Dubai: Since China added the UAE as one of its ‘destination countries for overseas tours’ in 2009, which allows travel agencies and individual travel agents to organise Chinese citizens to travel for tourism purposes to certain countries, many Chinese tourists have visited the UAE, either by participating in tour groups or as individual travellers. The cosmopolitan vibe, unique local culture, cuisines from around the world, eye-opening theme parks and malls, as well as outdoor activities suitable for all price ranges, have certainly sparked interest among Chinese travellers. So, in case you are planning to travel to the UAE anytime soon, here is a step-by-step guide to follow.
Visa-on-arrival for Chinese passport holders
Ever since the Chinese government and the UAE government reached mutual visa exemption decision on January 16, 2018, Chinese citizens with a diplomatic passport, passport for public affairs, service passport, or ordinary passport, who come to the UAE can get visa on arrival and stay for 30 days. To obtain the 30 days’ visa, a Chinese national needs to present their passport at the immigration counter at the airport.
While the visa on arrival is granted for 30 days, there is also the option to extend the visa to stay in the UAE for longer, or change it to a residence visa, if you are planning to live and work in the UAE. To know the latest visa extension rules and how you can stay on in the UAE, you can contact two authorities:
1. If you landed in Dubai, you can contact the Amer call centre on 800 5111. Amer centres are visa processing centres for the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) Dubai.
2. If you landed in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, or Ras Al Khaimah, your visa on arrival would have been issued by the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP). To get more information on visa extension, you can contact the ICP call centre on 600 522222.
COVID-19 travel rules
As of November 8, 2022, visitors no longer need to present a COVID-19 vaccine certificate or a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test when travelling to the UAE.
Communication: How can I get a sim card?
Upon arriving in the UAE, you can obtain a tourist or visitor sim card at the airport arrivals area, or at malls, from any of these telecommunications providers – Etisalat, Du or Virgin Mobile. You will need to present your passport, entry stamp, and visa (if applicable). You will be offered different package selections suitable for your length of stay. Click here for a comprehensive guide on your sim card options.
Alternatively, you may consult your Chinese telecommunications providers prior to coming to the UAE for international bundles. If you are using your China number, remember that you will need to add +971 in front of any UAE number, as this is the international calling code for the UAE.
Can I drive in the UAE?
According to Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), you will be able to drive a rented car in Dubai if you hold a driving licence issued in China.
When renting a car, you may be asked to make a refundable deposit, and also pay for insurance coverage, along with the car rental costs. It is advisable to pay special attention to insurance coverage, as it may save you from costly fees in case of an accident.
The deposit of renting a car is usually around Dh1,000, which will be refunded to you when you return the vehicle and the car rental company ensures that there are no traffic fines that need to be paid for.
Can I continue using my Chinese driving licence if I decide to become a resident?
In case you settle in the UAE as a resident, you can convert your Chinese driver’s licence to a UAE driver’s licence by following some simple steps. The documents you need to complete the process are:
• Original driving licence from China
• Eye test
• Original Emirates ID
• Legalised translation of the licence to Arabic or English
Public transportation options are also available in the UAE, including buses, trains and trams. In Dubai, you can use just one card to take all the public transportation means. The card is called Nol card. Read more about the Nol card here.
Other transport options
You can also take taxies, by hailing them from the street, or downloading and using these two apps - Careem and Uber. They are both available for Apple and Android devices. Depending on which Emirate you are in, there is also the option to call a taxi service provider that operates in the area. To know more about how you can take a taxi in the UAE, read our detailed guide here.
You can find many Dubai hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast options from these websites and apps:
Things to pay attention to
There are certain things you need to pay attention to when traveling to the UAE. While the UAE is a cosmopolitan society, it has a rich culture and heritage that reflects traditional Arab and Islamic values. To know more about how you can respect the local culture by adapting to its traditions, read our detailed guide here.