Dubai Currency – Guide to Dubai Currency, Currency Rates, Money Change & Dubai Currency Exchange
The UAE dirham is the currency for all of the emirates in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is one of the emirates, and so also uses the UAE dirham for the Dubai currency. In text the currency is abbreviated as AED or Dh before the amount, and dh or dhs after the amount.
Changing Money in Dubai
Visitors may exchange currency in Dubai at banks or money changers. Dubai has no currency restrictions, so any currency can be exchanged at the discretion of the operator. Shoppers visiting Dubai’s malls and shopping centers will often find a money changer on site keeping the same hours as the other shops. It is also possible to change money at hotels, but the rate is usually less advantageous. Some foreign credit cards may be used at ATMs in Dubai to withdraw Dubai currency, but visitors should be aware that this practice often incurs heavy fees. Some foreign currencies are accepted at most local shops, including the Euro, the British Pound, the US dollar and other Gulf currencies.
Dubai Currency Denominations
The basic unit of Dubai currency is the dirham, which is pegged to US currency at 3.67 dirhams to the dollar. A smaller unit, the fil, is worth 1/100 of a dirham. Coins in denominations of 25 and 50 fils and 1 dirham are in common circulation, and smaller coins with values of 1, 5 and 10 fils may be of interest to collectors, but are rarely used. Most shops round prices to the nearest 25 fils.
Bank notes are issued in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 dirham denominations. Paper currency in Dubai is printed in Arabic on the front and English on the back. Visitors should be aware that the 5 and 50 dirham notes are both brownish in color, and should take care to avoid confusion.
World travelers should note that certain coins minted elsewhere are easily confused with Dubai currency. For instance, the one peso coin from the Philippines is the same size as the UAE one dirham coin. Since the peso is valued at around 8 fils, they are often employed in vending machine fraud. Other coins of the same size and weight as the dirham are the Moroccan dirham, the Pakistani five rupee, the Omani 50 baisa and the Australian ten cent piece.
History of Dubai Currency
From 1959 until 1966, all of the Emirates used the Arabian Gulf rupee, which was issued by the Bank of India and pegged to the Indian rupee. Following the 1966 devaluation of the Indian rupee, the Qatar and Dubai riyal was adopted as the Dubai currency. Following the 1971 formation of the UAE, which included Dubai but not Qatar, the Emirates established a common currency, the present-day UAE dirham. The number of different currencies used in the recent past, together with the practice of issuing commemorative coins, makes currency in Dubai a subject of special interest to currency collectors.
Issuing currency in the UAE, including Dubai, is the responsibility of the Banking Operations Department of the Central Bank of the UAE, located in Abu Dhabi. Bank notes are actually printed in France and the UK. Current UAE bank notes incorporate a falcon watermark as well as cutting-edge security markings to minimize the possibility of forgery.
The UAE dirham and the fil used as Dubai currency are readily available from money changers and banks in the Emirate. Visitors may also withdraw UAE currency in Dubai from ATMs, or use certain foreign currencies. Today’s Central Bank, heir to a long history of local currency, provides a safe and solid currency in the dirham.
Dubai Currency Exchange
If you are planning on coming to Dubai, it makes sense to familiarize yourself with the local currency of the emirate and to find out how you can obtain it at the most competitive rates. The official currency of the UAE is the UAE Dirham, often represented as the prefix AED or with the abbreviation ‘Dhs’ which follows the numeric money amount. The most common notes in circulation are the 100 Dh, 50 Dh, 20 Dh, 10 Dh and 5 Dh note although there are three other less commonly used notes – 200 Dh, 500 Dh and 1000 Dh notes. 1 Dh = 100 fils and coins are available in 25 fils, 50 fils and 1 Dh denominations. If you plan on travelling by taxis, carry cash as many prefer cash although some will accept credit cards as well. Parking meters in the UAE accept the 1 Dh and the 50 fil coins; in Dubai 1 hour of parking will cost you 2 Dhs and parking is free on Fridays and public holidays and between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.
Before we get into the details of currency exchange, here is a quick overview for those who are unfamiliar with the basics.
Sell rate – (Also sometimes called the Holiday money rate or Tourist rate): The rate at which you sell your foreign currency in exchange for UAE dirhams when entering the country.
Buy rate – The rate at which you would buy back the currency of your country of origin by selling the local UAE dirham when exiting the country.
Spread – The difference between buy and sell rates offered by foreign exchange providers.
Cross rate – The rate offered to customers who want to engage in money exchange that does not involve the local currency so for example, in Dubai if you want to change from Australian Dollars to US Dollars.
Commission – Fee charged by foreign exchange providers for changing from one currency to another. Now that you are familiar with the terminology, below is a guide to money exchange in the UAE, with some useful tips on where to get the best rates.
The most useful piece of information for foreign travelers to the UAE is the exchange rate for the US Dollar. The US dollar is pegged to the Dirham, meaning that unlike other currencies which experience daily fluctuations in exchange rates, the US dollar is available at a fixed rate of 3.675 Dh to the dollar. This means that money exchanges are likely to charge only nominal fees for the exchange of dollars that are built into their buy/sell rate. When you enter Dubai, you can expect to buy 3.65 Dhs for every dollar exchanged and while leaving you can expect to pay 3.68 Dhs to convert back to the US dollar. This is fixed by the Central Bank of the UAE and therefore the US dollar is most likely to be changed at various institutions in the UAE and Dubai.
When travelling to the UAE, ensure that you have several different methods of obtaining cash in the country. Opt for a major credit card and Debit (ATM) card that can be used to withdraw cash from your account overseas. Many visitors also prefer to carry traveler’s checks as a safety net. If you are doing this, opt for checks from a well known international bank that has locations in Dubai such as HSBC. Traveler’s checks from smaller unknown banks may not be accepted at all exchange houses, banks or hotels. Call your credit card company prior to travel and inform them that you will be travelling; this will reduce chances of the credit card company flagging overseas transactions as possible fraud. Also check the fees and charges for using your ATM or credit card overseas and opt for cards with the most reasonable rates.
Major credit cards such as American Express, Diner’s Club, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted throughout Dubai. ATMs can be found across the UAE in malls, hotels and gas stations. ATMs accept foreign credit and debit cards including Switch, Maestro, Cirrus, Union Pay, Visa and MasterCard. Unlike the US and other countries where cash back is commonly available at supermarkets, this is not the case in the UAE. Traveler’s checks are widely accepted though travelers are encouraged to take checks in Pounds Sterling or US Dollars to avoid additional exchange rate charges.
Travelers can carry a maximum of AED 100,000 or the equivalent in foreign currency into the country undeclared; anything above this amount must be declared to customs.
When you first land at any Dubai airport, exchange only the minimum amount into local currency as airports are known to have the most costly exchange rates. Exchange only what you might need to pay for taxis or tips on your way to the hotel. If you are carrying Pounds Sterling or US Dollars, most hotels will accept these as forms of payment. Avoid buying local currency at a hotel as their exchange rates are not as competitive as those at exchange houses. Banks offer better exchange rates than hotels and airports, but if you visit any of the large malls in Dubai, they will have at least one currency exchange provider – these providers often offer the best rates for currency exchange so do most of your conversion at these locations.
Even amongst currency exchange houses, it is worthwhile to compare rates. Although large, internationally recognized names such as Western Union are widely spread throughout the UAE, you might get better rates at some of the smaller, more local exchange houses such as Al Fardan exchange, Al Ansari exchange and UAE Xchange.
Dubai Currency Information
If you are visiting Dubai or recently have moved there you must know at least the fundamentals of the currency used in Dubai. I like the appearance of Dubai currency. I have many one dirham coins saved and not less than one bill of every denomination. I find them exotic looking and the coins have a historic feel to them.
Get a hold of a one dirham silver coin and just feel its edges. They wouldn’t be straight. Examine the emblems and writings and it seems like every coin is hand crafted. The print on the coin looks like it was handmade.
Enough of sentimental talk. Dubai shares the same currency that is used in the remainder of the country (as you would expect), the Arab Emirate Dirham or AED. It is called Dirham for short and you will see it abbreviated as either Dhs. or Dh.
The dirham has long been pegged (since 1980 I believe) to the US Dollar at Dh. 3.65 per $1. It’s divided into 100 fils (the equivalent of cents). The notes come in denominations of 5,10,20,50,100,200,500 and 1000 Dirhams. The coins come in one, five, ten, twenty five, and fifty fils and one dirham.
It’s very rare to get coins with a denomination below 25 fils and so they are not as commonly used. In fact it is common not to obtain the exact change in markets if you’re using cash to shop. Be cautious.
I would personally recommend you to make use of credit cards whenever possible. If your credit card works in Dubai (most US issued cards do), use it. MasterCard, Visa and American Express are accepted in most places in Dubai.
Be careful about Discover though. For some reason this card is rarely accepted anywhere outside the US, at least in my experience. I’ve tried using Discover both in India and Dubai and it did not work. It does work next door in Canada though lol.
Anyhow, you can convert your Dubai currency to any other foreign currencies liberally. You could do the exchanges at banks and exchange houses which are everywhere in Dubai. Simply visit any mall and you’ll find one inside.
I’d suggest exchanging your currency at the airport. Unlike most other countries, the Dubai airport is actually a good place to cash in your dollars or anything else for Dirhams. You will usually find better exchange rates compared to other airports.
It’s usually smart to get one hundred dirhams before leaving the airport for cabs, tips, etc. Speaking of tips, most hotels and restaurants would automatically add the tip change to your bill. I used to think this was smart on the waiter’s part.
But these tips actually don’t go to the poor waiter but rather to the restaurant owner! Thus I usually leave some extra cash on the table after paying my bill with my credit card so that the waiter or hotel maid would get their share of gratuity.
There are plenty of banks all over Dubai. Actually there’s a dedicated street for banks called Bank Street. Guess what you’ll notice there? lol a bunch of banks lined up all together.
You could probably notice your bank on that street as most multinational banks have locations all over Dubai now. They’re closed around noon time for some hours and on Fridays which is the weekly religious holiday in Dubai.
And if you require cash when the bank is shut, you could hit the ATM machines that are everywhere in Dubai. For every bank there are probably 54,562 ATM machines. That was an exaggeration but they are everywhere that it feels like it’s true!
You’ll be able to find ATM machines in shopping malls, hotels, inside banks and in the newer bus stands. I recommend always carrying some cash on you, especially if you wish to purchase in the local markets of Dubai (the souks). If you have got cash on hand, you will likely get the most effective bargains as you negotiate within the marketplace.
Going back to Dubai currency, the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Right regulates Dubai’s currency. It’s job is to manage the valuation of Dirham in the global market (though really it’s based on how the US dollar behaves in relation to other global currencies).
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