When we arrived in Al Ain we decided to buy two mobile phones for my wife and I from a local Carrefour supermarket. This was only slightly dearer than buying two Sim cards there and inserting them in our British phones. We spent about £10 a month in total on our combined phone bills. (We’re not big gassers on the phone!)
If you choose to ring the UK using your mobile phone you can expect to pay about 50 pence per minute. There are two networks in Al Ain: Etisalat and Du. The first is the most popular and has the strongest signal, but Du is cheaper and I hear that coverage can be a bit spotty at times. But this may have changed significantly in the last year since we decided to go with Etisalat.
In October 2010 I bought an iPhone 4 on the Etisalat network, paying about £20 a month for 120 minutes of calls, 120 text messages and 1gig of data. If you can stretch to an iPhone (or at least an Android phone), go for it.
- built-in camera so you always have one at hand to take photos of signs you don’t understand (to get them translated later by an Arabic speaking friend) – or photograph a building you’re next to if you’re lost which you can send via a text message to help someone guide you home or wherever
- select the Maps application to see where you are, and get it to give you directions to where you want to go
- can’t make yourself understood? Type your question/statement in English and see it translated into Arabic as text
- click on an English phrase from a categorised list of hundreds of phrases – and have the iPhone speak that phrase in Arabic
- access the Al Ain Enthusiast ebook wherever you are (sign up opposite to get this)
- use the FourSquare or Gowalla apps – both free – if you’re looking for, say, a local restaurant, to see comments of others who have been there
- use the Compass app so you know if you’re heading in the right direction
…and much more.