With awe-inspiring luxurious hotels and resorts, World’s first Ferrari theme park, stunning museums and arts complex, Abu Dhabi is marking itself as United Arab Emirates’ premier destination, quietly slipping out in the shadow of dazzling Dubai. Aside from stunning modern marvels, art and architecture, Abu Dhabi is also a melting pot of international cultures. This 3-day suggested itinerary is for those who are short on time, but still want to get a good taste of what Abu Dhabi has to offer.
Things to know before travelling in Abu Dhabi:
1.Language – The official language of Abu Dhabi is Arabic which is spoken by the majority of population. Although not really necessary, speaking at least some Arabic phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.
2.Currency exchange – The official currency of United Arab Emirates is Dirham (AED or Dhs). Exchanging money in Abu Dhabi is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in the Middle East. Being the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is dotted with foreign exchange providers in all corners of the city. You can also get your currency exchanged at the airport. International debit cards and credit cards are widely accepted.
3.Clothing – There’s no need for a foreigner to feel obligated to dress in traditional Arabian clothing. Modesty is the key in Abu Dhabi. For women, avoid revealing clothes so you won’t get unwanted attention. Jeans and shorts not higher than mid-calf, knee-length skirts partnered with T-shirts or blouse are acceptable. For men, loose cotton shirts, T-shirts and pants are okay. Lastly, while visiting places of worship, you should be fully clothed. Don’t forget to remove your footwear before entering a mosque.
4.Getting there – Abu Dhabi is home to Etihad Airways, national airline of the United Arab Emirates and its second largest (after Emirates). Round trip airfares from the East Coast of the US, Hong Kong or Japan start at a little more than 700 USD; from Berlin, Amsterdam, Lisbon, London and most of Europe, prices start at about 420 USD and up; from Instanbul – less than 290 USD.
Tip: Often flying to Dubai could cut your airfare cost with 30-40%. From Dubai there are shuttle services to Abu Dhabi (Emirates offers free shuttle service to Abu Dhabi for its economy class passengers and private car service to it business and first class passengers) with tickets priced between 15 AED and 25 AED (4-7 USD).
5.Transportation – Getting around Abu Dhabi is relatively easy. Because of cheap petrol prices in United Arab Emirates, taking a taxi is the best and easiest way to get around. Buses are also a good choice as they comfortable and affordable. If you are on a luxury vacation, consider hiring a driver to take you around Abu Dhabi. This option is expensive but it will give you complete control of the trip.
6.Accommodation – Abu Dhabi has different types of accommodation to suit every pocket. International standard hotels and resorts, guesthouses, inns and lodges are located all throughout the city. If you plan to stay for a week or more, consider apartment rentals to enjoy the comfort and convenience of having your own place with cooking facilities.
Hotels to consider in Abu Dhabi:
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers (West Corniche, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Rosewood Abu Dhabi (Al Maryah Island | Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, Abu Dhabi 41184, United Arab Emirates)
Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi (Qaryat Al Beri Complex | Khor Al Maqta, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Emirates Palace (West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi ( Nation Towers, Abu Dhabi 60476, United Arab Emirates)
Detailed Itinerary Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in 3 days
On your first day, a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (it’s not a bad idea the book a tour, especially if you are not familiar with the Muslim culture and etiquette) will be a great start. This is a relevant and educational stop to create basic understanding of Arab history and culture. Here, you will see the world’s biggest marble mosaic, a prayer hall covered with thousands of semi-precious stones and the world’s largest hand-woven carpet. From the Grand Mosque, make your way to Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, the largest Falcon hospital in world. Guided tours can be booked online.
Then, embark on one of the most interesting day tours in the city by heading to the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village. This open air museum is a reconstruction of a traditional oasis village which will showcase how the community all started. Visitors of the heritage village will be able to learn different styles of traditional Arabian life, see various iron-crafts, pottery and traditional medicine.
In the late afternoon, make your way to the Emirates Palace, one of the world’s most extravagant hotels. This is a perfect place for sunset viewing where you can get splendid panoramic views of the hotel, beach and beyond. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon so you can catch the sunset as well as see daytime and nighttime views.
No trip to Abu Dhabi would be complete without experiencing the morning dune bashing. You will be picked up in your hotel for a 5-hour excursion through emirate’s spectacular sand dunes. Tours include sand boarding. After your morning dune drive, go on a gastronomic adventure. The Emirati cuisine is a rich mix of different cultures and ingredients from the Middle East, Europe, India and other parts of the world. In every restaurant, you will notice a fusion of global influences with a mixture of local Emirati ingredients. Marakesh, Li Beirut, Bord Eau and Al Maqam are some of the must try restaurants.
If you are a fan of theme parks, then do not miss to go to Ferrari World where you can ride the world’s fastest roller coaster. In the evening, check out the city’s nightclubs and bars. Please be mindful of the laws concerning alcohol.
Today is your last day in Abu Dhabi. Taking in to consideration that you most likely stayed out rather late on your second night, you can start your second day at around 10 to 11 in the morning. Savor your last morning in the city with a relaxed breakfast in your room or at a nearby restaurant. Spend the rest of your day checking out some attractions in the city that you might have missed. Fit in one last amazing lunch or dinner in the town. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping before you travel to the airport. Head to the airport in time to check in for your international flight home, or you may opt to continue traveling independently, or extend your stay in nearby Dubai. The decision is all yours!
This is the end of our 3-day suggested itinerary. Remember, this is just a guide for planning and is in no way, shape or form the only way to travel the country. There are several alternative routes of travel within the country and it will depend on your intended length of stay. Enjoy Abu Dhabi!
Have you been to Abu Dhabi? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.