United Arab Emirates Health Care and Vaccinations
It is recommended that any necessary vaccinations are done before your trip. However, emergency vaccinations are also available in the UAE from places such as the Dubai London Clinic (www.dubailondonclinic.com) and the Gulf Diagnostic Centre Hospital (www.gdc-hospital.com) for various fees, depending on the vaccine.
Medical facilities in the UAE are of a very high quality but it is important to bear in mind that they are expensive. Private healthcare and/or travel insurance is highly recommended when travelling to this region. Recommended clinics include the Al Noor Hospital, (+971 2 626 52 65, www.alnoorhospital.com) and the Aster Medical Centre (+971 4 400 500, www.astermedicalcentre.com) in Abu Dhabi and the American Hospital Dubai (+971 4 336 7777, www.ahdubai.com) in Dubai.
Note: The UAE is often in the press for arresting tourists who haven’t done their homework on banned medicines. Some UK prescriptions and over the counter medicines in the West are known to be illegal in the UAE. These include codeine (which is often found in cold and flu medicines), lithium, diazepam (found in Valium), methadone and alprazolam (found in Xanax). Other banned substances include food derivatives of opium such as poppy seeds, plus substances qat leaf, betel leaf or nuts, niswar and gutkha. There is zero tolerance for importing illegal drugs, and doing so can lead to a four-year prison sentence. However, the banned drugs list does change, so make sure you visit the Government of Dubai website for an up to date list (www.dubai.ae) or consult your embassy before you travel. The British embassy also advises travellers to always carry their prescriptions with them when travelling with medicine, in case they are questioned or detained at the airport. No anti-malarial tablets are required when visiting UAE.
Food and Drink
Though the water in the UAE will taste different, it is safe to drink. However, bottled water is so cheap to buy in the emirates that most visitors opt to drink it instead of tap water. A 500ml bottle of water costs between AED1-6, while a one-gallon bottle of water costs approximately AED12. Food standards are high in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, both of which have international cuisine and world-class restaurants. Care should be taken in smaller desert towns, where hygiene restrictions are not enforced as often. Be aware when eating meat, particularly spit cooked shawarma (kebab) meat, that has been sitting in the stifling summer sun for hours.
Vaccinations against tuberculosis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, measles and diphtheria are sometimes advised when travelling to this region. If you are snorkelling or scuba diving and get a coral cut, it is advisable to disinfect the wound immediately to avoid infection, as the coral contain a high amount of bacteria. If disinfectant is not readily available, a course of antibiotics may be required.