I am planning a trip to Dubai in early 2013 and I want to know what documents I need or other important information so as not to be surprised in an unpleasant way. Is a tourist visa sufficient? What kind of health insurance do I need? And what important habits should I respect?
Depends what passport you are on. If British, then no special documentation needed. Normal health insurance sufficient. Pretty much common sense behaviour there ie no skimpy shorts, tops etc when out of hotel. No sex on the beach If it's Ramadan, don't eat/drink eg if in taxi etc where your driver is likely to be observing the fast. Alcohol is generally only available in hotels.
30 day visa on arrival is stamped into your passport. Take letter for medication (although in 8 years have never been asked, even when carrying filled syringe needles) Get booze at duty free to put in your hotel mini bar as you cant buy alcohol in supermarkets, only hotel resturants and bars, which is expensive. its a normal holiday which has lots of scare mongering and mis conceptions about it. I go clubbing in dubai with friends and beleive me everyone is wearing the exact same thing as you would see in any other club in london etc. Yes cover up a bit more in supermarket etc and just act as respectful as you normally would. You can go out and get drunk etc but like everywhere in world if you cause trouble etc then you will get arrested but that is the same anywhere in the world, but for some reason people make a big thing about you have to be careful in dubai. Its just common sense.
There is also a section on here to check re medication, as already mentioned codeine is banned here, so make sure if you do have to bring anything over you have a doctor's note.
As for clothing, as already said, what you wear on the beach stays on the beach, once off its polite to cover up a bit. If you are in the malls, the general rule is shoulders and knees covered. You will see plenty people here that don't cover up and there is no actual law, just a dress code. Obviously there are decency laws, so wearing your bikini in the mall is a no-no!
Alcohol is expensive, but plenty of bars in hotels to choose from, so no shortage of it.
Ramadan starts in July next year, so you won't be here then if you are thinking of early 2013. The weather can be a bit iffy in January/February, and can get a bit windy and even rainy, although if you are coming from the UK, it will still feel lovely and hot by midday, although morning can be a bit cool (14/15 degrees at coldest).
Plenty of places to visit, would recommend a Desert Safari. Just use Google to search for places to visit. Also, would recommend getting an Entertainer Book, as these pay for themselves in no time, they are basically a voucher book, so you get two for one on everything (including Desert Safaris), so if there is more than just you, well worth buying. The water parks are great here too and vouchers are in the Entertainer book for these.
Wow ramadam is early next year! i hate being there for ramadam! My parents and brother and his family have lived in dubai now 8 years and they buy 2 each of the entertainers per year (family and fine dining), sometimes more as previous poster said they pay for themselves after using just a few vouchers and parents have constant guests.
I hated the dessert safari though lol, i am a thrillseeker, i love scuba diving (doing my advanced at JBH in dec) have dived with sharks, love fast rides, would try anything literally but the desert safari was horrible! We had 3 different drivers, we crashed down a huge sand dune and we had all been shouting as it was so steep either side we could see we was never getting up other side, low and behold we was stuck fast down a huge dune, could not be towed out so got another jeep sent to us! On way home our driver was literally falling asleep at the wheel! he literally couldnt drive, i kept telliing him the directions to my parents villa and every exit he would stop and in the end i was screaming at him that i would let him know when to exit! on finally reaching our exit roundabout and telling him to go right around the roundabout as i needed the exit to our left, he proceeded to go round the roundabout the wrong way in traffic! nuts lol
Dubai is a great holiday destination, my parents have people staying with them 90% of the year and there is loads of us flying out for xmas and new year, so much for kids to do (hello kitty salon, Kidzania is amazing, dubai aquarium and zoo, magic planet) and so many amazing resturants (Frankies, Beach bar and grill at one and only, Noble House at Raffles, Gary Rhodes,Ruth Chrises, the list is endless!! Definately do not go half board!
Thank you so much for all the answers. It really helped me because I wouldnt have taken into account tthings like what kind of medicines I can take with me or if I need a doctor's note. But I also want to know if the European Health Card helps in Dubai?
You need proper health insurance. Dubai is not Europe. When we were last there, hospitals were very affordable and well staffed. You could possibly get health insurance from your bank account. We did I think.