UAE Travel Information

Photo The Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast granted the UK control of their defense and foreign affairs in 19th century treaties. In 1971, six of these states - Abu Zaby, 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubayy, and Umm al Qaywayn - merged to form the UAE. They were joined in 1972 by Ra's al Khaymah.
The UAE's per capita GDP is not far below the GDPs of the leading West European nations. Its generosity with oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy stance have allowed it to play a vital role in the affairs of the region. The UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus. Its wealth is based on oil and gas output (about 33% of GDP), and the fortunes of the economy fluctuate with the prices of those commodities. Since 1973, the UAE has undergone a profound transformation from an impoverished region of small desert principalities to a modern state with a high standard of living. At present levels of production, oil and gas reserves should last for over 100 years. Despite higher oil revenues in 1999, the government has not drawn back from the economic reforms implemented during the 1998 oil price depression. The government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and is opening up its utilities to greater private-sector involvement.

The UAE has no political parties. There is talk of steps toward democratic government, but nothing concrete has emerged. The rulers hold power on the basis of their dynastic position and their legitimacy in a system of tribal consensus. Rapid modernization, enormous strides in education, and the influx of a large foreign population have changed the face of the society but have not fundamentally altered this traditional political system.

Prior to the first exports of oil in 1962, the UAE economy was dominated by pearl production, fishing, agriculture, and herding. Since the rise of oil prices in 1973, however, petroleum has dominated the economy, accounting for most of its export earnings and providing significant opportunities for investment. The UAE has huge proven oil reserves, estimated at over 100 billion barrels in 1990, with gas reserves estimated at over 200 trillion cubic feet; at present production rates, these supplies would last well over 100 years.

UAE customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from UAE of items such as firearms, including fireworks, pornographic materials, medications, religious materials, and communication equipment.

A variety of drugs normally taken under a doctor's supervision elsewhere are classified as narcotics in the UAE. A doctor's prescription should be carried along with any medication that is brought into the country.

The workweek is Saturday through Wednesday; some offices may be open Thursday mornings. Shops outside of shopping centers may close in the afternoon between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and reopen from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.

Important: Travel to UAE may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's UAE visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: United Arab Emirates
Capital city: Abu Dhabi
Area: 83,600 sq km
Population: 5,314,317
Ethnic groups: Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates
Languages: Arabic
Religions: Muslim
Government: federation with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emirates
Chief of State: President KHALIFA bin Zayid Al-Nuhayyan
Head of Government: Prime Minister and Vice President MUHAMMAD bin Rashid Al-Maktum
GDP: 256.5 billion
GDP per captia: 47,700
Annual growth rate: 5.2%
Inflation: 0.9%
Agriculture: dates, vegetables, watermelons
Major industries: petroleum and petrochemicals
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas
Location: Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia
Trade Partners - exports: Japan 16.2%, India 13.5%, Iran 10.9%, South Korea 5.6%, Thailand 5.5%, Singapore 4.4%
Trade Partners - imports: India 19.8%, China 13.7%, US 8.1%, Germany 4.6%