Middle East Basic Information
If you are visiting religious sites or travelling around conservative Muslim countries in the Middle East, visitors are required to dress modestly by covering shoulders and knees, and for women, their head. You will also be required to remove your footwear when entering mosques. For more need-to-know info before your holiday to the Middle East, read on.
Visa requirements differ between countries in the Middle East. For example, Australian passport holders can obtain a visa on entry to Qatar and Oman, but will need to obtain an advance visa to enter the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. No visa is required for Aussie tourists to visit Turkey or Israel. If you are travelling on a passport from a country other than Australia, some destinations may require you to obtain a visa that may not apply to Australian passport holders. You may also experience difficulties entering certain countries if your passport has evidence of travel to Israel such as entry or exit stamps. Please be aware this information is only a guide. For accurate and up-to-the-minute visa information for your passport and holiday destination, refer to the country's local embassy.
The Middle East uses a variety of country-specific currencies according to your holiday destination including UAE Dirhams, Lebanese Pounds, Saudi Riyal, Iranian Rial and Qatari Riyal. For the exact info on your travel destination’s currency, see our currency section.
Middle Eastern cuisine has made its mark all over the world – think the ubiquity of shawarma (kebabs), falafel, flatbreads, hommus and labneh (yoghurt cheese) to name a few of the common staples that are just as popular and well-known in Western countries. Middle Eastern cuisine has also contributed the meze way of eating with shared small plates of cheese, dips, tabouleh, hommus, kibbeh (a type of meat pie) and sausage, while thick Turkish-style coffee is the most popular drink in the region. Wine and beer-making countries include Lebanon and Israel. Spicy Indian influences abound in curries, stews and pilau rice dishes, with French pastries and Western faves like burgers, sushi and pizza also popular in the main cities. Food in the Middle East either adheres to kosher or halal religious specifications depending on what country you are visiting.
While the Middle East may have a rep for being staid and conservative, nightlife in the cosmopolitan metropolises is anything but! Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Beirut, Bahrain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi all have a happening after-hours scene that regularly sees big-name DJs and international club nights in amazing and opulent venues. Alcohol is available readily in Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan and to foreigners in hotel bars, clubs and licensed premises across most of the Middle East except for Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Beirut is known as the party capital of the Middle East with chic lounges, rooftop bars and sweaty dance spots, while Amman in conservative Jordan has also embraced a more upmarket nightlife scene. Tel Aviv also boasts a non-stop party culture and was recently voted one of the top 5 gay cities in the world in an American Airlines worldwide survey.