How to manage your money in Dubai and the UAE

Money management isn’t something we’d normally associate with Dubai or the UAE. The Emirates are, to put it lightly, rather extravagant. There are man-made islands and beaches, skyscrapers, helicopter tours, you can even buy ice cream coated in gold flakes (quite the upgrade on the 99).

However, thanks to an influx of package and discount holidays, the UAE is no longer a one-nation VIP lounge for the super-rich. Regular tourists like you and us even go there now. Mostly for the glitz and glamour of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but there’s interest, too, in Sharjah, the region’s art and heritage centre, and Fujairah, where you can scuba dive in the Gulf of Oman.

So, we’ve taken the liberty of assuming you’re not a footballer or an oligarch or an heiress and put together this handy guide on managing your money in Dubai and the UAE.

 Essential information 
 Currency in UAE  United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED)
 Budget accommodation  £18-£20 per night for dorm room
 Domestic beer  £8
 Budget meal  £5 (but shawarma’s can be picked up for as little as 80p)
 Bottle of water  30p

Prices based on Dubai

Skyline of Dubai


Dirham (or Dhs for short) banknote denominations:  5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000

Dirham coins: 1

Fils coins (there are 100 fils in 1 Dirham): 5, 10, 25 and 50


Although ATMs are available throughout all urban areas, our data shows that WeSwap users still favoured their cards over cash. 67% of transactions were made on card, while 33% were cash withdrawals.


ATMs are all over the UAE and are widely available in airports, hotels and all the many, many, many malls. And, as an added bonus, the ATMs tend not to charge.

If you’re travelling to Dubai, you can locate these major bank’s ATMs by clicking on the links:



  1. This is something we find ourselves saying over and over, but it’s for a good reason. If you’re given the option to be charged in your own currency or the Dirham, choose Dirham. If not you’ll be opting in for DCC (or Dynamic Currency Conversion), which can leave you liable to be charged some pretty outrageous exchange rates. Something we’re very against here at WeSwap.
  1. There is a haggling culture in the UAE, but only in certain places. Market places? Yes. Independent jewellery and gold shops? Yes. Big brand stores? Nope. As a rule, if you recognise the shop from back home, you’ll look as mad haggling in there as you would doing it on Oxford Street.
  1. Only hotels are legally allowed to add service charge onto bills (often 10%). This rarely goes to the staff so handing them cash directly is a nice touch. In independent bars and restaurants around the emirates, tipping is not mandatory but always welcomed.

Been to the UAE recently? Let us know any money management tips you might have. Got a question? Open it to the floor, we’ll try and help.

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