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Dubai Travel Guide
Originally a small fishing settlement that became a busy port of call on the ancient trade route between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, the emirate was rapidly transformed into an international business centre and modern tourist destination following the discovery of oil in 1966.
Today Dubai ranks as the country's foremost commercial centre, a city whose skyline is constantly being upgraded with new developments providing the infrastructure and facilities needed for a progressive society, including world-class hotels, shopping plazas and outstanding sports facilities. Dubai Creek divides the city centre into two parts: Deira on the northern side and Bur Dubai to the south and each has its fair share of souks, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and fine mosques.
From within these high standards of luxury and convenience, visitors can experience exotic Arabia in the bustling souks or a night in a Bedouin tent with belly-dancing under the starlit desert skies, as well as a way of life that is still embedded in the Islamic traditions of an ancient land. Dubai's attraction lies in the contrast between the ultra modern and the enchantingly traditional, which gives the city a personality like no other and visitors a variety of experiences to choose from. From desert oases and unspoiled beaches, camel races and old wind towers, to top-class shopping opportunities, avant-garde architecture and the finest international cuisine, Dubai has more than enough depth to satisfy even the most seasoned of travellers.
One of the city's top attractions is its excellent shopping. As an open port with low import duties, Dubai can offer an incredible range of top brand names at cheaper prices due to the tax-free environment, and 'shopping tourists' are drawn from around the world to this paradise of malls, souks, boutiques and modern department stores selling everything from Paris fashions to Japanese electronics. The annual Shopping Festival attracts millions of tourists to the city for a shop-till-you-drop holiday.
The most common way of getting around Dubai is by taxi; they are cheap and easy to find. The new Dubai Metro system opened in 2009 and now has 47 stations across 46 miles (75km) of track . It covers the length of Dubai from Jebel Ali in the south, all the way to the airport, then inland to All Rashidiya. Most of the malls are connected on the central portion of the route. There is a Gold class cabin, and special carriages for women and children. Tickets costs from AED2.
Many hotels offer shuttle bus services for guests as well. Metered taxis are cream coloured, with uniformed drivers. The public bus service covers most areas of the city and its beaches; the monthly period pass as well as the discounted purse pass are available. Routes and bus numbers are posted in both Arabic and English.
Small wooden motorboats ( ) cross the creek every few minutes between Bur Dubai and Deira.
Cars are the most popular method of transport for locals in the city, and although roads are well-marked and car hire cheap, visitors should think twice about hiring one, as driving standards are erratic and accidents frequent. All accidents must be reported to the police, and chances are good that a visit to the police station will be necessary. Outside the city, signposts are rare. To hire a car, a credit card, valid passport and International Driving Permit are required and the minimum age is 21 (drivers must have held a full licence for one year).
United Arab Emirates Contacts
Dubai Department of Tourism: +971 4 223 0000 or
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 243 2400.
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 (0)20 7581 1281.
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 565 7272.
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 (0)2 6286 8802.
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 7736.
United States Embassy, Dubai: +971 (0)4 311 6000.
British Embassy, Dubai: +971 4 309 4444.
Canadian Embassy, Abu Dhabi: +971 2 694 0300.
Australian Embassy, Abu Dhabi: +971 2 4017 500.
South African Embassy, Abu Dhabi: +971 2 447 3446.
Irish Embassy, Abu Dhabi: +971 2 495 8200.
New Zealand Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible for the United Arab Emirates): +966 1 488 7988.
The Emirates states are all Muslim, therefore alcohol is not served except in hotels. It is an offence to drink or be drunk in public and penalties are severe. Some prescribed and over the counter medicines from outside the country may be considered to be a controlled substance within the UAE and will not be allowed into the UAE without prior permission from the UAE Ministry of Health Drug Control Department (DCD). A passenger arriving with such medication without permission may be subject to prosecution. Dress and behaviour should be modest, particularly during the month of Ramadan when it is disrespectful to smoke, drink or eat in public between sunrise and sunset. Women's clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs. Cohabiting, adultery and homosexual behaviour are illegal in the UAE, and it is an offence to swear or make rude gestures, or show a public display of affection. In general, the country has a tolerant approach to Western visitors, but local laws and sensitivities should be respected.
All visitors to the United Arab Emirates must hold a passport that is valid for three months from the date of entry, or six months if visiting for longer than 90 days. All passport photographs are to be recent colour photographs. Visitors must hold documents and confirmed tickets for their next destination and have a sponsor in the UAE to cover their stay. Holders of passports containing an Israeli visa or stamps, need to obtain a clearance issued by the C.I.D. (Crime Investigation Deptartment) before arrival. It should also be noted that UAE citizenship is only ever granted to persons whose father is from the UAE. The way a person becomes a UAE citizen is through paternity. (The UAE does not recognize dual nationality and all UAE citizens are required to enter and exit the country using UAE passports.) This means that regardless of how long a person has lived in Dubai, they will never be granted the same status as a citizen of the UAE and residence permits either by way of property ownership or employment remain the only option for a long term residence in the country. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.