United Arab Emirates
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, currency, language, health, local time, business hours and holidays, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, temporary entry of materials and personal belongings,etc.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

The UAE, a largely tolerant, multi-cultural society, has expatriates from over 150 countries, forming over 80 percent of the population. While conservative, the Emirati Muslim culture welcomes foreigners, both men and women work together in offices, and you will see women in positions of responsibility at government bodies and private business.  UAE nationals wear the traditional national dress and women usually dress conservatively and modestly. Western women traveling to the UAE for business should also dress conservatively.  

As in many Middle Eastern countries, meetings can run late and projects might experience postponements and extensions.  Business visitors, however, are expected to be punctual for all appointments.  It is most important to respond to emails and other communications promptly. 

In a meeting, the host will offer tea or coffee upon arrival.  It is rude to refuse this beverage.  If Arabic coffee is on offer, you will be handed a coffee cup which should be held in your right hand, and when the coffee is poured from an elegant coffeepot, you should accept at least one cupful. Your cup will be refilled at frequent intervals.  If you do not want any more coffee, shake the cup slightly to show that you have had enough. 

Formal greetings can take several minutes.  It is considered impolite to begin addressing business topics without taking several minutes for small talk.  Courtesy is more emphasized in the UAE than in typical U.S. business meetings and attention to titles is important.  It is not customary to inquire about a man's wife.  Business cards and gifts should be offered with the right, not left, hand. Never sit with the sole of your foot facing someone.  Travelers can visit the website of the UAE Embassy in Washington, D.C. for additional useful cultural tips.
  Travel Advisory>

There is no specific travel advisory in effect for the UAE.  The current status is to exercise normal precautions. Travelers should contact the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Citizen Services or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an update.

See the U.S. Department of State website for travel advisory information.
  Visa Requirements>

U.S. citizens holding valid passports that are valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry may obtain no fee visitor visas at the port of entry, if the duration of the stay is less than 30 days.  This visa does not permit employment in the UAE For a longer stay, a traveler must obtain a visa before arrival in the UAE.  

A medical exam, including an HIV/AIDS test, is required for work or residence permits; testing must be performed after arrival.  This is a requirement for all expatriates and their dependents living in the UAE The test must be conducted in the UAE by the Preventive Medicine Unit of the UAE Ministry of Health.  A U.S. HIV/AIDS test is not accepted. 

For further information, travelers should visit the website of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates or contact them at 3522 International Court, NW Suite #400, Washington, DC 20008 3522; Tel (202) 243-2400. 

The Government of the UAE requires that all persons residing in the UAE, including U.S. citizens, have a National Identification Card[1].  Americans who are working or living in the UAE should visit the Emirates Identity Authority website for more information on card registration procedures and requirements. Currency>

The local currency is the UAE dirham (AED sometimes abbreviated Dhs) which is divided into 100 fils and is pegged to the USD at $1: AED 3.675 since 1980.  

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted.  Foreign currencies and travelers’ checks can be exchanged in licensed exchange offices, banks and hotels, a passport is required. Personal checks can be a bit trickier and many places won't accept them.  If you're shopping in the souks (markets) or in smaller shops, local currency cash is the best option. 

A well-structured and expansive network of local and international banks, strictly controlled by the UAE Central Bank, offers a full range of commercial and personal services.  Transfers can be made easily as the dirham is freely convertible.  Banking hours differ from one branch to the other but banks usually operate Saturday to Thursday, 8:00 am – 1:00 pm.  Some banks have small branches based in malls, which are open until late in the evenings. 

Most banks operate ATMs, which accept a range of cards. Most ATMs, while linked to a specific bank, are part of a central network so that bank card transactions go through a nominal charge.  Common systems accepted around UAE include American Express, MasterCard, VISA, Cirrus, and Plus networks.  ATMs can be found in all shopping malls, major supermarkets, most petrol stations and the airport.  Normally, international cards have competitive exchange rates and are far more convenient than traditional traveler’s checks. Money Exchange> Currency exchange offices dot the UAE and often offer rates superior to banks. You'll find them in all major malls and popular shopping districts.  These offices normally operate Saturday to Thursday, from 8:00 am – 1:00 pm and 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and on Friday evenings.  Many hotels will also exchange money and travelers’ checks at standard (non-competitive) rates.

There are two telecommunication providers in the UAE:

  • Etisalat (Emirates Telecommunications Corporation)
  • Du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company)

Broadband and wireless connections are widely available at most hotels, airports and malls. 
The UAE government restricts access to any content deemed “inappropriate” or “offensive” to the UAE’s religious, cultural, political and moral values.  These also include access to adult content, selected social, networking and dating websites, some religious and political websites, VoIP provider websites, selected media sites, websites related to gambling and also content that constitutes a risk such as phishing websites, hacking tools and spyware.  Use of a Virtual Private Networks (VPN) for access to blocked websites is illegal and under the UAE Cybercrime Law No. 5, VPN use could in stern punishments, up to a life sentence and/or a fine varying between AED 50,000 and AED 3 million depending on the severity and seriousness of the cybercrime.
For information on Etisalat check their website.
For information on Du check their website.
The UAE also has an excellent and extensive mobile phone network.  Pay-as-you-go cards are available for visitors who do not wish to use their home services. 
Most hotels offer guests internet access and Wifi hotspots are provided at many cafes and malls. 
Domestic supply is 220 volts.  Sockets suitable for three-pin 13 amp plugs of British standard design are the norm. Transportation>

Getting around the UAE is easy and taxis are reasonably priced and plentiful.  They can be flagged down at the roadside, booked by phone or via the taxi apps available for both iOS and Android platforms.  

24 hour dispatch centers:

  • In Abu Dhabi 600 535353
  • In Dubai 04 2080808

Many taxi drivers speak fluent English, but are not always familiar with street names, so it helps to know exactly where you are going.  It is also helpful to take the phone number of your destination with you in case you get lost or the roads to your destination are under construction.  When using a taxi, always take a receipt in case you leave something behind in the vehicle.  It is then much more likely that you will get your items back quickly, as the call center will be able to identify the vehicle and call the driver immediately. 

Dedicated family taxis available in four-seat or seven-seat options provide services dedicated to women and those travelling with children under ten years old.  They also run a fleet of specially adapted luxurious Mercedes minivans equipped with trained drivers and the latest technology providing wheelchair users and passengers with disabilities safe, secure and convenient options.  It is recommended to book either service in advance to ensure specific requirements are met. 

Uber operates a luxury chauffeur-driven service where passengers are charged by credit card via a downloadable app, available for Android, Blackberry and IOS operating systems, which is used to place orders.  There’s a For more information please visit Uber’s website.

Careem (which is part of Uber) operates a satellite mapping system and 24 hour call-center to match customers to private chauffeur driven cars closest to them across Abu Dhabi, Dubai & Sharjah, with real-time tracking for an accurate estimated time of arrival.  Bookable online or via a downloadable app, available on Android and IOS platforms, fares - charged by credit card.  For more information please visit Careem’s website

All taxi companies service the airport in addition to specially registered airport taxis.  The journey into town from the airport costs approximately $30 (AED 80-100). Language>

Arabic is the official language, although English is widely spoken and most roads and shop signs and restaurant menus are in both languages.  Arabic can be a difficult language for Westerners, but a few Arabic words thrown in will find a warm reception.

  • Hi                                                                                Salam
  • Good morning                                                             Sabah el kheer
  • Good evening                                                              Masaa el kheer
  • Welcome! Hello! (to greet someone)                          Marhaba
  • How are you?                                                              Kaifa alhal
  • I'm fine, thanks                                                           Ana bekhair, shukran
  • Thank you (very much)!                                             Shukran (jazeelan)
  • You’re welcome! (for thank you)                               Afwan
  • Goodbye                                                                      Ma’a salama

A mini Arabic phrase book is available at the Abu Dhabi Tourism website. Health>

Health care services in Abu Dhabi and Dubai overall are adequate:  there are numerous privately, and publicly operated facilities that are currently open to both Emiratis and expats*.  This includes both outpatient clinics and hospital facilities.  Although quality of care varies between hospitals and providers, major hospitals have modern equipment and are staffed by a mix of Western and non-Western trained personnel.  Well-known U.S. brands such as the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic now have a presence in the UAE.  Many facilities have achieved certification with well-recognized organizations such as the Joint Commission International.  However, the care of complex patients may not be well coordinated, communication between providers is not optimum, and use of EMR, while increasing, is not universal and can lead to redundancy, or gaps in care.  A strong primary care health system does not exist and outpatient care is mostly specialty-based.  Many medications that are routinely available in the other regions, such as anti-depressants, psychiatric, pain and hormonal medications are illegal without a proper prescription and have limited or no availability.  

Most Western expatriates use private medical facilities and carry private health insurance.  Some choose to return to their countries of origin for complex care, or to access providers with whom they feel more culturally comfortable.  Significantly, for expats, health care is run as a business, and access to care is a privilege and not a right.  Individuals without locally accepted insurance (including major U.S. insurance carriers) may be denied care even in emergencies if they are unable to provide up-front payment. 
The bigger picture of public health services shows steady improvement.  Clean water, healthy food supplies and adequate housing are the norm.  Childhood vaccination programs are well-established.  There is a push to provide adequate and safe recreational venues to promote physical activity.  There is adequate planning for disasters and trauma care.  Pre-hospital care and ambulance services are catching up to western standards.  However, roadways can be dangerous and erratic driving is the norm. 
*Historically, some public facilities have been open only to Emiratis, and access for non-Emiratis could be decided upon receiving their emergency cases. Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays> Local Time:  GMT+4 hours
Government offices open at 7:30 am Sunday through Thursday, closing at 2 pm for the day.  Local businesses often close from 1:00 pm until 4:30 pm or 5:00 pm and then reopen for several hours while some companies operate a shirt until 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm.  Visitors should plan appointments around these timings, as UAE businesses may not adjust their schedules in order to meet during their closing time.  Private UAE companies close Fridays and Saturdays.  Business meetings are rarely, if ever, held on Friday or Saturday, which UAE nationals value as family time. 

Listed below are the official U.S. holidays and the estimated UAE holidays for 2019:

Tuesday, January 1 New Year's Day
Sunday, January 20 Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
Monday, February 17 Washington's Birthday
Wednesday, April 3 The Prophet's Ascension Day
Sunday, May 26 Memorial Day
Tuesday, June 4 - Wednesday, June 5 Enid Al Fitr*
Thursday, July 4 Independence Day
Saturday, August 10
Sunday - Tuesday, August 11-13
Arafat (Haj) Day*
Eid Al Adha*
Saturday, August 31 Islamic New Year*
Sunday, September 1 Labor Day
Sunday, October 13 Columbus Day
Saturday, November 9 The Prophet's Birthday*
Monday, November 11      Veterans Day (observed)
Thurs, November 28 Thanksgiving Day
Saturday, November 30 Martyr's Day*
Monday, December 2 National Day*
Wednesday, December 25 Christmas Day

* Denotes UAE religious holidays.  Dates for religious holidays are dependent upon the sighting of the moon and are likely to vary from the above estimated dates.

[1] https://www.ica.gov.ae/en/home.aspx