I called my bank (TD Bank) on Tuesday and I was leaving for Dubai on Thursday. I wanted to know if they had dirham in their safe. Dirham or AED is Dubai’s national currency. They told me they needed two days to get the dirham to me and it might not come in time. I started freaking out.
Ky Tip: If you plan ahead, your bank can order Dirhams/AED for you (for a small fee-no more than $7), give them at least 2-3 business days.
I googled currency in Dubai. I feared that I would be overcharged like I was in Europe. I read somewhere that I could take out from their ATM machines without an issue. That’s exactly what I did. My bank only charges me $3 for foreign transaction fees, so I just took out of their ATM machines whenever I needed money. The banks originating in Dubai/Abu Dhabi didn’t charge me an extra fee to take out money from their ATMs. However HSBC did, 100 Dirham which is equivalent to $29, please avoid them by all costs. I made the mistake of using HSBC when I first got there because it was a bank that I was familiar with, but I learned my lesson and avoided them after that.
Some of my travel partners brought USD with them and exchanged it at an exchange store, which is all over the Dubai Mall and the airport. This was also a reasonable option and it turns out they only charge a $2 service fee. Not bad. I was very impressed
Drink and Beverage Service Charge
Food Service Charge
Some of these fees you will see on your bill at the end of a dinner. In the States we assume that these service charges are apart of the tip and will go directly to the server, however we soon learned these service fees go back into the restaurant and it’s always good to ask the waiter/waitress or bellboy if we could give them a tip directly. Some of them will get in trouble for tips and some will not. If anything this was my biggest regret in Dubai. I know all about the courtesy of tipping, I left dirhams for the housekeepers at our hotels with a note of gratitude for their service, however, my issue was that I didn’t know tip wasn’t included in the restaurant charges. There are tons of charges; I assumed one of them was for service.
Ky Tip: Google tipping courtesy before you visit any country especially Dubai. In Europe tip is included, in Dubai you just don’t really know.