With a population of just under 1.5 million, Abu Dhabi is the headquarters of numerous oil companies and embassies. With only 420,000 citizens in the entire emirate, each has an average net worth of $17 million (Dhs. 64M). The city features large gardens and parks, green boulevards lining all the streets and roads, sophisticated high-rise buildings, international luxury hotel chains and opulent shopping malls.
Long viewed as a staid bureaucratic outpost entirely lacking in neighboring Dubai's pizzazz, things started to change radically in 2004 after long-ruler Sheikh Zayed passed away and his son Sheikh Khalifa took over. In a bid to attract tourism and investment, land sales to foreigners were allowed and restrictions on alcohol were loosened.
Homosexuality is currently illegal throughout the United Arab Emirates with possible resulting penalties of deportation, fines, prison time, or the death sentence.
Several massive projects are also under way. Yas Island hosts Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 track and the Ferrari World theme park, while the upcoming $28 billion cultural zone of Saadiyat Island and its centerpieces the Louvre and Guggenheim museums are scheduled to open in 2015 and 2017 (respectively). It remains to be seen how well the strategy will work but the city is certainly experiencing a construction boom.
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The city has an arid climate, with very hot temperatures in the summer.
Most of Abu Dhabi is on a wedged-shaped Island connect by two bridges to the mainland.
Street addresses in Abu Dhabi are simultaneously very logical and hopelessly confusing. Many roads have traditional names, like "Airport Rd", which may not correspond to the official names, like "Maktoum St", and the city is divided into traditional districts like "Khalidiyya". However, by recent decree, the city has been split up into numbered "zones" and "sectors", with all roads in each sector numbered, First St, Second St, etc., and the vast majority of street signs only refer to these. The system of main streets is straight forward enough once you realize that the odd numbered streets run across the island and the even numbers run along it. So First St is in fact the Corniche, and the odd numbers continue out of town to 31st St which is near the new Khalifa Park. Airport Rd is Second St and the even numbers continue to the east through to 10th St by Abu Dhabi Mall. On the west side of Airport Rd, the numbers go from 22nd Street to 32nd St by the new Bateem Marina. Alas, confusion is caused by the local streets, which are on green signs (main streets are on blue signs) and are also called First, Second etc. Most locals opt to ignore the system entirely, and the best way to give instructions is thus navigating by landmarks, if taking a taxi, odds are you will get to "behind the Hilton Baynunah" much faster than "Fifth Street, Sector 2".
Abu Dhabi International Airport
Abu Dhabi International Airport (IATA: AUH) is the UAE's second busiest airport (after Dubai) and the home base of Abu Dhabi's flag carrier Etihad Airways. Launched in 2003, Etihad Airways has been expanding rapidly and now flies everywhere from the United States to Australia, and its services (particularly on long-haul flights) are remarkably good in all classes. It received five awards in a row.
The airport is separated into Terminal 1 (the original terminal), Terminal 3 (a new terminal mostly dedicated to Etihad Airways), and a smaller Terminal 2.
Terminal 1 provides a slightly dingy appearance and a spectacularly bizarre blue-lime tiled mushroom canopy that awaits you at the gates.
Terminal 2 has no aerobridges, relying on buses to take passengers to and from their planes.
Terminal 3 is much newer and has improved shopping and gate access. All flights from terminal 3 are Etihad, but not all Etihad flights leave from Terminal 3. In particular flights to and from the US utilize the older terminal.
A fourth, midfield terminal, is under construction.
To/from the airport:
- Al Ghazal taxis travel to the city at a flat rate of Dhs 75 and take around 40 minutes.
- Metered taxis are now allowed to pick up passengers at the airport. A trip into Abu Dhabi city center will cost between Dhs 60 and Dhs 70. Metered taxis can also bring passengers to the airport. The taxi stand is at the end of a long walkway from the main terminal. Passengers must turn left when leaving the arrivals area and travel through a long passageway to the curb area, where a covered platform next to the taxi stand is provided. Expect long lines at the taxi stand during the evening and late night hours.
- Public bus route A1 also heads to the city every 30–45 minutes 24 hours a day, and costs just Dhs 3. This leaves from outside T3: Go to the lower level and spot the Etihad busses right in front of you. Just 10 metres on the right is a sign saying "Bus Stop". The Etihad bus and the public bus use the same bus stops, the public bus will just stop as the very first one of the line. Be warned, that airport information may say that there is no public bus, and to take a taxi. The bus used to depart from the upper level but due to traffic it was changed to the lower level. The terminus in the city is Al Ittihad Square bus station, next to the British Embassy.
- If you are flying on Etihad, complimentary shuttle buses are provided at regular intervals to Dubai (you should book these at least 24 hours in advance). These depart from the main car park at the front of the airport, by the car hire offices - follow the Etihad Shuttle signs. In Dubai, you can also check in at the Etihad Travel Centre, that is close to Noor Bank station.
Dubai International Airport
A viable alternative is to fly to Dubai International Airport in the neighbouring emirate of Dubai and continue onward by bus or, if really in a hurry, by taxi.
To/from Dubai airport:
- A metered Dubai airport taxi direct to the Abu Dhabi town center will cost about Dhs 300.
- To get a bus, you will have to go to one of several bus stations in Dubai to catch the Emirates Express to Abu Dhabi. See By bus section below.
The five-laned E11 highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is the country's heaviest-traveled route, and the 130-km journey can be covered in about 1 hour and 20 minutes. While there is a national speed limit of 120km/h, it is allowed to speed up to 140km/h, yet this is often wildly exceeded by some drivers. Stay out of the leftmost lane and drive carefully, especially at night.
If you rent a car in Abu Dhabi, chances are that the car will warn you if go above 120 km/h. Depending on the vehicle, it might just be a flashing light or an accompanying, continuous, shrill beep. If you get annoyed by this, you might not want to exceed 120 km/h.
To travel directly into Abu Dhabi from Dubai on E11, keep to your left at Al Shahama and follow the E10 highway, which passes Yas Island (exit at the E12 highway) and Al Raha Beach on the way to the Sheikh Zayed Bridge into Abu Dhabi. This bridge connects directly to Salam Street (8th Street), a newly widened megahighway along the northern shore of Abu Dhabi Island. As an alternative to the Zayed Bridge, there are ramps off E10 that connect to the Maqta Bridge, which leads to both 2nd Street (Airport Road) and 4th Street (East Road or Muroor Road). During off-peak periods, these routes run fairly quickly into the city.
Parking within the city is monitored by Mawaqif, which also supply the parking meters. Parking meters have displays in English and Arabic. The minimum fees are usually Dhs. 2-4.
Parking areas in Abu Dhabi are clearly marked; yellow and grey for no parking, blue and black for standard fare, and blue and white for premium fare.
In the central area, there are limited parking garages (some are in malls such as Khalidiya which are generally free of charge).
You can get into Abu Dhabi from the other Emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, etc., by bus. The Emirates Express between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is operated jointly by the Abu Dhabi and Dubai municipalities. The 130km route takes around two hours. The buses operated by Dubai's RTA are luxury buses that charge Dhs. 25 for the onward journey to Abu Dhabi and Dhs. 25 for the return journey. The Abu Dhabi transport buses charge Dhs. 15 each way. The first bus departs from the Abu Dhabi main bus terminal on the corner of Hazza bin Zayed the First (11th) St and East (4th) Rd at 5:30AM and the last leaves at 11:30PM; they leave at 30 minute intervals, or if the bus gets full sooner. From Dubai, the buses leave from 5:30AM, and run until 11:30PM, from the Al Ghubaiba station in Bur Dubai (opposite Carrefour Shopping). For bus times, see the timetable published on the Government of Dubai's website.
If you hold an Emirates flight ticket and arrive to / depart from Dubai airport, the airline offers a complimentary extension of your trip to/from Abu Dhabi. Busses depart from Dubai airport Terminal 3 and arrive to Emirates Abu Dhabi office located in Al Sawari Tower. Contact Emirates customer service for booking .
You can flag down any metered taxi on the street in Dubai or any other place in the UAE and ask to go to Abu Dhabi. The cost between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is about Dhs 250. From Abu Dhabi, taxis cost about Dhs 200 to Dubai.
Abu Dhabi hasn't got much in terms of public transport; there will be plenty of traffic jams.
Taxis are a great way to get around if you don't have a car. Abu Dhabi's taxis are also really cheap, too. The main taxis are silver with yellow signs on the top. Flag fall costs Dhs. 3.50, slightly more at night. You can flag one down from anywhere in Abu Dhabi. Alternatively, you can book a taxi in Abu Dhabi by calling 600535353, for a Dhs. 5 booking fee.
Taxis are monitored using GPS and are not allowed to give above certain speeds. These change depending on where the taxi is.
Newer looking black cabs also go around town sometimes. These are airport taxis, which you can get on at Abu Dhabi airport and get off anywhere in the city for Dhs. 75. You can recognise them with their coloured signs on the top, displaying text in English and Arabic.
You are not expected to tip cab drivers, but gratuity will be extremely appreciated.
The main Bus station in Abu Dhabi is on Hazaa Bin Zayed Road. You can get buses here going to the different points within the city as well as inter-city buses. The bus stand also serves as a taxi stand, for inter-emirate taxis. The inter-city buses and airport buses are easy to locate at the bus terminal, and well signposted. The route services depart from various stops in the vicinity, and not all enter the bus terminal proper. There is no directional signage or and no maps.
The fare system is simple: Dhs. 2 for a single ride, Dhs. 4 for a day pass, Dhs. 30 for a week pass, or Dhs. 40 for a one-month Ojra pass. Tickets can only be loaded on disposable or reusable smart cards. No cash is accepted by the drivers. The dark bluish green buses are air-conditioned but not wheelchair accessible. Passengers can board and alight at the designated stops along the route. These locations can be identified by the temporary Department of Transport bus stop poles. Beware: bus stops that do not have the DoT bus stop sign may not be served as not all bus stops along the route are used.
Ojra smart cards can be purchased from ticket machines which can be found at the main bus station and in the Abu Dhabi Mall area. Machines are unremarkable and hard to spot, thus ask locals.
- Route 5: Al Meena to Marina Mall via Abu Dhabi Mall and Hamden Street. Every 10 min, 6:30AM–11:30PM.
- Route 7: Abu Dhabi Mall to Marina Mall via Zayed the 1st Street (also known as Electra). Every 10 min, 6:30AM–11:30PM.
- Route 8: Tourist club to Break Water via Hamdan Street, Zayed the 2nd (via 4th) Street, Airport Road, Al Manhal Street. Every 20 min, 7:15AM–11:30PM.
- Route 32: Sports City Carrefour to Marina Mall via Airport Road, Bus Station, and Zayed the 1st Street. Every 10 min, 6AM-10:40PM.
- Route 54: Sports City Carrefour to Abu Dhabi Mall via East Read, Bus Station, and Hamden Street. Every 10 min, 6AM-11PM.
The older bus service, operated by the Abu Dhabi Municipality, operates bus routes within city and to the other emirates. The routes within the city are very few. The buses are modern and air-conditioned. The services are as punctual as possible and operate more or less around the clock and charge Dhs. 2 for travel within the capital. The front few seats are reserved for women, men should move towards the back of the bus.
Abu Dhabi has a reputation for reckless drivers. They can pull out in front of you, change lanes at random, or even text and drive. Drunk driving is also very strictly enforced; one glass of wine is enough to land you in jail for a month, or worse, an accident.
If you do decide to take the plunge, beware that the street numbering system is unusual and it can take weeks to get used to it. U-turns are allowed at almost every intersection. When the left lane signal turns green, you simply have to swing a U-turn and come back. Whatever other flaws drivers here may have, they do not run red lights. There are cameras at many intersections, fines are high (about Dhs. 550 or $150 US), and residents who are not citizens can be deported for running too many red lights. When the light starts flashing, that taxi in front of you will jam on the brakes, and you should, too. When the light turns green, however, expect someone behind you to honk at you immediately to get you moving.
Unfortunately, despite excellent roads, and a traffic signal system, vehicle accidents remains the largest cause of deaths in the UAE.
While walking in Abu Dhabi is not a problem for locals, tourists from colder climates will suffer from the heat and sun. The temperatures can exceed 40° in the summer.
While staying inside or using a vehicle is a good idea, if you have to walk, try to do it night, when it is cooler. Plus, there won't be a sun to give you a wicked sunburn. If you have to go during the day, wear plenty of SPF 50 sunblock, wear a hat and light clothing and try to keep in the shade as much as possible.
There is a separated cycleway that runs almost the entire length of the Corniche, as well as around Yas Island, and other parts.
Abu Dhabi offers little in the way of historical or cultural sights but it certainly isn’t lacking in attractions and many of them are free.
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (مسجد الشيخ زايد الكبير), Second Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed, ☎ +971 2 4416444. Sat-Thu 9AM-10PM. The 8th largest mosque in the world. On Fridays, it is closed to the public and open only for worshippers. You can get there by public bus (bus 54). Make sure to ask the bus driver to let you know once you get there. The public bus stop is 100 meters before the mosque and after that is no stop for the next 5 km. The Mosque Centre offers several free tours through the mosque every day. Times vary on a daily basis, so check the homepage. As it is a place for worshippers, dress conservatively. In particular, women need to cover their head, and if they have sandals, also their ankles. Appropriate black dress is available at the mosque. You will avoid the need to queue for the clothing if you wear solid shoes, a long dress or long pants, and take a scarf to cover your head/hair. Clothing is also available for men, but will likely be unnecessary. Even when taking photos outside the mosque, women who are inappropriately dressed will be challenged by security. free.
- Qasr al-Hosn (قصر الحصن). The oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi, this small fort was first constructed in 1761 and served as the royal palace from the late 18th century until 1966. The site is currently surrounded by boards, and the building itself is not open to the public.
- Corniche. Abu Dhabi's spectacular waterfront stretches for miles from the Breakwater near Marina Shopping Mall almost up to the Mina Zayed port. It has a walkway for the entire length, and certain stretches have sandy beaches. There are also many activities like go-cart riding, playgrounds and even stages for shows. All this against a backdrop of the impressive towers of downtown Abu Dhabi. Come in the evening and you feel as if the whole of Abu Dhabi have come here for their evening walk.
- Flagpole. At 123m, this is among the world's tallest flagpoles, and you won't miss the massive UAE flag hanging off it. On Marina Island across from Marina Mall.
Abu Dhabi has several large green spaces, many of which include play areas and equipment for children, and the city is studded with lovely fountains, swathes of neon light, and the occasional sculpture.
- Khalifa Park (off Al Salam St (8th) near the Grand Mosque). The best park by far, built at a cost of $50 million. Has its own aquarium, museum, train, play parks and formal gardens.
- Cultural Events The Abu Dhabi Cultural Centre has become a landmark in the Emirates and holds cultural events and workshops throughout the year. It has a well-stocked library, children's programs, art exhibitions, benefits, and other culture-related activities that are the hallmark of any city. It's well worth a look.
There are a vast number of projects coming up in Abu Dhabi.
- Saadiyat Island is being developed into a cultural haven (see Understand).
- Yas Island. is an essential location that should be on every tourist's bucket list. It has a Ferrari race track, Ferrari World (a Ferrari-themed park home to the fastest roller coaster in the world), Yas Waterworld, a shopping mall and a hotel.
- Lulu Islands. a group of artificial islands, already built just offshore at great expense, but currently sitting there doing absolutely nothing after a tourism venture failed to even start construction.
- Reem Island (an island off the coast of the main Abu Dhabi island.). It is expected that, by the time it is completed, it will be a residential, commercial and educational haven. Even though construction is ongoing, the island is still largely empty, especially on the far side.
- Swimming Nearly all hotels and private clubs in Abu Dhabi offer swimming facilities, usually in the form of private beaches. You can pay for a day's use, or for a year's. Another, notably cheaper, option is The Club, an organization geared towards expatriates.
- Lessons Some hotels also offer dance lessons, aerobics classes, and other physical entertainment.
- Desert Safari trips are a tourist but fun experience. They must be booked ahead, but can often be booked as late as the day before, most hotel receptionists can arrange this for you. Trips start late afternoon and end at night. You will be collected from your hotel and driven to the desert in a 4x4 vehicle. Most packages include a bone-rattling drive over the dunes, a short camel ride, a mediocre Arabic buffet and a belly dancer. Note that the belly dancer is normally only included if there are enough of you in your party so enquire at the time of booking. Another option would be renting/buying a 4x4 and joining the many growing 4x4 clubs in the UAE. Most popular off them is the Abu Dhabi 4x4 offroad club AKA AD4x4 that offers a free learning experience for all newcomers. The club consists of all nationalities and is currently active with over 2000 members and schedule trips weekly to suit all levels of driving skills.
- The official sport of the Emirates is shopping, and Abu Dhabi offers plenty of opportunity in this area.
Helicopter Tour Board a luxurious 6-seater Eurocopter EC130 B4 and Discover Abu Dhabi from a birds' eye view with Falcon Aviation Services.Tours operate daily from 9AM to 5PM out of the Marina Mall Terminal. Reservations recommended (tours can be booked on an individual or private basis)
- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dabhi, which is about 30 min away from the capital). Watch a formula one race. It is the second Grand Prix arena after Bahrain and was open in the year 2009.
Abu Dhabi is a compulsive shopper's dream. There are several malls, most of which have the same stores as other malls. Besides establishments aimed at locals, malls also include popular foreign chain stores, as well as designer places. Many visitors will be surprised at the female fashion dichotomy - while local custom calls for women to be covered in public, most stores sell short skirts and halter tops alongside the more sedate floor-length skirts and high-necked shirts.
- Abu Dhabi Mall (in Tourist Club Area, adjacent to the Beach Rotana Hotel.). a three story shopping mall
- Marina Mall (in the Water Breaker area near the magnificent Emirates Palace. It also contains one of two Carrefour hypermarkets in town.). boasts a musical fountain and ceilings that thunder and rain
- Yas Mall. Opened in 2014 next to Ferrari World on Yas Island. This is the biggest mall in Abu Dhabi and the 16th biggest mall in the world.It has the first Lego store in the UAE. It is connected to Ferrari World.
- Al Wahda Mall (in the center of downtown (11th and 4th Streets)). a large, modern mall. Stores are high-end, the food court is extensive, and the LuLu Hypermart in the basement is probably the largest grocery and dry goods store in, well, anywhere.
- Khalidiya Mall. Khalidiya mall is a nice place to visit. The droll fashion stores may grip you for maybe several seconds, but then the obvious lack of things to do kicks in. However, the food court is popular, alongside New York Fries, Chili's and a Dunkin' Donuts + Baskin Robbins.
Downstairs there is an extortionate Krispy Kreme and Starbucks, and a what looks to be an Indian/Arabian cuisine restaurant, which seems good but looks to be unpopular.
- Boutik (on Reem Island). A mall with still many empty spaces to be filled, but it already has a supermarket, cafe, restaurant, and a playground, among others.
There are also many small, independent stores around the city. On the bottom floor of one building, a person can purchase fancy chocolates, computer parts, antiques, and clothing. It is better to purchase things like carpets, art, native jewelry, and antiques at the independent or souk-like places than at the malls, as the price will be lower and the shopkeepers more willing to haggle.
Bargaining is a big part of shopping in the Emirates, but be prudent. Don't bargain at Marks and Spencer or Hang Ten. Save your discounting skills for independent shops dealing in antiques and the like.
Shopping in most places can be frustrating, as the clerks will follow you around the store. This is partly due to their concept of what constitutes good service, and partly because there is a shoplifting problem. Most will not be intrusive, but some employees can be very pushy and overly obsequious. Smile and thank them often, and you're more likely to be left alone after a bit.
In carpet stores - or anywhere that sells tapestries, Indian antiques, and the like don't feel too pressured to buy, and don't be shocked if they start unrolling beautiful rug after beautiful rug at your feet. You are under no obligation to buy, no matter how much time they spend with you. However, the pressure will be very steady, and shyer shoppers may want to travel in packs for comfort's sake.
Grocery stores such as Spinney's, Carrefours, and the Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society are inexpensive and usually stocked with Western goods. Be careful to examine all products before purchasing. Visitors wishing to purchase pork products will likely have to enter a separate room to do so, as no nationals are permitted in these sections of the grocery stores.
Prices in Abu Dhabi tend to be very competitive, and there is no tax.
General discount season - end of the year and midyear. These are the time where you can get some branded items with a very low price, maybe last season's stock.
Although Abu Dhabi hosts to a wide range of palates and ethnicities, there is not much variety when it comes to cuisine. Indian food is relatively cheap, and there are a few Chinese chain restaurants with reasonable prices. Hotel restaurants are usually the most expensive. The city is home to all manner of fast food like McDonald's and Hardees, but there is little call for most people to eat at those places.
The fun thing about Abu Dhabi is that everywhere, literally from tiny falafel shacks to the cushy hotel restaurants to Burger King, delivers to anywhere in the city. Delivery is quick and reliable, and usually doesn't cost extra. All food is certified halal.
Vegetarians will find the city's selection of meals very satisfying. Vegetable and bean-heavy native dishes, the array of splendid pure vegetarian Indian cuisine, and the ready availability of fresh salads make eating in Abu Dhabi a stress-free experience. Strict vegans may have a little difficulty communicating their precise demands, but most places offer vegan dishes and are always willing to accommodate a paying customer. The best choice for pure Vegans would be one of the many Indian veg restaurants like Evergreen, Sangeetha in Tourist Club area.
Visitors should always check the Islamic calendar to determine whether they will be visiting during the month of Ramadan. Since Muslims fast during daylight hours, restaurants are, by law, closed during the day. It is also against the law to eat or drink anything, even water, in public and tourists (and non-Muslim residents) have been arrested and given fines. Large hotels generally have one restaurant open during the day to serve meals to non-Muslims. During the evening, however, it's quite a different story, as the festive atmosphere of iftar (breaking the fast) begins and residents gather for lavish, Thanksgiving-like meals. As long as you don't mind tiding yourself over in private, the evening meals are magnificent.
- The Olive Branch, Mafraq - Abu Dhabi, ☎ +971 2 659666. Open 24 hours daily serving buffet and an A La Carte menu Buffet serving times: Breakfast 06.00 - 10.30, Lunch 12.30-15.30, Dinner 19.00-23.00. Mafraq’s all day restaurant serves up fresh Mediterranean cuisine borrowing influence from various regions, including France, Spain and Turkey. The buffet is prepared with the freshest of ingredients and the interior décor is equally breezy and funky.
- Hunter’s B&R, Mafraq - Abu Dhabi, ☎ +971 2 659666. Open daily from noon to 02.30 with food served throughout. A modern bar with green brick walls, solid wood tables and numerous flat screen TVs showing sports. God for after work drinks, or an evening with friends, Hunter’s B&R offers a casual environment with a social buzz.
- Rimal, Mafraq - Abu Dhabi, ☎ +971 2 659666. 14:00-01:00. Rimal Asian fusion bar serves up oriental dishes in an authentic atmosphere with a modern edge. Taste the delicious flavors from Korea, China and Japan in this Asian inspired outlet, complete with Sake and signature cocktails.
- Oasis Courtyard, Mafraq - Abu Dhabi (in Mafraq Hotel). daily from noon to 21:00 with food served throughout.. This poolside bar and restaurant serves drinks under the sun and a wide selection of snacks. The swim-up bar in the pool offers refreshment. Shisha is also available.
- The Burlington Grill, Mafraq Abu Dhabi, ☎ +971 2 659666. Lunch noon-15:00 and Dinner 19:00-midnight. The hotel’s signature grill restaurant serves up succulent grilled meat and seafood steaks. The red leather interior, coupled with a show kitchen delivers a treat for all the senses. Choose from an array of starters and salads including crab cakes and goats cheese tartlets, dig into American-style Louisiana fish gumbo, or choose an al dente risotto. The main event brings a hefty offering of grilled fish, rack of lamb and meaty steaks complemented by a selection of daily chef’s specials. Has al fresco dining on the terrace and an aperitif bar.
Some of the cheapest (but not necessarily good) food in the city can be found at its many Indian restaurants. Portions are almost always generous, prices low, and quality excellent. Set meals of rice, fish curry, lentil curry (dhal), peppery soup (rasam), a vegetable side dish and perhaps a small fried fish, served on a large steel tray (thali) with little steel bowls for the accompaniments, can go for as low as Dhs.5.
- Arabian Palace (behind Baynunah Tower), ☎ +971 2 6343396. The decor is basic and the food, while cheap and filling, is forgettable, but the shisha here is excellent. Puff up a pipe, order their excellent "lemon with mint" drink and gaze at the skyscrapers. Dh 50.
- Anand Vegetarian Restaurant, Hamdan Street (behind Dunia Finance Building and Al Mansouri Plaza), ☎ +971 2 6775599. This is a pure veg Gujarati (North Indian) style restaurant. The demand for Puri Bhaji (a deep fried bread and Potato and Chick Pea veg dish) is so great that you will have to wait your turn but it's worth it. There is a special part for ladies and families. Friday lunch with sweets and as much Puri as you want for only at Dhs 12.
Sometimes you will have to wait for 10 mins to get a roti. Dhs.10 per person Eat all you can and various.
- Nalas Aappakadai Restaurant (Behind the NDC building on Salam St). Speciality for Aappam & Excellent South Indian food from the Chettinad cuisine, Chinese & Tandoor
- Cettinad Restaurant (Behind Eldorado cinema/National cinema, in between Hamdan and Electra St, next to Abudhabi Floor Mill), ☎ +971 2 6777699, +971 2 6780002. Authentic Chettinad food available at reasonable price. Also serving North Indian,Chinese,Tandoor and Mughalai food. Both vegetarian and non vegetarian foods are available. Cettinad Restaurant branch is next to the taxi station flyover traffic light, on the back isde of Brightway advertisement building, +971 24454331, +971 2 4454332
- Al Safadi (Sheik Zayed Road Khalidiya Area). In an older building in one of the older and more walkable parts of Abu Dhabi, Al Safadi is a Lebanese gem for Shawarma: both lamb and chicken. Shawarma sandwiches for 5 AED each. Each entree comes with a huge plate of greens, pickles, peppers and Lebanese bread. Dh 50.
Only restaurants located in hotels are allowed to serve alcohol. Therefore, all nightlife is associated with hotels. The drinking age is 21, but most places don't care. Unlike some other Middle Eastern nations, the bars in Abu Dhabi will be able to accommodate most drink orders.
Technically, you are supposed to purchase a permit to buy alcohol for private storage, although Spinney's and other liquor stores usually take proof that you aren't a local Muslim (a military ID or driver's license.)
- Hemingway's (Hilton Abu Dhabi (Corniche West) - There are three different places inside). The main restaurant has a good tex-mex menu, a wide selection of beer on tap and features live music in the evening. Jazz Bar - The second venue, has great food and a good jazz band. The band normally changes every six months or so, but the quality is consistent and they take requests. The bartenders normally put on a show by tossing bottles around while mixing a mean cocktail. The third place is Cinnabar, a nightclub that normally gets going after midnight, although it can be a nice place for a quiet drink early in the evening, even though bartenders there can be rude. The music is mostly house/club, although they have a salsa night.
- The Captain's Arms (Le Meridien (Eastern Abu Dhabi)), ☎ +971 2 644 6666. Traditional British pub located in the hotel courtyard. The pub features traditional food and a great selection of beer on tap. The large terrace is great during the cooler months of the year. A typical hang-out for the expat crowd, but try to get there early, as it attracts a large after-work crowd.
- Wakataua Terrace (Le Meridien (Eastern Abu Dhabi)). Mo-Fr 17:00-01:00; Sa-Su 12:00-01:00. a Polynesian-themed cocktail bar located at the far end of the courtyard, right on the water. The cocktails are amazing. The Navy Grog is highly recommended. It has a nice view at night, over the water.
- Rock Bottom (at the Capital Hotel). one of the most popular night club locations in all of Abu Dhabi. It stays open later than most venues, and is cheaper. If you get there early enough, they have decent food you can enjoy in the restaurant area. They have both a live band and an excellent DJ, along with black lights and lasers. There is even a hot dog stand later in the night, providing some delicious drunk snacks. Thur nights can get extremely crowded, be warned.
- Havana Club (in The Emirates Palace Hotel), ☎ +971 2 690 7999. 19:00-02:00. The grand hotel is a must-see in Abu Dhabi and the actual club is nicely decorated, comfortable, has great service, a balcony overlooking the hotel grounds, and provides a fun time with great music and very colorful laser shows.
- Sax (in The Royal Meridien Hotel (not to be confused with Le Meridien Hotel). Next door to the restaurant/bar "Oceans"), ☎ +971 2 674 2020. 9.00-03.30. Sax is a beautifully decorated club with sleek black marble floors, two bars, a DJ, and depending on the time, a jazz band. The club is often very loud and very dark with little more than lasers lighting the room. It's not a place to go if you expect to talk at all, at least not on a weekend night. Collared shirts are required for men, and sneakers usually do not pass the bouncers either. It is not uncommon to have to pay an entry fee. There are free drinks for the ladies on Wednesday nights, so expect it to be crowded.
- PJ's (in the Royal Meridien Hotel), ☎ +971 800 101 101. Sa-We: 12:00-02:00; Th-Fr 12:00-03:00. a 'traditional' Irish Pub , boasting brunch buffets and a long happy hour. The majority of the guests are usually English/British/American/Australian. There is something entertaining going on every day of the week, from 'Quiz Night' to 'Ladies Night'. If you want to start drinking early, this is the place to go. No one will bat an eye if you order beer with brunch, and you will probably find yourself staying for more than one round. The music earlier in the day is a mix of oldies and rock with faster-tempo songs for the late night crowd. This is also a great place to come to watch sports, as the quiet daytime atmosphere and televisions throughout ensure a pleasant experience. The outdoor seating near the hotel's pool is also a great asset on cooler days.
- Trader Vic's, Beach Rotana 10th Street (in The Beach Rotana Hotel (connected to The Abu Dhabi Mall)), ☎ +971 2 697-9011. 18:00-01:30. a famous cocktail bar/restaurant located. The flattering lighting, interesting menu, and soft but fun island music make this a great place for a date or hanging out with people you actually want to talk to. The cocktail menu is pages long, and ordering a complicated fruity concoction is a must. The drinks may be a little on the expensive side at times, but the atmosphere is great. Try ordering one of their two or four person drinks, which come in a giant fishbow. They are a lot of fun if you do not mind sharing.
- 49ers. is a steakhouse/bar. It is often quoted as "More of a meat market than a steakhouse" because of its solid reputation for prostitution. I would not recommend a non-prostitute woman going there. It is uncomfortable and the men in the bar will probably assume you are for sale. The Novotel Hotel and The Sands Hotel are also notorious for their nightclubs that men frequent when looking to purchase a date for the night.
- Heroes. is a friendly sports grill/bar. Located in The Crowne Hotel's basement, it offers reasonable meals, and fair drink prices. The bar is often full of men and women watching various sports games on television. Later at night they have a DJ and a live band that play softer rock songs. It is a pleasant place to hang out with friends, though the lack of windows or ventilation can make it stuffy and smoke-filled quickly.
- Mardi Gras (in The Capital Hotel). 12:00-03:30. a small restaurant/bar. Its ambiance reminds one of a spa. The service is good, the drinks are reasonable, and the food is tasty. The band often leaves much to be desired, and the DJ is worse.
- The Yacht Club, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (at the Intercontinental Hotel), ☎ +971 2 666 6888. Su-Tu: 17:00-01:00; We-Th: 17:00-03:00; Fr 12:00-02:30. offers a gorgeous view of the sunset over the marina if you sit outside. Inside has a very modern, minimalistic feel. The cocktails are delicious, but expensive.
- 'Left Bank (at the Souk at the Shangrila Hotel (between the two bridges)). Sa-Tu: 10.30-02.00:We-Fr: 10.30-03.00. a popular and lively spot. It serves a wide range of interesting cocktails (try the pineapple-ginger collins) as well as nicely prepared and presented meals. They are still new so they are trying a little harder right now, and the service tends to be pretty good. Worth the 15 to 20-minute trip out of the downtown core.
- Rabbit Hutch. The dedicated British Embassy Rabbit Hutch is a nice pub with music, a pool and a small play area for children. Although you have to know someone on the inside to get into this rather exclusive pub, the British friends and the refreshing pool is definitely worth it. They do all sorts of drinks, but don't ask for a martini, on the rocks, shaken not stirred.
- Lebinese Flower (downtown Abu Dhabi), ☎ +971 2 6446667. Great food and nice atmosphere.
- arkadia (marina club), marina club,tourist club area (besides abu dhabi mall), ☎ +971 558814479. 20:00-03:00. one of the hottest club in town,just check it out and you'll surely enjoy your night with their resident band "wired to the floor" and dj onnie. 50 dhs below.
- Harvesters Pub, Electra Street (in Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi Downtown). 12:00-03:00. great English pub, free pool, dart boards, multiple screens showing sports, excellent fish and chips as well as other English style meals, friendly staff, English band every night except Sundays, quiz nights every Tuesday and possibly the cheapest beer in town.
Hotels in Abu Dhabi used to be half price compared to Dubai but no longer, with many hotels charging above Dhs. 500 per night. However, all are well-tended and host to first class restaurants, pools and other high-end hotel facilities.
- Grand Continental Flamingo (near Hamdan St and Khalifa Bin Zayed St), ☎ +971 2 6262200. This is the hotel the taxis cannot find. A 2 story atrium, quiet setting, rooms with bidet, bath and over-bath shower and wide screen TVs all contribute to a pleasant stay. Only the dimness of the lighting and the overdone carpets in the room lets it down. The bath towels are also a bit small. Dhs. 200.
- Novotel Centre Hotel Abu Dhabi (Novotel) (Hamdan Street & Airport Road), ☎ +971 2 6333555. Adequate rooms but inadequate and expensive breakfast in a tower block. Reception is cramped and lacks style. The lifts (elevators) are very slow. You pay for internet access. Only the cheerful staff and, if relevant to you, the central location redeem the place. The Chinese restaurant is said to be good, too.
- Park Inn Abu Dhabi Yas Island (Golf Plaza, Yas Island), ☎ +971 2 656 22 22. Recently opened hotel with clean rooms, excellent service and friendly staff. The restaurant is a great option for dinner. Dhs. 550.
- Aloft, Atop the National Exhibition Centre. Trendy hotel with cool dark colors, attractive young hotel desk clerks, relatively small rooms (beds are comfortable though), good restaurant and lobby bar, fantastic outdoor lounge on the roof, and half-empty disco next door. Great if there's a convention, but it's walkable to nothing else. Car or taxi is needed to get just about anywhere. Maybe when the nearby residential/commercial development is ready in a few years, it might be more desirable. 4 star with few amenities (you bring your own bags to the room), but there is still a definite sense of style. US$90-200.
- Crowne Plaza, Hamdan Street, ☎ +971 2-6166166. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Luxury hotel for a little less money than the Hilton or both of Les Meridiens. Best Asian and Italian restaurants in the city are on the ground level. Service can be a little slow, bed is comfortable. There is a rooftop bar upstairs which seems always empty. Maybe more a 4 1/2 star hotel, not a 5 star. You can sometimes get a "car" instead of taxi to take you places, for not much more than the taxi. US$100-400.
- Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers (Beach Rotana), Tourist Club Area, ☎ +971 2 6979000. Marble everywhere sums it up. The Club rooms are worth it if you are having to pay full rates for the classic rooms in the main older hotel. They are not much bigger but the use of the Club lounge is valuable if you are going to be in the hotel a lot and the TV arrangements are more modern, the view wide. It now looks over the hectic construction on the new artificial islands across the creek.
- Emirates Palace, Corniche East, ☎ +971 2 690 9000. Built at an estimated cost of US$3 billion, this was by many accounts the world's most expensive hotel to build, with oodles of gold and marble plating every available surface. The scale of everything is gargantuan — you need directions just to find your way from the gate to the lobby. The hotel feels like it's straight out of Las Vegas, minus the slot machines. To visit the Palace, you will need a reservation for a restaurant or bar of the hotel. Rates start at AED 970.
- Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche East, ☎ +971 2 6811900. One of the older hotels in Abu Dhabi, but kept in good shape and recently renovated. Huge Hiltonia beach/pool/spa complex across the street (free for guests), small gym in hotel itself. "Plus" rooms face the sea but are otherwise identical to normal ones. Located a fair distance from the city center, which is both good (no construction noise) and bad (virtually nothing within walking distance). There are shuttle services to the Marina Mall and the city center offered. US$150.
- The Yas Hotel (Yas Island), ☎ +971 2 6560000. Set half on land and half on water, overlooking the marina, and positioned on the Yas Marina Circuit, which plays host the annual Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this hotel is distinctive. The exterior's gridshell can be seen for miles around and mimics the throw of a local fishing net. Fourteen total restaurants and lounges.
- InterContinental Abu Dhabi. One of the long-time prestige hotels. Expensive but occasional Internet deals on the hotel independent booking websites are worth it if you are willing to pay upfront online. The lobby is huge and recently renovated. Rooms seem a little 80s with their decor (way too many mirrors) but beds are comfortable and the views are nice. Gym and fine (but expensive) restaurants. Abu Dhabi locals frequent the hotel piano lounge and the Brazilian restaurant. It is somewhat remote from the centre of town but the setting and amenities are worth it. US$150-400.
- Le Meridien Abu Dhabi, Tourist Club Area, ☎ +971 2 6446666. Tell the taxi driver "Lee Meridien" and he will not confuse it with Royal Meridien. Best amenity is the Meridien Village, an outdoor garden filled with restaurants and pubs, and on Thursday nights during the cooler months, a hangout for literally thousands of expats. Slated to be replaced by a bridge to Suwwah Island financial district, so enjoy while you can.
- Le Royal Meridien, Sheikh Khalifa Street, ☎ +971 2 6742020. Beautiful views of the gulf and Corniche, comfortable beds, lots of restaurants and bars (very pricey). Service is very good, but things like bringing a welcoming fruit plate to your room (formerly common in 5 star hotels) are extras now. Rotating restaurant at top, and a somewhat hidden nightclub on the 4th floor for dealings on the dark side. Sometimes can get real good deals on internet booking sites (as low as $139/night), but generally expect to pay over US$200/night even during quiet season, and over US$500 when they have defense contractor exhibitions and such. Internet is US$24/day which is ridiculous. However, if you use the wireless network in the lobby, there is no charge. They hold $135/day against your credit card if you want to put meals or other amenities toward your room charges, so make sure you have a good credit line available if you are staying here more than a few days. $150-400/night.
- Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi, Yas Plaza, Yas Island, ☎ +971 2 6562000. Overlooks the Golf Course and F1 Circuit. It has 397 rooms comprising of suites and business class. All day dining restaurant, Italian restaurant, Persian restaurant, Lobby bar, and pool bar.
- Australia, Level 8, Al Muhairy Centre, Zayed the First (7th) Street, ☎ +971 2 401 7500, fax: +971 2 401 7501, e-mail: email@example.com.
- China, Plot No. 26, Sector No. W-22, ☎ +971 2 443 4276, fax: +971 2 4436835, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Finland, Al Masaood Tower, 12th floor, office 1202 Hamdan Street Abu Dhabi, ☎ +971-2-632 8927, fax: +971-2-632 5063, e-mail: email@example.com. Su-Th 8AM-3:45PM.
- Greece, 31 str, Al Muroor, (PO Box 5483, Abu Dhabi), ☎ +971 2 449 2550, +971 5 0390 1820 (Emergencies), fax: +971 2 449 2455, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Egypt, Diplomatic District, Old Airport Street, ☎ +971 2 444 5566, fax: +971 2 444 9878, e-mail: email@example.com. 9AM - 4PM.
- Republic of Korea (Al Nahyan Camp area, opposite to the Abu Dhabi taxi stand), ☎ +971 2 6439122, fax: +971 2 643 9144, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Dubai (an hour and a half drive down the highway).
- Al Ain (just 90 minutes away). the UAE's largest oasis,
- Liwa Oasis (two hours from the city). stunning desert dunes
- Kish Island. Iranian tourist island