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Your guide before leaving for the United Arab Emirates
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is increasingly popular amongst expats and tourists. Indeed, in this Middle Eastern federal state, of which the most popular destinations are Abu Dhabi and Dubai, nearly 90% of the population are foreigners. So, if the UAE is of interest to you, here’s a checklist of the things you should think of when moving to the UAE.

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What documents should I have on me?

  • Visa: if you are French, you do not need a visa for the United Arab Emirates for a stay of under 90 days within a period of 180 days. A visa and a permit are necessary to work, to open a business, to study, to get medical treatment or to settle down during your retirement. The processing time for a work permit application is usually less than two weeks.
  • Passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your travel dates. If this is not the case, do plan on getting a new passport before departure as you could be denied boarding.
  • Driver's License: Consider getting an international driver's license to drive in the UAE. You will be asked for it if you rent a car. If you are moving there, you will need to obtain a local license. Nationals of some countries, including France, can exchange their national license for an Emirati license. Others pass the local driving test.
  • Marriage certificate: as the UAE applies Islamic law, an unmarried couple cannot theoretically share a hotel room. Some hotels are more lenient than others and do not require proof of marriage, but if you are living as an unmarried couple, you will need to take this into account when visiting the Emirates. Civil partnerships and cohabitation are not recognized. So if you have a job in the UAE and you want to bring your partner, you will have to get married. Same sex marriage is not recognized. If you are traveling with your children, you should also bring their birth certificates and the family booklet. 

What to pack when going to the Emirates?

  • Plug adaptor: The Emirates have three-pronged English-style electrical outlets. If you live in Europe, you will need an adapter. You will find all the necessary electronic and computer equipment in the Emirates. 
  • Are there outfits to avoid? The UAE being a rather conservative country, travelers often wonder what kind of clothes to pack. It is indeed necessary to bring simple and covering clothes to visit certain places like mosques. Outside of mosques, the veil is not mandatory for women. In public places, you can dress as usual, but it is recommended to avoid extravagant clothes. Cross-dressing is frowned upon, if not prohibited. In the cities or in older neighborhoods, you will be more comfortable with a rather covering and discreet outfit.
  • Swimsuit or sweater?  With temperatures reaching up to 48°C in the summer, you can afford to wear a swimsuit to enjoy the beaches and pools of the UAE. On the beach, women can walk around in bikinis without any problem, but wearing a thong is to be avoided and toplessness is prohibited. In winter, temperatures range from 15 to 27°C. It is therefore advisable to pack some clothes with long sleeves. This will be useful in air-conditioned places, even in peak summer.

Health: what you should keep in mind

  • Medication/drugs: If you are taking medication, check before you leave if it is allowed in the UAE. If it contains a prohibited substance, you will need to apply for a special import permit on the Ministry of Health website and attach a medical certificate. This service is free of charge and will normally only take a few days to process. Be aware that all cannabis products, including CBD, are prohibited. Codeine is also considered a narcotic and therefore prohibited without a medical certificate. For your information, you can find refills for electronic cigarettes in Dubai.
  • Insurance: Although the UAE does not require tourists to have insurance before entering the country, it is highly recommended. Indeed, although foreigners do have access to the public healthcare services in the UAE, medical costs are very high. You should expect to pay around 60 euros for a basic consultation with a doctor. If you wish to move to the UAE, however, you will be required to have international health insurance in order to be granted a work permit. Your future employer will help you with this process, especially if you are moving to Dubai.
  • Vaccinations: No vaccinations are required to enter the UAE, except for travelers from sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. They must be vaccinated against yellow fever. As of July 2022, travelers not vaccinated against COVID-19 could enter with a negative PCR test or a certificate of recovery of up to one month. Check that this information is still valid before your departure, on the Diplomatie.gouv website or with your airline, for example.

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