Water is processed through huge desalination plants and is perfectly safe to drink. Having said that it doesn’t taste particularly pleasant and most residents tend to drink either bottled water or have a water cooling machine installed. If you are on a self-catering holiday there is absolutely no problem in using tap water for cooking purposes.
Chilled bottled water is sold at supermarkets, shops and petrol stations and is very cheap at about Dhs 2 for a litre bottle and is to be recommended if you are unsure of whether or not to drink directly from the tap.
Whilst on the subject of water please remember that you are in a desert environment and as there is an obvious lack of rainfall it is everyone’s responsibility to try to preserve water. Please try to remember not to run the tap whilst shaving or brushing your teeth or otherwise unnecessarily waste water.
If you travel outside Dubai don’t be tempted to drink water from the tap and always make sure that you have a good supply of bottled water to hand, especially if you are going to isolated areas.
With regard to tipping, generally most restaurants seem to include a 15% service charge. However if this is not the case, normally 10% is about the correct amount, but is not obligatory. Taxi drivers usually expect a tip and for an average trip it would be expected to round the tip up to the nearest 5 or 10 dirham note, again tipping is not obligatory. Please make sure that you have some smaller notes in your possession for taxi fares.
Dubai has an extremely tolerant outlook in relation to western fashion and generally has a relaxed attitude to dress code, however please bear in mind the following advice:
- Topless sunbathing is not allowed anywhere on the beaches, whether inside or out of the confines of your hotel. So ladies, if you feel the need to take your top off don’t be surprised if you are politely, but firmly, requested to replace it. Thongs, however, are generally accepted in the beach hotels but be prepared to replace it in case of complaint.
- Unaccompanied females are advised that it may not be a good idea to wear a skimpy bathing suit on a public beach, especially on a Friday, as it may attract unwanted attention.
- When shopping or out of the hotel please respect local traditions, religion and culture. It is not appropriate for men to walk along the street or whilst shopping bare-chested, neither is it wise for females to wear either very short skirts, tight shorts or revealing tops as again, you may attract unwanted attention.
- Please also try to avoid offending the local population with overt displays of affection in public.
Electricity services in Dubai are excellent and power cuts in the electrical supply are rare. Normal three-pin 13 amp British-style plugs are used operating on 220/240 volts. If you need to purchase an adaptor, all supermarkets and most hotels will sell these and other useful items.
There is no direct postal service delivery to addresses currently operating in Dubai and residents have their mail delivered to their post office box.
Stationery, postcards and stamps are widely available from hotels and general stores and may be posted either through the concierge at the hotel or apartment block or in many outlets located at supermarkets. Postboxes in the UAE are red or blue in colour and as sometimes the mail service varies considerably, it may be wise to allow at least 8 days for a postcard or letter to be delivered to your home country.
Depending on destination, sending a postcard will require stamps to the value of between Dhs 1 - 2 and an airmail letter between Dhs 3 - 6. Stamps can be bought from post offices, card shops and from hotel or apartment reception desks.
Making telephone calls
All local calls from one landline to another are free in Dubai. However if you are calling a friend on a local mobile phone remember to add 050 before the number. Similarly, if you are calling a landline from a mobile phone remember to add 04 before dialling the last 7 digits.
The international dialling code to a Dubai landline is 00 971 4. Similarly, the international dialling code to call a Dubai mobile phone is 00 971 50 or 00 971 55.
It is now possible to make and receive calls through a GSM handset with Etisalat’s ‘Speak Easy’ card. This card is rechargeable and is available at all Etisalat offices and other selected outlets accessible by dialling 101 from your handset.
Alcohol is widely available at many bars, restaurants, hotels, sports and leisure clubs normally where the licence is held by a hotel. Alternatively, there are also many restaurants which are not licensed, so if you are out of your hotel, and in doubt, it may be wise to check with the waiter before ordering your meal. Alcohol, particularly wine can be quite expensive in Dubai and I would suggest that you check the prices carefully before casually ordering a bottle or two in a restaurant otherwise you may get a shock when the bill arrives.