabin for that complete outdoor experience or take on the countryside with an ATV. For groups, there’s always the old favourite of paintballing or slicing through the Mediterranean waters on a catamaran to see the Benidorm skyline from the sea.

Sagres is a good place to get your dose of holiday adventure. Here, visitors can engage in surfing, windsurfing, diving and even fishing. The great outdoors of Monchique, meanwhile, have visitors engaging in nature hikes, bird watching, horseback riding and biking. In the eastern regions of the Algarve, the city of Albufeira is popular with golf, tennis and water sports lovers.

The desert-like interior of this dry and windy island is where adventure-seekers can find excitement. Hikers can climb to the Hooiberg or Haystack mountains, located in the centre of Aruba, to get fantastic views of the island. They can also trek around Arikok National Park to see spectacular boulders, crevices and rock formations, as well as plants and animals which are indigenous to Aruba.

Australia is one of the best places for adventure in the world. Skydiving, surfing, diving and rock climbing can all be done here. However, for real thrill-seekers there’s cage diving. Complete with scuba diving equipment, you are dropped into shark-infested waters, protected by a cage, of course. It’s certainly the best way to see these amazing creatures up close. Tours can be booked in Port Lincoln, South Australia.

For holidaymakers needing an adrenaline fix, outdoor and adventure sports are in plentiful supply in the Bahamas. Diving and snorkelling here aren’t just restricted to the usual reef sites. The Lost Blue Hole, a natural rift in the ocean floor, is a thrilling experience for expert divers and the Shark Arena and Runway gives a chance for accompanied dives among feeding sharks. Eleuthera Island offers both land and undersea caving and great surfing, and unspoilt South Andros Island is perfect for wilderness hiking among forests containing wild boars and huge iguanas.

For an adventure filled holiday, Bali's beaches offer the best in water sports. Visitors can learn how to surf in Kuta, Legian, the Bukit Peninsula and Canggu. As for diving, the wreck at Tulamben and the coral reefs of Menjangan Island are good dive sites. In Bedugul, visitors can parasail, jet-ski or take a spin on a speedboat on Lake Bratan. Trekking is a popular activity in Bali's jungles as well.

An experience not to be missed is a submarine journey to the Caribbean Sea bed aboard the Atlantis. With the vessel reaching depths of 150 feet, you will have breathtaking views of coral reefs and ancient shipwrecks. If you are looking for more energetic pursuits, there is always deep sea fishing, surfing or kite-surfing. With no need for any extra gear other than good footwear, it is possible to hike across the Bajan landscape for special memories of the island.

There’s an incredible choice of adventure holidays based all over Bulgaria, with its topography well suited to sports such as mountaineering, caving, canyoning, quad-bike safaris, mountain biking and tough hikes and treks. Remote protected areas such as Madzharovo are home to grey wolves and vultures, and guided glimpses of their wild world makes for an unforgettable adventure. Watery adventures include kayaking, canoeing and rafting in spectacular gorges created by raging rivers.

Staying along the eastern shore means having access to a huge array of water sports, from scuba diving and snorkelling to jet-skiing and parasailing. One of the best places to dive is the water around the small island of Isla Mujures. It’s also possible to take a safari jeep trip through the jungle and even zip line when you’re there. Adventure tours are popular and can incorporate a number of different adventure activities.

With all that Atlantic Ocean to play with, water sports have become Cape Verde’s speciality. For travellers looking for something more exciting than lazing on the beach, there are many alternatives. Whether its windsurfing and scuba diving off the coast of Boa Vista or in Sal’s clear waters, activities in the water abound. There are also many areas where visitors can hike and trek. Most notably, the hike up Pico de Fogo is a challenge, while visitors to Santo Ant?o can embark on treks across steep terrain, through the island’s dense pine forests and up to the top of the island’s own dormant volcano.

The island’s rugged interior is great for hiking, trekking and walking, giving everything from gentle slopes to steep climbs in the central mountains. The Corfu trail is famous, ending at the dramatic cliffs along the western coast. For a thrill, cliff jumping is found in several locations and deep-water soloing (solo sea cliff climbing) is a new experience. Sea-kayaking and canoeing, waterskiing, paragliding, horseback riding, sailing and yachting are all popular here.

With the region’s longest stretch of coastline, Cornwall has become a specialist in water sports. Whether it’s catching a wave at Fistral Beach in Newquay or learning how to kitesurf on Gwithian, Cornwall will not disappoint. There are also spectacular scuba diving opportunities at Pendennis Steps in Falmouth for beginners and at the Manacles for more advanced divers.

If it’s not a holiday without adventure activities to spice it up, don’t despair as there are a plethora of adrenaline-fuelled sports on offer in Crete. River trekking through the Preveli Gorge, mountain biking along the Lassithi Plateau, rock-climbing on Agiofarago Beach, sea kayaking from Spinalonga Island, caving and climbing in the central mountains, paragliding and horseback riding can all be arranged through a wide choice of both local and international tour operators.

Tackle the limestone rock on the Croatian coast by rock climbing across the Mosor Mountains in Spilt. With several routes and levels of difficulty, every type of adventurer is catered for. It is also possible to take a kayak and navigate the waters around Dubrovnik and surrounding islands. Hiking in the Paklenica Canyon in Zadar may be strenuous at times, but is a spectacular way to take in the sights.

Cyprus has it all when it comes to adventure. With crystal clear waters for snorkelling and sea kayaking, to the Troodos Mountains for mountain biking, rock climbing and trekking, visitors won’t be stuck for things to do. The best places for adventures are Paphos, with its access to the sea, the Troodos Mountains and Akamas Park. There are many companies that cater for all activities. Rental charges for bikes and other equipment are reasonable, with guided tours and lessons available for various sports.

The mountainous village of Jarabacoa might be small, but it’s the perfect place to experience canyoning. Travelling through the stunning scenery by abseiling, swimming and any other means is possible. It’s also possible to book a rafting trip on the Rio Yaque del Norte, a truly thrilling experience. And let’s not forget all of the water sports that are on offer on pretty much every beach, such as jet-skiing, waterskiing and snorkelling.

Cycling, snorkelling and mountain climbing: France really has a lot to offer in the way of adventure holidays. However, France is renowned for its skiing. Chamonix, in the Alps, is one of the most popular ski resort towns in the world and there is a great array of slopes around here. It’s great for beginners and professionals alike, and has plenty of nightlife, so tourists can relax after a day on the slopes with a beer or a glass of the local wine.

Most of the adventure activities in Fuerteventura involve water sports, which the island is famous for. Playas de Sotavento is especially popular for its winds, which are perfect for surfing, windsurfing and kite boarding. These water sports are extremely popular, especially since the International Windsurfing and Kiteboarding Championship is held here. Playa del Matorral and Lobos Island, meanwhile, offer great diving opportunities to visitors keen on seeing Canarian marine life up close.

Gran Canaria is the perfect destination for an outdoor activity holiday, whether the activity is in the water or on land. It’s known for its year-round surfing, while Playa de El Cabron Marine Reserve has the best dive spots on the island. Mountain and road biking, horseback riding in the interior, sport fishing in the rivers or deep sea fishing in the ocean, as well as hiking or trekking through the biosphere reserve and protected parks are all guaranteed to please.

Ibiza is a great destination for active holidaymakers, particularly those who are into water sports as Ibiza has world class diving and World Heritage-listed marine areas. Tagomago, off the east coast, is particularly noted as a diving spot. Those who prefer to stay on land can enjoy paintballing or go-karting at San Antonio. Nature lovers can hire mountain bikes and take in the gorgeous scenery of the Santa Ines Valley.

The rough and rugged landscape of Iceland spells adventure to most people. Apart from the many hiking and trekking opportunities in Iceland's national parks, one good option for an adventure-filled holiday is to travel by car hire from Reykjavik in the southwest or Akuyeri in the north to the sceneries nearby, which feature glaciers, volcanoes and waterfalls. Whale-watching in Húsavík, in the north, and at Faxaflói, near Reykjavik, is another popular adventure activity.

The words ‘sports’ and ‘holidays’ come together in the perfect setting on the Isle of Wight. A number of sports and recreational facilities are available for holidaymakers on the island. Sailing is especially popular owing to the fact that the oldest regatta in the world is hosted by the town of Cowes. Other sports visitors can engage in on the Isle of Wight include rowing, hockey, football and cricket.

Jamaica is well-known for its great dive sites and other exciting water sports options, but there’s even more for adrenaline-fuelled holidays in the sun here. For animal-lovers, dog-sledding (believe it or not) on the sands in specially-adapted sleds pulled by rescued street dogs or horse riding bareback into the ocean and swimming with the horses are unique Caribbean treats. For hardcore adventure, there’s learning to fly, bungee jumping, caving, potholing, cliff-jumping and whitewater rafting.

Surprisingly, Jersey has a fine reputation as a base for adventure activity holidays, with exciting options such as cliff and rock-climbing, caving, abseiling, surfing and even learning to fly or glide at a reasonable cost. Power boating and sailing as well as wake-boarding and deep-sea fishing are popular with visitors, and skydiving is an amazing thrill here, with views of the entire island and the French coast on the way down. Saint Helier and its surroundings are home to most of the adventure activity operators, and the activities take place all over the island.

There are a plethora of adventurous activities on Kefalonia for every taste. For those who wish to experience as much water as possible, there are numerous water sports to choose from such as jet-skiing, windsurfing and sea kayaking. Also available are plenty of opportunities to snorkel, dive and fish. Those wishing to satisfy their adventurous palates on land have a choice of jeep safaris, mountain trekking, cycling, horse-back riding and hunting. In other words, there is a little bit of everything for everyone.

Adventure-seekers should take advantage of the lake, which is perfect for water sports like sailing and windsurfing. There are a few clubs which operate in the area that can assist is kick-starting a water adventure. The plethora of cliff faces also provides a perfect opportunity for rock climbing. The faces of Veneto and Trentino have proven to be most popular.

Lanzarote is also a magnet for active holidaymakers. Cycling is popular as the volcanic terrain and frequent wind offer some of the most challenging rides in the world, with the spectacular views from the top of climbs such as Mirador del Rio more than compensating for the effort. Water sports are a major draw - visitors can join a surf school, ride the winds through kite-surfing or windsurfing, or venture beneath the waves for a diving adventure.

The wild, untamed expanses of Lapland are perfect for outdoor activities at any time of year, although for the magic of a unique Arctic experience, a winter visit is best. Favourite activities include safaris across vast snowfields by snowmobile, learning to drive your own team of huskies, reindeer sleighing, downhill or cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. For summer visitors, horseback riding, hiking and trekking the vast wildernesses make for the perfect break.

The amazing topography of Madeira is perfect for outdoor activities, with walking and hiking along the cliffs or in the mountains as good as it gets. From trails following the Levada irrigation canals across deserted countryside to tough hikes in the high peaks, there are many options at all levels of activity. For adrenaline junkies, canyoning and rock climbing can be arranged, as can mountain biking, sea kayaking and deep-sea fishing trips.

Travellers can take full advantage of Magaluf’s vast coastline with the wide range of water sport opportunities available. From jet-skiing and paragliding to scuba diving in the clear Mediterranean waters, the options are endless. There is even a water ski school at the resort for those wanting to reduce the possibility of injuring themselves.

With its varied topography from coastline to high mountains, Majorca offers activity holidays in all shapes and sizes. For the truly adventurous, canyoning in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains is a new thrill in the region, with narrow gorges and massive waterfalls giving routes from easy to difficult. Climbing, caving, cliff jumping and guided adventure treks are easily arranged and, for the ultimate adrenaline rush, the wet and wild experience of coasteering won’t disappoint. Its action-packed combination of adventure swimming, rock climbing, caving and rock scrambling will leave you breathless.

Adventure activities in Mali concentrate mainly on water sports, with a wide selection from motor boating and jet-skiing to windsurfing and waterskiing, to paragliding and sport fishing. Those looking for more extreme adventures should head for nearby Heraklion, where a number of companies offer daytrips to the mountains for rock-climbing, mountain biking, canyoning, canoeing, kayaking and white water rafting in season.

Although it is possible to do other activities, such as rock climbing and kayaking (there are tour operators across the island that offer equipment and tours), Malta really comes in to its own when it comes to scuba diving. With such warm temperatures and good visibility, it is possible to dive all year round. A lot of the dives also start closer to the shore, making it considerably cheaper and ideal for beginners. The Inland Sea in Gozo is an amazing dive; there are a few shipwreck sites here and a lot of wildlife such as octopus and moray eels.

For adventure, it has to be Yemen Nature Reserve Park. Quad biking through the park is a real experience, and along the way visitors can spot zebra, deer and antelope. Mauritius is also an amazing place to scuba dive. There is coral and wildlife along every coast but the most popular dive sites are around Flic enFlac on the west coast.

For adventure, it has to be Punta Prima Beach. One of the largest beaches on the island, Punta Prima is renowned for its water sports. Found in the southeast of the island, the beach features windsurfing equipment for hire along with sailing equipment and pedalos. Swimming is great here, along with scuba diving and snorkelling thanks to the crystal clear waters. However, swimmers should only get in the water when the green flag is up, meaning its safe to swim.

Climbers, hikers and trekkers will find challenges and rewarding experiences climbing North Africa's highest peak, Jebel Toubkal. Along the way, they will get to pass by the beautiful Amizmiz and Ourika valleys, as well as old mountain villages. The largest desert in the world, the Sahara, is another place that beckons adventure-seekers. Trips here can include camel caravans, four-wheel drive trips on the sand dunes and desert wilderness camping.

There are a number of adventurous activities for visitors to partake in. Bungee jumping, waterskiing and swimming with aquatic animals such as dolphins are all easy to arrange. However, when visiting central Florida, no adventure vacation is complete without a tour of Florida’s swamplands. There are plenty of tours offered where you ride an air boat in alligator-infested swamp water. For an added thrill, try taking one of these tours in the dead of night when you’ll be able to observe, first-hand, the nocturnal activities of the alligators.

Portugal’s vast coastline provides travellers with plenty of water sports. Praia Grande, Ericeira and Guincho are great spots for surfing, while the beach in Sines has the perfect conditions for windsurfing. Portugal’s rivers do not disappoint either; the Rio Mondego River in particular is great for white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking. For travellers who are not adept in the water, there are many locations which boast gorgeous hiking and trekking trips, including the Algarve Limestone Cliffs.

The Sinai Peninsula is a great place for adventure sports, from high adrenaline activities to less challenging thrills. Rock and mountain climbing can be had on the heights and guided trekking in remote desert regions is unforgettable. Sandboarding on the dunes is pure fun and off-road desert and mountain-biking are challenging. Hiking in the Sinai High Mountain Region with a guide is as good as it gets, but riding a swift Bedouin horse is nevertheless highly rated.

Adrenaline junkies should take full advantage of Santorini’s vast coastline and engage in the many water sport activities available. Perivolos is a great place for windsurfing and parasailing, while the diving school in Perissa organises amazing trips into the Aegean. Horseback riding lessons are offered on the beach of Exo Gonia and motorcycle lovers can go wild at Santorini Moto Cross Club in Pyrgos.

It’s all about diving in Sharm el-Sheikh, and the riot of colours in the Red Sea is in stark contrast to the endless desert. The reefs in Ras Muhammed and around Tiran Island are among the best dive site in the world, and the amount of fish at the reefs is amazing. Nurse sharks and barracudas are common. There is also the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm to explore, and although it can get crowded, it is a great place to dive.

At Mount Etna, visitors can soak in the desolate and sulphuric landscapes and rivers of lava onboard a four-wheel drive or via guided tours on foot. In winter, the slopes of the volcano are popular with skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts. Volcano-themed adventures can also be had in the Aeolian Islands, off Sicily's northern coast. On one of the islands, Stromboli, visitors can trek to a volcanic crater at night when the spectacular lava eruptions are best viewed.

Although, due to Skiathos’s small size, land-based adventure sports are somewhat limited, the beaches around Skiathos Town as well as Kanapitsa Beach and Agia Paraskevi Beach offer a variety of water sports, from waterskiing and snorkelling to paragliding, jet-skiing, scuba-diving and windsurfing. Sailing is popular, and renting a speed boat or yacht is easily arranged. In the island’s beautiful interior there are walking trails through fragrant pine forests, and sea-caving and clifftop walks along the coast are a good way to spend a day. Getting around on a bike or motorbike can be an adventure in itself on the dirt roads in the mountainous centre of the island.

The Drakensburg Mountains are perfect for adventure, as here tourists can rent quad bikes and go rock climbing or white water rafting. South Africa is also an amazing place for scuba diving. The Western Cape is great for diving, with False Bay on the Cape Town peninsula one of the best sites. Partridge Point and Tafelberg are other well-known dive sites.

Visitors only need to head inland to find some of the greatest adventure experiences in Tunisia. Desert safaris and desert trekking are some of the more popular options in this country which features the Sahara as its main playground. There are tour companies in the cities of Tozeur and Douz that take visitors to the famous, often far-out locations of many Hollywood movies filmed in Tunisia including the George Lucas epic, Star Wars.

Cappadocia offers a range of adventures, from the thrill of a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the area’s moonscape to clambering through ancient subterranean cities. You can even sleep in the cool climes of one of the many cave hotels for a truly surreal experience. Trekking the 311 miles of the Lycian Way between Antalya and Fethiye is more of a commitment, while multiday sailing cruises along the Turquoise Coast are worth their weight in gold.

The UAE has no shortage of adventure activities, offering something for every need and taste. Take advantage of the deserts and oases with the popular activity of dune skiing or simply hire a four-wheel drive and whizz over the dunes for an afternoon of excitement. The region’s lengthy coastline makes for great water sport activities as well, the most notable of which are the surfing and snorkelling opportunities on the east coast.

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Need to know

Language

The official language in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is Arabic. However, because of the large expatriate population in the region, other languages like Iranian and Hindi are commonly spoken. English is widely spoken in the business, education and tourism industries, particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi have become popular destinations in recent years for UK expats who want to enjoy the tax-free advantages of working in these emirates. This means that nowadays there are a lot of English-speaking communities which have become of the overall cultural melting pot that is the UAE.

Currency

The official currency is the UAE Dirham, which is divided into 100 fils. ATMs are readily available in shopping malls, hotels and on the side of roads. Most ATMs accept international debit and credit cards. Currency can be exchanged at large hotels, major banks and bureaux de change in most shopping malls.

Visas

Visas are not required for citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Travellers from certain countries, including citizens of the United Kingdom and the United States, can attain a 30-day visa free of charge on arrival at any port of entry. Travellers who do not qualify for this exemption are required to attain a visa in their home country before entering the UAE.

Climate

The climate in the UAE is largely dry and warm, with the region seeing few rainy days. Summers tend to be at their harshest from June to September when the mercury rises to highs of 45°C. The humidity during summer can also be high, due to a humid southeastern wind called the sharqi, which mainly affects the coastal areas. The traditional summer holiday months of June to August are a lot cheaper due to the sheer heat, but tourists can beat the sweltering conditions with air-conditioning and temperature-controlled swimming pools. Temperatures are cooler between October and April, with the hottest days during this period peaking at 27°C. February to April is a popular time to visit for the t-shirt and shorts weather, although hotels will be charging their highest prices during this peak season.

Main Airports

Dubai International Airport in Dubai is the country's main gateway and a major stop off for travellers en route between Europe and Asia or Australia. The airport services many international carriers, including the flagship Emirates Airlines. There are other international airports, including Abu Dhabi International Airport and Al Ain International Airport.

Flight Options

National airlines of the UAE include Etihad Airways and Dubai's Emirates Airlines, but other major carriers such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways also fly here from the UK. These airlines travel between London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick and Manchester to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Flights can be found for reasonably low prices, especially if they are booked in advance. The average flight time between London and the UAE is 7 hours.

Travel Advice

The UAE is becoming increasingly popular and can become packed with tourists during the peak early summer season. It is, therefore, best to book accommodation and make travel arrangements ahead to avoid disappointment and high prices. All-inclusive deals often garner the best value for money. UAE laws and customs differ significantly to those in the UK - research these before you begin your trip to make travelling through public areas and airports as easy as possible. Things to take into consideration include dress code, especially for women, bringing in certain items and public displays of affection.

Other Transport Options

It is possible to reach Dubai and Abu Dhabi by boat, but services typically only operate from Gulf or Indian cities. Neighbouring Oman and Saudi Arabia both have excellent road links with the UAE.

Getting Around

Metred taxi services are the most popular transport. The only train network is in Dubai while the conditions of the roads in the UAE are good for car hire.

Train

The only functional railway service in the country is the Dubai Metro. The system is cheap and efficient but only serves stations in Dubai itself.

Air

There are a few flights which link the large centres of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah but flying is not necessary due to their proximity to each other.

Bus

The bus system in the UAE is well-maintained and well-developed, with several companies operating routes across cities. Minibuses and large coaches run between Dubai and Sharjah. Al Ghazal buses are comfortable and efficient, servicing routes between Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain. The Inter-Emirate bus service is frequent and travels between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Inner-city buses which travel during peak business hours are often congested and can get stuck in traffic.

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FACTS

  1. Testament to its wealthy inhabitants, Dubai has its own Gold to Go machine, located in Dubai Mall. This impressive ATM dispenses 24-karat gold in several forms to any customers who can afford it, whether it be a gold bar or wearable gold jewellery.
  2. The holy month of Ramadan is taken seriously. Those living above the 80th floor of Dubai's tallest building must wait an extra 2 minutes before breaking their day-long fast, as they can see the sun for longer than those below them.
  3. Over in New York, Manhattan's Chrysler Building is almost entirely owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

FACTS

  1. Testament to its wealthy inhabitants, Dubai has its own Gold to Go machine, located in Dubai Mall. This impressive ATM dispenses 24-karat gold in several forms to any customers who can afford it, whether it be a gold bar or wearable gold jewellery.
  2. The holy month of Ramadan is taken seriously. Those living above the 80th floor of Dubai's tallest building must wait an extra 2 minutes before breaking their day-long fast, as they can see the sun for longer than those below them.
  3. Over in New York, Manhattan's Chrysler Building is almost entirely owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

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