To many travellers, the United Arab Emirates mean just one thing: a stopover. It’s a place to endure rather than to enjoy; somewhere to touch down in, scoot through, and take off from ASAP. Truth is however, those who consider the country little more than a proverbial pit stop are missing out. Beyond Abu Dhabi’s skyline and in between Dubai’s shopping malls, a whole range of real world adventures await. Hop atop a camel for a lope along desert dunes…or charter a chopper. Break bread with Bedouins…or dine with the fishes in a restaurant aquarium. Tour an old spice market…or withdraw gold bars at vending machines. This is ancient Arabia with an open cheque book.

Our United Arab Emirates trips

United Arab Emirates travel highlights

United Arab Emirates holiday information

At a glance

Best time to visit UAE

History and government

Top Picks

Health and Safety

Further reading

United Arab Emirates travel FAQs

Most hotels and restaurants add service charges to their bill. At those that don’t, a tip is always appreciated (particularly by migrant workers).

Internet access – be it at cyber cafes or through Wi-Fi – is readily available throughout the UAE. Websites deemed culturally or religiously offensive are blocked however, as are VoIP telephone systems such as Skype.

Yes. Coverage is excellent throughout the UAE and roaming agreements are in place with most international phone carriers.

Public toilets in places frequented by Westerners are generally of the Western-style, sit-down variety. Beyond the cities, squat-style toilets are more common (although these are gradually making way for the Western type).

Cappuccino – 15.85 AED
Three-course meals for two at a Mid-range restaurant – 150 AED
Imported 0.33 litre bottle of beer from a shop – 25.05 AED

Technically yes, as the tap water is desalinated seawater. People have reported feeling ill from it before however – supposedly because of the hygiene (or lack thereof) of the tank – so filtered water is a safer option.

Yes. All the major cards are widely accepted, though you’ll usually need to pay cash in taxis.

ATMs are easily found in the UAE’s urban areas. Most accept Switch, Maestro, Cirrus, Union Pay, Visa and MasterCard.

Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of your trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance

  • 1 Jan New Year's Day
  • 24 Apr The Prophet's Ascension
  • 25 Jun Eid Al Fitr *
  • 26 Jun Eid Al Fitr *
  • 27 Jun Eid Al Fitr *
  • 31 Aug Arafat (Haj) Day *
  • 1 Sep Eid Al Adha / Feast of Sacrifice *
  • 2 Sep Eid Al Adha / Feast of Sacrifice *
  • 21 Sep Islamic New Year *
  • 30 Nov Martyr's Day
  • 30 Nov The Prophet Muhammad's Birthday *
  • 2 Dec National Day

*Subject to change

Please note these dates are for 2017. For a current list of public holidays in the UAE go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/united-arab-emirates/public-holidays

Responsible Travel

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Woman drinking from reusable water bottle

Top responsible travel tips for UAE

1. Be considerate of Emirati customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. The UAE is a country it’s best to dress modestly and respectfully in. Women should ensure they’re covered to the shoulders and knees, while men should steer clear of shorts and singlets. Be sure to remove shoes when entering places of worship.

3. Be conservative in engagements with members of the opposite sex. Even fleeting glances or interactions can be interpreted as bearing flirtatious overtones. Refrain from public displays of affection: people have been arrested for kissing or embracing in public. Homosexuality is illegal, so same-sex couples should exert extra caution.

4. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. The tap water in the UAE is desalinated seawater, so technically it is safe to drink; though the cleanliness of the tank from which it comes can be a health factor. It’s cheapest, safest and greenest to refill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.

5. With the exception, of Sharjah, all the Emirates permit non-Muslims’ consumption of alcohol in designated areas (typically hotel restaurants and bars). Outside of designated areas and private residences, it’s illegal to drink alcohol. Liquor can be legally purchased from bottle shops (identifiable by their blacked out windows).

6. During the month of Ramadan it is illegal to eat, drink and/or smoke in public (even for non-Muslims). Fines for violating this law are hefty and people have been imprisoned. Do your daytime feasting, drinking and smoking out of sight of those abstaining.

7. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

8. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it. Most Emiratis speak English, but a few simple greetings in Arabic are bound to be appreciated.

9. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals. For a while it was in vogue within some Emirati circles to have a cheetah or lion for a pet. Don’t buy yourself a cheetah or lion for a pet.

10. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children