Ultimate Abu Dhabi Travel Guide 2024 : Tips, Attractions & Advice (2024)
The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, sits on an island in the Persian Gulf. This Emirate is renowned for its modern towers, shopping megacenters, and record-breaking theme parks. However, it’s not just a city of glitz; it offers more than what meets the eyes, revealing a more distinctly Arabian ambience.
Continue reading the guide as we help you explore Abu Dhabi in the best way possible. This guide will also assist you in immersing yourself in local experiences in Abu Dhabi without making the first-timer’s mistakes. Here’s all about ensuring your visit to Abu Dhabi is as enriching as it is enjoyable.
Abu Dhabi: Where Tradition and Innovation Dance in Harmony
The crowned jewel of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi boasts a captivating blend of modernity and tradition. This vibrant Emirates (and city) offers a truly unique experience to both locals and tourists. To understand the sense of Abu Dhabi’s allure, picture modern skyscrapers aligned with ancient souks. Top attractions like the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the cultural treasure trove of Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Corniche, a stunning waterfront promenade, are the pride of Abu Dhabi. No matter whether you are visiting Abu Dhabi for the first time or have been here repeatedly, this destination and its attractions will never disappoint you. Don’t miss out on the Ferrari World theme park, an adventure for thrill-seekers, and the tranquil beauty of the Al Ain Oasis.
If you are a first-time Abu Dhabi visitor, the detailed guide below will help you. Make sure you continue reading till the end.
Abu Dhabi: Getting There and Around
To reach Abu Dhabi, you have several convenient options:
- All year round, International flights arrive at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). The airport is just 20 miles from the city centre and is well-connected with air-conditioned buses and taxis (for AED125). The journey takes nearly half an hour, with buses running every 40 minutes for AED4.
- Etihad Rail is under construction and aims to connect Abu Dhabi to Dubai in just 12 minutes.
- Drive via the E11 highway that connects Abu Dhabi to Dubai in 90 minutes. PLEASE NOTE: Drive safely since Abu Dhabi has strict road laws, and the fines can be hefty.
- Many Intercity Bus Services connect to Dubai and other Emirates in the UAE destinations. These bus services are accessible via affordable fares with smart cards.
- Taxis are readily available, starting at AED3.50 (additional depending upon the distance).
Whereas for getting around Abu Dhabi, there are multiple taxis, buses, ferries, or rental cars available. The Visit Abu Dhabi Shuttle Bus is a free option for tourists booking hotels or attraction tickets.
When to Visit Abu Dhabi (and When Not to)
Abu Dhabi, like any other Emirates, enjoy warm and sunny weather all around the year. From June to September, the scorching summer heat and temperatures exceeding 120°F can make being here quite challenging. (Temperatures exceeding 120°F in other countries can be very different comparatively in UAE given the deserted environment). Summers and sandstorms make it very uncomfortable to be outside. Summers are best to avoid since even locals avoid going outside.
On the flip side, the best time to explore this vibrant city is from November to March. During these months, the climate is at its most pleasant, and it’s when most tourists choose to visit. It is when you can enjoy the outdoor activities comfortably while still keeping yourself hydrated.
Popular Neighborhoods in Abu Dhabi to Stay
For your stay in Abu Dhabi, there are a range of world-class hotels and resorts. However, before you finalize them, choosing the right neighbourhood for unique experiences and accessibility to the city’s top attractions is important. For instance:
- Stay at Downtown Abu Dhabi, a bustling hub and the heart of the action in Abu Dhabi. This area is full of 5-star hotels and a plethora of dining and shopping choices.
- Stay at Al Zahiyah (Tourist Club Area) and Al Markaziyah, near the Corniche, Abu Dhabi’s beautiful waterfront. Staying in these neighbourhoods will allow you to access the Abu Dhabi Mall and a vibrant nightlife scene.
- Stay at Al Khalidiya, near the western end of Abu Dhabi. This upscale neighbourhood boasts a very youthful ambience with its cafes, and it is known to attract Western expats. For a trip to Abu Dhabi culinary delight, it is the right place to stay. Al Kahlidiya is also close to the Corniche Beach area, thus perfect for those seeking a seaside retreat.
- Stay at Saadiyat Island if you are planning a vacation full of cultural and luxurious experiences. This destination is known for its pristine beaches, world-class museums, and upscale resorts and is close to the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
- Stay at Yas Island if you wish to visit attractions like Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, and Yas Marina Circuit. It also hosts a range of dining options.
- Stay at Al Bateen if you are looking for a quieter, upscale residential area.
Do’s and Don’ts When Visiting Abu Dhabi as a Tourist
- When exploring cultural or religious landmarks, opt for modest clothing covering your shoulders and knees. Overly exposed attire can lead to unwanted encounters with the authorities.
- Remember that Abu Dhabi is more conservative than Dubai. Alcohol is legal but should be enjoyed in moderation.
- Stay hydrated, especially given the high temperatures.
- Don’t miss traditional and modern desert adventures, from safaris to camel rides and traditional dances. These experiences offer a glimpse of Emirati culture.
- Rely on Google Maps or ride-sharing apps like Careem or Uber for safe and convenient transportation. If needed, reference nearby landmarks to help navigate.
- Savour Arabian cuisine, and don’t hesitate to explore Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi food. Prepare yourself with essentials like lightweight clothing, comfortable footwear, sunscreen, a hat, and an umbrella.
- Take taxis during the scorching sun or seek indoor spaces.
- Don’t forget to bring a portable battery pack for keeping your phone charged during your adventures.
- Learn about Arabic and Emirati culture before arriving. Respect the Muslim religion and be aware of prayer times.
- During Ramadan, be cautious with eating and drinking in public areas. Show sensitivity to this holy month.
- Sheikh Zayed Mosque is an iconic landmark and a must-see. Respect mosque etiquette, regardless of your gender.
- Before taking photographs of locals, especially Emiratis (including women), always ask for their consent.
- Abu Dhabi enforces strict traffic rules, so drive cautiously.
- Avoid jaywalking to prevent penalties.
- Ensure you have an international driving license if planning to drive in Abu Dhabi. Otherwise, avoid driving.
- Refrain from displaying excessive public affection with your partner.
- Save your swimsuit for the beach or hotel pool. Wearing it in public areas may not be considered appropriate.
Restaurant and Dining
- The culinary scenes in Abu Dhabi are truly enjoyable, and one cannot miss them. From the traditional Emirati cuisines to the authentic Arabian dishes, there’s a lot to try.
- While your choice of restaurants may vary, here are some must-try dishes to savour during your visit:
- Try local Delights like Shawarma. This Middle Eastern favourite consists of marinated meat wrapped in warm flatbread (roti) along with tahini, vegetables, and pickles.
- Try Falafel, the crispy chickpea or fava bean patties that are served on pita bread with various toppings and sauces.
- Try Al Harees, a traditional Emirati dish made from wheat and meat. AL Harees is cooked on slow gas until it becomes a smooth, porridge-like texture.
- Savour on Biryani, especially the fragrant and flavorful Emirati version of this South Asian classic. The mixture of tender meat, aromatic spices, and basmati rice is truly mouthwatering.
- Abu Dhabi is home to some exceptional Japanese restaurants; thus, consider trying Sushi and Sashimi.
- Do not miss exploring Mediterranean Cuisine especially mezze, kebabs, and fresh seafood in upscale Mediterranean eateries.
- Try out International Buffets at upscale restaurants and enjoy Italian pasta and Asian stir-fries.
- Being a coastal landmark, Abu Dhabi has access to some of the freshest seafood and thus you cannot miss it. For a local delight, try grilled hammour or kingfish.
- Do not miss trying the Emirati version of rice pudding called Roz bel laban or Kunafa, the world-popular UAE sweet.
- Lastly, a food trip in Abu Dhabi is incomplete without sipping on traditional Arabic coffee along with sweet dates. It is also a gesture of hospitality that you will encounter easily in local households.
Visas in the UAE: For most travellers, a typical United Arab Emirates visa grants a free 30-day stay upon arrival, varying depending on your nationality.
Always verify the latest requirements on the official United Arab Emirates Immigration website for up-to-date information.
Currency: The official currency in the UAE is the Dirham (AED), with an exchange rate of roughly 1 USD to 3.65 AED.
You can easily check the latest exchange rates on Google to keep track of your spending.
Consider using a Charles Schwab Debit Card while travelling. It offers unlimited worldwide ATM fee refunds and provides the most favourable exchange rates, saving you money during your trip.
Power Adapters: The United Arab Emirates utilizes various plug types, including Type C, Type D, and Type G adapters. A versatile universal adapter is a smart choice, compatible with plug types worldwide and offering additional USB ports for charging your devices.
Travel Insurance: For a secure and worry-free journey in Abu Dhabi, consider travel insurance. Some of the top recommendations include:
- World Nomads: Offering comprehensive coverage that includes medical expenses, coverage for travel delays, and protection for your electronic devices.
- SafetyWing: Ideal for those seeking affordable monthly coverage, primarily focused on medical benefits.
Remember, while exploring Abu Dhabi’s wonders, having the right information, tools, and insurance ensures a smoother and more enjoyable experience. Safe travels!