Money in Dubai: Currency, Credit Cards, and Tipping
When travelling abroad it is always handy to know what kind of money is used, whether you need to exchange money beforehand and what credit cards are accepted - or, more importantly: which ones are not accepted. As Dubai is a metropolitan city and emirate, you will find it very easy to exchange money and most major credit cards are gladly accepted. But what about other credit cards and what about tipping? I have created an overview of everything you need to know about the currency of the UAE, the Dirham, the Credit Cards that can be used in Dubai and the tipping culture in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.
Dirham: The currency of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai
In Dubai and the United Arab Emirates people pay in Dirham. The official abbreviation for Dirham is AED, but in stores you can also sometimes come across the abbreviations "Dhs" or "Dh". The exchange rate of the Dirham against the Euro changes regularly, the exchange rate is linked to the US dollar. On average 4 Dirham is 1 Euro and 5 Dirham is 1 Pound.
1 Dirham consists of one hundred fils. In all my time being here the smallest coin I have ever seen was 5 fils – many shops and local businesses will round up or down depending on the price you are paying.
Using Credit Cards and Debit Cards in the United Arab Emirates and Dubai
International credit cards such as those from Mastercard and Visa are accepted almost everywhere in Dubai at the shops, gas stations and ATMS. Don't have a credit card yet? You might want to consider calling your bank about the possibility of getting one. You won’t, for instance, be able to hire a car without a credit card. When you are using a Maestro card, your card might not always be accepted at shops and restaurants.
There are also plenty of ATM's in Dubai where you can withdraw money with European and American debit cards.
Note: You will NOT be able to rent a car without a Credit Card
Using your card in shops and at ATMs in the United Arab Emirates and Dubai
When using your credit or debit card in shops and at ATMs in Dubai, you will have to pay a small conversion fee. This is a percentage of 0.5% to 1.2% which comes on top of the exchange rate or a fixed amount determined by your bank. This differs per bank so it is advisable to find out how much your bank is charging before you travel to Dubai. For example, if you have two bank accounts with different banks, one bank can be cheaper than the other. This can easily save you €50/£40/$55
It is also advisable to exchange some currencies before you travel. This can often be done at the local post office or at a specialised Bureau de Change. Have a look online to find the best exchange rate.
Keep in mind that withdrawing money at an ATM in Dubai is often more expensive than ordering your dirhams in advance at a currency exchange office On average, the banks charge between € 2.50 and € 3 (£2- £2.5/$2.80 – $3.30) each time you request money from an ATM (and sometimes even when you pay by card depending on which bank you use).
Bargaining and Tipping in Dubai
In Dubai it is fairly normal to bargain. Exceptions are the stores in the shopping malls and the supermarkets, which all use fixed prices.
Tipping is fairly normal in Dubai, taxi rides are best rounded up and chambermaids often get a tip of between 3 and 5 AED per day. In restaurants it is customary to give a 10% tip, unless a service charge has already been charged on the bill.
How much to tip in Dubai?
Restaurant: 10%-15% of the bill
Valets and hotel Bellboys: AED5-10 (more when you have especially heavy luggage)
Delivery drivers: The change (but this is not expected of you)
Beauty therapists and spa masseuses: 10%-15% of the bill
Taxi Drivers: Round up the nearest denomination of 5 (or 10) depending on how far and pleasant the drive was.