Abu Dhabi is geographically located on the north-eastern part of the Persian Gulf in the Arabian Peninsula. The island city is located just 250 metres from the mainland which consists of many other suburbs linked to the emirate, Abu Dhabi. A special feature of the city includes the Abu Dhabi Corniche which offers the chance to walk, cycle or jog along the island’s coastline which has a breathtaking view.
The emirate of Abu Dhabi is bordered by the Kingdoms of Oman to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south and Dubai to the northeast. A major city in Abu Dhabi is Al Ain, which is the capital of the eastern region of the emirate, located near the striking Hajar Mountains, this city shares the border with the Sultanate of Oman. The western region of Abu Dhabi comprises of over 50 villages, with the capital being Zayed City and the main onshore oil fields are located here.
This is a destination with almost year round sunshine, little rainfall and near perfect winter temperatures.
Abu Dhabi has a sub-tropical, arid climate. Sunny blue skies and high temperatures can be expected most of the year. Rainfall is sporadic, falling mainly in winter (November to March) and averaging 12 cms per year in most of the emirate. Rain is more common in the ‘Oasis City’ of Al Ain, the emirate’s second largest city, due to its proximity to the Hajar mountains.
Temperatures range from a low of around 13C (50F) on a winter’s night, to a high of around 42C (118F) on a summer’s day. The cooler months, November to April, are the most pleasant time to visit, when temperatures are around 24C (75F) during the day and 13C (56F) at night
What to Wear
Lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year, but something slightly warmer may be needed for the winter months. Be sure to take some sort of jacket or sweater when visiting hotels or the cinema, as the air conditioning can be fierce.
Although the attitude towards dress is fairly liberal throughout the Emirates, a healthy amount of respect for local customs doesn’t go amiss, especially when shopping or sightseeing. Short or tight clothing may be worn, but it will attract attention – most of it unwelcome.
Malls, health clubs and resort facilities are generally more accepting of what’s fashionable, but when visiting government offices it is best to cover your shoulders and legs. It is especially recommended that you dress more conservatively during Ramadan. In the evenings, restaurants and clubs usually have a mixt of western, Arabic and Asian styles. Again, ladies are advised to take a pashmina or jacket because of cold air conditioning.
Captivating culture, breath-taking luxury, exhilarating adventure and the warmth of Arabian hospitality await you in Abu Dhabi.
Feel awed by one of the world’s top landmarks – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – take on the planet’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari Would Abu Dhabi, zoom to the pace of a speedboat tour of the UAE capital’s coastline, tune to the sound of the wind while sand skiing in our Western Region, and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of a stroll through Al Ain’s cooling oasis.
Choose from a myriad of hotels and apartments, from the iconic Emirates Palace, Yas Viceroy and Hyatt Capital Gate to exciting island and beachfront resorts and desert retreats. Experience ultra-modern breaks in the city centre, family adventures on Yas Island or luxurious havens on Saadiyat Island.
Abu Dhabi is an eventful capital with an action-packed calendar, including a Grand Prix, the World Cup of Sailing, a PGA golf championship, international art, music, sport, gourmet, heritage and cultural festivals, high profile business conferences and vibrant trade fairs.
The combination of international influences and a strong commitment to local heritage has created an intriguing mix of new and old.
Abu Dhabi’s culture is firmly rooted in Arabia’s Islamic traditions. Islam is more than a religion; it is a way of life that governs everyday events from what to wear to what to eat and drink. The UAE’s culture and heritage is inextricably linked to its religion, and it is a shining example of Islam’s true commitment to tolerance and hospitality.
Foreigners are free to practise their own religion and the dress code is liberal. Women are able to drive and walk around unescorted. Among the most highly prized virtues are courtesy and hospitality, and visitors are sure to be charmed by the genuine friendliness of the people. Despite the speed of economic development over the last 30 years, Abu Dhabi continues to promote traditional cultural and sporting events, such as falconry, camel racing and traditional dhow sailing.
UAE nationals usually wear traditional dress in public. For men, this is the kandura – a white full length shirt-like garment, which is worn with a white or red checkered headdress, known as a ghutra. This is secured with a black cord (agal).
Sheikhs and important businessmen may also wear a thin, gold-trimmed robe (bisht) over their kandura at important events.
In public, women wear a long, loose black robe (abaya) that covers their normal clothes – plus a headscarf (sheyla). The abaya is often of very sheer, flowing fabric with intricate embroidery and beadwork along the wrists and hemline.
Sheylas are also becoming more elaborate and a statement of individuality, particularly among the young. Headwear varies with some women wearing a thin black veil covering their face and others, generally older women, wearing a leather veil (burka), which covers the nose, brow, cheekbones and lips.
While normal tourist photography is acceptable, it is polite to ask permission before taking photos of people, particularly women. Photographs of government buildings, military installations and ports and airports should not be taken. Also, cameras may be banned in public areas designated for women and children only.
See & Do
From Abu Dhabi city’s famous Corniche to the Oasis City of Al Ain and the massive dunes of the western region’s Empty Quarter desert in Al Gharbia, culture, history and adventure are encapsulated in the emirate. Experience the architectural prowess of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, enjoy the peace and tranquillity of a stroll through Al Ain’s cooling oasis, learn about the ancient sport of falconry, experience an adrenaline rush on the world’s fastest roller coaster, or marvel at the history of an emirate dotted with ancient forts and historic sites – several of which have been listed as official UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
And whether you’re marvelling at the always-changing views of Abu Dhabi while experiencing the emirate by land, air or sea, or experiencing the genuine feel of authentic Arabia while relaxing under the stars on a desert safari, playing golf on one of our championship-standard courses, or spending a fun day – and money – in one of our luxurious malls, you’ll discover that Abu Dhabi is a genuine leisure haven that will convince you to return again and again.
More carriers than ever are now flying to award-winning Abu Dhabi International Airport – one of the most customer-friendly airports around.
Cheap taxis, a well-planned road system, highly cost-effective public transport and plenty of sidewalks make Abu Dhabi easy to navigate. Visitors may opt to rent a vehicle. People often rely on landmarks to give directions.
Situated at the gateway to the capital city is Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, a beachfront five star hotel in Abu Dhabi with unrivalled views of a design masterpiece – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Located just a 45-minute drive away from Dubai and 15mins from Abu Dhabi International Airport, enjoy the best of both worlds at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, the close proximity to a neighboring metropolis and Abu Dhabi attractions, including the first Ferrari theme park with the fastest roller coaster in the world, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race Circuit, and Yas Waterworld , the region’s largest waterpark.
The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr will be the location of the Women in Nuclear Annual Global Conference 2016.
In Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, the capital and the second largest city in the United Arab Emirates has now emerged as one of the country’s best-value tourist destinations because of its excellent infrastructure and interesting attractions. A city once known for its exhaustive coverage of conventions and exhibitions has gained importance for entertainment and shopping as well. Various areas and islands in Abu Dhabi have been developed to promote tourism. These include the Corniche, Yas and Saadiyat Island, which allow visitors to explore the stunning Arabian Gulf views and wildlife reserves. To provide in-depth information on the various things to do in Abu Dhabi, we have compiled a must visit list of top landmarks, bars and activities.
Abu Dhabi Landmarks
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque personifies religious architecture in Abu Dhabi. The largest mosque in the city, it is a key place of worship during Eid when an astonishing 40,000 worshippers gather in the courtyard for prayers. Among its distinctive architectural features is the world’s largest carpet, imported 24-carat gold plated chandeliers from Germany made of Swarovski crystals, calligraphy styles on the Qiba wall and unique lighting along the pools arcades. The mosque is open to all religions with complimentary ‘walk-in’ guided tours available from Saturday to Thursday.
Operated by the Emirates Heritage Club, Heritage Village casts a glance into the bygone traditional Middle Eastern village settled along an oasis. Traditional way of desert life including coffee pots, and tents made of goat’s hair, and falaj irrigation system can be observed at this open-air museum. The Village also tries to focus on traditional craft and skills by facilitating live workshops of metalwork, pottery, weaving and spinning. Visitors are encouraged to try their hand at these skills and understand the technique behind them.
The Abu Dhabi Corniche waterfront portrays the many facets of its personality, right from a premium housing location to a lengthy coast of sparkling blue beaches. In the past few years, the area has notably come to the limelight as a high profile entertainment and recreation centre. At one end of the Corniche is the breakwater where many tourists rest and relax on their weekend getaway while the other end boasts of a port and souqs. The Corniche, with lots of green space, international restaurants and elegant walkways welcomes many regular joggers, food aficionados, picnickers and cyclists.
The Emirates Palace is an outstanding luxury hotel and a national landmark of Abu Dhabi. Even though the hotel is owned by the Abu Dhabi government, it is currently managed by the Kempinski Group. Dubbed one of the most expensive hotels in the world, a stay at Emirates Palace is worth a visit for an afternoon tea. The hotel features gold plated Swarovski crystal chandeliers, intricate glimmering domes and all the wealth of Abu Dhabi trapped in 302 Grand rooms and 92 magnificent suites.
Abu Dhabi is a T-shaped island neighboured by almost 200 minor islands, a few of which have been developed for tourism and entertainment purpose. One of them is the Yas Island – home to the Yas Marina Circuit – a cutting-edge F1 motor cross racetrack. It also features attractions like Yas Marina and Abu Dhabi golf course, Warner Bros. Movie World, Ferrari World, Yas Marina Hotel and a water park. This tourist destination is complete with all the amenities and activities, such as hotels, marinas, polo clubs, apartments, villas and food and beverage outlets. The Yas Island is just 30 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi.
Similar to the Yas Island, Saadiyat Island located off the coast of Abu Dhabi, is undergoing remarkable transformation as a tourist destination. The island will serve all, from entrepreneurs to tourists, with its luxury line-up of waterfront residences & hotels, international business hub and beachfront entertainment centres & attractions. It will exclusively feature the Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi, a performing arts centre and a maritime museum conceptualized by Pritzker prize winners.
Al Maqtaa Fort & Palace
This 200-year beige coloured fortress, built as a defence against bandits, has all the trappings of traditional Middle Eastern architecture. The fort, once used to keep a close watch on the surrounding area and the waters, is now a well-preserved landmark with a visitor information centre. When visiting do not forget to appreciate the amazing contrast the fort offers to the contemporary Al Maqtaa Bridge. Please do not take photographs as this is a sensitive military zone.
Citizens of Australia, Andorra, Austria, Brunei, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America and the Vatican State can get a free-of-charge entry visa upon arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
GCC citizens do not need a visa to enter the UAE.
Citizens of all other countries will need to apply for a Tourist, Transit or Visit Visa prior to their trip. If you are flying with Etihad Airways, a visit visa may be arranged for you upon request. If you have booked your trip through a travel agency, in most cases they will be able to arrange this for you.
Five, four and three star hotels can apply for visas on behalf of guests who have booked a stay with them. Please note that not all five, four and three star hotels have this system in place. Make sure you check with your preferred hotel if they offer this service.
While the airline, travel agency and hotel can apply for your visa, please make sure you give yourself enough time for it to be approved, and note that they do not take responsibility if the visa is declined.
Otherwise, you will need to apply for a visa through your nearest UAE embassy. An eye scan will be required at the airport.
A letter will be provided to you upon registration that can be used for the UAE Embassy in your respective country.
Frequently asked questions
The UAE is four hours ahead of UTC (Co-ordinated Universal Time – formerly known as GMT) and there is no daylight saving. Hence, when it is 12.00 midday in Abu Dhabi, it is 3am in New York, 8am in London, 10 am in Johannesburg, 1.30pm in New Delhi, and 6pm in Sydney (not allowing for any summer time saving in those countries).
Abu Dhabi’s electricity supply is 220/240 volts at 50 Hz. Square three-pin sockets are standard (the same as the UK). It is advisable to bring a plug adapter with you, but most plugs can be bought locally.
Most Abu Dhabi hotels offer complimentary internet access to their guests, or paid access to non-guests. There is a growing number of establishments outside of hotels – such as coffee shops and restaurants – that also offer wireless Internet access. Visitors who don’t have their own laptop can drop by Internet cafés in malls and along most busy streets.
The local currency is the UAE dirham (AED or Dhs) which is divided into 100 fils and is pegged against the US $ (US$ 1: AED 3.6725).
Dining, tips and gratuities
There are endless choices of dining options in Abu Dhabi, and visitors are always bewildered by the sheer volume and diversity of F&B outlets across the emirate. Cuisines from around the world mingle in Abu Dhabi with restaurants offering a vibrant and varied mix of international flavors and impressive culinary standards.
Hotel outlets serve alcohol and these are complemented by many superb unlicensed outlets across the emirate. Non-Muslims can consume pork in certain restaurants – any dishes using pork ingredients will be prepared separately from non-pork dishes and are clearly marked on the menu.
Tipping is not expected, but is commonly practised in the emirate. Gratuities to staff at hotels and restaurants are at your discretion. Many fine dining and high-end restaurants may add a service charge (usually around 10%) and a tourism levy of 6% to your bill. These charges are often included in the menu prices and the menu will denote when they are. That being said, if you are very happy with the service, it is not expected but quite common to leave a tip on top of the already included (16%) fees & service charges. If these charges are not included, then you may like to add a 10-15% tip to the total bill.
Business hours & Weekend
Weekend in Abu Dhabi is Friday and Saturday, and the first day back to work (for most companies) is Sunday. There are, however, certain offices that remain open on Saturday too.
Security & Emergency Numbers
The emergency phone number for Abu Dhabi Police is 999. Whether you need police assistance, an ambulance or for any other emergency situation, this is the number to call. Calls to this number are free of charge.
When calling the emergency number, please remember to state your name, the nature of the accident, address of the emergency and how serious the situation is.
If you are involved in a traffic accident, it’s important to contact the police immediately. In case of a minor incident, move your car to the side of the road, as there are fines for obstructing traffic. You cannot file an insurance claim without a police report.
For other enquiries, Abu Dhabi Police operates a dedicated Tourism Police section which will advise and guide you on a range of matters. You can contact them on +971 2 699 9999.
Medical treatment, hospitals & pharmacies
As per UAE federal law and Abu Dhabi Government law, all visitors to the UAE must have medical insurance cover. In case of emergency, treatment to stabilise the case is free. Other treatment must be covered by a cash payment or insurance card for covered individuals.
In a medical emergency, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (+971 2 610 2000) and Al Noor Hospital (+971 2 626 5265) both have Accident and Emergency units. If you are injured in a traffic accident, you will automatically be taken to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, as it has the best A&E treatment facilities