Dubai rises from the desert, a welcoming tangle of glass and steel that attracts travellers from all over the world. Whether you’re just there on for a short visit or settling down for good, the lifestyle you’ll find is world-class.
Hire a limo and browse the high-end retailers. Spot some celebrities in the world’s highest restaurant. Or get out of the city and experience a camel ride through the desert.
The standard of living and options available are unparalleled. But if you want to stay in the world’s only seven star hotel (the Burj al Arab, if you’re interested), you’re going to need some cash.
Use this guide to avoid scams and excessive charges and find the best deals when you need to exchange your cash in Dubai.
In Dubai you’ll probably find the best rates available if you're changing from U.S. Dollars. The local currency, AED, is pegged to the Dollar, so you’ll always receive roughly the same rates (taking into account fees and charges) when exchanging Dollars to Dirhams. When exchanging any other currency to Dirhams, the value rises and falls in line with USD.
To find the current mid-market rate, use an online currency converter. This is the real rate you’ll find on Google which banks use to trade between themselves. Use this rate as your benchmark for comparison when seeking out the fairest tourist rates in Dubai. Because rates change all the time (unless you’re working exclusively with USD/AED conversions), keeping an eye on the mid-market rate is a good way to avoid being ripped off.
With such an international community in Dubai, you shouldn’t struggle to find a money changing service. However, for convenience and price, using an ATM is often a good option.
If you plan on using an ATM to withdraw cash, then check if your home bank has any partnerships with local banks in Dubai. If they do, then you might even be able to withdraw cash without paying extra ATM fees for the privilege. It’s also worth notifying your bank before you leave home that you’ll be using your card whilst overseas.
When using an ATM abroad you might be asked if you would like to be charged in your home currency. This is not a good idea, as it means your money will be converted at an undisclosed exchange rate and you’ll likely pay an extra fee for the conversion. For a fairer rate, choose to be charged in the local currency - AED.
An alternative way that ATMs approach this question is asking whether you’d like the ATM to perform the conversion or have your home bank’s exchange rate applied. Choose the rate from your home bank, who will choose a fairer rate for their own customer. Essentially, you want to say no to having the ATM’s bank perform any conversion for you.
Once you’ve changed your money, be sure to spend it. Changing cash back at the end of the trip will mean you pay charges twice. On the upside, spending in Dubai is never going to be a chore. Have an extra cocktail, browse the Dubai Outlet Mall, or pop into the Souk for some haggling, instead.
Travelex operates in the UAE, and has a branch in the Dubai Airport. However, as with most exchange services near airports and hotels, the rates aren’t necessarily the best in town. If you need to immediately change cash for tips or taxis, change only a small amount there and then visit one of the exchanges in town to convert the rest.
Outside the airport, you’ll find many exchange offices in the city’s shopping malls. Usually these have better rates (and longer operating hours) than banks do. You might also find that you can exchange cash at your hotel - but expect the rates to be poor and fees high.
Instead, head for one of the exchange offices listed below. Use a currency converter to access the mid-market rate, and you’ll then be able to calculate which offer is getting you the best deal.
|Dubai Outlet Mall||04-4273220|
With 73 branches listed on their website, use Al Ansari Exchange’s branch locator to find the nearest office.
Varies - call ahead or check their website.
|Deira City Centre (Near Metro Station 2)||04-2953530|
There are over a dozen locations in Dubai alone, so check out their website for a full listing.
Varies - call ahead.
|Satwa branch (opposite the bus station)||04-3438287|
With 17 locations in Dubai, check their branch locator on the website to find the closest to you.
Check the website for individual branch details. Branches such as the one in Dubai Mall have extended opening hours.
Alternatively - for an even better deal - use Transferwise. If you have a bank account in the UAE, or know someone who does, you can transfer money between accounts using the real mid-market exchange rate. You can save money and time, so you can get on enjoying your visit to sunny Dubai.