The local currency is the UAE dirham (AED or Dhs) which is divided into 100 fils and is pegged against the US $ (US$ 1: AED 3.6725). Foreign currency of almost any denomination can be exchanged in the UAE.
Money Exchange or Bureau de Change offices are all over the UAE at airports, in all major malls, in public markets and popular shopping districts. They offer rates often better than the banks. They are usually open Saturday to Thursday, from 8 am – 1 pm and 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm, and on Friday evenings. Many hotels will also exchange money and travellers’ cheques at standard (non-competitive) rates.
Credit cards, debit cards, currency cards and traveller’s cheques are widely accepted in the UAE. Foreign currencies and travellers’ cheques can be exchanged in licenced exchange offices, banks and hotels, a passport is required. Personal cheques can be a bit trickier and many places won’t accept them. If you’re shopping in the souks (markets) or in smaller shops, cash is the best option.
Local Banks and International Banks have a well structured and expansive network strictly controlled by the UAE Central Bank. They offer a full range of commercial and personal services. Transfers can be made easily as there is no exchange control and the dirham is freely convertible. Banking hours are generally Saturday to Thursday, 8am – 1pm (some banks also keep later hours). Some banks have small branches based in malls, which are open in the evening. Foreign banks have branches in the UAE. Their ATMs are placed at several locations in public places.
Most banks operate ATMs, which accept a range of cards. Most ATMs, although linked to a specific bank, are part of a central network so you can transact with a bank card for a nominal charge. Common systems accepted around UAE include American Express, Cirrus, Global Access, MasterCard, Plus System and VISA. ATMs can be found in all shopping malls, major supermarkets, most petrol stations and the airport. For international cards, the exchange rates used in transactions are normally competitive and the process is faster and far less hassle than using traditional travellers’ cheques. ATMs typically provide the best exchange rates (even when factoring in possible currency exchange fees from your home bank), but traveller’s cheques in either US Dollar or UK Pounds Sterling are recommended to avoid additional exchange rate charges.
Last Updated: 1st December 2019