Intriguing and immersive, the cultural capital of Abu Dhabi is a mix of old and new: ancient forts contrast with palatial hotels adorned with gold leaf, intricate domes and glimmering crystals. As one of the richest cities in the world, Abu Dhabi has many claims to fame and it’s here that you’ll find the world’s largest hand-loomed carpet, fastest rollercoaster, highest high tea, tallest sand dune and the furthest leaning man-made tower. Just a few attractions to tick off your bucket list!
Only a seven-hour flight from the UK, this dazzling destination promises year-round sunshine, family-friendly activities, high-end restaurants and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
Want to know the best time to travel, what the top attractions are or the items you need to pack before boarding that plane? We answer all these questions and more in our Abu Dhabi travel guide.
What you need to know before you go
- Flight time from the UK: 7 hours
- Currency: The local currency in Abu Dhabi is UAE Dirham, which is either displayed as AED or Dhs. Credit and debit cards are also accepted in most shops.
- Language: Arabic, but in resorts and popular tourist destinations, most people can speak English.
- Time difference: 3 to 4 hours, depending on UK daylight saving (GMT +3/GMT +4)
- Visas: 30-day visa, issued on arrival
When to plan a holiday to Abu Dhabi
The best time to plan your visit is between the months of November and May – we can’t think of a better way to escape the winter blues than a sun-filled holiday!
However, Abu Dhabi is famous for its year-round sunshine, so you’re guaranteed some vitamin D no matter when you choose to travel. Take a look at our dedicated guide on the best time to visit Abu Dhabi to learn more.
What to pack for a holiday to Abu Dhabi
Temperatures can be scorching in Abu Dhabi, so pack lightweight but modest clothes to stay cool, whatever your plans. But it also goes without saying that you’ll want to pack a few swimsuits for long days spent by the pool.
It’s important to remember that Abu Dhabi is a Muslim country and it’s best to respect the culture by dressing appropriately when outside your hotel. Take a look at our guide to local laws and customs, for more information on what to wear during your stay.
Some other non-clothing essentials to pack in your case include:
- Suncream – It's safe to say you'll see some sunshine during your stay, so stay topped up and keep your skin protected.
- Bug repellent – This is essential for the evenings to ensure any bugs that come out after dark don't bother you.
- Sunglasses – Again, that sun is unrelenting (but wonderful) so protect your eyes with a pair of shades. Of course, if you need a new pair you'll find a wide range of designer stores in Abu Dhabi’s malls – the perfect excuse for a little retail therapy!
Getting around in Abu Dhabi
As difficult as it may be to drag yourself away from the pool, Abu Dhabi boasts a wealth of must-visit attractions. From experiencing the thrill of the cars at Ferrari World to appreciating some of the finest art in the world at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, make sure you see all this incredible city has to offer. Here are the best ways to get around.
One of the easiest and most comfortable ways to get around is via taxi. It’s so popular that most shopping malls have their own taxi stands or you can speak to the front desk staff at your hotel who will call a company for you, should you want to take one straight from your resort. However, booking a taxi yourself is quick and easy – just call the TransAD hotline on 600 535353 or even hail one on the street.
The most common type of taxi in Abu Dhabi is a metre-run silver car, although you can also negotiate a price in advance most of the time. It's important to bear in mind that taxis are more expensive from 10pm until 6am so you'll need to factor this into your holiday budget if you're out after dark.
Like many things in Abu Dhabi, the buses are modern masterpieces. These vehicles have excellent air conditioning (perfect when the average temperature during the city's hottest month is 35.5°C) and are handicap accessible, offering comfortable transportation at a low price.
You can buy a one-day bus pass for around AED 3 or a one-trip ticket depending on your needs. Both options are affordable and can be purchased via one of the Red Crescent kiosks dotted around the city.
If you’re planning on heading out regularly or even travelling further afield – day trip to Dubai anyone? – consider hiring a car. The roads in and around Abu Dhabi are very well maintained and there are plenty of parking options throughout the city. You do, however, need to have an international driver’s licence to hire a car in the city, which you can get from the AA or the Post Office before you go.
What are the top tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi?
There are so many incredible attractions and cultural highlights to see in this vibrant city but these are our top picks:
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – This record-breaking religious landmark is a popular tourist attraction with its impressive architectural design. As well as having the largest crystal chandelier in the world hanging inside, it's also home to the world's largest hand-woven carpet.
- Warner Bros World – Drop into Gotham City to hang out with Batman, stop by Bedrock and pay the Flintstones a visit or take a photograph with the one and only Bugs Bunny at this immersive attraction in Abu Dhabi.
- Eastern Mangroves Promenade – While this leisure hotspot comes complete with luxury hotel, restaurants and shopping outlets, it’s also home to protected mangroves. Our favourite way to explore is to jump into a kayak – guided tours are available – keeping your eyes peeled for flamingos between November and April.
- Ferrari World – If you have a need for speed then Ferrari World is a must-visit attraction. Experience the thrill of these impressive racing cars with the world's fastest roller coaster that simulates their speed, sign up for the opportunity to get behind the wheel of an F1 racing car or simply get up close and personal with some of Ferrari's very best vehicles in the exhibitions around the site.
- Emirates Palace – You can stay in this luxurious resort as a guest but it's also worth visiting as a tourist if you've chosen another hotel for your Abu Dhabi holiday. Emirates Palace is dripping in gold and the precious metal is also available in everything from its spa treatments to its coffee, with the popular 24-carat cappuccino on the hotel's menu. This decadent drink has had the Midas touch and features real gold flakes sprinkled atop the foam – tasty!
If you’ve enjoyed this Abu Dhabi travel guide, you might also like a few other guides we’ve put together to help you make the most out of your time in this Middle Eastern holiday destination.
- Things to do in Abu Dhabi
- Food and drink in Abu Dhabi
- Best spas and relaxing activities in Abu Dhabi
- When is the best time to visit Abu Dhabi?
- Abu Dhabi family activities and travel guide
Start planning your dream holiday to Abu Dhabi with our selection of luxury hotels and resorts hand-picked by our travel experts.