Abu Dhabi Travel Guide for First Time Visitors | UAE

May 18, 2019

The capital city of UAE (United Arab Emirates), Abu Dhabi had previously taken second place to Dubai, as a popular tourist destination. However, this status is changing!. With numerous architectural wonders, beaches, and desert safari adventurers,  Abu Dhabi is becoming a must-visit destination of UAE. It's extensive infrastructure, great hotels and excellent amenities make this a city worth visiting, time and again!. 

Here's an insiders's guide to Abu Dhabi: Whether you are making your first trip, or are on a return visit, for sure this will offer host of experiences to engage and entertain you!

First Things First: Essential Tips

Abu Dhabi is a much open city when comparing with rest of the middle east. Yet, before you head to Abu Dhabi, keep the following tips outlined in our Abu Dhabi travel guide:

  • Local Laws: Cursing, drunken behavior, rude gestures and public displays of affection are not tolerated.
  • Drug Use: Make sure you’re not carrying any recreational drugs. You can carry prescription ones, as long as you clear it with immigration.
  • Food: Abu Dhabi has a number of excellent restaurants and a few fast food chains as well. You’ll find almost every world cuisine here, so avoid carrying any food items (especially spices ), there's quite a list of spices forbidden here.
  • Dress Code: Abu Dhabi is definitely more conservative than Dubai. So dress modestly; women are required to cover their shoulders and knees and avoid low cut tops. If you’re visiting the Grand Mosque it is necessary to don an abaya and a headscarf.

When to Visit Abu Dhabi

It burns hot in Abu Dhabi, and summer is just brutal😊. Visit Abu Dhabi between September and May, the cooler months. It’s best to avoid the city during the month of Ramadan which occurs between May and July. During this period, all eateries will be closed during the day, and even non-Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink anything during the day while in public.

Getting Around in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi does not have trains, not even a Metro. Buses are available, and they’re the only form of public transport, other than the recently introduced KiwiTaxi. Public bus service is available only till 11 at night. KiwiTaxi offers a great transfer service and the cars used are expensive and elegant. It’s best to hire one of these for the duration of your trip, unless you’re booking tours via a tour operator.

Attractions: Things to do in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi has a number of fabulous attractions, both cultural and contemporary. The city’s architecture is futuristic and beautiful. Refer to our Abu Dhabi travel guide first time travelers when you’re planning your trip to this incredible Emirate.

The Abu Dhabi Corniche: The Corniche is a 9 kilometer-long boardwalk along a beautiful sandy beach. Feast your eyes on splendid architecture – the Emirates Palace, Etihad Towers, Landmark Tower, Corniche Tower and others. A number of community parks like alongside the Corniche. The Corniche is the place to see and to be seen in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: This glorious mosque is made entirely out of Macedonian marble and studded with semi-precious stones. The style is a fusion of Ottoman, Fatimid and Mameluke design elements. Feast your eyes on the intricate carvings, glass-work and mosaic tiling. The mosque can hold 40,000 worshippers and is the UAE’s biggest mosque.

Mangrove Kayaking Tours: Kayak along the lovely mangrove forests that line the shores of Abu Dhabi’s islands. Your tour guide will explain the mangrove ecology and also point out rare birds such as the Pink Flamingo.

Qasr Al Hosn: It is Abu Dhabi’s oldest stone building and the one-time residence of the ruling Al Nahyan family. You can enjoy many cultural and educational programs during the annual Qasr al-Hosn festival from 28 February to 9 March.

Heritage Village: Check out traditional Bedouin artefacts such as pottery, tools, jewelry, weaponry, clothing, and pearl diving equipment and so on. Locally-made jewelry and other souvenirs are available for purchase at the Heritage Village; be sure to pick up a piece of Abu Dhabi’s heritage for the people back home!

Marina Eye: Get a panoramic eyeful of Abu Dhabi from Marina Eye, Abu Dhabi’s 196-foot tall Ferris Wheel. For five full minutes, you’ll get to enjoy amazing views of the city skyline, the deserts and the sea of Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi’s Islands: Boat over to any of the 200 islands nearby, many of which are manmade. Saadiyat Island has a beach golf club. Yas Island houses the famous Ferrari World, Yas Marina and Yas Waterworld.

Ferrari World: Enjoy over 20 thrilling rides and the world’s highest rollercoaster that speeds at 120 km/h, Formula Rossa. Enjoy the exhibition of antique Ferrari cars, plus F1 memorabilia and much more.

Yas Waterworld: More than 15 football pitches large, this futuristic waterpark has 43 rides, slides, and attractions. Be sure to enjoy the world’s first 235 meter long six-person tornado waterslide that’s hydro-magnetic-powered. The world’s largest surf sheet, Bubble’s Barrel has 3 meter high waves. The Bandit Bomber is a 550–meter coaster complete with onboard laser and water effects.

Yas Marina Circuit: If you’re an F1 fan, don’t miss this superb venue that’s home to the annual Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Observation Deck at 300: Enjoy incredible views of Abu Dhabi's skyline from the observation deck, located on level 74 of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. You’ll have to purchase a ticket to enjoy this view, but you can reimburse the cost at the observation deck’s café.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi: During your Abu Dhabi city tour, be sure to visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi. This magnificent initiative between the French Louvre and Abu Dhabi is the first universal museum in the Arab world. The museum displays both ancient and contemporary art and artwork from museums around the world. You can also check out some great artwork from the Arab world here.

Desert Safari: You cannot visit Abu Dhabi and not enjoy a safari at its amazing desert! Abu Dhabi’s desert, the Rub'al-Khali or the Empty Quarter borders the Persian Gulf. The Rub'al-Khali is comprised of pristine red sand dunes, both tall and low. There are lush and verdant oases, with many dry wadis for quad biking.

The Empty Quarter stretches all the way from Saudi Arabia to Yemen – so it’s a lot of desert. Sign up for the kind of desert safari that you find most exciting. Enjoy a morning desert safari with some exciting quad biking, dune bashing, camel riding and sand boarding.

If you’re more into culture studies, sign up for the evening desert safari. You’ll get to relax in a traditional Bedouin tent, while wearing Bedouin robes. Watch belly dancing, tanura dancing and get your hands and feet tattooed with fragrant henna. Partake of a lovely Emirati dinner at the end of your safari. If you like, you can sign up for the overnight desert safari and actually spend a night under the stars after dinner.

Abu Dhabi is pulling visitors by the thousands to its shores ever since its major attractions - the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque came alive. This city is up and coming, with newer attractions and 5-Star hotels to vie the facilities of Dubai. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Abu Dhabi today!

AUTHOR BIO: This guest post is authored by Neha Singh from Dubai Wikia. A postgraduate in Mass Communications, Neha loves everything about life. Traveling is extremely close to her heart and writing came to her naturally. Her ambition is to explore as many places as she can in her life. She strongly believes in Gandhian principle – “simple living high thinking”.

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  1. Very well explained and informative post.

    1. Thank you @moneymanch. Glad that you find the information useful!

  2. This article content is really unique and amazing.This article really helpful and explained very well.So i am really thankful to you for sharing keep it up..

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  3. When we talk about deserts in Dubai, it is the most oldest and considered as an integral part of the Dubai. If you live in a dry and arid climate then your desert landscaping is going to take a little more planning than some other parts of the country. So in essence you are killing two birds with one stone as they say. They explain everything on your way about the desert, its surroundings, and history so that you do not miss out on anything during your trip.
    Evening Desert Safari Dubai