Know Dubai

The dirham (AED) is the monetary unit of the UAE. Dirham notes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. The dirham is divided into 100 fills and the coins come in 1 dirham, 50 fils and 25 fils denominations.

The dirham has been pegged to the dollar since 1980 at an approximate rate of AED 3.66 = USD 1.00.

Central Deira and Bur Dubai have a high concentration of exchange houses, but money can be changed virtually anywhere around Dubai. The best rates can be found at the Money Souk. They may even have a good selection of the most esoteric currency available

Money changers are usually open from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm Saturdays to Thursdays. Most are open on Friday afternoons after 2:00 pm. Check the local newspapers for the latest exchange rates.

Dubai has efficient local and international banking networks, offering the full range of banking services. Banks open Sunday to Thursday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, some opens on Saturday from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm (branches in Shopping Malls open from 10.00 am to 9.00 pm). They close on Fridays and public holidays. Most of the international banks in Dubai can be found along Khalid Bin Al Waleed Road in Bur Dubai.

ATMs are located at local banks, shopping malls, hotels and gas stations. Most accept a wide range of cards, such as Visa, Master Card, American Express, Diners Club, Cirrus, Global Access, Plus System and Switch.

Most internationally recognized credit cards – such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa – are readily accepted by hotels, restaurants, car rental companies and larger shops. It is wise to carry some cash for general shopping and eating out at smaller establishments. Smaller retailers are less likely to accept credit cards, and if they do, some charge an additional 2 – 4% processing charge.

In a modern city like Dubai, tipping is good practice. Leaving 5% – 10% of the bill is acceptable at restaurants and coffee shops that do not already include service charge. Taxi drivers will appreciate a few dirhams with a smile, while you can leave valets and porters a small amount for their efforts.

Bargaining is a traditional and cultural way of doing business in the emirate. Put on your best smile, sharpen your skills at the souks, and you may just walk away with a 15% – 25% discount on your purchase. Larger shopping malls, however, have standard prices.