Traveling to the UAE? Why not make Abu Dhabi your first stop? Abu Dhabi is the country's capital and accounts for about 80 percent of the territory. The emirate plays a central role in its politics, history, and economy.
Like Dubai, Abu Dhabi has a sizeable expat population, and both have become westernized to a significant degree. Laid-back, family-friendly, less-congested. These are just a few reasons why many expats decide to settle in the emirate.
Abu Dhabi prides itself in its duality: a city that is both modern and traditional. It has wholeheartedly embraced advancements in technology while being open to new cultures. But at the same time, it has never forgotten its Bedouin roots.
Why Abu Dhabi?
It positions itself as a place to do business
Abu Dhabi has positioned itself as one of the world's top economic and political hubs. That ideal is anchored upon Vision 2021, which is comprised of a variety of initiatives that seeks to position the emirate right in the middle of the global economy. These initiatives include investments in infrastructure and the enactment of regulations that seek to attract more businesses.
Annually, venues like the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) attract thought leaders, experts, and individuals from all around the world to participate in a diverse array of events, like the World Future Energy Summit and the World Urban Forum.
It has fun activities for everyone
Apart from establishing itself as one of the leading business hubs in the region, Abu Dhabi is firmly positioned as one of the top tourist destinations in the country. In 2018 alone, a total of 10.27 visitors from different corners of the globe visited the UAE's capital.
Whether you are visiting the emirate alone or with your friends or family, you will not run out of fun activities to try and astounding sites to see. Among the leading tourist destinations that you should see are the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Yas Island, Heritage Village, Emirates Park Zoo, Souk Central Market, Ferrari World, and Yas Mall. On top of these, Abu Dhabi hosts a variety of annual events, including festivals and concerts. Some of the most notable examples are the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and Mother of the Nation Festival.
It offers the beauty of nature
While Abu Dhabi's skyline is a must-see for visitors, its natural wonders are not to be missed out on. Whether you wish to relax and unwind or seek new thrills, the emirate might have what you are looking for.
The Rub’ al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, stretches across an area measuring over 250,000 square miles. This tourist destination continues to attract visitors for its stunning beauty and the variety of activities you can try. These include camel trekking, dune buggy rides, sandboarding, and even Bedouin-style camping.
If you prefer to frolic in coastal waters or play watersports, Abu Dhabi boasts of 250 miles of coastline. Coming from downtown Abu Dhabi, you do not have to venture far to have your dose of sun, sand, and sea. The Saadiyat Beach is just a few minutes away. If you're lucky, you might catch dolphins playing nearby.
If you have more time to spare, you can book a seaplane to visit Sir Bani Yas island, the former private retreat of Abu Dhabi's royal family. The island has and continues to play a pivotal role in the UAE's wildlife conservation effort and serves as a home to various wildlife, the most notable of which is the Arabian oryx. There are also three resorts in the island that offer various activities, ranging from safaris to mangrove planting.
Getting to Abu Dhabi
If you are coming from the United Kingdom, you can take a direct flight to Abu Dhabi, either through Etihad Airways or British Airways. If you are coming from the United States, KLM and Lufthansa offer flights to the UAE's capital.
If you are coming from Dubai, you can either take the bus or ride a taxi. Travel time between the emirates typically takes around two hours. Traveling by bus takes a little longer due to traffic. Also, take note that buses only travel during the daytime.
Getting around the city, there are many transportation options available for tourists and residents.
One of the best ways to commute in Abu Dhabi is through the Public Bus Transportation Service, which is an initiative of the Department of Transportation. The bus system operates 24/7. The fare for persons with disabilities and senior citizens is free.
To pay for your bus fare, you will need to secure a Hafilat card from the central bus station. The card comes in six variants, including the temporary and permanent cards.
There are also taxis that operate within the city. You can hail one from the streets or call for one using your phone or mobile app. Most establishments, like shopping malls, have taxi stands.
Two types of taxis operate in Abu Dhabi: the silver taxis operated by taxi service firms and pink taxis. The latter are driven by female drivers and only take female passengers and kids below the age of 10. There are also ride-hailing services in the city, like Careem and Uber.
If you are planning to visit Delma Island, you can take either of the two ferries operated by the DoT.
The Best Time to Visit
If your schedule is flexible and you can choose which dates to visit Abu Dhabi, consider scheduling your trip either between April and May or between September and October.
During the spring and fall seasons in the emirate, the weather is more pleasant, and the crowds are not as large compared to other times. This also translates to better deals on hotels.
During winter, around December to March, the weather is considered to be the best. However, the size of the crowds reaches its peak as the city is filled with tourists.
Before packing your suitcase, it is worthwhile to learn about the types of clothing that are suitable for people to wear in Abu Dhabi.
Although the United Arab Emirates has become modernized and less conservative than its neighbors, it is still a Muslim country. As such, there are dress codes that visitors and residents need to observe.
Another crucial thing to remember when packing your outfits is the weather. Generally speaking, the temperature in Abu Dhabi spans the different levels of hot.
Although Emiratis still wear local clothing, visitors are not expected to follow suit. As a rule of thumb, both men and women should wear clothes that cover the body from the shoulders to the knees. Tight-fitting clothes should also be avoided. It is also a good idea to carry cool-weather clothing like a jacket during winter or when visiting a shopping mall.
Women should avoid clothes that show cleavage or the tummy area. The shoulders should always be covered. When going to public spaces, consider bringing a shawl along.
Men typically wear pants, although knee-length shorts are acceptable. Avoid wearing tank tops and T-shirts with offensive prints.
Where to Stay
Traveling to Abu Dhabi for business? Consider staying at Premier Inn near Abu Dhabi International Airport. Conveniently located on the land side of the airport, the hotel offers free 24-hour shuttle service to major destinations like the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Yas Island, and the Abu Dhabi City Centre. Alternatively, you can book your stay at the Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Capital Centre, located opposite ADNEC.
Both hotels offer amenities like free parking, a gym and swimming pool, an all-day restaurant and licensed bar, free Wi-Fi, and free shuttle service.