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United Arab Emirates Travel Guide
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United Arab Emirates Travel Guide

Home to seemingly the world's biggest and best everything, the UAE's record-breaking attractions and diverse population make it a fascinating place to visit. Here's everything you need to know about your trip to the United Arab Emirates.

What you'll find in this guide:

Top things to do in UAE

Practical info

Facts about UAE

Getting to UAE

Getting around UAE

Top things to do in the United Arab Emirates

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    Abu Dhabi Arabian Jewel city tour

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    Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Mosque half-day tour from Dubai

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What time zone is the UAE in?

GMT +4

What currency do they use in the UAE?

United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED)

What language do they speak in the UAE?


What power adaptors do you need for the UAE?

Type G (same as UK)

What is the average flight time to the UAE?


Practical Info

Important things to know before you visit the United Arab Emirates

The UAE ranks 121st in our Good Trip Index, our guide to travelling ethically, sustainably and well. To help make travelling responsibly less of a hassle, we pulled together seven of the definitive country-level indices that cover the main ethical issues UK holidaymakers told us were important to them when deciding where to go on holiday, including women's rights, LGBTQI+ rights and quality of life.

The Good Trip Index

The United Arab Emirates ranks 121st on the Good Trip Index

This score is calculated based on Sustainability, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Press Freedom, Quality of Life, LGBTQI+ Rights and Animal welfare

Find out more

UAE laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. Before you visit it's important to familiarise yourself with what is and what's not appropriate, to avoid offending anyone or inadvertently breaking the law.

  • Check your prescriptions. There is a strict, zero-tolerance drug policy and this can extend to a number of prescription medicines. Be sure to check the UAE's official website to see which medicines are allowed.
  • Avoid public affection. Public displays of affection, including holding hands and kissing, are considered offensive and could lead to arrest, so it's best to wait until you're back in your accommodation before snuggling up with your partner.
  • Unmarried couples cohabiting is illegal in the UAE. And this applies to hotel rooms too, so please bear this in mind when deciding room arrangements.
  • Dress conservatively in public spaces. At the beaches and resorts it's fine to wear swimwear and shorts etc, however it's best to keep shoulders and knees covered when in public spaces.
  • Avoid swearing in public. Swearing, arguments and fighting in public areas are all offences that could see you getting in trouble with the law.
  • No being drunk in public spaces. It's illegal to drink in public or be tipsy in public, so if you've had a boozy evening enjoying the clubs and bars, once you're done be sure to take a taxi straight back to your hotel.
  • Don't take photos of people without permission. As you're snapping away, be cautious of people in your frame. Taking pictures of people, especially women and children, without permission is illegal. Taking pictures of government and military buildings is also prohibited.
  • Abide by the rules of Ramadan. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. If you visit during this time, it's important to know that eating, drinking, and smoking is strictly forbidden during daylight hours. Dining in your hotel room or restaurants where there's designated areas screened off, is allowed.

Culture and etiquette


The official and majority religion in the UAE is Islam. There are also fairly large Christian, Hindu and Buddhist communities in the city.


A service charge is often added to restaurant bills, but if not a tip of around 10% to 15% will do the trick.


Smoking is banned in public places like parks, beaches, malls and public transport. It is allowed in designated areas that will be clearly marked, including some bars and restaurants.

Jabs, visas and other advice

For up-to-date advice on jabs, visas and other foreign advice, we recommend following the government's website.

Emergency numbers

For fire call 997, call 998 for an ambulance and it's 999 for police.

Is the United Arab Emirates safe for LGBTQI+ travellers?

Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE and is punishable by prison sentence and/or fines. Many LGBTQI+ related websites, including dating apps, are blocked and not accessible from inside the UAE. If you do decide to travel there you must avoid all public displays of affection. This rule applies to heterosexual people too. Being trans or gender diverse is punishable too, with people facing up to a year in prison and a large fine.

We use the Spartacus Gay Travel Index to inform the LGBTQI+ rights score in our Good Trip Index. In 2024 Spartacus ranked the UAE 201st, taking into account the laws and living conditions for members of the queer community in the country in question.

If you'd prefer a safer holiday to a place where simply existing isn't a crime, read about some of the top LGBTQI+ friendly destinations in the world.

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    UAE Airport Transfers

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    UAE Car Hire

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  • United Arab Emirates experiences

    UAE Ultimate Experiences

    Make the most of your trip and book the UAE's top experiences before you go.

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    Travel Insurance for the UAE

    You'll want a reliable travel insurance policy for your trip to the UAE.

Some facts about the United Arab Emirates

Made up of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Umm Al-Quwain – the UAE is one of the most diverse, cosmopolitan societies you'll find anywhere. Only 11% of the population are actually Emirati citizens, with the majority being expatriates representing over 200 different nationalities.

The country has huge oil reserves that make them lots and lots of money, so it's no surpise that it's home to seemingly the world's best everything. Tallest building? The Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Largest shopping mall? That's the Dubai Mall, which is the size of around 200 football pitches. Fastest rollercoaster? Head to Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi and you'll find the Formula Rossa, which whizzes from 0 to 240 kilometers per hour in 4.9 seconds. That's quite fast, and only scratches the surface of how impressive the country's infrastructure, attractions and bells and whistles truly are.

Dubai Travel Guide

Here's everything you need to know about your trip to Dubai, from the high-end hotels and luxury shopping to visiting on a budget.

Hassle-free guide

Getting to the United Arab Emirates

The fastest way to get to the UAE from the UK is to fly. You can fly directly from London to Abu Dhabi and Dubai in around 7 hours, or if you wanted to save some money you could change somewhere along the way.

Plenty of cruise ships stop here too if you wanted to arrive by water and tick off other destinations en route.

Getting around the United Arab Emirates

Hiring a car is a great option for getting around the UAE. Roads are well lit and of good quality in and around the cities, and there's one long highway that'll get you from Abu Dhabi to Dubai in just over an hour.

If you'd prefer to use public transport, air-conditioned buses will get you around Abu Dhabi and Dubai has an efficient metro service. Coaches will take you between these two destinations and elsewhere in the UAE too.