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Frequently Asked Questions

 
 

Weather, Time and Location

What’s the weather like in Abu Dhabi?
The weather in Abu Dhabi is mildest in the months of December (average 20.3° C) through March (average 22° C).February tend to see the coolest weather in Abu Dhabi, although by day, temperatures don't seem to stray too far from 22°C / 72°F or 23°C / 73°F. Some days do experience a cool breeze, which will mean that a jacket or pullover will be necessary, especially during the evenings.

What is the local time in Abu Dhabi?
The UAE is four hours ahead of GMT and the country does not observe daylight saving time (DST) during summer.

Where is Abu Dhabi located?

Abu Dhabi emirate is the largest of seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates. UAE lies on the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and west and the Sultanate of Oman to the southeast, while Qatar lies to the northwest. Abu Dhabi is the seat of UAE’s federal government and serves as the country’s capital. Al Ain comprises the second municipality in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Electricity and Water

What is the electricity supply standard in Abu Dhabi?
The electricity supply in Abu Dhabi is 220/240 volts at 50 Hz. Square three-pin sockets are standard. It is advisable to bring a plug adapter with you, but most hotels can supply you with adapters for other kinds of plug or you can purchase adapters locally.

Is tap water safe for drinking?
Tap water is perfectly safe to drink in Abu Dhabi, but if you prefer the taste of bottled water, locally bottled mineral water is readily available in supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere.

Facilities for the Physically Challenged and Children

Do malls and hotels have play areas, baby changing rooms and special access for the physically challenged?
Abu Dhabi in general has a very family-friendly environment. Baby changing rooms, play areas and access for those with special needs are commonplace in malls and hotels alike. Kids’ menu, high chairs and play areas are not uncommon in restaurants across the emirate. Most hotels provide paid child care services, and wheelchair services also come standard in most hotels.

The Abu Dhabi International Airport is also easily accessible to physically challenged travellers. There is a special check-in gate with direct access from the car park, as well as lifts and toilets for those with special needs.

Telecom and Internet Services

Is the Internet accessible in public places, malls and hotels?
There are a growing number of establishments such as coffee shops and restaurants across Abu Dhabi and Al Ain that offer wireless Internet access. Most of the hotels also offer wireless or cable internet from the rooms and lobby areas. Hourly rates at Internet cafes range from Dhs 5 to Dhs 10.

Alternatively, visitors to Abu Dhabi may opt for the Dial ‘n’ Surf package offered by Etisalat. This service allows easy access by eliminating the need for any service subscription or documentation. A per-minute charge of 12 fils applies and is directly charged to the telephone you are using to connect to the Internet.

Are public pay phones accessible?
Public pay phones are spread across Abu Dhabi and these accept coins (50 fils and one dirham) and prepaid phone cards, which may be purchased from grocery stores, bookstores, pharmacies or Etisalat offices. Phone cards come in denominations of Dhs 30 or 45. For international calls that may take more than a few minutes, pre-paid cards are recommended. You must specify to the store clerk that you require a pre-paid card for a public pay phone, not for a mobile phone, to avoid getting one instead of the other.

To make a telephone call to a mobile subscriber within the UAE, dial 050 (Etisalat) or 055 (Du) followed by the seven-digit mobile phone number. To call a landline number within UAE and outside Abu Dhabi, you must dial the city code followed by the seven-digit telephone number.

How efficient is the local provider’s mobile network?
Etisalat has extensive mobile network coverage in Abu Dhabi and across the entire UAE. With a mobile phone penetration in excess of 110%, mobile phones are indeed very ubiquitous in the emirate. If you enrol in an international roaming service with your service provider in your home country and if your service provider has an existing international roaming service agreement with Etisalat, you can conveniently make calls using your own mobile phone while in Abu Dhabi.

If you’re travelling to UAE on a regular basis and you require extended telephonic communications with local business partners or relatives here during your stay, a more economical and common alternative compared to incurring phone charges in your hotel room or overseas call charges on your mobile phone might be to let your business partner or relative purchase a SIM card from Etisalat for your use during your stay here.

Local Culture and Traditions

What is the official religion in Abu Dhabi?
Islam is the official religion of the UAE, which is widely practised by Emirati nationals as well as expatriates originating from other Arab countries, Pakistan, Africa and India, amongst others.

Are non-Muslims welcome in Abu Dhabi?
Absolutely. Abu Dhabi, as is the entire UAE, is tolerant of other religions. Residents and visitors who profess a different faith are allowed to perform their religious duties such as attending worship services or mass in churches or chapels.

What might be considered appropriate in terms of clothing for males and females visiting Abu Dhabi?
The dress code in Abu Dhabi is generally relaxed although it is recommended for visitors to avoid wearing very revealing clothes (e.g sleeveless tops or very short skirts or shorts) whenever they are in public places, out of respect to local culture and traditions.

When is Ramadan and how is it observed in Abu Dhabi?

Ramadan generally falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar year (Al Hijri), where observant Muslims not only abstain from food, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk, but in general practise restraint from all activities or behaviours that are not compatible with Islamic values. During Ramadan eating, smoking and drinking any beverage in public areas are not allowed until the fast is broken (iftaar) at dusk. For 2008, Ramadan is expected to begin on September 1, subject to moon sighting. Ramadan is observed by Muslims for 29 or 30 days.

Why are there certain days of the week when some parks and recreation centres are allocated only for ladies and children?
This practice is in line with the local custom where some Muslim women prefer not to be seen in public by men who are not their relatives.

Local Currency, Credit Cards and Shopping

What is the local currency and what is its current value?
The local currency is dirham (AED or Dhs) which is divided into 100 fils and is pegged against the US dollar at $1: Dhs 3.6725.

Can I use my debit and credit cards when shopping in Abu Dhabi?

Most retail shops, hotels as well as casual dining restaurants in Abu Dhabi accept major credit and debit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.). It is prudent to confirm acceptance of credit card or debit card payments with staff especially if there is no visible signage indicating acceptance of credit card payment at the store premises or at the till/counter.

Do I have easy access to cash while in Abu Dhabi?

Most ATMs across Abu Dhabi bear the Cirrus, Maestro or Plus logos, which means credit card owners can withdraw cash against their accounts using these ATMs. Hotels also provide foreign exchange services, and foreign exchange bureaus are aplenty across the city centre.

What time do shops open?

Most retail establishments in Abu Dhabi are open between 10am and 10pm from Saturday to Wednesday, and stay open longer, sometimes until midnight on Thursday, Friday and public holidays. Some shops remain closed from 1pm to 5pm, and most shops open only after 2pm on Friday, which is the Muslim holiday.

It is also customary for many retail establishments to remain closed from 1pm to 6pm during the holy month of Ramadan. Most food establishments that are located in public areas generally start serving food only after iftaar, or when the fast is broken, during Ramadan.

Are prices of merchandise fixed or can I negotiate for discounts?

Bargaining is a time-honoured tradition throughout the souks (markets) of the Arab world and particularly Abu Dhabi. Visitors can get quoted prices almost halved with some serious negotiation. The experience should be treated as fun but once a price has been verbally agreed upon, the customer is expected to buy. However, while bargaining is expected in traditional markets, it is not the custom in shopping malls and centres. Nonetheless, it may still be worth it to ask for a discount, as some shops have some leeway when it comes to prices.

What are the best buys for tourists in Abu Dhabi?

If you are looking for gold jewellery and/or exotic Persian carpets and other handicrafts, Abu Dhabi’s souks might offer you the best deal (so long you have good negotiating skills). For shoppers of luxury items, the absence of sales tax or any other type of taxes is an excellent incentive to buy. We also suggest you try the local dates products (fresh, baked or preserved), which are simply irresistible.

Are there any return or exchange policies in place for products that have been purchased?

Retail shops have varied return/exchange policies but generally they allow customers to either return or exchange items within a given time frame, and as long as you can produce the official receipt of the purchase transaction.

Dining, Tips and Gratuities

How much am I expected to spend for a meal in a restaurant in Abu Dhabi?
There are endless choices for dining in Abu Dhabi, ranging from fast-food to casual dining restaurants. A Big Mac meal costs about Dhs 15, while an English afternoon tea in a five-star hotel would cost approximately Dhs 50. Dining in popular Indian, Asian or Arabic restaurants could cost anywhere between Dhs 40 and Dhs 80 per person, whilst a full- course meal in a high-end restaurant would cost no less than Dhs 150 per person, excluding beverages and service charges.

How much do I give for tips or gratuities?
Tipping is not expected, but is commonly practised in the emirate. Gratuities to staff at hotels are at your discretion. Most restaurants add service charges to the bill (16 %). If this charge is not included, add 10% to the total of the bill. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped. Supermarket baggers, bag carriers and windscreen washers at petrol stations are generally given Dhs 2.

Business Hours and Weekends

What are the official working hours in Abu Dhabi?
Government offices are open from 7:30am to 3pm, Sunday to Thursday, while private companies normally operate between 9am and 6pm. Some establishments have three to four-hour break from 1pm, and resume operations in the evening from 4pm or 5pm until 9pm. It is recommended to visit government offices in the morning and to make a call to confirm an appointment prior to leaving your hotel or accommodation.

When is weekend observed in Abu Dhabi?
Weekend comprises Friday and Saturday for government offices and most private companies. There are, however, certain offices that remain open on Saturdays and operate half-day (until 1pm or 2pm) on Thursdays.


Transportation

What is the best way to get around the emirate?

It depends on how much time you have to stay or to explore the city. If you’re staying just for the duration of the Congress you could could opt to join one of the organised tours that include transportation to and from the places you would like to visit. If you’re staying for a bit longer, you may utilise the taxi services as long as you are able to speak English and remember the landmark structures within the vicinity of your destinations or your hotel. For unknown reasons, most Abu Dhabi residents particularly taxi drivers are more conversant with landmarks and building names rather than with street or building numbers. Renting a car is also an option for those with an international driving license. Otherwise, the bus network that plies the emirate is very efficient.

What are the requirements for renting a private vehicle in Abu Dhabi?

Some car rental agencies require a valid customer passport as a deposit when the customer collects the car. Others, however, merely require a copy or impression of the customer’s credit card as well as copies of valid passport and international driving license.


Security and Emergency Numbers

Is Abu Dhabi safe for tourists?

There is virtually zero crime rate in Abu Dhabi, and the Abu Dhabi Police has highly efficient law enforcement and emergency procedures in place. Law enforcement officers are also generally courteous and helpful to visitors and residents alike. However, for emergencies you may call the following numbers:

998 - Ambulance services
999 – Police (also 02 – 4461461)
997 - Fire
999 – Helicopter Service


Sports and Recreation

What outdoor and indoor activities can I, or my family, enjoy while in Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi has one of the world’s most well-maintained beaches, resorts and parks, with year-round sunshine to boot. There is no shortage of world-class golf courses or challenging water sports. Neither will you lack finding a comforting spa or beauty saloon before preparing for a night on the town, for some serious shopping, for a movie or fancy dinner and some entertainment. Lastly do not miss out exploring the desert dunes or the Abu Dhabi Corniche for a most unforgettable experience that is truly unique in Abu Dhabi.

When is the best time to visit Abu Dhabi for recreational purposes?
If you’re an outdoors person, you may prefer to visit Abu Dhabi between November and May, when the temperature is moderately warm to cool.



Airports and Customs


How far are Abu Dhabi’s airports located from the city centre and what transportation services are available to get to the city centre from the airport?
All pertinent information regarding the Abu Dhabi International Airport and Al Ain International Airport are available here.

Is there an airport tax in either airport for departing passengers?
Both airports do not charge any airport taxes.

Can I bring medicines or prescription drugs on my trip to Abu Dhabi?

In general yes, as long as you carry a valid doctor’s prescription for the said prescription medications.

Some prescribed and over the counter medicines that are available in other parts of the world are considered controlled substances in the UAE.such medication cannot be brought into the UAE without prior permission from the UAE Ministry of Health.for example, is banned in the UAE and no products containing codeine can be imported or sold in the country.

If a traveller arrives in the UAE without this permission and the required documentation, the medication will not be allowed into the UAE and the person may be subject to prosecution under UAE law.

A doctor's prescription should be carried along with any medication that is brought into the country.

Travellers to the UAE are strongly advised to familiarise themselves with which medications they can and cannot bring into the country.
Please contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United Arab Emirates for advice if you are considering taking medications or other drugs into the UAE


What articles should I not bring when entering Abu Dhabi (via land, air or sea)?
Abu Dhabi, as is the entire UAE, has very stringent laws pertaining import of illegal drugs or controlled substances (e.g cannabis, opium). Those found in possession of these items will be immediately arrested at the port of entry. Potentially offensive printed matter, CDs, videos or films are likewise banned in the emirate as are firearms and other dangerous weapons.

Take note that some prescriptions or over the counter medicines purchased in other countries are illegal in UAE. Codeine, for example, is banned in the UAE and no products containing codeine can be imported or sold in the country.



Pharmacies and Hospitals

Can I buy prescription medicines in pharmacies in Abu Dhabi in case I run out of prescription medicines or need to medicate during my trip?
If you did not bring enough prescription medicine for your entire trip, you will find most medicines readily available at pharmacies in the emirate. You may need to have your doctor state both the trade and generic names for your medications on your prescription, in case the specific brand isn’t available.
Pharmacies in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi are abundant. Whilst most are generally open from 8:30 to 22:30, some are open 24 hours a day. For a list of pharmacies on duty, see the Abu Dhabi Police website or call the Abu Dhabi Municipality 24 hour hotline (+971-2-6777929).

How efficient is the healthcare system in Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi’s healthcare system consists of an extensive network of hospitals, clinics and medical facilities throughout the emirate. Visitors who become ill during their stay in Abu Dhabi can be assured of receiving the highest quality healthcare at any of the emirate’s private and public hospitals and clinics.

Others

Are there any restrictions for photography?

It is recommended for visitors to avoid photographing women, particularly UAE nationals, and Muslim women in general. Otherwise there are few other restrictions on photography in the emirate – only military, government and airport installations are not allowed to be photographed

Is English widely spoken in Abu Dhabi?
Although Arabic is the official language in the UAE, English is widely spoken by the general population. Most airlines, hotels, malls and restaurants employ multi-lingual staff or crew, which are conversant in Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, Russian, French, German or Chinese, amongst other languages, besides English and Arabic. Taxi drivers are conversant in English, Arabic or Urdu/Hindi

Can I consume alcohol or cigarettes while in Abu Dhabi?

There are designated clubs and restaurants in hotels that are allowed to serve alcohol to non-Muslims, outside of which public consumption of alcohol is prohibited. There are also designated areas for smoking in nearly all business and leisure establishments.

 
 

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