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Dubai, in the country of The United Arab Emirates, is one of the easier countries for travellers to handle their travel money at minimum cost.
We normally tell our readers just to get money out at ATM s or cash points, and in Dubai, you should be able to find ATMs with no withdrawal costs.
Your bank back home may, of course, charge you something for this service. Taking cash out of the bank via a cash machine in Dubai won’t cut into your budget as it can in some other countries (for instance, in Thailand there are fees)
In this post we give you a little insider information on handling cash, exchanging currency, and paying with credit cards and apps in Dubai UAE.
A round-up on money in Dubai, how to take money into Dubai and the best travel tips on travel money and exchange.
Obviously, things change, this information was correct at the time of writing and you’ll need to double-check costs, exchange rates, and fees.
Currency in Dubai
The currency of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates is the UAE Dirham (Dir) The UAE Dirham is sub-divided into 100 fils. The UAE Dirham can also be called AED or Emirati Dirhams.
The word Dirham comes from the Greek word “drachmae”, meaning “handful”.
The Arabic Dirham can only be used in the UAE.
1 US dollar is approximately 3.67 UAE Dirhams in Dubai.
1 UK pound is approximately 4.5 UAE Dirhams in Dubai.
1 Euro is approximately 3.87 UAE Dirhams in Dubai.
1 Au dollar is approximately 2.49 UAE Dirhams in Dubai
Dubai Bank Notes and Coins
The following bank notes are usually available in Dubai.
Dhs 5 note is brown, Dhs 10 is green, Dhs 20 is light blue, Dhs 50 is purple, Dhs 100 is pink, Dhs 200 is green/brown), Dhs 500 is navy blue and Dhs 1,000 is greenish blue.
A 500 Dirham note is worth about $136 US dollars, so keep these big denomination notes safe!
The numbers and writing on the bank notes are in English on one side and in Arabic on the other side of the note.
Coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 fils are in circulation, along with 1 dirham coins.
Paying With Cash or Card in Dubai UAE
It’s always a good idea to have some cash on you. In Dubai taxis should all have the equipment necessary to take electronic payments. However, these can sometimes be out of order, so a cash backup is essential.
There are many ways to pay for taxis in Dubai including cash, credit cards, Apple Pay, nol Cards (used on the Dubai Metro and bus system too), or Careem Pay if booked on the app. Careem Pay is approved by the UAE central bank and is a digital wallet system within the UAE.
For haggling in market stalls in the tourist souks along The Creek, cash would be a good idea. Be certain to have small denomination notes and coins as nobody will have change. Taxis can be paid for with various types of card, Google, and Apple Pay, but occeasionaly meters will be broken. Public buses may require cash. Major credit cards including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are widely accepted in Dubai’s hotels, malls, restaurants and other attractions.
Is Google Wallet or Google Pay Accepted in Dubai UAE
Yes, you can pay using Google Pay in many places in Dubai and the UAE including most large shops, restaurants and hotels that have contactless payment terminals. You will need cash for some small transactions or for tips.
The Best Way to Get United Arab Emirates Dirhams?
You can exchange some money for UAE Dirhams in your home country. Alternatively, bring some cash in your home currency with you. Changing pounds, Euros, or dollars in a currency exchange office at the airport or in exchange offices in Dubai may give you a better rate than anywhere else. Alternatively simply rely on your cards and withdraw Emirati money at cash points or ATMs at the airport.
Airport rates are usually lower than in exchange bureaus, don’t exchange all your cash at the airport.
You may be able to get a better exchange rate in Dubai than in your home country.
Travellers’ cheques are rarely used these days.
Airport Rate in Bangkok Airport on our last visit: 41Baht : UK£
Currency Exchange Office in Bangkok, same day: 42Baht: UK£
Where to check standard currency exchange rates? Use, for example, FCexchange
Fees on Cash Withdrawal at ATMs in Dubai
Save on Every Electronic Payment
Ask for funds to be withdrawn in Dubai dihrams. You can normally do this with Agoda when you book your hotel, at ATMs or in any larger shop. The currency conversion rate will generally be better at your home bank.
This goes for just about every country I can think of, charge in the local currency.
Prepaid Travel Money Cards
Some shops will accept prepaid travel money cards with no fee, so they’re worth bringing as backup.
They are a good buy if your home currency is experiencing a real high that you expect to drop for your holiday period.
Lock in that good rate! Check with your own bank to buy these or take a look at this guide to independent prepaid travel money cards, some have fees, some don’t.
More Useful Dubai Information and FAQs
- Can you book trains and buses before arriving in Dubai? The Etihad Railway which will connect Dubai’s Emirates, is under construction and due to open. At the time of publication you could not easily travel around The Emirates by train, but Dubai has a metro system. Yes, absolutely you can pre-book some forms of transport in Dubai. There is a site called 12 Go Asia which allows you to do this from your home country. That way you have reservations, everything is paid for and you won’t be disappointed by no availability. This service is quite limited in the UAE currently, booking tours and transfers, using the company below is a better option.
- Can you book tours and activities in Dubai in advance? Again, yes. We are big fans of this site for booking all sorts of tours and transfers. This allows you to pay online with your card, have the backup of a big company with guarantees, and avoid all local scams, rip-offs and haggling.
- Can you pay for many things using your credit card in Dubai? Yes, in Dubai we often use ultra-modern shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, convenience stores and so on. They will usually accept your credit card, no problem whatsoever. For markets and street food you are more likely to need cash.
- Is card skimming a problem in Dubai? Nothing like this has ever happened to us in Dubai, it has in Vietnam. Dubai has very low crime rates.
- Are pickpockets a problem in Dubai? We have never had any problems of this kind in Dubai.. However, it pays to be sensible. Take a look at a few clever anti-theft devices, we give you a link at the bottom of the page. Crime rates in Dubai are some of the lowest in the world. (source)
Limit Cash Usage
You will need cash in Dubai quite rarely. Try not to use it for big purchases.
Book accommodation and pay for it online, we normally use Agoda for Asia as they are reliable specialists for the region.
It’s annoying to have to find a bank and withdraw cash when you’re travelling, so use your card where you can.
Should You Tip in Dubai?
Tipping is not expected in Dubai as it is in the US. There are no hard and fast rules about tipping in Dubai but it’s always nice to give something to a service provider doing a good job. Aim for around 10% and tip in UAE Dirhams in, cash. Big hotels and restaurants are quite likely to add a service fee to your bill or cheque.
You’ve got it lucky! Certain US bank accounts refund cash withdrawal fees in foreign countries, including Thailand. I believe, but don’t know for sure, that you need to submit proof of fees.
We’re not American, so this isn’t something we can fully cover here. Investigate Charles Schwab.
British Credit, Debit and Bank Cards That Give You Zero Fees when you Travel
The UK’s Halifax bank had a card and account that can help you avoid foreign transaction fees.
Cumberland Building Society’s Plus account offered no fees on SOME ACCOUNTS ONLY.
NatWest and RBS Reward accounts offered a summer fee waiver for a limited time.
Obviously, these banks and accounts change all the time, so double-check.
Starling Monzo and Revolut
At the time of writing, Starling had no foreign fees whatsoever on foreign transactions and pays interest on your balance.
Monzo and Revolut allowed cash withdrawals and transactions of up to £200 a month without fees.
There is also Loot card, it gave your first 2 transactions free in 210 countries worldwide.
Source : Guardian Money 2018 Please double check for current information.
However, Transferwise, now Wise, is also a good option these days. Payoneer is still a good choice for some circumstances and we do still have one and use it.
The Old Rule, Don’t Carry Too Much Cash – Theft Prevention and Safety
It’s the oldest piece of travel advice out there, don’t get a big wodge of cash out of the bank and stick it in your pocket.
It could be stolen or, more likely, you could lose it. If you have a safe in your hotel room, use it.
We always feel very safe in Dubai, and we don’t worry about theft, but if you’re heading to the big beach tourist spots or enjoying nightlife, souks and markets, it may be wise to take typical precautions.
You could consider some of the money concealment devices below.
If there are 2 of you split the cash between you, some in wallet, some in a bag, some elsewhere, is always a great idea. Just remember where you put it!
You may feel safer with one or more anti-theft travel devices during your time in Thailand. We have a full post on anti theft bags to keep your money, passport, phone, and more, safe in Thailand.
These bags normally offer RFID blocking, slash-proof internal mesh, wire-enforced straps, lockable zippers and mechanisms to secure the bag to a fixture (for instance your chair or table in a restaurant). Take a look at those in the dedicated post on antitheft bags.
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Hotels and Hostels We Can Recommend in Dubai
Back to our complete Dubai Travel Guide page or check out our favourite tour in Dubai, perfect for an family holiday in the Emirates, we hope you have a great time on your vacation or holiday and can put our tips for handling your money in Dubai to good use in travelling cheaper and smarter. If you wanted to check out anti-theft bags and devices, they’re here. Our other absolute travel essentials are highlighted here.