Author: Unmesh Rajput
Due to lack of awareness, many tourists visit only Dubai and miss out on Abu Dhabi which is another amazing city in the UAE. Check Abu Dhabi Trip Planner, where I am sharing my inputs which may be beneficial for a tourist planning to visit the UAE.
Abu Dhabi: The capital of UAE
Abu Dhabi is the capital of UAE (United Arab Emirates) and also one of the 7 Emirates that form the UAE, while Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain are the other six. These Emirates, collectively make the UAE a diverse and a unique place to travel. Like most touristy destinations, Dubai steals the show and thus Abu Dhabi is still a bit off the beaten path. In fact, a big part of Abu Dhabi is an archipelago of natural islands.
Dubai to Abu Dhabi
Since Abu Dhabi is only two hours away from Dubai, most of the tourists make it a day’s visit. But it is recommended that one should spend at least a night in this beautiful city. Most of the tourists miss out on the activities that take place in the night and early morning. It’s best to cover cultural attractions on one day and keep the other for some adventurous activities. Shopping can be done via cards as it’s a ‘tax haven’ for tourists!
Best time to visit Abu Dhabi
Being a desert city, it gets really hot during the daytime and gets cold in the night as sand is unable to absorb and hold heat. Looking at the weather, the peak tourist season in Abu Dhabi is from November to February. This is the time when day temperatures are bearable. Try avoiding the Ramadaan season as many places will come under new rules, shops might be closed and residents will be busy with daily prayers and religious activities.
How to reach Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi has its international airport so you can fly there directly. There are direct flights from India to Abu Dhabi
Dubai to Abu Dhabi by bus
- Public buses depart at regular intervals from Old Dubai city (Bur Dubai, Satwa, Karama) for Abu Dhabi central bus station from the Al Ghubaiba Bus Station (close to Al Ghubaiba metro station) in Bur Dubai.
- For those tourists who are in the new city, which is Marina, JLT or JBR locations, can board the bus from the bus station near the IBN Battuta Metro Station
The rates are very affordable (25 Dhm one way) and you can use the RTA NOL card for this journey, but pls do check timings. Just like Metro, bus seats are first come-first serve basis.
Download the RTA Dubai App (supports Hindi language as well!) from Playstore which will help you plan your travel.
Dubai's Transport authority official website: wojhati.rta.ae
I will try my best to give useful insights about the tips & tricks and the activities that you may want to do. But all of them will at least require a couple of days. I am starting with some of the best tourist attractions!
Best places to visit and things to do in Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the only two mosques in the country to offer entry to Non-Muslims. Take Bus 54 (Number) outside Abu Dhabi central bus station to visit this mosque. This will be a soul-stirring experience. But it must be seen to be believed. The white marble masterpiece is a breathtakingly beautiful part of modern history.
Visit the mosque in the morning or evening to avoid the heat. It’s a photographer’s delight! The Mosque looks gorgeous in the early morning and at sunset. There are also free educational tours for visitors. You’ll need to check their timings online. Ladies will be required to wear a ‘Burkha’ and men must cover shoulders and legs.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque visiting time: 9 AM to 10 PM (Saturday to Thursday). Last entry at 9:30 PM.
The mosque is closed for tourists on Friday mornings. But it is open for tourists from 4:30 PM to 11 PM. Check the website below for more information szgmc.gov.ae
Time required: 1 to 2 hours
Abu Dhabi was essentially a rundown Bedouin dessert country before oil was found in 1960’s. A visit to this place will give you an insight into how beautifully this Emirate changed in the last 60 years. This will also help you know the culture of the United Arab Emirates.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque & Heritage village tour: Click here to book online
Time required: 1 to 2 hours
Qasr Al-Hosn (Old Fort-Palace)
This Old Fort Palace is also known as White Fort and was constructed in 1793. Once a residence of the ruling family now is used as a museum depicting the cultural history of Abu Dhabi. The courtyard and the magnificent tile work over the main northern gate are notable features. This is an interesting place for those who are keen on historical things.
Time required: 1 to 2 hours
Yas Island – Ferrari World
Open 365 days a year, here you can discover some spectacular rides like the new Flying Aces ride, World’s highest roller-coaster loop, Formula Rossa (The fastest roller coaster with a top speed of 250kmph in 4.9 seconds) and other state-of-the-art simulators.
Time required: 4 to 6 hours
Yas Island – Waterworld
Home to nearly 40 rides, slides, and attractions, Waterworld is simply spectacular and a lot of fun. The theme is based on an original story of challenges encountered by a brave girl Dana on a journey to get a lost pearl. This interesting theme is evident throughout the park, even in shops and restaurants.
Time required: 4 to 6 hours
This is a promenade which is like a walkway beside the seafront. It’s almost 5 kilometres long with beaches, luxury hotels and coffee shops all along the coastline. Enjoy the shimmering turquoise waters and white beaches! Plenty of options available for boat rides and water sports as well.
Time required: 2 to 3 hours
Wadi Adventure Park
Here you can enjoy artificial white water rafting, artificial wave beach, and water rides. Zip lines are also available for enthusiasts. And the best part, all this in the middle of a dessert!
Time required: 3 to 5 hours
Bounce Abu Dhabi
If you like bouncing and some slam-dunk, you should definitely give this a try. It’s a fun zone where you can risk it all without getting hurt. Learn your flips and also go for 360 degrees here! Watch this video
Time required: 2 to 3 hours
Few more tourist attractions of Abu Dhabi
- Emirates Palace Hotel (If you can afford this place and also its 24-carat gold flaked coffee!)
- Marina Mall (For Shopping) and Olympic size Ice Rink
- Al Maryah Island / Saadiyat Island / Al Reem Island (All 3 are unique in themselves!)
- Louvre Abu Dhabi (Fantastic Modern Museum)
- Yas Marina Circuit – Formula Rossa (Formula 1 Track)
- Observation Deck at 300
- Gold Souq at Madinat Zayed
- Emirates National Auto Museum
- Saadiyat Public Beach
- Kayaking in Mangrove National Park
- Scuba Diving
- Desert Safari
You can click here to book a bus tour of Abu Dhabi or use this search box to find out more activities in Abu Dhabi
Public transport in Abu Dhabi
Well connected by Public Bus System and Taxis. Obtain a bus route map online, at the airport or bus station and use it to travel extensively. There is no metro system in place at the moment (Still in the development phase)
Interactive map for finding locations
To find your way around, you can always rely on interactive map services and journey planner provided by the official Transport department of Abu Dhabi. DARB.ae can help you track your car and bus routes. Plan well in advance with the help of maps as using a Taxi can be an expensive affair. link: www.darb.ae
Rent a car
You can rent a car and drive yourself. The city offers several free parking areas, but stringent fines apply for non-compliance of traffic regulations. So please be informed of the local driving practices and laws. link: government.ae/en/information-and-services/transportation
Local Food in Abu Dhabi
Apart from the authentic Arabic cuisine, you can find Moroccan, Jordan, Lebanese and Pakistani cuisines as well (Offers also available at certain places).
Supermarkets in Abu Dhabi
You can buy ready to eat food and/or fresh food at supermarkets like Carrefour and Lulu and it’s really worth the price!
Food apps in Abu Dhabi
You can also use food apps like Zomato which enable you to order food at home.
Tipping in Abu Dhabi
Tipping is neither required nor expected (in Arab countries), however, you can do so at your free will. It’s possible that some hotels may add ‘Service Charge’ to your bill to cover the tip.
Abu Dhabi: Rules and Regulations
It is better to go through the information provided below to avoid yourself getting into any trouble.
- PDA (Public display of affection) is not allowed. Even if it’s with your wife. If police are not around, even locals can report it.
- Do carry marriage certificate as you may be asked to produce it in the hotel or outside.
- You are expected to dress modestly, especially in a place of worship. The only place where leniency is shown is the beach where swim shorts and bikinis are allowed.
- Illegal sexual behaviour (or conduct) is highly restricted with sex without marriage (also adultery) being prohibited and punishable even if you are a tourist. Homosexual relationships are illegal and punishable by law.
- Refrain from clicking pictures of strangers especially women.
- Foul language, rude gestures or any behaviour that disrespects the Government/ Rulers/ Religion/ Local culture may get you into real trouble. Avoid offending local sensitivities, and be mindful of their contributions via social media (posts, liking, sharing, and comments). Punishment is arrest, detention, and prosecution by authorities.
- Alcohol must only be consumed on licensed premises or at home providing the alcohol has been purchased with a license. There is zero tolerance for drunk-driving, public drunkenness, drinking in public places, illegal drugs, and drug-related offenses. Failure to comply will result in imprisonment.
- Smoking is banned in public areas. Smokers can use smoking rooms provided at many places.
- The penalties for drug trafficking, smuggling, and possession (of any quantity) are severe. Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty.
Most of the rules that apply to Dubai are applicable in Abu Dhabi as well, so also read my previous post on Dubai
Safety tips for tourists in Abu Dhabi
- It is always safe at any time, but it is always wise to take a few precautions for general safety. There are no significant tourist traps or high crime rate areas.
- It is safe to travel at night and there is no need to be overly concerned about security whilst travelling in public transportation.
- The Government, Police and Law enforcement agencies are very strict. Thus, together they create a very safe city and the crime rate is also low. City police maintain tight control over security and safety issues.
Travel apps/websites in Abu Dhabi
- Official tourist information website: visitabudhabi.ae
- Addresses/ timings / holidays of all attractions in Abu Dhabi: visitabudhabi.ae
- Abu Dhabi Public Bus, Ferry Service information: dot.abudhabi.ae
Get confirmed hotel booking