Area Codes -- The country code for the U.A.E. is 971, and the city code for Dubai is 04, for Abu Dhabi 02, Sharjah 06, Al Ain 03.
Automobile Organizations -- The Arabian Automobile Association (AAA) (tel. 04-266-9989 or 800-4900; www.aaauae.com) offers 24-hour recovery service for an annual fee, including basic mechanical repairs, towing service, battery boosting, lockout service, and assistance for vehicles that have a flat tire or run out of gas. The organization is also licensed to issue International Driving Permits.
Business Hours -- Government offices are typically open Sunday to Thursday from 7:30am to 2:30pm. Private business hours are generally from 9am to 5pm, with some businesses taking an afternoon break and then staying open until later in the evening. Many shops open at 9 or 10am and stay open until 9 or 10pm and even later at the weekend, which is Friday and Saturday.
Bank hours are Saturday to Wednesday 8am to 1pm, and (for some) again from 4:30 to 6:30pm. They are open Thursday from 8am to noon and are closed Friday.
Drinking Laws -- Alcohol is only available in hotel and club restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. It is not sold in supermarkets or other public places. Technically, drinking or possession of alcohol without a Ministry of Interior liquor permit is illegal except for guests of the hotel. Liquor licenses are issued only to non-Muslim persons who possess U.A.E. residency permits. Drinking alcohol in public is illegal, and there is zero tolerance for drinking and driving; doing so will result in jail and stiff fines.
Electricity -- Dubai and Abu Dhabi's electricity is 220-240 volts AC. You will need a UK-style 3-pin plug. U.S.-made appliances generally require a transformer to operate here. Bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable - or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests. Many electrical items you buy in stores, however, will have a European-style 2-pin plug.
Embassies & Consulates -- All embassies are located in the U.A.E.'s capital, Abu Dhabi. Many countries also have consulates or consulates general located in Dubai. Note that most will be closed on Friday and Saturday.
The Australian Embassy is on the 14th floor of the Al Muhairy Centre, Sheikh Zayed the First Street, Abu Dhabi (tel. 02-634-6100; www.uae.embassy.gov.au). The Australian Consulate General in Dubai is on the 25th floor of the BurJuman Business Tower (tel. 04-508-7100).
The British Embassy is on Al Seef Road in Bur Dubai, Dubai (tel. 04-309-4444; http://ukinuae.fco.gov.uk/en/). And also in Abu Dhabi on Khalid bin Waleed Road. (tel. 02-610-1100).
The Canadian Embassy is in the Abu Dhabi Trade Towers (Abu Dhabi Mall), West Tower, Abu Dhabi (tel. 02-694-0300; www.canadainternational.gc.ca/uae-eau). The Canadian Consulate in Dubai is on the 7th floor of the Bank Street Building, Khalid bin Waleed Road (tel. 04-314-5555).
The Irish Visa Facilitation Office in Dubai is on the 4th floor of the Monarch Hotel, Office Tower No. 1, Sheikh Zayed Road (opposite Trade Centre) (tel. 04-329-8382). The Irish Embassy is in Abu Dhabi, at 1 and 2 Khalifa Al Suwaidi Development, 19th Street (off 32nd Street), Al Bateen (tel. 02-495-8200; www.dfa.ie).
The New Zealand Consulate in Dubai is at Suite 1502, 15th Floor, API Tower, Sheikh Zayed Road (tel. 04-331-7500).
The United States Embassy is at Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street, at 30th Street, Abu Dhabi (tel. 02-414-2200; abudhabi.usembassy.gov). The U.S. Consulate General in Dubai is in the World Trade Centre off Sheikh Zayed Road (tel. 04-311-6000; dubai.usconsulate.gov).
Emergencies -- The Dubai Municipality Emergency Number is tel. 04-223-2323. For police or an ambulance, dial tel. 999. In case of fire, dial tel. 997.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- Petrol (gasoline) is available at stations operated by Emarat, EPPCO, and ENOC. It's in liters and costs considerably less than in most Western countries.
Holidays -- Banks, government offices, post offices, and many stores, restaurants, and other businesses are closed on the following legal national holidays (dates for religious holidays may change depending on the moon): January 1 (New Year's Day), February 26 (Prophet's Birthday), July 9 (Lailat Al Mi'Raj), September 10 (Eid al-Fitr), November 16 (Eid Al Adha), December 2 (U.A.E. National Day), and December 7 (Islamic New Year). Ramadan in 2011 will run from approximately August 1 to August 30 and in 2012 will run from July 21 to August 20 (check local press for exact dates nearer the time).
Hospitals -- The best government hospitals include Al Wasl Hospital (tel. 04-219-3000; www.dohms.gov.ae) on Oud Metha Road in Bur Dubai and Rashid Hospital (tel. 04-337-4000; www.dohms.gov.ae) in downtown Bur Dubai. Both offer emergency services. For private hospitals, the American Hospital (tel. 04-336-7777; www.ahdubai.com) on Oud Metha Road offers excellent emergency services and inpatient and outpatient care, as does Welcare Hospital (tel. 04-282-7788; www.welcarehospital.com) in Al Garhoud, near the Aviation Club. Dubai Healthcare City (tel. 04-324-5555; www.dhcc.ae) also encompasses a selection of hospitals.
Hot lines -- The toll-free hot line for Dubai's Tourist Police is tel. 800-4438. The Dubai Municipality Emergency Number is tel. 04-223-2323. Health Call (tel. 04-363-5343) offers in-house medical calls 24 hours a day. The team of medical doctors from North America and Europe out of Dubai Healthcare City provide comprehensive primary healthcare. The 24-hour Life Pharmacy hot line is tel. 04-344-1122.
Insurance -- Medical Insurance - It's a good idea to get travel insurance when visiting the U.A.E.
Language -- English is widely spoken in Dubai and most public information is written in English as well as Arabic. There are many people from Iran and South Asia here speaking Persian, Hindi, Urdu, and Pashto, as well.
Legal Aid -- If you run into legal trouble, it's a good idea to contact your country's consulate in Dubai or embassy in Abu Dhabi. They will usually have a list of reputable English-speaking lawyers and contact information. They will provide information on the local judicial system and a list of local attorneys. In Dubai, your embassy can also arrange for citizen detainees to meet with an ombudsman from the Human Rights Department of the Dubai police headquarters, if the detainee believes he or she is not being treated fairly. Other embassies and consulates offer similar services.
Lost & Found -- For lost and found in Dubai, try contacting Dubai's Tourist Police (tel. 800-4438). Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen, and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Visa's U.A.E. emergency number is tel. 04-223-6888. American Express cardholders and traveler's check holders should call tel. 04-336-5000. MasterCard holders should call tel. 04-332-2956.
If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (tel. 800-325-6000; www.westernunion.com).
Mail -- U.A.E. mail is reliable and generally takes 6 to 10 days to reach Europe and the U.S., and 8 to 10 days to reach Australia and New Zealand. Letters up to 20 grams cost about AED 4 to Europe and AED 5 to the U.S. Stamps are available for purchase in post offices, supermarkets, and some other shops. Red post boxes for outbound mail are easily distinguishable at post offices and outside many supermarkets. The main post office is on Za'abeel Road in Karama, Bur Dubai (tel. 800-5858). Major international carriers here include DHL (tel. 800-4004), FedEx (tel. 800-4050), and UPS (tel. 800-4774).
Newspapers & Magazines -- Dubai's major English-language newspapers are Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Emirates Today, and the Gulf Today. Seven Days is an English-language tabloid. Local magazines in English include Inside Out, TimeOut Dubai, What's On, and Connector. These and some foreign newspapers and magazines are available in bookshops and supermarkets.
Police -- The emergency number for police or an ambulance is tel. 999. The Dubai Police can also be reached at tel. 800-4438 or 04-609-9999 (www.dubaipolice.gov.ae).
Smoking -- Smoking is regulated in all public places in Dubai and only allowed in designated areas and rooms. A national ban on smoking is under consideration.
Taxes -- There's no income or value-added tax (VAT) in Dubai, although a 10% municipality tax and a 10% service charge are added to hotel and food and beverage checks. These taxes are usually already incorporated in the price.
Time -- Dubai is 4 hours ahead of UCT (formerly known as GMT). It does not observe daylight saving time.
Tipping -- Many restaurants include a service charge, which will be clearly identified on your checks; for those that do not, a tip of 10% to 15% is appropriate. Your server is generally not allowed to keep the tip, however, which is instead shared with all the staff. Offer AED 5 for valet parking, unless otherwise specified. A few dirhams per bag is an appropriate tip for hotel bell boys. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped, although people often round up when paying the fare.
Toilets -- Western-style restrooms and toilets are widely available in shopping malls, restaurants, and hotel lobbies. Public toilets on the streets are uncommon.
Useful Phone Numbers -- U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory: tel. 202-647-5225 (staffed 24 hr.)
U.S. Passport Agency: tel. 202-647-051804.
Water -- Tap water is desalinated from the Gulf and is generally safe to drink, but most visitors prefer bottled mineral water, which is offered in most Dubai hotels and restaurants.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.