The currency of the UAE is the Emirati dirham (AED). One AED is worth 100 fils. Notes of this currency are worth 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 dirhams and coins are worth 1 dirham, or 50, 25, 10 and 5 fils. Banks can be used to exchange cash in the UAE, but it's more convenient to exchange at currency exchange offices where you don't pay fees.
Most hotels in the UAE also offer cash exchange facilities. You can also withdraw money from ATMs with a small fee. It is convenient to pay with credit cards, MasterCard or Visa or AmericanExpress are commonly used. Banks and other UAE government institutions are open from Sunday to Thursday, and visiting hours for the public are from 9.00am to about 1.00pm. In state-owned companies, local government and education, Fridays and Saturdays have been free days since 1 September 2006, so the working week in the UAE runs from Sunday to Thursday.
When shopping in the UAE, everything you can think of is available and shops are open late into the night. The American slogan "Shop till you drop!" really does have a point here. All the goods that will come to the world market are available here, usually before the Czech market. Low taxes and low transport costs make the UAE a true shopping paradise and many visitors from all over the world come here just for that purpose. The main UAE shopping centres are Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Al-Ain.
The air-conditioned shopping malls are comfortable to shop in even in the hot summer months and many cultural programmes are organised here in addition to shopping. Thus, people go to UAE shopping malls for personal meetings and entertainment. Duty free shops at Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports are extremely cheap and offer a very wide and varied range of goods.
Opening hours in supermarkets in the UAE are generally from 10am to 10pm. On Thursdays and Fridays, which is a day of rest, the major supermarkets close until around midnight. Outside the malls, shops take a lunch break from 1pm to at least 4pm. After the lunch break they are open late into the night. During Ramadan, sales hours in the UAE extend until 1am.
The Dubai Shopping Festival is held every winter in Dubai, and along with it, the prestigious Desert Classing PGA golf tournament, the Dubai World Cup horse race and many other enticing events like the Dubai Jazz Festival are held. At this time, shops in the UAE attract visitors with discounts of up to 70% and achieve incredible turnover. The shopping festival is aimed at all walks of life, and many of the events, such as street fireworks, children's programs and more, are completely free.
Goods typical of the local culture, sought after as souvenirs, can be found, for example, in the Souqs. The most famous market, Souq al-Arsah, with a variety of goods, is located in the Emirate of Sharjah. Here you can find a variety of spices, Bedouin jewellery with beautiful ornamental decoration, hand-woven carpets with a long tradition of production, or typical delicacies such as the abundantly cultivated dates or some of the best caviar in the world.
Very popular are the handmade Dalla coffee pots, of various sizes and workmanship, the richly decorated metal plates, or the traditional Arabic garment, the white Kandura cloak. Hookahs with their fragrant tobaccos will allow you to enjoy the exotic atmosphere of the UAE even at home, and you will surely delight your friends with some souvenir with a camel motif, a typical emblem of these countries.
Dubai's Gold Souq is a wonderful spectacle, where you can admire and buy jewellery and other items made of gold and precious metals. The lowest purity of gold sold here is 18 carats. Even if you don't go shopping here, it's worth enjoying the unforgettable "golden" atmosphere. There are up to 200 jewellery shops along Dubai's main street with a variety of designs. It is during the shopping festival months that gold prices are incredibly low and shopping is uninhibited. Bargaining is very common in the UAE markets and the price can be improved by up to 50% by haggling.
Hotel prices in the UAE are rather high by our standards, which is mainly due to the great luxury of many accommodation complexes. Most UAE hotels are 4 to 5 star and offer first class comfort and luxury. The big discounts are in the summer months during the high heat season when there are fewer tourists and also during Ramadan. The most expensive accommodation in the whole country is in Dubai and for one night here you will pay from 600AED for a single room and from 700 AED for a double room per night. Prices in UAE hotels of the cheapest category are around AED 70-80 for a single room and AED 100-120 for a double room. The cheapest are hostels, where you can stay for around AED 15 to 35 per night. However, to use a hostel you must have a Hostelling International Card or pay an annual membership fee directly at one of the hostels. Despite the fact that there is no official campsite in the UAE, camping on the beach or in the desert can be done without hassle.