Dubai: A Business Traveller's Guide

your complete introduction to the luxurious city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Travelling to Dubai?

Are you planning on travelling to Dubai for work? Get to know the city better in this comprehensive guide for business travellers.

Once a modest fishing village nestled on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, Dubai emerged shimmering from the desert sands as an economic powerhouse with global ambitions.

The city is almost unrecognisable from its pearl-diving past. Dhows cruise the waterways beneath a soaring skyline punctuated by the iconic Burj Khalifa which pierces the heavens at nearly 3,000ft. The Dubai Mall thrums to the ebb and flow of shoppers seeking luxury. Neon lights and colours soak the streets at night.

But history has not been lost to the march of modernity. Traditional souks fill the air with scents of spice and tales of a bygone era. The 200-year-old Al Fahidi Fort to the south of Dubai Creek still stands in defiance of time. Local restaurants serve machboos and harees just as Emiratis did hundreds of years ago.

The intertwining of Middle Eastern heritage and ultra-modern culture makes Dubai a fantastic place to visit. In this comprehensive guide for business travellers, we take a deeper look into the local business culture, offer our top tips for getting around the city, and pick out the best things to see and do during your visit.

Dubai Fact File

The Stockholm city coat of arms
The Dubai coat of arms featuring the iconic Dhow.

Languages

The official language is Arabic with widespread fluency in English. Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Tagalog, and Bengali are also used among expatriates.

Currency

UAE Dirham (AED)

Avg. Temperatures

As a desert climate, the traditional four-season model doesn’t precisely apply. Instead, it is more accurately divided into a hot and cold season.

Hot Season (Apr-Sep) = 35°C (95°F)
Cold Season (Oct-Mar) = 24°C (75.2°F)

Getting To Dubai

By Air

Dubai’s primary airport is Dubai International Airport (DXB), located in the Al Garhoud district. Emirates, the flagship carrier of the UAE, is based in Dubai and offers an extensive network of flights to and from the city.

icon train

By Sea

Dubai is a popular cruise destination, and ships regularly visit the city. Port Rashid is the main cruise terminal, with the city often included as part of itineraries exploring the Arabian Gulf or Indian Ocean.

By Train

While there are currently no options to travel to Dubai by rail, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have been exploring the possibility of developing a regional rail network in the future.

Business Culture & Etiquette

 

It is a common misconception that the economy of Dubai is built on oil. In reality, oil production accounts for less than 1% of the emirate’s GDP (as of 2018) with international trade, tourism, aviation, and real estate the major sources of revenue. This rich tapestry of business interests is part of the reason why the city is so rewarding as a work trip destination.

Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, with a diverse expatriate population. The business environment is characterised by a mix of nationalities, and English is widely used as a business language.

Though the city is culturally diverse, it is important to recognise the significant role Islamic values play in the local business culture. Respect for religious traditions is important and any business practice should align with Islamic principles.

For those who embrace these practices, the rewards are significant. The government of Dubai is notoriously vocal in its support of business and actively promotes initiatives that are favourable to corporate environments. Policies and regulations are often designed to attract foreign investment, create tax-free zones, or encourage foreign ownership.

Another top business tip:

 

    • Unlike Western tradition, the official workweek in Dubai is generally Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday being the weekend. Standard working hours are typically from 9 am to 6 pm, though many businesses operate under other schedules.
    • Dubai’s drinking laws underwent a significant change on November 7, 2020, making alcohol consumption legal without requiring a license. Applicable to those aged 21 and above, residents and visitors can drink in private spaces or licensed public establishments like hotels, bars, and restaurants. 

Crime & Safety

 

Dubai is known for being one of the safest cities in the world – violent crime is extremely rare, and the city has a low incidence of street crime. The government of Dubai places a strong emphasis on maintaining law and order via a legal system based on Islamic law (Sharia)enforced by a highly visible police presence.

The city has strict anti-drug laws, and the possession or trafficking of illegal substances is heavily penalised. Travellers should be aware of the stringent drug regulations and exercise caution to avoid legal complications. It is advisable to check the United Arab Emirates list of controlled medicines before travelling and to speak to your doctor if you are unsure whether your medication is safe to bring along.

While Dubai is open and welcoming to people from various cultures, it’s essential for residents and visitors to respect local customs and traditions. Understanding and adhering to cultural norms can ensure you have a positive experience in the city.

Here are a few of our other top safety tips:

 

  • Dubai has efficient emergency services, including police, ambulance, and fire departments. The emergency contact number is 999, and response times are typically quick.
  • The local government has invested significantly in cybersecurity technology, and active efforts are made to safeguard individuals and businesses from cyber threats.

Getting Around Dubai

Dubai Metro (مترو)

The Dubai Metro is a driverless system that connects key areas of the city. Consisting of two lines – the Red Line and the Green Line – the metro is a popular mode of transportation for both residents and tourists and is an efficient way to travel across Dubai.

Taxis (سيارة اجره)

Taxis are readily available in Dubai and are a convenient and comfortable way to travel. The city’s taxis are metered, and drivers are generally knowledgeable about the city’s landmarks. Both government-operated and private taxi companies serve the city.

Ride-sharing (مشاركة الرحلة)

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Careem operate in Dubai, providing an additional option for convenient and reliable transportation. These services are accessible through mobile apps. Uber also offers helicopter rides alongside the traditional car hire options.

Top 3 Things To See Or Do In Dubai

If you find yourself with a bit of free time on your business trip, Dubai is an interesting and vibrant city with plenty to explore. Here are our top 3 recommendations…

1. The Burj Khalifa (برج خليفة)

 

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, standing at a height of 828 meters (2,717 feet). This iconic skyscraper is a symbol of Dubai’s modernity and engineering prowess. Visit the observation decks, “At The Top,” located on levels 124 and 148, for breathtaking panoramic views of the city skyline and the surrounding desert. Or stick around to witness the mesmerising light shows that illuminate the skyscraper in the evenings.

2. Palm Jumeirah (نخلة جميرا)

 

Palm Jumeirah is an artificial archipelago shaped like a palm tree, and it’s one of Dubai’s most iconic developments.  Take a stroll along the crescent-shaped boardwalk or enjoy the view from one of the beachfront hotels along the Dubai Marina. Thrillseekers should visit Atlantis, The Palm located at the apex of the Palm Jumeirah to explore the Aquaventure Waterpark, famous for its water rides, marine exhibits, and the iconic Leap of Faith slide.

3. Dubai Mall (مول دبي)

 

The Dubai Mall is one of the largest shopping and entertainment destinations globally, located adjacent to the Burj Khalifa. Surrounding the mall is the Burj Khalifa Lake, home to the famous Dubai Fountain. Take time to explore the vast array of shops, boutiques, and high-end brands or check out the indoor ice rink and aquarium. In the evening, the Dubai Fountain outside comes to life in a show of water and lights synchronised to music.

In Conclusion

Dubai is a city of opulence and innovation; a dynamic metropolis where the world of commerce meets the historic Middle East.

The city’s allure for business travellers lies not only in its strategic location as a global hub but also in its capacity to cater to the diverse needs of the modern professional. The vibrant corporate culture is underpinned by a government that is keen to invest in creating an environment where businesses can thrive.

Step outside the business districts, and you’ll find a city that embraces you with its culinary diversity, from the aromatic spice souks to the Michelin-starred restaurants. Wander through the historic Al Fahidi district, take in the panoramic views from the observation decks of the Burj Khalifa, or unwind along the pristine beaches of the Arabian Gulf.

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