A practical foreign exchange and currency guide on sending money and travel to UAE
What's in this UAE currency guide?
For most people, the United Arab Emirates means just one place: Dubai, the sci-fi-esque city of iconic skyscrapers, palm-shaped islands, city-sized malls, indoor ski slopes and palatial beach resorts. But beyond the glitter awaits a diverse mosaic of six more emirates, each with its own character and allure.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an oil-rich country strategically located between Europe and East Asia with a large expat community. The UAE has become a very wealthy country with a strong and stable currency, the dirham.
Abu Dhabi is the island capital of the Emirates and positions itself as the arts and cultural centre of the UAE. With the stunning newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum on Saadiyat island, it cements this title. Beyond the glitzy hotels there is Dubai, a shopping mecca with its city sized malls. North of Dubai Sharjah, does arts and heritage well, whilst further north again, Ajman provides glimpses of the pre-oil days.
The currency is the UAE dirham (Dhs). Visa and Mastercard is widely accepted in the expat touristy areas of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Elsewhere be sure to have some cash. While many smaller businesses and taxis now take cards, again, you will need cash at some point on your travels. ATMs are widespread and you’ll see some familiar names like Citi and HSBC.
Bargaining isn’t as much a part of the culture in the UAE as it is elsewhere in the Middle East. Malls and shops are all fixed price. It’s only in the souqs where you can try out your bargaining skills.
Taxis are decently priced, metered, ubiquitous and within emirates like Umm Al Quwain often the only way of getting around. Most drivers can also be hired by the hour. In that case, rates should be negotiated unless fixed fees are set in place. In Dubai, for instance, the fee for six hours is Dhs300, for 12 hours Dhs500. Most cabs can also be engaged for long-distance travel to other emirates, in which case you should negotiate the fee at the beginning of the trip.
Although there are city buses in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Sharjah, their destinations are either stated in Arabic script only or not at all, so they are used almost exclusively by Asian migrant workers. There are not many buses in the other emirates. Locals take their cars, and tourists tend to take taxis. In Dubai, tourists can conveniently get to most attractions by metro, which is an aerial railway across large sections of the city with great views.
There are no public ferries between emirates. There is talk of starting a water-taxi service between Dubai and Sharjah, though as of late 2018, it wasn’t yet operational.
Having your own wheels is a great way to see the UAE, allowing you to get off the major highways and to stop as you please. Well-maintained multi-lane highways link the cities, often lit along their entire length. For off-road driving, you need a 4WD. If you have a breakdown, call the Arabian Automobile Association. To hire a car, you’ll need a passport, a credit card and a valid driving licence. International driving licences are not usually compulsory, but it’s better to have one.
The UAE has no train network.
If you are travelling on an Australian passport showing ‘X’ (indeterminate/intersex/unspecified) in the sex field, you will not be permitted to enter the United Arab Emirates
You must declare cash money, including travellers cheques, above AED 100,000, or the equivalent in other currencies.
Watch the setting sun from the sand or the sea against a backdrop of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks at Kite Beach. With uninterrupted views of the Arabian Gulf on one side, the twinkling city skyline on another, and a flurry of kite surfers on all sides, Kite Beach promises a beautiful end to any day.
The coasts are hot and muggy in the summer (40–45°C/104–113°F); while the interior is dry, and visiting at this time is almost impossible for Europeans. Even the country’s inhabitants prefer to stay in air-conditioned rooms during the day in July and August, or they go on holiday to cooler countries. For that reason, the main time to go is winter (Oct–Apr), when the climate is mild and the days sunny. Maximum temperatures of 25–35°C (77–95°F), nights 17–20°C (62–68°F).
The below comparison table makes it easy to find the best exchange rates and lowest fees when you want to make a Transfer or Spend United Arab Emirates dirham.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a dense network of both domestic and foreign bank branches, which makes overseas money transfers to the UAE and transferring money from the UAE relatively simple. The Emirati dirham (AED) can be freely exchanged into foreign currencies and there are few constraints on foreign capital flows.
(US$, April 2018)
$220,000 – A studio apartment in the Gate Tower on Al Reem Island
$475,000 – A two-bed apartment with sea view in the Al Muneera development on Al Raha Beach
$5.4m – A five bed villa with pool in The Residences on Saadiyat Island
Note: Buyers in Abu Dhabi incur registration and transfer fees totalling 3-4%, with agents charging another 2%, typically.
The United Arab Emirates dirham was introduced on 19 May 1973. It replaced the Qatar and Dubai riyal at par. The Qatar and Dubai riyal had circulated since 1966 in all of the emirates except Abu Dhabi, where the dirham replaced the Bahraini dinar at 1 dirham = 0.1 dinar. Before 1966, all the emirates that were to form the UAE used the Gulf rupee. As in Qatar, the emirates briefly adopted the Saudi riyal during the transition from the Gulf rupee to the Qatar and Dubai riyal. It is pegged to the U.S. dollar for most of the time. Since November 1997, the dirham has been pegged to the 1 U.S. dollar = 3.6725 dirhams, which translates to approximately 1 dirham = 0.272294 dollar.
The name Dirham derives from the Greek word Drachmae, literally meaning “handful”, through Latin. Due to centuries of old trade and usage of the currency, dirham survived through the Ottoman Empire.
The dirham is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of 3.67 AED to 1 USD. This means that the dirham will always follow the dollar as it appreciates or depreciates. However, keep in mind that it is not pegged to other major currencies such as the GBP or the EUR, meaning that its rate in comparison with other currencies will fluctuate every day.
When you want to understand what affects the exchange rate between the AED and another currency, you need to understand what affects the exchange rate between the other currency and the Australian dollar.
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