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Dubai Currency: A Practical & Easy Guide to the UAE Dirham

    If you’re planning a trip or a relocation to Dubai, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the Dubai Currency, which is undoubtedly one of the most vital aspects to consider. Whether you’re engaging in shopping, arranging accommodations, utilizing transportation, or indulging in sightseeing activities like navigating bustling souks, exploring world-class shopping malls, and marveling at architectural wonders, having a comprehensive understanding of the local currency becomes paramount for ensuring a seamless experience.

    The official currency of Dubai is the UAE Dirham, denoted as AED, which serves as the sole currency accepted across all emirates comprising the UAE, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Notably, the UAE Dirham maintains a fixed exchange rate with the US Dollar, providing both residents and visitors with a sense of stability and convenience. This article will delve into the various denominations of the Dirham, explore practical methods for currency exchange, and offer indispensable tips to optimize your financial interactions while navigating this captivating city with ease. So, let’s embark on a journey through the realm of Dubai’s currency and gain invaluable insights into its monetary landscape.

    Dubai Currency Explained: Dirhams & Fils

    As you prepare to explore the bustling streets of Dubai, delving into its vibrant shopping centers and lively nightlife, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the local currency – the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED). Grasping the basics of this currency will undoubtedly prove handy during your stay.

    In Dubai, the official currency is the United Arab Emirates Dirham, abbreviated as AED and often shortened to Dhs or DH for convenience. Each dirham is composed of 100 smaller units called fils. As you navigate the city’s various transactions, you’ll come across dirham notes available in different denominations, each bearing Arabic writing on the front and English on the reverse:

    • 5 dirhams (brown)
    • 10 dirhams (green)
    • 20 dirhams (blue/green)
    • 50 dirham (purple)
    • 100 dirhams (red)
    • 200 dirhams (brown)
    • 500 dirhams (navy blue)
    • 1000 dirhams (green/blue)

    Circulating coins usually include:

    • 1 dirham
    • 50 fils
    • 25 fils

    Many stores tend to round up to the nearest 25 fils for convenience, making these smaller denominations particularly useful for day-to-day transactions.

    The 1, 5 and 10 fils coins – although existing – are very rarely used. It’s advisable to carry smaller notes, not only for tipping purposes but also because larger notes, such as the 100 dirham bill, might pose challenges when seeking change, particularly in taxis and certain convenience stores.

    UAE Dirham Coins, the UAE Currency: the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED). The UAE Dirham is the official Dubai Currency. The UAE Dirham is also the official Abu Dhabi Currency.

    Dubai Currency Rate: Pegged to the Dollar

    Since 1997, the United Arab Emirates dirham has been pegged to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate of 1 dollar to 3.6725 dirhams. Unlike many other global currencies, which experience daily fluctuations in exchange rates, the dirham’s link to the U.S. dollar maintains a consistent exchange rate. However, when trading involving currencies other than the U.S. dollar, be prepared for potential daily variances in the exchange rate.

    Dubai Currency Rate AED-USD

    Fixed rate: 3.6725 AED to 1 USD or 1 AED to 0.272 USD.

    It’s worth noting that most worldwide currencies do not share this fixed relationship with the dollar, leading to the daily fluctuations encountered when trading beyond the U.S. dollar. Here you can find all the up-to-date official exchange rates, as well as historical exchange rates.

    The History of the Dubai Currency

    The official Dubai currency, the United Arab Emirates Dirham, entered circulation on May 19, 1973, approximately 18 months after the formation of the UAE. The term dirham – also used for other currencies of other Arab countries – has its roots in the Ottoman unit of mass known as dram, which traces back to the ancient Greek coin drachma, a widely traded currency during the Byzantine Empire. This historical context adds depth to the currency’s name, reflecting a tapestry of influences.

    The journey of the United Arab Emirates Dirham reflects a remarkable transformation, as it replaced the riyal, which had served as the currency of Qatar and Dubai since 1966, while Abu Dhabi used the Bahraini dinar until 1973.

    Preceding the riyal, the official currency was the Gulf Rupee, at the time commonly used in all the Trucial States, the British protectorates of the Arabian Peninsula around the Persian Gulf. It was issued by the Government of India, (British India, of course) and was equivalent to the Indian rupee. This currency evolution mirrors the region’s dynamic history and its trajectory toward global prominence.

    UAE Dirham Banknotes Paint a Vivid Canvas of Emirati Culture

    In the palm of your hand, these UAE Dirham banknotes encapsulate the cultural diversity, historical depth, and modern dynamism that define the United Arab Emirates, offering a glimpse into the nation’s captivating story.

    AED 5 – Mosques, Souqs and Forts of the Emirates

    The AED 5 note presents a slice of life from Sharjah, showcasing the Sharjah Central Souq, also known as the Islamic Souq or the Blue Souq. The warm brown hues of the note capture the essence of this bustling marketplace. On the reverse, the Imam Salem Al Mutawa Mosque, once known as Al Jamaa Mosque, graces the scene, connecting the present to Sharjah’s rich history.

    However, it is worth noting that most of these popular banknotes have been replaced by more recent series issued in 2021 and 2022, which feature the Ajman Fort on the obverse and the Dhayah Fort in Ras al Khaimah on the reverse.

    AED 10 – From Traditional Roots to the Marvels of Contemporary Architecture

    Drenched in green, the AED 10 note celebrates Oman’s cultural heritage with the iconic khanjar, a traditional dagger. Flipping to the reverse, a serene farm landscape unfolds, offering a glimpse of the tranquil rural life that persists amidst modernity.

    Also in the case of the hugely popular AED 10 note, more recent series have been issued in 2021-2023, showcasing the evolution of times in the UAE, replacing the traditional khanjar and pilot farms with the newly built Khor Fakkan Amphitheater on the reverse, inspired by the classical architecture, and the wonderful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on the obverse. One might wonder why this renowned mosque had not appeared on UAE banknotes earlier, unlike other prominent landmarks. The reason is simple: the previous series was introduced around 2003, a time when the mosque had not yet been constructed.

    AED 20 – Dubai’s Harmonious Blend of Tradition and Leisure

    A tranquil blue note encapsulates Dubai’s essence on the AED 20 bill, presenting the majestic Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club on one side. The reverse features a traditional trading dhow, emblematic of Dubai’s maritime heritage and its harmonious blend of tradition and modernity.

    AED 50 – From Natural Wonders to Historical Grandeur and Proudness

    In a regal shade of purple, the AED 50 note showcases the stately oryx, an emblem of the region’s wildlife. Flipping the note, Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain stands as a testament to the UAE’s pre-Islamic history, radiating historical grandeur in the modern world. The new series issued in 2021, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Foundation of the United Arab Emirates (1971-2021), has profoundly changed the design of this banknote, making it a proud celebration of the unity and recent history of the UAE, starting from its foundation.

    The obverse now features Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan and the other founding fathers, posing with the flag after signing the union document, and also showcases the Memorial to the martyrs of the Emirates. On the reverse side, there is Sheikh Zayed signing the union document, as well as the Etihad (Union) Museum in Dubai. Another important change concerned the transition from the dominant colors brown, purple, blue-violet to navy blue.

    AED 100 – From Ancient Forts to Dubai’s Modern Trade Center

    In vibrant red and pink, the AED 100 note presents the Al Fahidi Fort, an embodiment of Dubai’s historical roots. On the reverse, the contemporary Dubai World Trade Centre building reflects the city’s present-day prominence on the global stage.

    AED 200 – Zayed Sports City and the Architectural Splendor

    Awash in orange hues, the AED 200 note captures the Zayed Sports City along with the dignified Sharia court building, highlighting the country’s commitment to sports and justice. The reverse showcases the majestic United Arab Emirates Central Bank building, a symbol of financial stability.

    AED 500 – Majestic Falconry and Architectural Elegance

    The AED 500 note blends shades of purple and blue to honor the Saker falcon, a regal bird central to Emirati falconry traditions. The Jumeirah Mosque, an architectural marvel and a significant religious site, graces the reverse.

    AED 1000 – Al Hosn Palace’s Turquoise Legacy

    The AED 1000 note, adorned with turquoise tones, pays homage to the Al Hosn Palace, a historical treasure nestled in Abu Dhabi. The reverse showcases the breathtaking Abu Dhabi Corniche, where modernity meets natural beauty along the stunning coastline.

    New changes have also involved the AED 1000 banknote, with a new series released in the first half of 2023. This is the most futuristic of the UAE banknotes, entirely dedicated to some new technologies recently conquered by this small yet rich, cosmopolitan, and technologically advanced country: atomic energy and space.

    On the obverse, Sheikh Zayed is depicted next to the spacecraft of The Hope Probe (Misbar Al-Amal), the successful orbiter satellite launched during the Emirates’ Mars Mission in 2020. On the reverse, the modern-day Barakah Nuclear Power Plant is depicted, the UAE’s first nuclear power plant, the units of which were inaugurated between 2020 and 2023. A significant fact about the new AED 1000 note, as well as the newly issued AED 5, 10, and 50 notes, is that they are made from polymeric material (similar to plastic) instead of the usual paper.

    Exchanging Currency in Dubai

    When it comes to exchanging currency in Dubai, rest assured that the process is smooth and reliable. This well-regulated market ensures a hassle-free experience, minimizing the chances of any undue complications. Given Dubai’s status as a bustling transit hub, the currency exchange scene caters to a wide array of international currencies.

    For a savvy approach to currency exchange, consider converting a small sum at the airport. This initial exchange can cover essential expenses like tips and taxi fares. Once you’ve settled into the city, opt for a larger exchange at your convenience. Should you possess a debit or credit card with fee-free withdrawal options, utilizing the official bank ATMs stands as the optimal method for acquiring AED, Dubai’s currency.

    Navigating the city’s shopping malls will unveil numerous opportunities for currency exchange. Within these commercial havens, you’ll often find both banks and currency exchange counters. It’s advisable to explore various options to snag the most favorable exchange rate, as currency exchange outlets typically offer superior deals compared to traditional banks.

    Banking operations generally adhere to a schedule of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from Saturday to Thursday, with Fridays marking a day of closure. However, Dubai’s nocturnal pulse ensures that currency outlets in malls extend their operating hours into the late evenings. The city’s landscape is studded with ATMs, conveniently stationed across shopping complexes, metro stations, supermarkets, and climate-controlled kiosks along the streets. These ATMs provide the convenience of withdrawing dirhams directly from your personal account, albeit for a nominal fee.

    Dubai houses an assortment of banks and currency exchange establishments that facilitate seamless currency conversion. While these facilities are scattered throughout the city, tourists will find it most convenient to locate them within the confines of nearby shopping malls. These malls invariably host at least one bank and a couple of currency exchange booths.

    Dubai’s rich tapestry of residents and visitors contributes to the diverse selection of currencies upheld by its banks and exchange bureaus. This cosmopolitan flavor guarantees a hassle-free exchange experience for major currencies, surpassing the scope of many European and American counterparts.

    When comparing rates, it becomes apparent that currency exchange outlets offer more favorable deals than conventional banks. The airport’s exchange rates tend to be less competitive, while hotel currency exchange services generally present subpar rates. Savvy travelers strategize by converting a modest amount at the airport, sufficient to cater to tips and taxi rides, reserving the bulk of their currency exchange for the city’s dedicated outlets.

    Distinct from banking institutions, currency exchange houses boast extended operational hours. Typically commencing around 8 or 9 a.m., these centers extend their services well into the evening. Beyond currency conversion, many of these establishments provide a range of supplementary services including cash advances against credit cards, money transfers, prepaid credit card issuance, bill payments, and mobile phone top-ups.

    Is it better to take cash or use a card in Dubai?

    In Dubai, the need for cash arises less frequently than you might expect. While credit cards that are internationally accepted can be used for most purchases, it’s wise to keep some cash on hand as a few establishments may prefer cash payments. Opt for electronic payments when making significant purchases or booking accommodations online.

    Keep in mind, though, that you might encounter instances where cash is the preferred mode of payment. One tip to consider is that you might find a more favorable exchange rate in Dubai compared to your home country, so carrying some local currency can be advantageous.

    For those equipped with debit or credit cards that allow fee-free withdrawals from foreign ATMs, the optimal strategy for obtaining UAE Dirhams (AED) – Dubai’s currency – involves using official bank ATMs. These ATMs can be found in various locations throughout the city, including at the airport, shopping malls, and hotels. It’s worth noting, however, that ATMs situated in commercial venues may impose higher transaction fees.

    These fees could encompass charges from your bank and your credit card network (but you may also have them waiwed, depending on your bank), plus the ATM’s bank and currency conversion expenses, including the typical fluctuating exchange rate spread. Nevertheless, such fees generally tend to be more economical than the rates offered at currency exchange houses. At the airport, exercise caution and exchange only a minimum amount due to the typically higher fees associated with airport currency exchanges.

    Should you exchange money before your trip?

    While it’s advisable to exchange money in Dubai for better value compared to your home country, it’s worth questioning whether currency exchange is necessary at all. Taking advantage of local ATMs or card payments can yield a better return on your funds.

    A travel card with zero ATM fees and zero percent currency conversion charges is a valuable asset when using your card abroad. Many conventional debit and credit cards impose fees, but specialized cards designed for frequent travelers often offer fee-free options. Ultimately, foregoing currency exchange prior to your journey and leveraging local ATMs or card payments can be a prudent financial move in Dubai.

    Banks and Credit Cards in Dubai

    When navigating the bustling streets and vibrant markets of Dubai, managing your finances is a breeze thanks to the widespread acceptance of credit cards. While it’s advisable to keep some cash on hand for smaller transactions like tips and haggling in the bustling souks, there’s no need to lug around excessive amounts of paper currency for more substantial expenses.

    Dubai’s thriving financial hub is home to an array of both local and international banks, ensuring that your banking needs are well catered for during your stay. If you’re considering using credit cards, here’s what you need to know:

    Credit Card Acceptance in Dubai

    Major credit card providers, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express, enjoy extensive recognition across Dubai. This broad acceptance encompasses a wide range of establishments, from plush hotels to quaint shops and enticing eateries. So, whether you’re indulging in a gourmet feast or embarking on a shopping spree, your preferred credit card is likely to be welcomed with open arms.

    Banking Landscape

    Dubai boasts an impressive lineup of financial institutions that cater to both local residents and international visitors. Among the noteworthy foreign banks with a solid presence in the city are Barclays, Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered. These institutions provide a sense of familiarity to travelers seeking to manage their finances seamlessly during their Dubai sojourn.

    The local banking scene is equally robust, with a variety of institutions dedicated to serving the diverse needs of the community. Names like Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD, Mashreq, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, RAKBANK (National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah), and Union National Bank offer a local touch to your banking experience.

    Banking Hours

    It’s important to note that banking hours in Dubai may differ from what you’re accustomed to. While there is some variability among banks, most follow a similar schedule. Generally, you can expect banks to be open from Saturday to Thursday, starting around 8 am and concluding around 1 or 2 pm. Fridays, however, are a day of rest for the banks, so plan your financial activities accordingly. Notably, branches located within shopping malls tend to keep more shopper-friendly hours, often extending their services until around 9 pm.

    FAQs About Dubai Currency

    What’s the official Dubai Currency?

    The currency used in Dubai is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED).

    Can You Use US Dollars in Dubai?

    US dollars are not accepted in Dubai. Only the official Dubai currency can be used for payments and transactions. Exchanging dollars is easy, they can be exchanged in banks, exchange bureaus or hotels.

    Can You Use Euros in Dubai?

    Similarly to the US dollars, Euros are not a valid form of payment in Dubai, but can be easily exchanged in banks, exchange bureaus.

    The same goes for all other foreign currencies, such as British Pounds (Sterling), Japanese Yen, Russian Rubles, and Indian Rupees. For those looking to exchange currencies of small countries, it’s advisable to convert them into a widely recognized international currency (preferably US dollars or Euros) before arriving in Dubai, or alternatively, withdraw dirhams directly from ATMs within the city.

    How Do ATMs Work for Tourists in Dubai?

    ATMs throughout Dubai accept VISA and Mastercards, dispensing UAE Dirhams. These machines provide information in English when foreign cards are used. To avoid additional charges, opt for transactions without conversion and always choose to be charged in the local currency.

    While Dubai ATMs generally don’t impose fees for withdrawals, your own bank may levy charges for international cash withdrawals. Using a travel card like Revolut can help bypass these fees and currency exchange charges.

    Is Currency Exchange Better in Dubai or Abroad?

    Exchanging currency into UAE Dirhams within Dubai is recommended over doing so abroad. However, the unfavorable exchange rates make this option less appealing. Utilizing a card with no ATM fees and zero currency exchange fees is a more advantageous choice.

    Are Debit and Credit Cards Widely Usable in Dubai?

    Both VISA and Mastercard debit cards are widely accepted in Dubai. Prior to travel, it’s advisable to check with your bank regarding any potential usage restrictions. Credit cards are also readily accepted in Dubai, unless your bank has placed restrictions on international transactions.

    How Much Cash Can You Carry to Dubai Legally?

    Travelers are allowed to carry up to 1 million AED in cash to Dubai. If the value exceeds AED 100,000 or equivalent in other currencies, a declaration form must be completed upon arrival.

    Do Dubai Taxis Accept Credit Cards?

    Most taxis in Dubai accept payment through debit and credit cards, ensuring convenient options for travelers.

    What’s the Tipping Etiquette in Dubai?

    Tipping in Dubai is not obligatory. Anyway, showing appreciation for good service is customary. In restaurants, bars, and cafes, a tip of 10 to 15 percent to your server is considered generous, even if a service charge is included. Taxis appreciate rounding up to the nearest note or offering a 5 or 10 dirham note.

    For hotel staff and valets, tipping around 5 to 10 dirhams is appropriate, and more if they assist with heavy luggage. Spa and beauty treatments merit 5 to 10 dirhams for short sessions, such as manicures, and around 10 percent for longer treatments like haircuts and massages. When ordering deliveries, allowing the driver to keep the change or offering 5 to 10 dirhams, despite any delivery charges, is a courteous gesture.

    Are you planning your trip to the UAE? These tips may come in handy: