Have you ever been to Abu Dhabi? This article will show you a mini guide when you are planning your first time travel to Abu Dhabi.
Located in the Middle East of Asia, Abu Dhabi is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital, which is renowned for having the richest oil resources in the world.
Here in Abu Dhabi, it is very usual to see expensive sports cars running around on the streets, or lions being kept as pets…I’m kidding! They are kept at home. The GDP per capita in Abu Dhabi was recorded to be 40782.40 US Dollar in 2018, which is very high compared to other countries in Asia.
Arabic is the national language, but English is super widely spoken as Abu Dhabi is a melting pot of over 200 nationalities.
But there is more about this city than just that. Read this article and save some useful tips for yourself on your first time travel to Abu Dhabi.
Itinerary for First Time Travel to Abu Dhabi
How To Get To Abu Dhabi
You can arrive in Abu Dhabi in either Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) with Etihad Airlines or Dubai International Airport (DXB) with Emirates. There are many other international airlines operating in these both airports.
If you arrive in Dubai Intl Airport, you will need another about 2 hours traveling by car or bus to reach Abu Dhabi city.
Where to Stay?
There are lots of hotels in the city for you, they are either conveniently located near to some tourist attractions or shopping malls in the city, or from an isolated sand-castle-like in the middle of the desert such as Qasr Al Sarab or Tilal Liwa Hotel to the ones on islands (Yas Island, Saadiyat Island, Sir Baniyas Island…). Another very special hotel I will introduce you more if you keep reading.
When you plan to come to Abu Dhabi, make sure you check the hotel’s price and room availability in advance. Because we do have many special events and holidays that rooms are usually fully booked.
Wait a sec! Did you know? Our weekends are on Friday and Saturday ( Not on Saturday and Sunday).
The main currency we use here is Dirham (Dhs or AED) ( 1USD = 3.66Dhs). Notes are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000, available in English and Arabic on both sides. There are also coins of 25 fils, 50 fils, and 1Dhs.
International banks cards are accepted everywhere such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, Union Pay… or even Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Alipay are also available.
Cryptocurrency? Not yet 🙁
It tends to get very hot in Abu Dhabi during the summer as the city is located near the desert. But the good thing about that is, this actually is when you can get the best deals for flights and hotels, but the suffocating heat and humidity can make you dehydrated and tired after spending time visiting the city.
You may think winter seems to be the best time to visit Abu Dhabi. Well, you’re right. During winter, it is indeed pleasant – not too hot, not too cold.
That is why tourists from all over the world choose Abu Dhabi as their next destination in winter. But do you want to spend time exploring Abu Dhabi during its peak season? With business people running around in cabs and tourists flocking to the beach, any outdoor activities will just be frustrating.
Between April and May, visiting would be also an ideal option if you want to enjoy Abu Dhabi at its best. The weather is fairly nice, ranging from low 27°C (80°F) to about high 32°C (90°F). The hotels and flights deals are probably cheaper since it’s not the peak season anymore.
Moreover, this is the time when Abu Dhabi still holds many cultural festivals and events, so, make sure you will be there to enjoy them all!
Do’s And Don’ts
#1: Do dress properly. Especially in your first time travel to Abu Dhabi
This is #1 rule!
Even though I haven’t seen the governments punish anyone that doesn’t dress appropriately, it is still better to wear long clothes if you don’t want to be alienated.
Especially when you visit the Grand Mosque, women should wear loose-fitting clothes with skirts that are longer than your knees. Men are advised to wear jeans or trousers and long sleeves shirts, any tattoos should be well covered.
#2: Do be careful when crossing the roads
Look at both sides of the road before crossing. It is best to cross the road with pedestrians since they know how to do it better than you do.
#3: Don’t take photos of local people…randomly
Yes, you heard it right! Even though the local people are very friendly, but it’s not nice to just point your camera and shoot any locals wearing their traditional dresses (and it’s not lawful here, too).But you can ask their permission if it would be ok to do so.
But don’t be surprised if they offer to take your camera and do a selfie with you.
And don’t worry, Abu Dhabi is a very Instagramable city. You will definitely love it! Make sure your phone and power bank are always fully charged.
#4: Don’t take photos of government buildings
Avoiding taking pictures of places like Sheikh’s palace, police stations, airports, or military buildings. It’s a BIG no-no!
#5: Don’t drink-drive
It is not smart to drive when you’ve already had some alcohol in your blood. You will be prohibited strictly if you cause any accidents while so, because they can trace alcohol in your body, even just a little bit.
On the whole, you will be very much likely to go to prison.
Cool fact: Even though this is a Muslim country, but alcohol is available in almost all the hotels. In some supermarkets, there is even pork being sold for non-Muslim.
#6: Don’t eat or drink publicly during Ramadan
This is a holy month of the Muslims. During this month, they will not eat or drink before sunrise. Therefore, you should either eat at the hotel where you are staying or go to the restaurants that stay open during Ramadan.
There were blinds to cover the windows and instructions for you to follow the right etiquettes. But in 2019, the Government of Abu Dhabi started not to cover the restaurants anymore in the last few days of Ramadan.
So take extra caution if you travel to Abu Dhabi during the month of Ramadan.
Means Of Transportation
Getting around a place you are not familiar with can be quite challenging. Here are some means of transportation you can use when visiting the Abu Dhabi Emirates.
Cars and motorcycles
Check your license eligibility whether you need to convert to international driving license or not to rent a car when staying here.
If you don’t mind driving around in traffic, cars and motorcycles seem like a good option for you. Well, you can even find some of the good local places that are not mentioned in travel articles.
It can be challenging though since the traffic in Abu Dhabi is sometimes crazy. You might feel overwhelmed by the number of vehicles running on the streets during peak hours.
This is a common way to move around the city of tourists. In Abu Dhabi, the fees are rather cheap compared to other countries.
The most popular are the silver taxis run by authorized taxi companies. You can ask the taxi drivers to take you to local places since they know best about their city, or you can tell them when you desire to go.
The fees are higher at night, depending on where you want to go. Although tips are not required, you should give the drivers small tips. They would appreciate that and feel encouraged to keep up the good work.
Did you know? There is free wifi available in the taxi so that you would never miss posting any photos while touring around the city.
You should experience the public bus system in Abu Dhabi, which operates on 14 routes all day and night. It is fairly cheap to use with the cost of only around 2 AED.
A bus will arrive every 10-20 minutes so you won’t have to wait long. You can find bus routes on Google Map or their official website.
In order to take a bus, you will have to get a temporary Hafilat card from the bus station with 5 AED – quite much if you only want to take a short trip.
And Yes! It would be expected that there will be free wifi soon on the buses.
Where to go?
Abu Dhabi is full of incredible tourist attractions, but I am just going to mention the most significant ones. Stay tuned!
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is known as the most popular landmark in Abu Dhabi. Created to honor the Islamic architect, the venue consists of many special and unique elements.
This mosque was first opened in 2007, after 10 years of construction. Visitors, including non-Muslims, are allowed to visit all areas inside this historical mosque of Abu Dhabi.
You can check out The Yas Guide Blog to know more about this mosque as well as the tours you can take during your time in Abu Dhabi. This is a website that provides freelance tour guide service like guides, tips, tricks… for visitors to Abu Dhabi.
The Yas Guide Blog was created by an introvert man who dreams of being a tour guide. Check it out to find stories and tips to make the best of your first trip to Abu Dhabi.
Enough talking, let’s move on to our next location!
This is heaven for people who love sports cars, especially Ferrari. Ferrari World is a car theme park founded in November 2010. It is an indoor park for Formula One racing, which promises you the thrill because of the mind-blowing car races in here.
Ferrari World is an ideal place to visit with your family. You can even let your children test out driving skills on those Junior GT tracks, while you can buckle up and ride on the 52-meter loop Formula Rossa roller coaster – the fastest roller coaster in the world. Feel like throwing up yet?
There are other fun activities to do here as well, like admiring the latest Ferrari models from displays, or racing in a simulated Ferrari ride called Scuderia Challenge, and many more.
Located on the west of Corniche Road, Emirates Palace is known as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, if not Abu Dhabi. The colors of this hotel were based on multiple shades of the Arabian desert.
You can expect to relax at lavish spas, sunbathe at the beach, go shopping at various top-of-the-line stores, or simply just enjoy a cup of cappuccino with real gold flakes at a fancy restaurant in this palace.
If you want to get to know about Abu Dhabi culture, go to Heritage Village. It is an authentic copy of the Bedouin village, which will give visitors some ideas about Emirati life in the past.
There is an open museum with exhibits and displays of traditional objects, workshops to watch craftsmen demonstrating Emirati metalwork, spinning and weaving skill, or even pottery. You can learn about its pearl diving trade – the main way of making money in Abu Dhabi before they found the oil resources.
These are just a few, I’ve written another post for you about the best things to do in Abu Dhabi in 2019 here.
Where to eat?
Abu Dhabi cuisines come in an astonishing variety for a place with such a severe climate. One thing I know that there is no way you can find cheap street food in this city, but affordable restaurants are still there if you look close enough. You might want to double-check your budget before visiting this city.
Anyways, check out these restaurants of Abu Dhabi that I think would be worth trying for your first time in the ‘Manhattan’ of Middle East.
Pizza Di Rocco
Address: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Salama Bint Butti St, Abu Dhabi 53174, UAE.
Here at Pizza Di Rocca, they offer the best traditional Italian pizzas you can find in town. Some even say they make better pizzas than in Rome, but that might be an exaggeration.
The price here is high, I have to be honest. But considering the food quality and customer service it provides, this place is a must-visit.
Address: Corniche West Road | The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Nation Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Coming up next in our list, it is Crystal Lounge – a part of Abu Dhabi St. Regis hotel. If you are expecting a place with a chill elegant vibe, you’ve come to the right place.
This place is well-known for its good drinks and excellent customer service. They say the best things in life are free, but sometimes it may cost you a little bit more.
In this case with Crystal Lounge, it is true. When you come to Crystal Lounge, make sure not to miss the desserts. They are indeed the best of the best.
Address: Opposite Al Khazna Insurance Company | Najda Street, Madinat Zayed, on the corner, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Do you think eating cheap in Abu Dhabi is impossible? Come to Lebanese Mill!
The food might not look very good when it comes out, but the taste is truly mind-blowing. Be prepared!
The price here is rather cheap, compared to other restaurants in Abu Dhabi, but the quality is no joke.
Al Fanar Restaurant
Address: Cascade Walk, Yas Mall next to Ferrari World entrance
Been looking for authentic Emirati foods? I have many local restaurants that I would like to introduce you, but this is one of my favorites. And I know you most probably will visit Ferrari World and Yas mall during your visit.
That’s why I recommend Al Fanar, you will love the Emirati ambiance and their lovely foods.
Abu Dhabi useful phones and apps/webs
- Country code: +971
- Postal code: 51133
- Police: 999 (for all purposes)
- Ambulance: 998
- Fire Department: 997
- Taxi: 600 53 53 53
- Taxi app (iOS/Android): Abu Dhabi Taxi
- Abu Dhabi public transport app: Darb
- AD travel app: Visit Abu Dhabi
- Abu Dhabi tourism portal: visitabudhabi.ae (all what you will need! I’m serious!)
Abu Dhabi is a modern metropolis of the Middle East. Nowadays, there is an astonishing variety of activities for everyone in this desert oasis, from single travelers to families or groups.
There are a plethora of other places to see, food to eat, as well as things to do. Nonetheless, if this is your first time to Abu Dhabi, I think what I mentioned above is enough to help you have the best Abu Dhabi trip.
Also, don’t forget to check out The Yas Guide Blog for useful tips and information about Abu Dhabi.
Thank you for reading.
Got any question for your first time travel to Abu Dhabi? Let me know in the comment below!