Country guide United Arab Emirates

Conspicuous consumption is the norm in the United Arab Emirates. Fast cars, sprawling mansions and high fashion are the lifeblood of many of the people - locals and expatriates alike - who call the UAE home.

Things to do

With seemingly unlimited amounts of money floating around, it should come as no surprise that all developments in the UAE are constructed with absolutely no compromise.

This attitude is most prevalent in the major cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where business magnates, playboys and the jet-set live and play among towering skyscrapers, huge shopping malls, immaculate beaches and hauntingly beautiful desert.

Those looking to get out and experience life in this ‘work hard, play hard' city will find no shortage of activities and experiences to participate in. Shop till you drop in the expansive malls, catch a ride on the world's fastest roller coaster in Ferrari World, or retreat to the desert for a few nights camping with friends under the stars. In the UAE, you will never run out of things to do.

Places to eat

There is a large Western population in the UAE and, as a result, the familiar tastes of home will never be too far away. All the recognisable western dishes are present, as well as a seemingly unlimited selection of five-star restaurants serving food inspired by all of the world's cultures.

The eccentricity of the UAE is best encapsulated by the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Those looking to try something a little bit different should make every effort to visit for morning tea at least once. King Midas would feel right at home in this over-the-top, seven-star hotel that seems to have a love affair with gold. Even the chocolate cake is served with flakes of the precious metal generously sprinkled on top.

Although western influences are everywhere in the UAE, those looking to try traditional Emirati cuisine still can in places. Fish, lamb, mutton and rice are all staples of the Emirati diet and are infused with a crafty blend of herbs and spices for a one-of-a-kind taste that is hard to forget.


Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two largest Emirates in the UAE, are the places to go in search of high fashion. All of the world's most famous designer brands have a large presence here, as the wealthy locals and expatriates alike have an insatiable desire to keep up with the latest trends from Europe.

For those not so interested with the comings and goings of high fashion, all the high street brands that we are familiar with in the UK can be found here too. Topshop, Zara, and even Marks and Spencer all have their place in the larger-than-life shopping malls that are dotted around the two cities.

You will quickly find that everywhere is heavily air-conditioned in the UAE, so don't let the intense desert heat put you off from getting out and about.

Getting around

In a country that places such great emphasis on material possessions, the car is unsurprisingly the primary mode of transport in the UAE. The vast motorways that connect the cities of the UAE are immaculate, and carve their way through the endless deserts like great black snakes. If you are looking to move to the UAE, a car is going to be a purchase seriously worth considering.

While the car is the preferred method of transport in the UAE, there are public transport options available. The best way of getting around the cities is by taxi - especially in Dubai. There are bus services available, although they do struggle to cope with the sheer volume of commuters that rely on them to get from place to place. A number of intercity buses are also there to take you between the major cities.

Five out of seven Emirates operate their own international airports, with the exceptions being Umm al-Quwain and Ajman. The Dubai and Abu Dhabi international airports are the UAE's two largest airports, and the vast majority of travellers that arrive in the country will do so through one of these two gateways.

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