Dubai: If you are planning to make Dubai your summer destination, you may have questions about how you can make arrangements for your visa and travel. Here is a detailed guide on all you need to know when planning your trip to Dubai.
1. How can I apply for a visa?
You would firstly need to apply for a visa to the UAE, unless you are eligible for a visa on arrival. While citizens of some countries can get a visa on arrival in the UAE, others are required to apply for a visa prior to arrival. You can apply for a regular tourist visa – for 30 days or 90 days – through the UAE airlines you may be travelling with, the hotel you are staying at or even through a travel agency. Read a detailed guide on how you can apply for the visa here.
If you have a short layover in Dubai, you can still make the most of your time and apply for a transit visa which is issued for 48 or 96 hours.
It is always advisable to get a travel insurance when you are travelling. While a visit visa has a basic insurance cover along with it, if you wish to get special travel or health insurance, you can do so through a health insurance provider in the UAE, too.
2. Do I need a PCR test before travelling?
From February 26, 2022, fully vaccinated passengers need to present a valid vaccination certificate(s) reflecting that the passenger is fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the WHO (Work Health Organisation) or the UAE, and includes a QR code.
If you are a visitor or resident travelling to the UAE and are not fully vaccinated, you are required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test certificate issued within 48 hours after the sample was collected and issued by an approved health service provider with a QR code.
3. How can I get UAE dirhams for my trip?
While you can use your credit card, if it is internationally accepted, for making purchases in almost all places in Dubai, you may also wish to get some money exchanged into dirhams. You can do that at money exchange houses that are available across the UAE, including at the Dubai International Airport.
4. Can I get a UAE phone number?
Telecommunications service providers in the UAE offer tourist or visitor’s lines, which are valid up to 90 days. To get a SIM card, you can simply visit the kiosk of any of the telecom companies – Etisalat, du or Virgin Mobile – at the Dubai International Airport’s Arrivals terminal. If you miss the chance to get the SIM card at the airport, you can always visit a kiosk or business centre, located at all the major malls in Dubai, to get a local number.
5. How do I take the bus or Metro?
Dubai’s key localities and neighbourhoods are connected not just through the Dubai Metro, but also the Dubai Bus network. To use Dubai’s Public Transport system, including the Dubai Tram or Dubai Abra, you will need to get a Nol card.
You can apply for the Nol card at any Metro ticket station or at a ticket vending machine. The RTA pricing system has integrated the bus, metro and tram rides and only considers how far you have travelled during a trip, regardless of which mode you have used.
The price is calculated based on how many 'zones' you have crossed. The RTA has divided it's public transport network into seven zones. So, you could switch from a metro trip to a bus and then a tram and if you are in the same zone, it will be considered as a single trip. Just make sure the time taken to use the next mode of transport is less than 30 minutes. Any trips taken after 30 minutes, even if within the same zone, will be charged as a separate trip.
Depending on the card you choose, this is how much you can be charged for using public transport:
• Within one zone - Dh3-Dh6
• Two adjacent zones - Dh5-Dh10
• More than two zones - Dh7.5-Dh10
• Students, senior citizens, people of determination and chlidren under the age of five travel for free.
For a detailed guide on the public transport network in Dubai, read our guide here.
6. Can I drive a rented car?
If you have an International Driving Licence (IDL) or a licence issued by certain countries you can rent a car, too.
You can also choose any of the travel apps that are available in the UAE apart from hailing a taxi to get around.
The UAE’s roads system is extremely easy to navigate if you understand road signs, so even if you don’t have a navigation app on your phone, you don’t necessarily need to get lost. All major intercity highways start with an ‘E’, like ‘E11’, ‘E311’ or ‘E44’. If you are on an ‘E’ road, it is an indication that you are on the highway. Internal roads in Dubai start with the letter ‘D’ and interchanges around major roads are also marked by exit numbers, which can help you navigate around the city. If you are interested in knowing more about how to read the road numbers and understanding the road network, read our detailed guide here.
7. What are the fun places I can visit?
Now that you have your transport needs sorted, where should go first? While there is no dearth of tourist friendly locations in Dubai, like the Burj Khalifa, or the Dubai Frame or the Museum of the Future, if you are looking to have fun without stepping out in the sun, there are over 100 indoor destinations in Dubai alone, where you can have fun, from trampoline parks to adventure parks, indoor theme parks or even enjoying some ‘snow cinema’. For a list of 104 indoor destinations you can check out while on your trip, read our guide here.
9. What if I need help?
Apart from your hotel’s concierge service, you can also reach out to Dubai Police, which has a dedicated tourism police, which is tasked with handling issues and requests related to tourists. You can also keep the following emergency numbers at hand, as a precaution:
999 for Police
998 for Ambulance
997 for Fire Department (Civil Defence)
996 for Coastguard
991 for electricity failure
10. Can I get a VAT refund?
Yes, you can … but there are a few things you need to remember. Firstly, you will need a receipt with a ‘Tax Free Tag’, which is generated while shopping with your passport or GCC ID. So, when you are shopping, remember to present your passport at the time of purchase to be able to get a refund.
At the Dubai International Airport, before check-in, you should validate your purchase at one of the Planet Payment kiosks in the Departures areas across the airport’s three terminals. You will receive 85 per cent of the total VAT (Value Added Tax) amount paid, minus an admin fee of Dh4.80 per tax free form. Read more here.