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).
This brings up an interesting story. When I was in Dubai in December of 2007, there was a lot of speculation that the Dirham was going to be revalued for the first time in 20 plus years.
This is because local investors complained their portfolios were hurting because of the devaluation of the US Dollar. Because of the speculation, many exchange houses modified the typical Dh 3.65 per dollar conversion and many individuals lost money exchanging currency in that time.
Fortunately for me I was able to buy Dirhams for cheap and located an exchange house where I sold them for more than what I paid for them! This is when I wished I had my entire bank account based in Dubai!