Abu Dhabi can trace its history way back to the Bronze Age and has a long tradition of profitable trading. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s – when oil was found – that it was transformed from its desert landscape into the fabulous city it is today. Designed in a grid-like fashion with wide open spaces and boulevards, this is the second largest city in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, after its neighbour Dubai, and also the seat of government and capital of the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Daily life centres around its main thoroughfares, including the busy Sheikh Zayed Street and the paved waterfront Corniche. Always bustling, the Corniche is where visitors can be seen admiring the stunning pink-washed Emirates Palace at the Ras Al Bateen, built as a hotel for visiting royalty, and locals can be seen jogging or cycling with much enthusiasm. Families with children and leisure walkers regularly enjoy the atmosphere.
A short walk from the waters edge are streets full of shiny new skyscrapers that house the city’s financial and banking institutions, its world famous company offices and its government buildings. At pavement-level, hotel and restaurants cater for every taste, while shopping malls are full of designer fashions. In contrast, the many souqs offer gold, spices or traditional craft items.
Abu Dhabi’s attractions are diverse and vary from landmark architectural triumphs to centuries-old structures and beaches. The Corniche sweeps along the waterfront from one side of the city to other, passing by the lavishly-planted Al Markaziyah Gardens, one of the many parks in the city, and Lulu Island across the water, which is delightful with its palm trees and nature reserve.
Whether you choose to haggle for a bargain at a bustling market – otherwise known as a souk – or spend time in a lavish air conditioned mall just off the Corniche, shopping in Abu Dhabi will be a memorable experience.
Traditional purchases include carpets, rugs, textiles, gold and spices, all of which can be found in dedicated souks where lots of stalls selling the same thing are grouped together. An example is the Gold Souk, not far from the Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum Street. Such items can be found in general souks too, or in specialist shops.
Souks are also good for finding antiques or craft items to take home as souvenirs. In contrast, the shopping malls tend to be full of expensive jewellery and designer fashion.
Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Member states, along with nationals of most EU countries along with the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Brunei are eligible to receive an entry visa upon arrival the Abu Dhabi Airport (free of charge, onward journey tickets may be requested). Nationals of other countries will require an entry visa, which can be pre-arranged by the visitor’s travel agency, hosting hotel, or Etihad Airways (if one happens to be flying in with the airline). If none of those are viable options, a visa can also be applied for via a local UAE embassy.
Always make sure you have an up-to-date passport. If you need any further information, and in order to avoid migration complications, it is recommended to contact the embassy or consulate in your country or the one closest to you.
Abu Dhabi International Airport
Flights arrive into Abu Dhabi International Airport from around the world. The airport, the second largest in the United Arab Emirates, lies over just 30 kilometres from the city centre, and has a full range of facilities for travellers and three main roads which will make it very easy to find: 2nd Street (Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum Street), 8th Street (Salam Street) and 30th Street (Khaleej Al Arabi Street).
An efficient bus service is provided: A1 buses connect the airport and the city, while the 490 buses connect the airport with Al Ain. They both run at 40 minute intervals and the journeys take approximately 45 minutes. Bus stops are indicated with blue and white signs. A shuttle service connecting the airport terminals is also available.
Abu Dhabi Airport taxis are available for journeys to and from the airport, just outside of it. For more information about fares and the limousine service, check out this page: www.abudhabiairport.ae/english/to-and-from-the-airport/services/taxis.aspx.
If you're interested in renting a car, there are several possibilities to do it. Every car rental company is located in Skypark Plaza, very close to terminals 1 and 3. You will find their contacts here: www.abudhabiairport.ae/english/to-and-from-the-airport/information/car-rental.aspx.
Address: Abu Dhabi International Airport, Abu Dhabi
Phone: +971 2 505 5555
Best Time to Visit
Winter is the best period to come to Abu Dhabi in terms of weather: temperatures are not too hot and not too humid, which makes this the peak season. It is advisable to avoid the extremely hot summer months, although hotel rates are at their lowest then and not many tourists will be visiting the city. Abu Dhabi can be doable in spring, between April and May, or fall, from September to October, both periods marked by pleasant weather, with prices starting to decrease in springtime, but on the rise in the fall season, as winter approaches. Also, many sporting and cultural events are held between April and May.
The public bus system is quite well-developed in Abu Dhabi. Blue and white coloured buses run through the city regularly and tickets are available in the form of re-loadable "Halifat" Smartcards, that may be purchased from ticket vending machines located at multiple locations throughout the city (bus stations and stops, DOT Customer Service Centers). Hold your card next to a card reader installed inside the bus for validation upon entry and exit.
A ferry service is provided by DOT: on many ferries you will be asked to show a valid ID and, in general, it is recommended to arrive 30 minutes before the ferries' departure.
Another good way to travel around the city and avoid the congestion is by using the Abu Dhabi Metro, which serves a big proportion of passengers and connects the city with its suburbs.
Getting around Abu Dhabi is straightforward, with most visitors opting to travel in the inexpensive taxis that constantly dart around the city. It’s a simple process of flagging a taxi down, telling the driver your destination and paying the small amount required for the ride. Taxis can be booked through several companies and have regular parking slots outside hotels and shopping malls too.
+971 2 673 4444 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Al Ghazal Transport
+971 2 635 6060 / email@example.com (taxis)
+971 2 634 2200 / firstname.lastname@example.org (cars)
+971 2 550 2160 / email@example.com (buses)
+971 2 552 8400 / firstname.lastname@example.org (limousines)
+971 2 554 2231 (operations) / email@example.com
There are many post offices in Abu Dhabi, which are operated by Emirates Post. The main one is the Central Post Office, located in Zayed City close to the Gold Souk.
Address: Zayed City, Abu Dhabi
Phone: +971 4 600 599 999
Abu Dhabi has many pharmacies that open from 8:30 to 22:30, some even 24 hours. For medical emergencies call 998.
Al Manara is a chain of pharmacies located all around Abu Dhabi. You will find one here:
Al Manara Pharmacy
+971 2 681 7977
To see the other Abu Dhabi locations, check out this link: www.almanarapharmacy.com/abu-dhabi.htm.
Phone: +971 2 681 4644
Country code: 971
Area code: 2
220/240 volts at 50 Hz, with square three-pin sockets.