United Arab Emirates Travel Guides

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United Arab Emirates


The United Arab Emirates is located in the Middle East at the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia. It has extensive coastal areas and the eastern coast borders onto the Sea of Arabia.


Its constitutional federation of seven emirates, formerly known as the Trucial States, includes Dubai, Abu Dhabi , Ajman , Sharjah, Ra’s al Khaimah, Fujairah , and Umm al Quwain. The UAE was established formally in December 1971.


The area is mainly desert but there is a variety of terrain including mountains, plains, coastal areas and oases. It is one of the fastest growing destinations for tourists in the world, especially Dubai, offering first-class hotels, restaurants and great shopping. It is a land of mountains, sunny beaches, deserts, sand dunes and oases. The coastal areas provide offshore islands, marshes and coral reefs. It has a rich cultural heritage and many visitors to the UAE enjoy the camel racing, horse racing and falconry events. It also offers cricket, golf and polo, to name a few.

A large percentage of the Emirates are populated by non-UAE nationals. It is mainly a Muslim country. Arabic is the main language, although English is widely spoken as well as several other languages.


Those with plans to visit the UAE are strongly advised to educate themselves about the customs and laws of this Muslim country, which are very strict.  Public displays of affection, even kissing in public, can result in a jail sentence (note the case of the British couple jailed for having sex on the beach during 2008).  Women should dress modestly to avoid causing offence.  Sex outside marriage is illegal there, as is adultery, homosexual behaviour and cohabitation.  Swearing is also frowned upon so courtesy should be exercised at all times.


There is a zero-tolerance policy towards illegal drugs, and even prescription and non-prescription medicines which are commonly used, such as cough syrups, codeine, etc.  A doctor’s note should be obtained for all medicines to be taken through the UAE, even if just changing planes there. 


A four-year prison term can be the result for those found in possession of even tiny specks of illegal drugs, which includes any found in the urine or bloodstream if tested.  It is a punishable offence to be drunk in public or even to drink in public.  The legal age to consume alcohol is 21 in Dubai and 18 in Abu Dhabi at the time of writing. They also have a zero-tolerance policy for drink driving. 


This is just a sample of the customs and laws and ways in which you could inadvertently get into trouble there, so visitors are strongly advised to visit the Foreign Office website for more complete and updated information.  

Travel Insurance is vital for travel to the United Arab Emirates, as it is for any trip.  For instance, in Abu Dhabi payment for any medical treatment is required and treatment may be refused without the ability to pay. 




Dubai, the second largest emirate after Abu Dhabi, has become a hugely popular tourist destination, especially for the British.  The municipality of Dubai is often called ‘Dubai City’ to distinguish it from the emirate.  The impressive sight of the ‘billowing sail’ shape of the Burj Al Arab hotel features on just about any promotion about Dubai.

The sunny climate is perfect for enjoying the beaches, or revel in the championship golf courses, tax-free shopping, hotels and restaurants.  There is even skiing in the desert, providing a great place to cool off from the heat at the indoor Ski Dubai! 

Other popular activities include visiting the gold souk, historical sites, museum, horse and camel racing, cruises in wooden dhows on Dubai Creek or the Gulf, exploring local markets and shopping the huge modern malls. Aerial tours are popular, as well as desert safaris and luxurious spa treatments.  There are plenty of options for water sports enthusiasts such as fishing, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, jet-skiing, and waterskiing.  There is also a water park which is popular for families with children. 


Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the UAE and the second most populated city after Dubai.  It is situated on a ‘T’ shaped island in the Persian Gulf and joined to the mainland by bridges, with many suburbs of the city also located on the mainland.  It shares borders with Dubai to the northeast, Persian Gulf to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south, and the Sultanate of Oman to the east.  Abu Dhabi has plans to establish itself as the cultural centre of the Middle East.  It is a main hub for business and government and there are many tall tower blocks containing offices and apartments.  Until oil was found in 1958, the main source of income was the export of cultured pearls but it now hosts the headquarters of many oil companies. It boasts many green areas with parks, gardens and boulevards as well as fantastic duty-free shopping.  

Many residents of Abu Dhabi are expatriates from other countries, including Pakistan, India, Ethiopia and the UK who work in the area.  Consequently, many different languages are spoken, but English is widely spoken.  Abu Dhabi International Airport serves the area and there is also a bus system throughout the city, though most people rely on taxis and private cars for transportation. 


At the time of writing many ambitious plans are underway, such as the development of Saadiyat Island (‘Island of Happiness’) containing what will be the largest Guggenheim Museum, a Louvre Museum, and performing arts centre.  New York University has plans to open a campus on the island and a Gary Player 18-hole golf course and academy.  On Yas Island an Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix will be the latest added to the world circuit with the first race scheduled for November 2009 on the harbour-front - Monaco style.  A new theme park called Ferrari World is also planned for Yas Island.



Disclaimer: While we have tried to ensure the information in this Travel Guide is correct we do not accept responsibility for any inaccuracy or the content of external links.

Inclusion in this Travel Guide does not guarantee travel insurance is available in any country at any given time. Travel Insurance is not available in countries where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued an advisory against travel.

We strongly advise a visit to the FCO website for updated travel information and general travel advice before you book and pay for any travel.