While its close neighbour, Dubai, is often in the spotlight for hitting world records almost every other day, Abu Dhabi is in fact the largest city in the United Arab Emirates and the capital of the U.A.E. With much to offer and located just a short drive from Dubai, visitors to each city should make the effort to visit the other, as both have very different highlights. Here’s a look at everything you must do in Abu Dhabi!
A Quick Guide to Abu Dhabi
Prior to Arrival
Etihad calls Abu Dhabi their home base, so be sure to check their site for good deals on flight prices or look at some of their partner airlines around the world. Many nationals do not require a visa to enter the UAE, as well as many others qualifying for a (free) visa on arrival. See a full list here.
The most convenient means of transport into the city is by taxi, offered at a flat rate of 75 dirhams (around $20 USD / $25 AUD). The journey takes around 40 minutes, depending on traffic.
The easiest way to get around Abu Dhabi is by car and by international standards, taxi fares are still quite reasonable. It is also possible to walk on foot, however the heat is likely to deter most.
Visiting the UAE as a foreigner isn’t nearly as scary as one might be led to believe. Sure, there is a slight culture shock… but as in Dubai, Abu Dhabi is full of international expats making it a very international city. There are certainly some laws to be aware of as this is a Muslim state, mainly:
Dress semi-conservatory with no short shorts or skirts and not too much skin showing. Of course in mosques the dress-code is much more strict, with women being required to cover their head, ankles, and wrists (at the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi you can rent an Abaya to cover yourself).
Don’t engage in public displays of affection – i.e. kissing or cuddling in public.
During Ramadan, no one is permitted to eat or drink in public places as this is the Islamic month of fasting.
What to See
Sheik Zayad Mosque – see a full guide to the Grand Mosque here.
Emirates Palace – An impressive display of ultimate opulence. The high tea is delightful!
Ferrari World – As it sounds, this is a large amusement park based on the car brand.
Where to Stay
The city of Abu Dhabi is full of swanky digs, some favourites include:
Emirates Palace – A lush Arabian palace that will leave you feeling like royalty the minute you enter.
Fairmont Bab Al Bahr – Modern and swanky with views of the Grand Mosque.
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort – A desert escape outside of the city with desert walks, camel treks and endless star-gazing opportunities.
What to Eat & Drink
Arabic food will likely surprise you. Be sure to try hummus, falafel, grilled halloumi, tabouleh, baba ghanoush, and fattoush. Arabic sweets are also pleasantly surprising!
Italian – try Frankie’s Italian for home cooked Italian at its best. Open for lunch and dinner @ the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr.
Japanese – try Zuma for delicious typical Japanese cuisine and a great cocktail hour. Open for lunch and dinner @ The Galleria.
Lebanese – try Li Beirut for a taste of the Middle East. Open for lunch and dinner @ Jumeirah at Etihad Towers.
Dubai is very nearby and under 2 hours to drive. Taxis are also available for the commute. Desert safaris are also popular and available daily.