|Atlantis the Palm||Dubai||5 nights||B&B|
|Kuramathi Island Resort||Alif Alif Atoll||5 nights||FI|
Set in the United Arab Emirates, the luxurious city of Dubai is synonymous with size and pushing the limits – first, largest, tallest. Aside from this, the pull of Dubai is a dreamy world of attractions and unheard of luxuries; shopping centres, nightlife and cutting-edge hotels. Famous constructions include Burj Khalifa, The Palm, Burj Al Arab, The World Island. Although Dubai strictly safeguards its traditional practices, it allows space for other religions to breathe, a rare quality amongst the conservative Arab world. The combination of all this means Dubai has emerged as a cosmopolitan metropolis, a global city and a travel, business and cultural hub of the Middle East.
Alif Alif Atoll
An administrative division of the Maldives, Alif Alif Atoll is also known as Northern Ari Atoll, encompasses the small Rasdhukuramathi Atoll, the northern part of Ari Atoll, as well as the remote island of Thoddoo. It comprises 33 islands in total, some of which are uninhabited and inhabited believed to have been populated for hundreds of years and feature ancient archaeological remains including Buddhist temples and chedi ruins. Visitors can relax on pristine white-sand palm-fringed beaches lapped by crystal-clear turquoise waters filled with spectacular coral reefs and an abundance of exotic marine life.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, extends along part of the Gulf of Oman and the southern coast of the Persian Gulf. From glittering first-world cities to rich cultural history and breathtaking nature, the UAE provides something for every type of traveller. Chic, fast-paced Dubai provides every modern (and futuristic) comfort; Abu Dhabi is a capital of culture with its galleries, museums and traditional food; and Ajman and Fujairah offer incredible swimming, diving and watersports in their clear, warm waters. The country boasts many world records: the world’s fastest roller coaster, the tower with the greatest lean, and the largest cluster of 21st-century cultural buildings. The green Mangrove National Park, sprawling orange Dubai desert, and dramatic cliff faces of the Snoopy Islands plunging into turquoise water are only a few of the spectacular natural wonders of this abundant country.
The UAE dirham (AED) is divided into 100 fils. Coins are in 5, 10, 25 and 50 fils and AED1. Notes are in denominations of AED5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000. $1 = AED3.6727 and currently £1 = AED5.9465.
It’s wise to have some local currency when you arrive to cover small purchases and taxi fares, although you might well be met at the airport by your sponsor’s staff or your new colleagues.
Currency exchanges and banking facilities are available at most major airports and many are open 24 hours a day. Exchange rates, however, are unlikely to be favourable at these outlets. More competitive rates can be obtained from city-centre financial establishments. You should avoid changing money at your hotel, as hotel rates are probably the worst on offer.
The main hub for air transport in the United Arab Emirates is Dubai airport, which is served by several major airlines, most notably Dubai-based Emirates. Direct flights connect Dubai to Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town , London,Sydney, Melbourne, Karachi, Tehran, Riyadh, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hong Kong, Paris, Zurich, Frankfurt, Houston, Milan,Madrid, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, São Paulo and many other major cities in Europe,Asia, Australia, North America and Africa.
After Dubai, the airport at Abu Dhabi has the next best international connections. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways now offers direct flights from New York, Toronto and many other airports in Europe and Asia.
Other major airlines serving Abu Dhabi include British Airways from London-Heathrow, KLM from Amsterdam, Lufthansa from Frankfurt and Singapore Airlines from Singapore and Jeddah.
For low-cost flights, Air Arabia has set up a hub at Sharjah airport (which is very close to Dubai), and flies there from many cities in the Middle East and India.
There is road access to the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia in the south and Oman in the east. All highways in the UAE are in excellent condition, but there is a huge amount of traffic between Sharjah and Dubai, as well as a 4 AED charge to cross the Salik toll gate. A prepaid Salik Tag is required for this.
There is a large network of dhows which transport goods throughout the Gulf and India. It may be possible to buy passage on one of these boats. They call at all coastal cities in the UAE, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Public transportation within most cities remains rudimentary. Dubai is building extensive Metro, monorail and tram networks, and has invested heavily in the local bus network in recent years. The other emirates offer very little public transportation. Abu Dhabi has a network of city buses that cost Dh2 per trip and are fairly reliable, but can be overcrowded for male passengers. Intercity bus services are fast, comfortable and reasonably frequent.
In the cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, taxis are widely available. They are relatively cheap in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. A ride to anywhere within the city of Abu Dhabi will cost approximately US$10, as they charge solely by distance traveled. A night surcharge of US$3 may be added after 10PM, depending on your driver.
The legal driving age in the United Arab Emirates is 18. The UAE has a modern road system. Renting a car or driving in the UAE requires an international driver's license, which is simply a translation of your standard license and can be acquired at a local automobile association. If you have UAE residency status, you must obtain a local driver's license. This can be a simple process that must be completed and can be done in 20 min but only if you are from a specific list of countries (predominantly Western). If you are from an Asian country, you currently have to undergo 40 classes at a local driving school and get through a pretty tough license exam. This is changing, though, and it may apply to all nationalities soon.
Car rentals are slightly cheaper than in the US There is a flat fee per day for renting a car, based upon the car's size. Petrol (gasoline) is, by US and European standards, inexpensive. The road system is based along European standards, with many roundabouts and highly channeled traffic. But the signs are readily understandable and are, in most places, clear and coherent. Drivers in the UAE, particularly in the urban areas, tend to be highly aggressive and often use tactics that range from the stupid to the disastrous. This may perhaps stem from the traffic, which can be extremely congested in the urban areas, or from other factors.
People in the UAE drive extremely fast, and some are completely reckless: overtaking by the right is the rule, speed limits are ignored by many, even heavy trucks. Last-second lane change seems to be a national sport. The UAE has the third-highest death rate from traffic accidents in the world (just behind Saudi and Oman).
Be especially careful when you spot a tinted-window SUV at night: the black windows make the driver not see you and change lanes. Theoretically forbidden, tinting windows is widespread among young Arabs and is generally associated with poor driving skills and fast driving.
There are now some good local city maps, particularly for Dubai (the Explorer series of books). Be aware that construction is on-going, sometimes rapidly changing the road networks, so maps capture only a "point in time." Sharjah remains poorly mapped. A website offered the first decent online maps of the UAE. Google Earth does offer solid satellite pictures but at a level of detail good mainly for broad reference purposes. The lack of good maps or signage makes the use of a compass or GPS sometimes useful if you want to get off the highway.
Desert safaris or "wadi bashing" are good attractions in the vicinity of Dubai, but great care needs to be taken while choosing a hired vehicle; it should be a four wheel drive. Desert safaris are also generally pre-designed with travel agents and can give you good deal as well on quantity.
Layering is your best bet; wear light clothing outside and bring a jumper or sweatshirt for the heavily air-conditioned buildings around the cities. During November to March, warmer clothes are advised for the evenings. A hat and high factor sun block is also advisable - a day on the beach in the strong summer sun is an easy recipe for sunstroke and sunburn. If visiting during the summer, make like the residents and visit the beaches early in the morning and later in the evening.
Please note: Dubai and the UAE have varying degrees of tolerance to clothing styles from around the world and how to dress in the UAE. There are legal guidelines as to what is not acceptable, especially in Sharjah which has its own decency laws, but in general, residents, visitors, and tourists can mostly wear what they like within reason.
In general, most ‘normal’ clothing is tolerated as long as it is not too revealing, however, to be respectful of the UAE culture, it is better to cover knees and shoulders and everything in between.
General medical care in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah is quite good, with clinics for general and specialized care widely available, including some which are now open 24 h. Hospitals in the major centers are well-equipped to deal with any medical emergencies. There is an ambulance system in all major population centres; however, coverage can be patchy in the more remote areas. Ambulances are designed for transportation rather than providing care as first responders, so don't expect top-flight on-site care.
The main government hospital in Abu Dhabi is one of the best in the Middle East; as is the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, now managed by Cleveland Clinic.
In Dubai, the government hospitals are Rashid hospital, which has a new Trauma Centre and Dubai Hospital which are very good. Welcare Hospital American Hospital Zulekha Hospital NMC Hospital, and Belhoul Hospital in the private sector all have a good reputation. The country is free of malaria and prophylaxis is not needed. In Sharjah, the Kuwaiti (Goverrnment) Hospital accepts expatriates. The private hospitals in Sharjah are the Zahra hospital, Zulekha Hospital and Central Private Hospital. Prices including healthcare are generally cheaper in Sharjah and although all hospitals meet the Ministry of Health standards the Central Private Hospital and Zulekha Hospitals are considered more affordable.
Al Ain is served by a number of modern hospitals and care centers: Tawam Hospital, now managed by Johns Hopkins, and host to the UAE University Faculty of Medicine and Health Science; Al Ain Hospital (also called Al Jimi Hospital as it is in the district of Al Jimi), now managed by the Vienna Medical University; and the private Oasis Hospital, previously known as Kennedy Hospital, which was founded and run by Christian missionaries, and which was the first hospital in the city.
The water is safe to drink in the UAE, although most people prefer bottled water for its taste. The food is clean and in most restaurants is served to Western standards, particularly in tourist areas; however, hygeine can be an issue in some establishments outside, particularly roadside stalls. That said, food poisoning does happen, so use your common sense!
The heat in summer can reach 50°C (122°F), so avoid outdoors activity at the height of the day and watch out for signs of heat stroke. Be sure to drink lots of water as dehydration happens easily in such heat. If travelling off road (most of the country is desert), ensure you carry sufficient water to allow you to walk to the road should vehicles become bogged.
Although the UAE is somewhat more accommodating to handicapped travellers than other countries in the Mideast, it would nonetheless be a difficult country to navigate in a wheelchair. Curbs are high and there are few, if any, ramps or other accommodations.
Dubai and, to a lesser extent, Abu Dhabi offer a vast spread of food from most of the world's major cuisines. By Western standards most restaurants are quite affordable although it is easy to find extremely expensive food too. Most upper-end restaurants are located in hotels.
Due to the large expat populations, Indian and Pakistani restaurants abound, offering affordable and succulent choices. Also popular are Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian cuisine restaurants.
A popular favorite is grilled chicken, available at most of the open-air cafeterias by the roadside which can be relished with other accompaniments like Khubz (Arabic Bread), hummus, etc., and the most popular rice dish is Biriyani, with grilled chicken or fish or lamb. Traditional Shawarma and falafel sandwiches are readily available and are quite cheap and delicious.
Very few traditional Emirati dishes are served at restaurants; and the closest is the Mendi-style cuisine of Yemen, in which platters of fragrant rice are topped with lamb, chicken or fish that has been slow-roasted in a pit
The legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 21.
Dubai has a burgeoning nightlife scene and even formerly straitlaced Abu Dhabi has loosened up and tried to catch up. Alcohol is available in alcohol stores, 5-star hotel restaurants and bars in all emirates except Sharjah, where you can only drink in your home or in an expat hangout called the Sharjah Wanderers. As a tourist, you are permitted to buy alcohol in bars and restaurants to drink there. If you are a resident, you're supposed to have a alcohol license (never asked for in bars) which also allows you to buy alcohol at alcohol stores (they do check).
During Ramadan, no alcohol is served during daylight (fasting) hours. Dubai and Abu Dhabi permit bars to serve alcohol at night, but bands stop playing, background music is off or quiet, no dancing is allowed and nightclubs are usually closed. On certain holy days in the Islamic calendar, no alcohol is served publicly in any of the UAE.
Do not under any circumstance drink and drive in the UAE. If by chance you are in an accident, this becomes a card for going directly to jail — especially during Ramadan. Taxis are widely available if you have been drinking and are a much safer and wiser option given the insane driving habits in the region.
For the most part, electrical sockets (outlets) in the United Arab Emirates (Al-Imārāt al-‘Arabīya al-Muttaḥida) are one of three types: the "Type C" European CEE 7/16 Europlug, the "Type G" British BS-1363 or the "Type D" Indian 5 amp BS-546. It's just anybody's guess as to which of the three types will be installed at any given specific location. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all three types.
The country is extraordinarily dry, getting only a few days of rain a year. Despite that, Emiratis use water at an alarming rate: there are broad swaths of grass in the major public parks, for example, and landscaping can be extensive in the resorts or other public places. The majority of this water comes from desalinisation. Visitors do not pay for their water use. The weather from late October through mid-March is quite pleasant, with high temperatures ranging from around 27 °C (85 °F) to lows around 15°C (63 °F). It is almost always sunny. Rain can happen between November and February, and can cause road hazards when it does. In the summer, the temperatures soar and humidity is close to unbearable — it is widely suspected that the officially reported temperatures are "tweaked" to cut off the true summer highs, which can reach 50 °C (122 °F), or even higher!
Encompassing over 1000 coral islands that form about 25 natural atolls, the Maldives is separated from the rest of the world by the seemingly endless Indian Ocean, offering visitors a secluded little pocket of paradise. These exquisite tropical islands are best known for their white powder sand beaches, glistening blue lagoons and extensive reefs which are home to a diverse range of colourful marine life. The nation’s bustling capital of Male features an array of charming shops and restaurants as well as a busy fish market and a must-see 17th-century mosque known as Hukuru Miskiy which was constructed out of intricately carved white coral. Visitors will find plenty of activities to keep them entertained including: scuba diving, snorkelling, water skiing, stand up paddle boarding, spa visits, and hopping from one idyllic little island to the next.
Maldivian Rufiya (MVR; symbol MRf) = 100 laari. Notes are in denominations of MRf 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of MRf 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 laari.
Major currencies can be exchanged at banks, tourist resort islands, hotels and leading shops. Payments in hotels can be made in most hard currencies (particularly US Dollars) in cash, traveller's cheques or credit cards.
Banking hours are from Sunday-Thursday from 0730-1430.
Most major island resorts, local and souvenir shops will accept American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Arrangements vary from island to island. There are ATMs widely available in Malé but it isadvisable to check with your bank at home to find out if your card is compatible with ATMs in the Maldives
Travellers cheques are generally accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency.
Internal flights in the Maldives are operated by Maldivian (www.maldivian.aero), linking Malé with provincial centres Hanimaadhoo, Kaadedhdhoo, Kadhdhoo and Gan.
There are also two seaplane companies operating seaplane transfers from Malé airport to individual resorts. These are Trans Maldivian Airways (www.transmaldivian.com) and Maldivian Air Taxi (www.maldivianairtaxi.com). These services are also available for charter trips around the islands.
There are only roads in Malé and a couple of other islands where there are small tarmaced strips. Overland transport on resort islands is usually by golf buggy.
Travel on individual islands does not present any problem since few of them take longer than half an hour to cross on foot.
In Malé, it is possible to take taxis but in most other areas taxi services are limited or non-existent.
Visitors generally remain on their resort island for the duration of their stay, although island-hopping trips by dhoni charters are widely available. High-speed boats usually meet arrivals at the airport, supplied by the resort they are booked with, and boats are available for hire at the ferry counter near the jetty area. The speedboats connect the airport with North and South Malé Atolls.
Lightweight cottons and linens are recommended throughout the year. Light waterproofs are advised during the rainy season. Sunscreen, a sunhat, a bathing suit and sunglasses are essential.
The water provided in the resort areas is generally safe to drink. In other areas, water of uncertain origin used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should first be boiled or otherwise sterilised. Food in upmarket hotels and resorts is usually risk free, although visitors should be cautious elsewhere.
Maldivian food is a fairly limited affair, consisting of fish, fruit and spicy curries. Your only chance to try ‘real’ Maldivian cuisine is in Malé, where cafés selling traditional snacks or ‘short eats’ (hedhikaa) are cheap and plentiful. Local specialities include: Seafood such as tuna, grouper, octopus, jobfish and swordfish; Kavaabu (deep-fried snacks made from rice, tuna, coconut, lentils and spices); and curries, usually made with chicken or beef. Curry leaves are added to a lot of Maldivian dishes.
On resort islands, there are normally between one and ten restaurants depending on the resort's size and level of luxury. Note that all restaurants on resort islands are run by the resort - there is no access to private enterprise. Cuisine is international, with all food other than seafood imported. All resorts have bars, where there is a good range of (usually pricey) alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available. It’s not possible to drink alcohol in Malé or anywhere else outside resorts.All bars are situated on resort island (no alcohol is available on Malé, though it is available on the nearby Airport island). Locals do not drink at all.
Regional drinks include: Sai (tea; a Maldivian favourite) and raa (toddy tapped from palm trees, sometimes left to ferment and thus slightly alcoholic - the closest any Maldivian gets to alcohol).
In international style restaurants in Malé a 10-15% tip for good service is standard. In local cafés it is not expected. In resorts, a service charge of 10-15% is usually automatically included in meals and for drinks. Extra tipping is not expected, though cash tips (US$1 per bag) for porters is appreciated.
For the most part, electrical sockets (outlets) in the Maldives are one of three types: the "Type C" European CEE 7/16 Europlug, the "Type G" British BS-1363 or the "Type D" Indian 5 amp BS-546. It's just anybody's guess as to which of the three types will be installed at any given specific location. it is advisable to contact your resort before leaving your home country to find out if your appliance plugs and voltage are compatible with the electrical outlets they provide. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all three types.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Republic of Maldives usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. North American sockets supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts, far lower than in most of the rest of the world. Consequently, North American appliances are generally built for 110-120 volts.
The Maldives climate provides warm, tropical weather all year round, even during the wet season the temperature averages around the high twenties and low thirties. The Hulhangu Monsoon season runs from May to November leading to significantly higher rainfall, particularly on the southern islands; this period can see strong winds and fierce storms as well as overcast skies. However, it is still likely visitors will experience long hours of bright sunshine amidst the short, sharp torrential downpours of the monsoon. The Iruvai dry season sees a reduction in humidity and rainfall starting in January and continuing until April. February and March provide the most sun for holidaymakers from Europe seeking refuge from colder climes back home.
The Maldives climate is constantly hot and humid wherever you are. The average temperature generally ranges between 25°C (77°F) and 31°C (88°F) during the day, falling to 23°C (73°F) at night. Humidity is generally high with the wet season experiencing humidity levels of above 80% on average and the dryer months still as high as 75%.
Due to the lower rainfall and reduced humidity, Maldives climate is best experienced during the dry season, particularly between February and April. Although there is greater chance of rain during the wet season, the temperature remains hot and there is a strong chance of extended periods of sunshine in between showers.