Sunday, April 02, 2006

No payphones?

Are there any payphones in this country? I never thought of this until this weekend. A friend was visiting from out of town, and she was supposed to call me at one point during the day. Her Canadian cell phone did not work here, so logically, she searched for a payphone. She was at Mall of the Emirates and could not find a single one! So she had to go into a shop and ask the shopkeeper if she could use the phone, which, luckily, he was nice enough to let her do.

Come to think of it, I have never seen a single payphone here. Do they exist? Or is it simply assumed that everyone has a cell phone, so no need for payphones?

Every Tom, Dick and Harry owns a cell phone. Even 8 year old kids own cell phones. But what happens if you are a tourist here and need to call your friend at the hotel? Or what if your mobile phone runs out of battery and you really need to call someone to let them know where you are? Then what?

In fact I remember one time, when I was on my way back from Montreal to Abu Dhabi, and the plane could not land in A-D because it was too foggy. So we ended up landing in Dubai and taking buses to A-D. As soon as we landed I went on a desperate search for a payphone so I could call my dad to let him know about the delay. And although I did find a phone, I could not use it because it required a calling card. There was no way I could simply insert a Dirham in a payphone and call. I did not have the time to look for a place that sold calling cards as I was about to miss the bus, so I ended up asking an airport employee if I could make a call from his mobile, which he let me do.

Although payphones may not be as needed as in some Western countries, I still think it's important to have some available everywhere. And, if anything, I'd just like to see what a UAE payphone looks like!


secretdubai said...

I think most payphones are those prepaid card ones.

What you will not find here is any form of laundry - serviced or serve yourself. I was astounded by this when I first arrived and hadn't got myself sorted with a washing machine yet. You have the choice of handwashing, or dry-cleaning (ick, frankly, god knows what else is going round in the chemical drum with your underwear), or fking off.

I wept, handwashed, and offered them bribes to get a machine delivered to me before the weekend. I still had to wait :(

Desert Lady said...

Payphones have always been few and far between and finding one that takes a Dirham is near on impossible! I hear that the Airport Marhaba service now offers Etisalat mobile phone cards for visitors to Dubai which cost around Dhs. 60 and are valid for a month.

As for the laundry. You certainly won't find a self service laundrette (let's face it, the Arabs don't like to do anything themselves!!) but what you will find is plenty of small shops offering laundering/ironing for around 50 fils per item. These shops no longer exist on the main roads like Al Wasl or the Beach Road but in amongst the streets of Jumeirah, Satwa or Al Quoz where you are sure to find plenty!

Mar said...

Thanks for the tip. I better activate my fon to make calls from outside the US now that I'm visiting. I was basically relying on payphones, Ohhh they must have payphones, it's Dubai for heaven's sake. I guess I was mistaken :)

Dubai Sunshine said...

SD, I never thought of the laundry thing either... Hmm. Could be a good business opportunity although I am not so sure UAE residents are ready for such a thing...Not sure it would work.

Desert Lady, I never knew about those shops...Interesting to know.

Mar, well, I guess you COULD buy a phone card and use the few payphones we have here, but I think having your phone activated is a safer bet.

Lujayn said...

Payphones abound in the UAE - mainly used by workers from the Indian sub-continent. They are both coin- and card-operated, but given the tendency of most residents to drive around instead of walk around, payphones are hard to spot. Which brings us to the self-service laundromats. I dont think we need yet another reason to get in our cars and drive somewhere to do the laundry - those are fine in traditional neighbourhood communities, where people can walk around. In Dubai, they would just be another burden on the environment and traffic.

Anonymous said...

I had a trouble with them too. They only accept card! :(

So what if it's just one emergency phone call? Then we have to buy a 30 dhs card that we'll only use every blue moon..?!

Ian said...

In an emergency, you would just ask a stranger to use their phone. Give them the DHS if you really want. But in emergencies, even strangers help.

I found a payphone in the airport at 3am this morning. I got a 30DHS card from the florist shop next to the exit gates. No drama.

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