Is Dubai A Country? What is the UAE?

So I had a conversation with an American dude the other day, and he had never heard of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), he though Dubai was he capital of Saudi Arabia and he through their nationality was Muslim. Where do I start?! I tried to tell him the actual story but it got a bit long winded. The UAE is a bit of a tourist destination these days, and with so many people taking holidays to Dubai I thought the confusion would be over, but clearly not! So let me put things straight:

What is the UAE:

The UAE is an abbreviation of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is a country, consisting of seven smaller ‘emirates’ which are similar to states. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are 2 of those 7 states.

The seven states are:

Abu Dhabi





Ras al Khaimah

Umm al Qaiwain


What is the Capital of the UAE:

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE.


Wait a second, so you’re telling me neither Dubai or Abu Dhabi is a country?!

Exactly, Dubai is not a country and Abu Dhabi is not a country.


So why does Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc have their own flags?

They are the flags of their emirate, all the seven emirate have individual flags BUT they also all fly the same UAE flag (seen below).


UAE flag

UAE flag

How does their Government work?

The UAE has a President (the Emir of Abu Dhabi) and a Prime Minister (the Emir of Dubai). Each Emirate retains autonomy over it’s region.


Where is the UAE:

It’s on the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula. It has Saudi Arabia to the West and Oman to the South.  Check out the map below.

Where is the UAE

Where is the UAE

Should I visit the UAE?

If you enjoy experiencing very different cultures, then yes certainly! Bumming on a beach in Thailand can only offer so many aspects, so once you’ve ticked that box it’s time to put yourself to the test. The middle east is back to old school traveling, no tourist buses, no dorms full of college students, you’re really on the road. And the Dubai is a great starting point for that. It’s a lot more liberal (in the western sense) than much of the UAE so it breaks you in nicely.

Dubai is the most famous place to visit and there are certainly enough things  to keep you occupied for a good view days but the UAE is not cheap so don’t stay too long! Budget for around $60 per day, get in, soak it up and move on. It’ll be an experience like no other.

the burj dubai

The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, in Dubai

I hope that helps clear things up, it can be quite confusing. The UAE really is a great place to visit, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a typical backpacker haunt it’s certainly an intriguing place. Happy travels!

13 thoughts on “Is Dubai A Country? What is the UAE?

  1. Steve

    Don’t be fooled by the $2000 a night hotels. I have been to Dubai 2 times (as well as Abu Dhabi) and really loved it. If you get out of the glitz of the modern Dubai and go to old Dubai (Deira) you can find hotels from $60 and up. They have a great Metro for getting around as well as tons of Taxi’s that can take you anywhere.

  2. Felix

    I wanna go this summer, as a layover before going to Ethiopia. Too bad I have a Canadian passport, and Canadian citizens are not welcome to the UAE anymore and need to pay extortionately dumb fees for a visa… until it’s resolved, I’ll pass

      1. Felix

        I think it’s something around 250$ for single entry, and upwards of 1000$ for multiple entry. All that because of some ridiculous dispute between Emirates and Air Canada……

  3. rich

    And the UAE is a great starting point for that. It’s a lot more liberal (in the western sense) than much of the UAE so it breaks you in nicely.

    Do you mean dubai?


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