In Abu Dhabi, you’ve got two choices of Internet provider: Etisalat or du. Whichever you go for, connection generally takes a couple of weeks from the day you sign up. Internet cafes can be found in most malls, while public areas of Emirates Palace also provide password-free Wi-Fi for those struggling with digital withdrawal.
As the only telecom companies in the city, Etisalat and du are also your only options for setting up a mobile phone tariff. You’ll need a residence visa to take out a monthly contract, but anyone is free to walk in and sign up for a pay-as-you-go service (providing you bring your passport with you). A contract-free ‘Wasel’ sim card with Etisalat costs Dhs75 and includes Dhs25 worth of free credit. Calls to local numbers cost 30fils per minute, while sending an SMS message to another UAE mobile costs 60fils. People who need to access the web on the move can get 1GB of mobile data for Dhs145 a month.
With no domestic address system in place in the city, post can only be sent to post office boxes. Most residents deal with this problem by directing all mail to their company’s address, but renting a personal PO box is a simple case of heading down to the Central Post Office in the Madinat Zayed district, filling out a form and handing over Dhs160. You can choose a PO box location near your home (visit www.emiratespostuae.com for a full list) and you’ll be notified by email when you receive a letter or parcel. Sending post within the country takes two to three days, while deliveries to Europe, America and Australia typically take around a week.
Given the weak postal infrastructure, the city’s couriers have their work cut out for them. Thankfully, the motorbike-mounted men zipping through the streets perform their jobs with admirable efficiency. With plenty of companies to choose from, rates are competitive – give Aramex (www.aramex.com) or DHL (www.dhl.co.ae) a try and see how the service suits you.
Newspapers, magazines, websites:
All media – from magazines to the Internet – is subject to strict censorship, and you may find that some of your favourite websites are blocked. Expats keen to stay in touch with loved ones in their home country will be particularly disappointed to find that Skype is unavailable. It’s best to download it before entering the country, or, alternatively, use Google Talk, which is available to anyone with a gmail account. You can purchase most international lifestyle and celebrity magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Heat, in large supermarkets such as Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society or Carrefour; however, any editorial or picture content that contravenes the emirate’s religious values will often have been crossed out with black marker pen (sorry FHM readers). Also, imported magazines will cost you a fair whack – with prices for a standard women’s magazine such as Marie Claire at around the Dhs40 mark, double the original cover price. Aside from imported offerings, there are a few local magazines available in English. Paid-for titles include the celebrity magazine Ahlan! and entertainment listings magazines such as the monthly What’s On or weekly Time Out Abu Dhabi. The international brands are similar to their Western counterparts, offering useful listings that cover everything from food outlets across the city to information on sports classes, nights out and community groups. You can also pick up free magazines, such as Abu Dhabi Week or Abu Dhabi Tempo, from malls or hotels. If you can get past the laughable spelling and cut-and-pasted press releases, then Abu Dhabi Week has a classifieds section that’s useful if you’re on the hunt for housing.
English-language newspapers include Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Emirates Today, Gulf Today and The National – Abu Dhabi’s first English-language newspaper. Most newspapers will be delivered to your door when you subscribe, or you can pick them up at one of Abu Dhabi’s hundreds of small newsagents or supermarkets. International newspapers are also available to buy, although these are likely to be censored and around a day out of date. Exceptions include the Times and the Sunday Times, which are printed daily in Abu Dhabi.
There is a dearth of websites dedicated to expat life. Here are some of the most useful:
www.timeoutabudhabi.com is a good bet for restaurant and spa reviews, articles, feature, listings, movie times and details of upcoming events and concerts in the city.
Abu Dhabi police’s official website (www.adpolice.gov.ae) has information on applying for a driving licence and the low-down on any of the city’s laws you’re unsure of, plus news and statistics. You can also pay your traffic fines here. The government website www.abudhabi.ae also provides useful information on everything from the law to health and education.