Exhilarating Abu Dhabi holidays
Dubai was once the only emirate on everybody’s lips, but Abu Dhabi has been making waves on the travel circuit for quite some time now. This ancient fishing port has experienced the same glossy transformation as its famous sibling, and serves up five-star hotels, man-made sandy beaches, and designer shopping malls.
For motor enthusiasts, the Yas Marina Circuit is a must-visit – host of the annual Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Then there’s Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, which features 40 record-breaking attractions, including the world’s faster rollercoaster and highest loop ride. Culture buffs, meanwhile, flock to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (the UAE’s largest) and the Louvre art museum.
Heritage Village offers a glimpse into authentic Emirati culture. This traditional oasis neighbourhood has an old-world souk and authentic craft workshops. Elsewhere, you’ll find the Abu Dhabi Mangrove National Park, a peaceful haven of flamingos and heron.
Alongside the high-rise hotels and flashy shopping malls, Abu Dhabi has pockets of calm oases where you can soak up some serious culture, and beauty too. Here are just a few.
Step away from the city and spend a few hours on the water surrounded by this lush coastal forest that’s home to over 60 bird species including greater flamingo and heron. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard or let someone else take the tiller on a guided boat trip.
You’ll see Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque from the bridge linking Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland. It’s an impressive sight, its 80 white marble domes reflecting the sunlight on the skyline, and four minarets piercing the blue sky. It’s open to the public, with free tours daily.
Another architectural masterpiece, the Louvre Abu Dhabi looks like a spaceship floating on the water off Abu Dhabi island. Underneath its filigreed domed roof, 23 white-walled galleries display art and artefacts from prehistoric to present day.
Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven United Arab Emirates (UAE). Its capital, Abu Dhabi city, is the largest in the UAE after Dubai. The city is located on an island off the coast of the Persian Gulf, connected to the mainland by two main bridges.
You fly to Abu Dhabi International Airport. The flight time from London is about seven hours.
Arabic is the official language in the UAE, although English is widely spoken. Many shopfronts and street signs are written in both Arabic and English.
Bear in mind the heat and the culture when planning what to pack for your holiday to Abu Dhabi. Long, loose clothing is best; not only is it considered more respectful but it’s cooler in hot weather too. Beach wear may be acceptable in resorts, but it’s a good idea not to show too much skin when out and about elsewhere. For women, it’s useful to carry a lightweight scarf with you, just in case you go somewhere where it’s appropriate to cover up. If you’re planning to visit a mosque, you must dress appropriately, or you won’t be allowed in. Women need to cover their heads with a scarf and wear full-length trousers or a long skirt, and arms must be covered.
Most people do leave a tip in the UAE, although it is entirely at your discretion. It is usual to tip about 10-15% for most services and round up to the nearly 5 Dirhams in a taxi.
Abu Dhabi is about 150km from Dubai, so you can easily visit both places in one trip.
British passport holders are granted a visitor/tourist visa on arrival in the UAE. You don’t need to apply for this before you travel as your passport will be stamped with the visa as you go through Immigration. The visa is valid for up to 40 days. We do recommend you check visa requirements before you travel, however, as things can change. There is a useful tool to do this at CIBT Visas or you can visit GOV UK.
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