Currency in United Arab Emirates - A Full Guide 2024

Claire Millard
Ileana Ionescu
Last updated
29 November 2023

Planning a trip to United Arab Emirates? Whether you’re heading there for work or pleasure, you’ll need to know how to pay your way as you travel.

This guide covers all you’ll need to know about the official currency in United Arab Emirates, where to get it and how to keep your costs down during your trip.

What is the currency in United Arab Emirates?

The official currency in United Arab Emirates is the United Arab Emirates Dirham, which is issued and overseen by the 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 fils; 1 AED. If you’re buying your travel money online you may also see the official code being shown - AED. In stores and restaurants, United Arab Emirates Dirham prices are likely to use the currency symbol د.إ.

Once you’re in United Arab Emirates you’ll see costs of items shown in AED and you’ll need to start paying for things in local coins and notes which are often found in the following denominations:

banknotes - 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 AED and coins - 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 fils; 1 AED.

Can you officially pay in GBP when you are in United Arab Emirates?

You’re unlikely to be able to officially transact in GBP in United Arab Emirates, which is why it’s time to start getting used to AED and learning more about the currency exchange rates so you’ll know what you’re spending on your trip.

This guide will walk through all you need to know, including British pound/United Arab Emirates Dirham rates and where best to get your travel money from.

United Arab Emirates Dirham
Currency nameUnited Arab Emirates Dirham
ISO codeAED
Symbolد.إ
SubunitFils
Central Bank1, 5, 10, 25, 50 fils; 1 AED
Best travel cards to take to United Arab EmiratesWise, Revolut

AED coins and banknotes

Here’s a full rundown of the AED coins and banknotes you’ll need to be familiar with when you’re in United Arab Emirates.

AED banknotesAED coins
banknotes - 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 AEDcoins - 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 fils; 1 AED

History of United Arab Emirates Dirham currency

The Euro (EUR) is the official currency of the Eurozone, which consists of 19 of the 27 European Union countries. It was introduced in 1999 as an accounting currency and launched as physical coins and banknotes in 2002. The euro is the second-most traded currency in the world and provides the benefits of removing exchange rate risk in the Eurozone.

Is GBP accepted in United Arab Emirates?

As we’ve seen, the official currency in United Arab Emirates is AED. If you carry GBP with you on your trip, you’ll probably need to exchange it before you can spend.

Sometimes when you’re away on a trip abroad you’ll find that merchants will take payments in a selection of major foreign currencies. However, the chances are that where this is offered, you won’t get a good exchange rate for your GBP. Planning smart and convenient ways to spend in AED when you’re away is likely to mean you save on costs in the end.

Usually, having a few different ways to pay and get cash is the best option for travelers and tourists. That’s because you’ll have a back up plan in case one payment method isn’t accepted for any reason, and you can pick the method that’s best suited to the specific transaction. Having a multi-currency card from a provider like Wise or Revolut, plus your normal bank debit card, and some local cash in AED should mean you’ve always got options. You can use your cash for small purchases and tipping, and make low cost payments and cash withdrawals with your multi-currency card, while keeping your bank card in reserve for emergencies.

Use a travel card on your next trip to United Arab Emirates

Using a travel debit card in United Arab Emirates is usually cheap, safe and convenient. A few providers in the UK offer multi-currency cards which come with a linked payment account that lets you convert, hold and spend in AED. That allows you to add a balance in GBP and switch over to AED to lock in the exchange rate and set your travel budget.

Once you have AED in your account there are no extra fees to make payments, and you’ll not have foreign transaction charges to worry about, either.

Here’s a quick overview of a couple of handy travel debit cards you may want to order and use in United Arab Emirates.

Wise travel card

Order a Wise travel card online or in the Wise app, to hold and exchange 40+ currencies and manage your money from your phone. You’ll be able to spend conveniently in AED - and all currency exchange uses the mid-market rate with no markup.

Card holders get some free ATM withdrawals available every month, and there’s no annual or monthly fees to pay, and no minimum balance requirement.

Read a full Wise review here

Green Wise card
Go to Wise
Wise prosWise cons

✅ Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate

✅ No foreign transaction fees apply

✅ Free to hold and spend 40+ currencies

✅ Receive payments to your Wise account in a selection of global currencies

✅ No minimum balance or ongoing fees


❌ Card order fee applies

❌ ATM fees apply once you’ve exhausted your free monthly withdrawals 

Revolut card

Revolut offers several different account plans so you can pick the one that suits your needs and spending, including some with no monthly fees. All account plans let you hold and exchange multiple currencies in the same account, and there’s no-fee to spend currencies you hold.

Depending on the plan you pick you’ll get fixed levels of no-fee ATM withdrawals and mid-market currency exchange every month. Low fees apply once you exhaust your plan no-fee limits.

Read a full Revolut review here

Go to Revolut
Revolut prosRevolut cons

✅ Hold and exchange a selection of global currencies, spend currencies you hold with no extra fee

✅ Choose from different account tiers to suit different customer needs

✅ Get some currency exchange every month which uses the mid-market rate - limits vary by account plan

✅ No card order fee

✅ Some account tiers have extra perks including travel benefits


❌ Ongoing fees apply for some account tiers

❌ No branch network for a face to face service

❌ Fees apply once you exhaust your account no-fee transaction limits

What is the currency exchange rate for £ 1 GBP/AED?

It’s helpful to get to know the live GBP/AED rate so you can easily calculate how much things are costing you while you’re on your trip abroad. The rate you need to focus on is the mid market rate, which is the one banks and major currency services get when buying and selling currencies. This rate isn’t always passed on to customers. Instead you may find that the GBP/AED rate you get when exchanging travel cash includes a markup - an extra fee.

Find the GBP/AED mid-market rate from a currency conversion site or a website like this, so you can keep an eye on the market and compare the rates you’re offered as you travel against the mid-market rate easily.

Should I exchange GBP to AED before traveling to United Arab Emirates?

It’s a good idea to exchange GBP to AED before you head off to United Arab Emirates, as you can often find a better exchange rate and lower overall costs before you travel.

When you’re in United Arab Emirates you’re going to need AED in cash for some of your spending - particularly when tipping or making smaller value purchases. Buying your AED travel money in advance can get you better GBP/AED exchange rates, and saves you wasting precious time shopping around for a good deal once you arrive in United Arab Emirates.

Tips for exchanging money in United Arab Emirates

At merchants and ATMs, make sure you’re charged in AED. If you’re asked if you’d rather pay in GBP instead, say no. That’s a sign of dynamic currency conversion, which usually means extra costs. ATMs are widely used in United Arab Emirates so withdrawing money in target-currency is easy, particularly in big cities and Dubai.

Best place to exchange currency in United Arab Emirates

You can get your AED in United Arab Emirates in a couple of ways.

You’ll be able to use a travel debit card from a provider like Wise or Revolut to make convenient payments and cash withdrawals and to convert funds online.

Or if you prefer an offline solution you can carry some cash in GBP to exchange when you arrive. Currency exchange providers are often in airports and hotels, although the exchange shops in a city center are likely to be cheaper overall.

How to pay in United Arab Emirates?

You’ll need to have AED to spend in United Arab Emirates. However, generally having a few different payment methods is a good plan. That means that if a merchant won't accept one, you’ve got a back up. It’s also reassuring to know you have a different way to pay if you were unlucky enough to have a card or some travel cash stolen. Here are your key payment options in United Arab Emirates.

1. Debit or credit card

Card payments can be helpful in shops, restaurants and hotels but there will be places where cash is also important. Order a travel card from a provider like Wise or Revolut for cheap and fast transactions, including card payments and cash withdrawals as and when you need travel money in AED.

2. AED cash

  • Cash is widely used in United Arab Emirates, so it’s worth having some with you at all times. You may want to exchange money to AED before you leave, but it’s also usually convenient to make ATM withdrawals locally once you arrive in United Arab Emirates.

  • You’ll usually find you can use a card to make payments in United Arab Emirates, but carrying some cash in AED is also reassuring. It’s often easier for tipping and making smaller purchases, plus you’ve got a nice backup if your card is ever out of action for some reason.

  • It’s a smart idea to have both a card and some cash in AED when you’re in United Arab Emirates. Some merchants will prefer cash, but having a card for higher value payments and in busier more tourist places is also convenient. Consider using a travel card from a provider like Wise or Revolut alongside your cash for flexibility.

Paying for the trip in GBP

If you’re paying for things in United Arab Emirates with a GBP bank card you might find a foreign transaction fee is added. This pushes up your costs when you spend in a foreign currency, and can be tricky to calculate.

Travel debit cards don’t always work this way. When you make purchases in United Arab Emirates using the Wise card you can either choose to convert your account balance to AED in advance in the Wise app, or just leave your balance in GBP and let the card handle the transaction when you pay. You’ll always get the lowest available fee and there are no extra foreign transaction charges.

Conclusion - Currency in United Arab Emirates

You won’t be able to pay in GBP when you visit United Arab Emirates - so learning about the currency you need is essential. Whether you decide to use a travel debit card from a service like Wise , or stock up on AED in cash in advance, knowing the mid-market exchange rate can help you get the best available deal. Use this guide to learn all you need to know about the options, rates and fees for exchanging GBP to AED, and make your money go further while you’re away.

The official currency in United Arab Emirates is AED. You can’t usually pay in GBP in United Arab Emirates, so you’ll need to plan in advance to get your travel money sorted. Consider ordering a travel debit card from a service like Wise, for low cost conversions to AED and convenient spending and withdrawals - and remember that knowing the GBP to AED mid-market exchange rate is essential to check you’re getting a fair deal on currency exchange.

FAQ - Currency in United Arab Emirates

What is the currency in United Arab Emirates called?

The official currency in United Arab Emirates is the United Arab Emirates Dirham. You may also see the code AED and the currency symbol د.إ.

What's the currency in Dubai?

The official currency in Dubai is the United Arab Emirates Dirham. You’ll only be able to spend in AED while you’re there.

What is the old United Arab Emirates currency?

Today the currency in United Arab Emirates is the United Arab Emirates Dirham. If you’re worried about currencies changing, why not get a travel debit card from a service like Wise which will automatically pick the currency needed in your destination when making a payment - with no penalties or inflated fees.

What is the best currency to take to United Arab Emirates?

You’ll only be able to spend in AED while you’re in United Arab Emirates. Carrying some money in cash and using a travel debit card from a service like Wise is usually the best way to spend while you’re away from home.