Dubai: A number of residents have discovered that a Philippine peso is as good as a dirham whether it is to buy a soft drink or a parking ticket.

"I used to hear stories from friends that a one peso coin could be used in a vending machine like a regular one dirham coin. One day when I was at Jumeirah beach I dropped a dirham in the soft drinks dispenser. It swallowed my money. I used a peso so as to cut my losses. And it worked. Now each time that happens…it justifies me using a peso," said Ming.

"This is nothing new. It is an open secret," said Maria Juan, a resident.

A peso is equivalent to about 7 fils and a dirham is about 13 pesos.

One of the reasons attributed for pesos working in vending machines is that their weight and size is more or less the same as a dirham.

Some looking for a fast buck, act as 'good Samaritans' and offer to get motorists parking tickets by using a peso in the machines and pocketing the dirham given to them.

These men do not cater to all motorists but only a select few who park their cars a distance away from the parking meter.

"It saved me a walk to the parking meter in the blistering heat. At first I was a bit surprised when an Asian man offered me a fresh parking ticket. I paid him the fee for the parking ticket," said Rohit Khanna, a Dubai resident.

"I knew exactly what he was doing. But I let it go. Anyway I would have spent a dirham on my parking ticket," he said.

The Roads and Transport Authority did not comment when contacted by Gulf News.

"You can come across these men honing their skills near paid parking areas in Al Baraha," said Mohsin Khan.

Gulf News investigated the matter and found an Asian man offering motorists parking tickets and pocketing the dirham.

Gulf News learnt that their areas of operations were well demarcated. The profits are then shared and they can earn Dh70 to Dh80 per day

When asked how he came up with the idea of using foreign currency instead of dirhams he said: "We are not charging people anything extra. The peso does not work in all machines. I got this idea from a bunch of young boys in Sharjah. I found them using foreign currency in the weighing machines that you find in malls," he said.

Asked about the risk factor he said: "We usually offer this service to motorists who park quite a distance away from where a parking meter is located. They are quite glad of our help. They are only interested in getting a parking ticket without having to walk to the meter."

A Dubai resident, who requested anonimity, said that he was surprised when approached by a group of young men outside the airport asking him whether he had some pesos on him.

"It was my first visit to the UAE," he added.

Have you ever used foreign currency in a vending machine? Have you been approached by people offering to buy parking tickets for you? Do you think the use of foreign currencies in vending machines is common?

Your comments

I know people doing the same thing, but I guess it's not a big crime for such thing. These vending machines are not reliable anyway, many times it swallowed my dirhams without giving me any sodas in return - too bad im so thirsty.
Abu Dhabi,UAE

Economically speaking especially for those who can't afford one dirham, it is good for them. Morally speaking it is bad. Do we operate for our own convenience or for the good of society? The means does not justify the ends.

It's not only specific to Peso or 50 Baisa Omani coins! Any metallic thingy which can weigh same as a Dirham and looks similar in size will do the trick! Because the concept of all these machines works on the principle of weight.

I have a friend whose job is to operate vending machines, he is completely aware of people using other countries' coins. After sorting out other countries' coins, he will use them to competitor's vending machines!

I have used pesos in vending machines before. My friends told me that it works and it does. I was never approached by anyone offering a parking ticket.

Wow it's really true .. huh .. I kept hearing about these things from time to time but now I know it's true. When people are low earners they will always find ways to make an extra buck but those who dont need to make an extra buck shud at least not resort to such things. By the way i have heard that even the indian rupee coin works in these ticket machines

It is certainly not amusing for the Dubai Municipality to be sorting our 'pesos, baisa etc', and I guess something will be done! I was a resident in Dubai for 23 years until 2000, but then, we had to make do without the luxuries of today - no parking meters! I once was very frustrated upon my return from the emirates when at the airport I did not have a '2 euro coin' for the trolly; in desperation I tried 1 Dirham, and to my joy and relief, it worked. Of course, it did not damage the Italian economy, as it is retrievable! my recent visit cost Dhs 150 x 2 within 24 hours in parking (without paying) fines. I believe I shall not forget to locate the 'machine', and if I should be so lucky to have a Peso? Kidding!!!

Using foreign currency in vending machines is petty theft. As a coin collecting 10 year old in Dubai, I once tested the UK 10p coin in a video arcade machine because I believed it would work. I felt too guilty to play the game, and walked away. I see no difference between that and cheating people by using foreign bills in their change, or cheating a blind shopkeeper. If anything, the pettiness of the theft makes it more embarassing than less. You will never become rich by stealing pennies. As much as I feel for the laborers plight, warm water, or nothing, is better for them than a stolen coke.

Here in Al Ain, I can speak for almost all of my friends that it is the first time we heard about it. I hope no one will follow that bad idea here.
Al Ain,UAE

Great stuff! I'm off to the bank to get some change for all sorts of machines!

Yes I have used different coins in the machines, sorry no guilt here as a mater of fact I am proud of it. By the way I also do the same here in the States, I intentionaly jam the parking meter so I dont have to pay.
Fairfax, VA,USA

I know people who have used the 5 Rs. Pakistani coin in vending machines and parking meters.

I lived in Dubai for around 5 years I have been approached once only for parking tickets, but it is an act of cheating.

I have never used a foreign currency but have seen a person being arrested at corniche in Abu Dhabi for usage of other currency in a vending machine. Its dangerous thats all I can say about being ethical or not is just the question of need.

There is no coin in Pakistan, either in distribution or past, that has any resemblance in size or weight to UAE dirham.
Noman Al Haq

In almost two years of staying here in UAE I've never tried to do that kind of act. I hope everyone who did this will stop doing it.

You can also use 50 Baisa coin of Sultanate of Oman in place of Dh1 coin of UAE. That means you pay half the money for parking ticket or to get a cold drink from vending machine.

I have never used foreign currency nor anyone approached me, but we shouldn't use them. It's a crime.

I am a Filipino and for me it is not right to use this kind of currency. Integrity means adherence to moral and ethical principles, soundness of character, and honesty. A little white lie is still a lie and theft is still theft whether it's one dollar or one million.

I have not heard of this development nor been involved in its practice or ever contemplated doing such. People who carry out these activites should put an end to it because Dubai is a caring and loving emirate and we must support the municipality in her quest towards protecting the infrastructure.

It is good that the media has highlighted this issue. I work for a multinational organisation where all kinds of nationalities work. The office boy is often paid pesos instead of dirhams by the employees. He does not realise when the payment is big and the peso goes unnoticed among the dirhams.
Abu Dhabi,UAE

As a Filipino I'm just concerned that it will reflect badly on every Filipino citizen.

I have seen my friends using the Pakistani rupee coin. They work on every machine on our university campus.
Name withheld by request

It is common for some people to use foreign coins in vending, parking and ticket machines because sometimes these machine are not 100% reliable, so it's only fitting to use these foreign coins to get back all those dirhams that I lost in these machines.

Well this is the first time I am hearing that foriegn currency can be used in Dubai parking meters. Quite surprising. I have never come accross a situation where a person comes to me with a parking ticket to save my time. But I guess the officials will have a better plan to crack down on this also.

Even I was surprised once during my visit to Dubai, that a 50 baisa coin of Oman can be used in the parking meters. I was quite amused and guessed it right because the coins look similar and weigh appoximately the same.

I came to know about this using of peso coin in vending machine when I arrived here in 1999. But what surprises me is that it's not only being used by Filipinos but by other nationalities too. I know it is wrong but our peso coin is a big help for low income earners such as labourers. Should we condemn them for using it?
Name withheld by request

I'm a Filipino and I've used the peso on two or three instances only for curiousity upon hearing from a friend. It worked on the first two ocassions but failed on my third try, all on soda vending machines. I believe some of my "kababayan" who are aware of this and happen to have several coins in thier pocket would try it for curiousity only.

I have neither used foreign currency in a vending machine nor been approached by people offering to buy parking tickets for me.
Abu Dhabi,UAE

Oh my gracious God! It's a big shame! Shame on you people who cheat and steal. Though the "idea" came from "Pinoy", I will not take a side that is wrong. But it seems others cooperate and join in instead of stopping it.
Dubai,Philippines (original)