Abu Dhabi

Travel Guide Middle East United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi

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Introduction

camino de abu dhabi

camino de abu dhabi

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Abu Dhabi (أبو ظبي) is the capital of the United Arab Emirates but not the largest city, which is Dubai. Still the city has about 1 million inhabitants of which 80% are expats! Compared to the latter, it also moves at a relatively slower pace. The government seat is here and thus it is the political heart of the country. People have been living here since several thousands of years ago. Nowadays it is a lively city in the central northern part of the country, along the coast of the Persian Gulf. Many people visiting the United Arab Emirates overlook this city and favour to spend time in Dubai or other places which cater to package tourists.

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History

Abu Dhabi is the capital and seat of the government of the United Arab Emirates, hence it is the go-to destination for any major political event or ministerial headquarters. The city was not intended to be the capital of the UAE. The capital of the UAE was supposed to be a planned city between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and was to be called 'Al Karama' (which means dignity in Arabic) as stated in the first version of the constitution. However, considering the earlier stage of the union was a volatile time, with multiple issues and various ordeals occurring, Abu Dhabi was made the temporary capital as it was the home of the UAE founding father Sheikh Zayed. Later stage, Abu Dhabi was declared to be the permanent capital of the UAE by the agreement of the rest of the seven UAE founding fathers. The capital and the seat of the three branches of the government was set to be in the Abu Dhabi Capital District, while the rest of the city would continue to be a city catered to the native population and residents. Abu Dhabi is also the headquarters of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, with an enormous walled city outside of Abu Dhabi called Sheikh Zayed Military City hosting the defensive headquarters of the military. As a result, it is a common sight to see Emiratis in military fatigue around the city. Non-Emiratis are strictly forbidden from entering any military building except with prior authorization.

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Neighbourhoods

Most of Abu Dhabi is on a wedged-shaped island connect by two bridges to the mainland, and two other bridges to other islands which also eventually connect to the mainland.

Street addresses in Abu Dhabi are simultaneously very logical and hopelessly confusing. Many roads have traditional names, like "Airport Rd", which may not correspond to the official names, like "Maktoum St", and the city is divided into traditional districts like "Khalidiyya". However, the city has been split up into numbered "zones" and "sectors", with all roads in each sector numbered, First St, Second St, etc., and the vast majority of street signs only refer to these. The system of main streets is straight forward enough once you realize that the odd numbered streets run across the island and the even numbers run along it. So First St is in fact the Corniche, and the odd numbers continue out of town to 31st St which is near the new Khalifa Park. Airport Rd is Second St and the even numbers continue to the east through to 10th St by Abu Dhabi Mall. On the west side of Airport Rd, the numbers go from 22nd Street to 32nd St by the new Bateem Marina. Alas, confusion is caused by the local streets, which are on green signs (main streets are on blue signs) and are also called First, Second, etc. Most locals opt to ignore the system entirely, and the best way to give instructions is thus navigating by landmarks, if taking a taxi, odds are you will get to "behind the Hilton Baynunah" much faster than "Fifth Street, Sector 2". Thankfully, GPS and Google Maps have made life much easier. Using ride-share apps or even telling the name where you want to go to a taxi driver will let them immediately know where exactly you want to be dropped.

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Sights and Activities

  • Corniche - The coastal road has been developed as a beautiful walkway and the Corniche of the 1990s has expanded to a grandiose level today but still remains one of the favourite spots for residents to unwind.
  • Emirates Palace Hotel is a grandiose establishment that is a must-see for visitors, if only for its vanity.
  • Futaisi Island - This island is owned by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and visitors are allowed only by invitation. It is a lovely private island with accommodation facilities for visitors, great food, safari rides amongst the dunes and the orchards as well as with access to a pool merging with the sea. A great experience if one is lucky enough to be invited.
  • Al Ain camel market is a great local place for catching a glimpse of the vanishing Bedouin culture.
  • Abu Dhabi Ice rink is located at the Zayed Sports City and is one of the most popular hangout places for schoolgoers. A very interesting experience indeed to skate on ice in the middle of the desert.
  • Hili Fun city - a kid's and the kid in the adult's wonderland with exciting rides and games.
  • Iranian souk - While Dubai is the mall paradise of the United Arab Emirates and for those looking to spend big, Abu Dhabi's Iranian souk is the paradise for bargain hunter and the one interested in traditional souks.
  • Ferrari World is a newly opened theme park on Yas Island. It is the world's largest indoor theme park and claims the world's fastest roller-coaster ride. Naturally enough the cars on this roller-coaster are Ferraris. General admission tickets are AED 225, which is equivalent to US$61.

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Events and Festivals

Red Bull Air Race in February and the Abu Dhabi/Etihad Formula One race in November.

Abu Dhabi International Jazz Festival

Huge crowds flock to the most-populated city in the UAE for Abu Dhabi’s International Jazz Festival. This beloved May event lures thousands of music lovers, where amazing performances are given by some of the world’s leading jazz artists. The festival began as a two-day event, but now spans more than a week.

Eid

At the end of Ramadan, the cities of the UAE celebrate with parties and feasts. Both visitors and locals can share in the spoils as Dubai and Abu Dhabi throw social events for several days to mark the end of the Islamic fasting period in September.

National Day Festival

Commemorating the formation of the UAE and the independence of the region from Britain, National Day is celebrated across the country in December with performances and events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Accommodations are hard to come by at this time, so book well in advance.

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Weather

Weather in Abu Dhabi generally is warm to hot and dry. The hottest months are between June and September when temperatures can rise up to 45 °C or even more. Humidity can be high as well, although this mainly applies to the coastal areas. Still, the best times to visit are from October to April with warm and dry conditions, although some rainshowers are possible during the wintermonths.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max23.8 °C24.6 °C28.6 °C33.4 °C38.4 °C39.6 °C42 °C41.5 °C40.1 °C35.8 °C30.6 °C25.7 °C
Avg Min11.8 °C13.2 °C15.8 °C19.1 °C22.8 °C24.8 °C27.6 °C28.7 °C25.6 °C21.8 °C17.5 °C14.1 °C
Rain Days0.83.53.91.40000.1000.22.1

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Getting There

By Plane

Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) is the UAE's second busiest airport (after Dubai) and the home base of Abu Dhabi's flag carrier Etihad Airways. Etihad Airways has been expanding rapidly and now flies from many locations from Australia to Europe and the United States. The airport is separated into Terminal 1 (the original terminal), Terminal 3 (a new terminal mostly dedicated to Etihad Airways), and a smaller Terminal 2. Terminal 1 provides a slightly dingy appearance and a spectacularly bizarre blue-lime tiled mushroom canopy that awaits you at the gates. Terminal 2 has no aerobridges, relying on buses to take passengers to and from their planes. Terminal 3 is much newer and has improved shopping and gate access. All flights from terminal 3 are Etihad, but not all Etihad flights leave from Terminal 3. In particular flights to and from the US utilize the older terminal. A fourth major terminal is expected to open in 2019.

To/from the airport:

Al Ghazal taxis travel to the city at a flat rate of 75 dirham and take around 40 minutes.
Metered taxis are now allowed to pick up passengers at the airport. A trip into Abu Dhabi city center will cost 60-70 dirham. Metered taxis can also bring passengers to the airport. The taxi stand is at the end of a long walkway from the main terminal. Passengers must turn left when leaving the arrivals area and travel through a long passageway to the curb area, where a covered platform next to the taxi stand is provided. Expect long lines at the taxi stand during the evening and late night hours.
Public bus route A1 also heads to the city every 30–45 minutes 24 hours a day, and costs 3 dirham. This leaves from outside T3: Go to the lower level and spot the Etihad busses right in front of you. 10 metres on the right is a sign saying "Bus Stop". The Etihad bus and the public bus use the same bus stops, the public bus will just stop as the very first one of the line. Be warned, that airport information may say that there is no public bus, and to take a taxi. The bus used to depart from the upper level but due to traffic it was changed to the lower level. The terminus in the city is Al Ittihad Square bus station, next to the British Embassy.
If you are flying on Etihad or some partner airlines, complimentary shuttle buses are provided at regular intervals to Dubai and Al Ain (you should book these at least 24 hours in advance through this site). These depart from the main car park at the front of the airport, by the car hire offices: follow the Etihad Shuttle signs. In Dubai, you can also check in at the Etihad Travel Centre, that is close to Noor Bank station.
Ethiad first and business class passengers can avail complimetary Mercedes chaffuer service under similar conditions as the bus fron this link to/from anywhere in the UAE.

By Car

The five-laned E11 highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is the country's heaviest-traveled route, and the 130-km journey can be covered in about 1 hour and 20 minutes. While there is a national speed limit of 120km/h, it is allowed to speed up to 140km/h, yet this is often wildly exceeded by some drivers. Stay out of the leftmost lane and drive carefully, especially at night.

If you rent a car in Abu Dhabi, chances are that the car will warn you if go above 120 km/h. Depending on the vehicle, it might just be a flashing light or an accompanying, continuous, shrill beep. If you get annoyed by this, you might not want to exceed 120 km/h.

To travel directly into Abu Dhabi from Dubai on E11, keep to your left at Al Shahama and follow the E10 highway, which passes Yas Island (exit at the E12 highway) and Al Raha Beach on the way to the Sheikh Zayed Bridge into Abu Dhabi. This bridge connects directly to Salam Street (8th Street), a newly widened megahighway along the northern shore of Abu Dhabi Island. As an alternative to the Zayed Bridge, there are ramps off E10 that connect to the Maqta Bridge, which leads to both 2nd Street (Airport Road) and 4th Street (East Road or Muroor Road). During off-peak periods, these routes run fairly quickly into the city.

You can flag down any metered taxi on the street in Dubai or any other place in the UAE and ask to go to Abu Dhabi. The cost between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is about 250 dirham. From Abu Dhabi, taxis cost about 200 dirham to Dubai.

By Bus

You can get into Abu Dhabi from the other Emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, etc., by bus. The Emirates Express between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is operated jointly by the Abu Dhabi and Dubai municipalities. The 130km route takes around two hours. The buses operated by Dubai's RTA are luxury buses that charge Dhs. 25 for the onward journey to Abu Dhabi and Dhs. 25 for the return journey. The Abu Dhabi transport buses charge Dhs. 15 each way. The first bus departs from the Abu Dhabi main bus terminal on the corner of Hazza bin Zayed the First (11th) St and East (4th) Rd at 5:30am and the last leaves at 11:30pm; they leave at 30-minute intervals, or if the bus gets full sooner. From Dubai, the buses leave from 5:30am, and run until 11:30pm, from the Al Ghubaiba station in Bur Dubai (opposite Carrefour Shopping).

If you hold an Emirates flight ticket and arrive to or depart from Dubai airport, the airline offers a complimentary extension of your trip to/from Abu Dhabi. Busses depart from Dubai airport Terminal 3 and arrive to Emirates Abu Dhabi office located in Al Sawari Tower.

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Getting Around

Abu Dhabi hasn't got much in terms of public transport; there will be plenty of traffic jams.

By Car

Abu Dhabi has a reputation for reckless drivers. They can pull out in front of you, change lanes at random, and texting while driving is common. On the other hand, the ban on drunk driving is very strictly enforced; one glass of wine is enough to land you in jail for a month.

If you do decide to take the plunge, beware that the street numbering system is unusual and it can take weeks to get used to it. U-turns are allowed at almost every intersection. When the left lane signal turns green, you simply have to swing a U-turn and come back. Whatever other flaws drivers here may have, they do not run red lights. There are cameras at many intersections, fines are high (about 550 dirham), and residents who are not citizens can be deported for running too many red lights. When the light starts flashing, that taxi in front of you will jam on the brakes, and you should, too. When the light turns green, however, expect someone behind you to honk at you immediately to get you moving.

Despite excellent roads, and a traffic signal system, vehicle accidents remain the largest cause of deaths in the UAE.

Taxis are a good way to get around if you don't have a car. Abu Dhabi's taxis are relatively cheap. The main taxis are silver with yellow signs on the top. Flag fall costs 5 dirham, 5.50 dirham at night (22:00 to 06:00) (2017). You can flag one down from anywhere in Abu Dhabi. Alternatively, you can book a taxi in Abu Dhabi by calling 600535353, for a 4-dirham booking fee. Taxis will charge you 1.82 dirham per kilometer (2.93 dirham per mile), and 50 fils for every minute of waiting.

Taxis are monitored using GPS and are not allowed to give above certain speeds. These change depending on where the taxi is.

Newer-looking black cabs also go around town sometimes. These are airport taxis, which you can get on at Abu Dhabi airport and get off anywhere in the city for 60-100 dirham. You can recognise them with their coloured signs on the top, displaying text in English and Arabic.

You are not expected to tip taxi drivers, but gratuity will be extremely appreciated.

By Public Transport

The main bus station in Abu Dhabi is on Hazaa Bin Zayed Road. You can get buses here going to the different points within the city as well as inter-city buses. The bus stand also serves as a taxi stand, for inter-emirate taxis. The inter-city buses and airport buses are easy to locate at the bus terminal, and well signposted. The route services depart from various stops in the vicinity, and not all enter the bus terminal proper. There is no directional signage or and no maps.

The fare system is simple: 2 dirham for a single ride, 4 dirham for a day pass, 30 dirham for a week pass, or 40 dirham for a one-month Hafilat pass. Tickets can only be loaded on disposable or reusable smart cards. No cash is accepted by the drivers. The dark bluish green buses are air-conditioned but not wheelchair accessible. Passengers can board and alight at the designated stops along the route. These locations can be identified by the temporary Department of Transport bus stop poles. Beware: bus stops that do not have the DoT bus stop sign may not be served as not all bus stops along the route are used.

Hafilat smart cards can be purchased from ticket machines which can be found at the main bus station and in the Abu Dhabi Mall area. Machines are unremarkable and hard to spot, thus ask locals.

Route 5: Al Meena to Marina Mall via Abu Dhabi Mall and Hamden Street. Every 10 min, 06:30–23:30.
Route 7: Abu Dhabi Mall to Marina Mall via Zayed the 1st Street (also known as Electra). Every 10 min, 06:30–23:30.
Route 8: Tourist club to Break Water via Hamdan Street, Zayed the 2nd (via 4th) Street, Airport Road, Al Manhal Street. Every 20 min, 07:15–23:30.
Route 32: Sports City Carrefour to Marina Mall via Airport Road, Bus Station, and Zayed the 1st Street. Every 10 min, 06:00-22:40.
Route 54: Sports City Carrefour to Abu Dhabi Mall via East Read, Bus Station, and Hamden Street. Every 10 min, 06:00-23:00.

The older bus service, operated by the Abu Dhabi Municipality, operates bus routes within city and to the other emirates. The routes within the city are very few. The buses are modern and air-conditioned. The services are as punctual as possible and operate more or less around the clock and charge 2 dirham for travel within the capital. The front few seats are reserved for women, men should move towards the back of the bus.

By Foot

While walking in Abu Dhabi is not a problem for locals, tourists from colder climates will suffer from the heat and sun. The temperatures can exceed 45 °C in the summer.

While staying inside or using a vehicle is a good idea, if you have to walk, try to do it night, when it is cooler. Plus, there won't be a sun to give you sunburn. If you have to go during the day, wear plenty of SPF 50 sunblock, wear a hat and light clothing and try to keep in the shade as much as possible.

By Bike

There is a separated cycleway that runs almost the entire length of the Corniche, as well as around Yas Island, and other parts.

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Eat

Abu Dhabi is home to scrumptious Arabic food. One can find small cafes and Lebanese eateries all over the city, where you can try out delicious kebabs with freshly baked Arabic bread called khaboos. One can enjoy a tasty snack of shawarma (shredded chicken pieces with a melange of sauces in a khaboos roll) and a fresh juice for less than Dhs.10. For vegetarians there's an option of filafill sandwiches (deep fried chick pea cutlets). One can enjoy a variety of international fast foods at malls or at the various outlets all over the city.

Indian food is relatively cheap, and there are a few Chinese chain restaurants with reasonable prices. Hotel restaurants are usually the most expensive. The city is home to all manner of fast food like McDonald's and Hardees, but there is little call for most people to eat at those places.

The fun thing about Abu Dhabi is that most places, from tiny falafel shacks to cushy hotel restaurants to Burger King, delivers anywhere in the city. Delivery is quick and reliable, and usually doesn't cost extra. All food is certified halal.

Vegetarians will find the city's selection of meals very satisfying. Vegetable and bean-heavy native dishes, the array of splendid pure vegetarian Indian cuisine, and the ready availability of fresh salads make eating in Abu Dhabi a stress-free experience. Strict vegans may have a little difficulty communicating their precise demands, but most places offer vegan dishes and are always willing to accommodate a paying customer. The best choice for pure vegans is one of many Indian vegetarian restaurants like Evergreen, Sangeetha in the Tourist Club area.

Visitors should always check the Islamic calendar to determine whether they will be visiting during the month of Ramadan. Since Muslims fast during daylight hours, restaurants are, by law, closed during the day. It is also against the law to eat or drink anything, even water, in public. Tourists (and non-Muslim residents) have been arrested and given fines for violating this law. Large hotels generally have one restaurant open during the day to serve meals to non-Muslims. During the evening, however, it's quite a different story, as the festive atmosphere of iftar (breaking the fast) begins and residents gather for lavish, Thanksgiving-like meals. As long as you don't mind tiding yourself over in private, the evening meals are magnificent.

Some of the cheapest, but not necessarily best, food in the city can be found in many Indian restaurants. Portions are almost always generous, prices low, and quality excellent. Set meals of rice, fish curry, lentil curry (dhal), peppery soup (rasam), a vegetable side dish and perhaps a small fried fish, served on a large steel tray (thali) with little steel bowls for the accompaniments, can go for as low as 5 dirham.

The Olive Branch, Mafraq - Abu Dhabi, ☏ +971 2 659666. Open 24 hours daily serving buffet and an à la carte menu buffet serving times: breakfast 06:00-10:30, lunch 12:30-15:30, dinner 19:00-23:00. Mafraq’s all day restaurant serves up fresh Mediterranean cuisine borrowing influence from various regions, including France, Spain and Turkey. The buffet is prepared with the freshest of ingredients and the interior décor is equally breezy and funky.
Hunter’s B&R, Mafraq - Abu Dhabi, ☏ +971 2 659666. Open daily from 12:00 to 02:30 with food served throughout. A modern bar with green brick walls, solid wood tables and numerous flat screen TVs showing sports. God for after work drinks, or an evening with friends, Hunter’s B&R offers a casual environment with a social buzz.
Rimal, Mafraq - Abu Dhabi, ☏ +971 2 659666. 14:00-01:00. Rimal Asian fusion bar serves up oriental dishes in an authentic atmosphere with a modern edge. Taste the delicious flavours from Korea, China and Japan in this Asian inspired outlet, complete with Sake and signature cocktails.
Oasis Courtyard, Mafraq - Abu Dhabi (in Mafraq Hotel). Daily from 12:00 to 21:00 with food served throughout.. This poolside bar and restaurant serves drinks under the sun and a wide selection of snacks. The swim-up bar in the pool offers refreshment. Shisha is also available.
The Burlington Grill, Mafraq Abu Dhabi, ☏ +971 2 659666. Lunch 12:00-15:00 and dinner 19:00-24:00. The hotel’s grill restaurant serves grilled meat and seafood steaks. Choose from an array of starters and salads including crab cakes, goats cheese tartlets and American-style Louisiana fish gumbo. Has al fresco dining on the terrace and an aperitif bar.
Old fish market. One of the city's few remaining authentic spots, where you can have fresh fish cooked with your choice of sauce and accompaniments. edit
Arabian Palace (behind Baynunah Tower), ☏ +971 2 6343396. The decor is basic and the food, while cheap and filling, is forgettable, but the shisha here is excellent. Puff up a pipe, order their excellent "lemon with mint" drink and gaze at the skyscrapers. 50 dirham.
Anand Vegetarian Restaurant, Hamdan Street (behind Dunia Finance Building and Al Mansouri Plaza), ☏ +971 2 6775599. This is a pure veg Gujarati (North Indian) style restaurant. The demand for Puri Bhaji, a deep fried bread and potato and check pea dish, is so great that you will have to wait your turn but it's worth it. There is a special part for ladies and families. Friday lunch with sweets and as much Puri as you want for only at 12 dirham. Sometimes you will have to wait for 10 min to get a roti. 10 dirham per person, eat all you can.
Nalas Aappakadai Restaurant (Behind the NDC building on Salam St). Speciality for Aappam & excellent South Indian food from the Chettinad cuisine, Chinese & Tandoor.
Cettinad Restaurant (Behind Eldorado cinema/National cinema, in between Hamdan and Electra St, next to Abudhabi Floor Mill), ☏ +971 2 6777699, +971 2 6780002. Authentic Chettinad food available at reasonable price. Also serving North Indian, Chinese, Tandoor and Mughalai food. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods are available. Cettinad Restaurant branch is next to the taxi station flyover traffic light, on the back isde of Brightway advertisement building, +971 24454331, +971 2 4454332.
Al Safadi (Sheik Zayed Road Khalidiya Area). In an older building in one of the older and more walkable parts of Abu Dhabi. Shawarma sandwiches for 5 dirham each. Each main dish comes with a huge plate of greens, pickles, peppers and Lebanese bread. 50 dirham.

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Drink

Only restaurants located in hotels are allowed to serve alcohol. Therefore, all nightlife is associated with hotels. The drinking age is 21, but most places don't care. Unlike some other Middle Eastern nations, the bars in Abu Dhabi will be able to accommodate most drink orders. Technically, you are supposed to purchase a permit to buy alcohol for private storage, although Spinney's and other liquor stores usually take proof that you aren't a local Muslim.

Hemingway's (Hilton Abu Dhabi (Corniche West) - There are three different places inside). The main restaurant has a good Tex-Mex menu, a wide selection of beer on tap and features live music in the evening. Jazz Bar. The second venue, has great food and a good jazz band. The band normally changes every six months or so, but the quality is consistent and they take requests. The bartenders normally put on a show by tossing bottles around while mixing a mean cocktail. The third place is Cinnabar, a nightclub that normally gets going after midnight, although it can be a nice place for a quiet drink early in the evening, even though bartenders there can be rude. The music is mostly house/club, although they have a salsa night.
The Captain's Arms (Le Meridien (Eastern Abu Dhabi)), ☏ +971 2 644 6666. Traditional British pub located in the hotel courtyard. The pub features traditional food and a great selection of beer on tap. The large terrace is great during the cooler months of the year. A typical hang-out for the expat crowd, but try to get there early, as it attracts a large after-work crowd.
Wakataua Terrace (Le Meridien (Eastern Abu Dhabi)). M-F 17:00-01:00; Sa Su 12:00-01:00. A Polynesian-themed cocktail bar located at the far end of the courtyard, right on the water. The cocktails are amazing. The Navy Grog is highly recommended. It has a nice view at night over the water. (updated Aug 2015 | edit)
Rock Bottom (at the Capital Hotel). One of the most popular night club locations in all of Abu Dhabi. It stays open later than most venues, and is cheaper. If you get there early enough, they have decent food you can enjoy in the restaurant area. They have both a live band and an excellent DJ, along with black lights and lasers. There is a hot dog stand later in the night, providing some delicious drunk snacks. Thursday nights can get extremely crowded. (updated Aug 2015 | edit)
Havana Club (in The Emirates Palace Hotel), ☏ +971 2 690 7999. 19:00-02:00. The grand hotel is a must-see in Abu Dhabi and the actual club is nicely decorated, comfortable, has great service, a balcony overlooking the hotel grounds, and provides a fun time with great music and very colorful laser shows.
Sax (in The Royal Meridien Hotel (not to be confused with Le Meridien Hotel). Next door to the restaurant/bar "Oceans"), ☏ +971 2 674 2020. 09:00-03:30. Sax is a beautifully decorated club with sleek black marble floors, two bars, a DJ, and depending on the time, a jazz band. The club is often very loud and very dark with little more than lasers lighting the room. It's not a place to go if you expect to talk at all, at least not on a weekend night. Collared shirts are required for men, and sneakers usually do not pass the bouncers either. It is not uncommon to have to pay an entry fee. There are free drinks for the ladies on Wednesday nights, so expect it to be crowded.
PJ's (in the Royal Meridien Hotel), ☏ +971 800 101 101. Sa-W 12:00-02:00; Th-F 12:00-03:00. A 'traditional' Irish Pub , boasting brunch buffets and a long happy hour. The majority of the guests are usually British, American or Australian. There is something entertaining going on every day of the week, from 'Quiz Night' to 'Ladies Night'. If you want to start drinking early, this is the place to go. No one will bat an eye if you order beer with brunch, and you will probably find yourself staying for more than one round. The music earlier in the day is a mix of oldies and rock with faster-tempo songs for the late night crowd. This is also a great place to come to watch sports, as the quiet daytime atmosphere and televisions throughout ensure a pleasant experience. The outdoor seating near the hotel's pool is also a great asset on cooler days.
Trader Vic's, Beach Rotana 10th Street (in The Beach Rotana Hotel (connected to The Abu Dhabi Mall)), ☏ +971 2 697-9011. 18:00-01:30. A famous cocktail bar/restaurant. The flattering lighting, interesting menu, and soft but fun island music make this a great place for a date or hanging out with people you actually want to talk to. The cocktail menu is pages long, and ordering a complicated fruity concoction is a must. The drinks may be a little on the expensive side at times, but the atmosphere is great. Try ordering one of their two- or four-person drinks, which come in a giant fishbow. They are a lot of fun if you do not mind sharing.
49ers. A steakhouse/bar. It is often quoted as "more of a meat market than a steakhouse" because of its reputation for prostitution. It is uncomfortable and the men in the bar will probably assume you are for sale. The Novotel Hotel and the Sands Hotel are also notorious for their nightclubs that men frequent when looking to purchase a date for the night.
Heroes. A friendly sports grill/bar. It'sts in the Crowne Hotel's basement, and offers reasonable meals, and fair drink prices. The bar is often full of men and women watching sports on television. Later at night they have a DJ and a live band that play softer rock songs. It is a pleasant place to hang out with friends, though the lack of windows or ventilation can make it stuffy and smoke-filled quickly.
Mardi Gras (in The Capital Hotel). 12:00-03:30. A small restaurant/bar. Its ambiance reminds one of a spa. The service is good, the drinks are reasonable, and the food is tasty. The band often leaves much to be desired, and the DJ is worse.
The Yacht Club, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (at the Intercontinental Hotel), ☏ +971 2 666 6888. Su-Tu 17:00-01:00; W-Th 17:00-03:00; F 12:00-02:30. A gorgeous view of the sunset over the marina if you sit outside. Inside has a very modern, minimalistic feel. The cocktails are delicious, but expensive.
'Left Bank (at the Souk at the Shangrila Hotel (between the two bridges)). Sa-Tu 10:30-02:00; W-F 10:30-03:00. A popular and lively spot. It serves a wide range of interesting cocktails as well as nicely prepared and presented meals. They are still new so they are trying a little harder right now, and the service tends to be pretty good. Worth the 15 to 20-minute trip out of the city centre.
Rabbit Hutch. The dedicated British Embassy Rabbit Hutch is a nice pub with music, a pool and a small play area for children. Although you have to know someone on the inside to get into this rather exclusive pub, the British friends and the refreshing pool is definitely worth it. They do all sorts of drinks, but don't ask for a martini, on the rocks, shaken not stirred.
Lebinese Flower (downtown Abu Dhabi), ☏ +971 2 6446667. Great food and nice atmosphere.
Arkadia (marina club), marina club,tourist club area (besides abu dhabi mall), ☏ +971 558814479. 20:00-03:00. Popular nightclub. 50 dirham.
Harvesters Pub, Electra Street (in Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi Downtown). 12:00-03:00. great English pub, free pool, dart boards, multiple screens showing sports, excellent fish and chips as well as other English style meals, friendly staff, English band every night except Sundays, quiz nights every Tuesday and possibly the cheapest beer in town.

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Sleep

Hotels in Abu Dhabi used to be half price compared to Dubai but no longer, with many hotels charging above Dhs. 500 per night. However, all are well-tended and host to first class restaurants, pools and other high-end hotel facilities.

  • Grand Continental Flamingo (near Hamdan St and Khalifa Bin Zayed St), ☏ +971 2 6262200. This is the hotel the taxis cannot find. A 2-story atrium, quiet setting, rooms with bidet, bath and over-bath shower and wide screen TVs all contribute to a pleasant stay. Only the dimness of the lighting and the overdone carpets in the room lets it down. The bath towels are also a bit small. 200 dirham.
  • Novotel Centre Hotel Abu Dhabi (Novotel) (Hamdan Street & Airport Road), ☏ +971 2 6333555. Adequate rooms but inadequate and expensive breakfast in a tower block. Reception is cramped and lacks style. The lifts (elevators) are very slow. You pay for internet access. Only the cheerful staff and, if relevant to you, the central location redeem the place. The Chinese restaurant is said to be good, too.
  • Park Inn Abu Dhabi Yas Island (Golf Plaza, Yas Island), ☏ +971 2 656 22 22. Clean rooms, excellent service and friendly staff. The restaurant is a great option for dinner. 550 dirham.
  • Aloft, Atop the National Exhibition Centre. Trendy hotel with cool dark colors, attractive young hotel desk clerks, relatively small rooms (beds are comfortable though), good restaurant and lobby bar, fantastic outdoor lounge on the roof, and half-empty disco next door. Great if there's a convention, but it's walkable to nothing else. Car or taxi is needed to get just about anywhere. Maybe when the nearby residential/commercial development is ready in a few years, it might be more desirable. 4-star with few amenities (you bring your own bags to the room), but there is still a definite sense of style. US$90-200.
  • Crowne Plaza, Hamdan Street, ☏ +971 2-6166166. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Luxury hotel for a little less money than the Hilton or both of Les Meridiens. Best Asian and Italian restaurants in the city are on the ground level. Service can be a little slow, bed is comfortable. There is a rooftop bar upstairs which seems always empty. Maybe more a 4½-star hotel, not a 5-star. You can sometimes get a "car" instead of taxi to take you places, for not much more than the taxi. US$100-400.
  • Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers (Beach Rotana), Tourist Club Area, ☏ +971 2 6979000. Marble everywhere sums it up. The club rooms are worth it if you are having to pay full rates for the classic rooms in the main older hotel. They are not much bigger but the use of the Club Lounge is valuable if you are going to be in the hotel a lot and the TV arrangements are more modern, the view wide. It now looks over the hectic construction on the new artificial islands across the creek.
  • Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa (Located along a 1.2 kilometer stretch of Abu Dhabi’s protected Eastern Mangroves District), ☏ +971 2 656 1000, ✉ easternmangroves@anantara.com. Check-out: Late check-out until 18:00 (subject to availability). 222 rooms and suites, infinity swimming pool, meeting and event facilities, wedding facilities. Prices from US$136.
  • Emirates Palace, Corniche East, ☏ +971 2 690 9000. Built at an estimated cost of US$3 billion, this was by many accounts the world's most expensive hotel to build, with oodles of gold and marble plating every available surface. The scale of everything is gargantuan — you need directions just to find your way from the gate to the lobby. The hotel feels like it's straight out of Las Vegas, minus the slot machines. To visit the Palace, you will need a reservation for a restaurant or bar of the hotel. Rates start at 970 dirham.
  • Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche East, ☏ +971 2 6811900. One of the older hotels in Abu Dhabi, but kept in good shape and recently renovated. Huge Hiltonia beach/pool/spa complex across the street (free for guests), small gym in hotel itself. "Plus" rooms face the sea but are otherwise identical to normal ones. Located a fair distance from the city center, which is both good (no construction noise) and bad (virtually nothing within walking distance). There are shuttle services to the Marina Mall and the city center offered. US$150.
  • InterContinental Abu Dhabi. One of the long-time prestige hotels. Expensive but occasional Internet deals on the hotel independent booking websites are worth it if you are willing to pay upfront online. The lobby is huge and recently renovated. Rooms seem a little 1980s with their decor (way too many mirrors) but beds are comfortable and the views are nice. Gym and fine (but expensive) restaurants. Abu Dhabi locals frequent the hotel piano lounge and the Brazilian restaurant. It is somewhat remote from the centre of town but the setting and amenities are worth it. US$150-400.
  • Le Meridien Abu Dhabi, Tourist Club Area, ☏ +971 2 6446666. Tell the taxi driver "Lee Meridien" and he will not confuse it with Royal Meridien. Best amenity is the Meridien Village, an outdoor garden filled with restaurants and pubs, and on Thursday nights during the cooler months, a hangout for literally thousands of expats. Slated to be replaced by a bridge to Suwwah Island financial district, so enjoy while you can.
  • Le Royal Meridien, Sheikh Khalifa Street, ☏ +971 2 6742020. Beautiful views of the gulf and Corniche, comfortable beds, lots of restaurants and bars (very pricey). Service is very good, but things like bringing a welcoming fruit plate to your room (formerly common in 5 star hotels) are extras now. Rotating restaurant at top, and a somewhat hidden nightclub on the 4th floor for dealings on the dark side. Sometimes can get real good deals on internet booking sites (as low as US$139/night), but generally expect to pay over US$200/night even during quiet season, and over US$500 when they have defense contractor exhibitions and such. Internet is US$24/day which is ridiculous. However, if you use the wireless network in the lobby, there is no charge. They hold US$135/day against your credit card if you want to put meals or other amenities toward your room charges, so make sure you have a good credit line available if you are staying here more than a few days. US$150-400/night.
  • Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi, Yas Plaza, Yas Island, ☏ +971 2 6562000. Overlooks the golf course and F1 Circuit. It has 397 rooms comprising suites and business class. All day dining restaurant, Italian restaurant, Persian restaurant, lobby bar, and pool bar.
  • The Yas Hotel (Yas Island), ☏ +971 2 6560000. Set half on land and half on water, overlooking the marina, and positioned on the Yas Marina Circuit, which plays host the annual Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this hotel is distinctive. The exterior's gridshell can be seen for miles around and mimics the throw of a local fishing net. Fourteen restaurants and lounges.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés are fairly common in the larger cities, and web censorship is at times odd, but rarely obtrusive. Free wifi is rolled out over the country, starting with Abu Dhabi en Dubai in 2014 and 2015, and many places like hotels, restaurants, bars and coffee places have free wifi as well.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country code is 971. Emergency numbers include 999 (police), 998 (ambulance) and 997 (fire), though the general 112 number can be used as well.

The mobile phone network uses the GSM technology and use is widespread. The format for dialing is: +971-#-### ####, where the first "#" designates the area code. Key area codes include Dubai (4), Sharjah (6) and Abu Dhabi (2). Calls to mobile phones use the operator's area codes: (50/56) for Etisalat and (55) for Du.

If you bring your own cellphone, be sure to switch off roaming to avoid high costs, or otherwise purchase a local SIM card from Du or Etisalat. You need your passport with valid visa to purchase the SIM card.

Post

Emirates Post provides services in the country. It's fairly affordable and reliable and many post offices keep long hours from Saturday to Thursday, usually from around 7:30am to 8:00pm or even a little later. Most are closed on Fridays, though some are open for a few hours. If you want to send packages internationally, you might want to use companies like DHL, TNT, FedEx or UPS, as they are fast, reliable and competitively priced. A good alternative is the country's own Empost UAE.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 24.476431
  • Longitude: 54.370510

Accommodation in Abu Dhabi

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Abu Dhabi searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

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Abu Dhabi Travel Helpers

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