Abu Dhabi Travel Guide: Everything You Need To Know

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Discover an exciting mix of modern luxury, rich cultural heritage, and natural wonders in Abu Dhabi. As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi boasts futuristic architecture and a cosmopolitan vibe, plus a beautiful coastline and vast desert landscapes.

Marvel at the striking silhouette of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi's architectural crown jewel. Experience the thrills of Formula 1 racing at the Yas Marina Circuit. Shop for luxury goods at opulent malls or traditional souks. Relax on picture-perfect beaches with turquoise waters. Tour impressive museums and art galleries showcasing UAE history and culture.

With this comprehensive Abu Dhabi travel guide, you'll find insider tips and highlights of the top things to see and do. Get ready for an amazing trip exploring all the highlights and local secrets this vibrant destination has to offer.

Best Time To Visit Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi enjoys a sunny climate year-round, with high temperatures and humidity. The peak season runs November through March, when daytime highs reach the 80s Fahrenheit. This is the most popular time to visit, with many cultural events and a lively atmosphere. However, prices and crowds are highest during these months.

The shoulder seasons offer a great alternative to visit Abu Dhabi. April and May see daytime highs in the 90s, with warm evenings. The heat deters some tourists, meaning sites are less crowded and hotel rates drop. September and October are similarly hot but more humid. Tourist numbers start to pick up again in October.

June through August is low season due to intense heat. Midday temperatures exceed 100°F with high humidity. Some attractions close or operate on reduced hours. However, hotel rates hit annual lows, making it a good time for budget travelers who don't mind the sweltering weather.

To summarize, November through March is peak season with pleasant weather but more crowds. April, May, September, and October are shoulder season months with fewer tourists and lower prices. June through August brings extreme heat but the best deals.

Top Attractions in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world and a top attraction in Abu Dhabi. With over 40,000 worshippers welcomed at one time, the mosque features 82 domes, over 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world's largest hand knotted carpet. The striking white and gold colors of the mosque make this a must-see landmark.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a world-class universal museum showcasing artworks and artifacts from ancient times to the present day. The museum building itself is a work of art designed by architect Jean Nouvel and inspired by traditional Arabic architecture. Wander through 12 galleries exhibiting masterpieces from the Louvre in Paris alongside regional and international collections.

Emirates Palace

The Emirates Palace is one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Even if you're not staying at the hotel, it's worth visiting to see the opulent interiors, including 1002 Swarovski crystal chandeliers and gold and marble detailing throughout. Stop for afternoon tea on the terrace overlooking the private marina or get a behind-the-scenes tour to see the most lavish suites.

Ferrari World

Ferrari World is a must-visit theme park for adrenaline junkies and Ferrari fans. Test your driving skills on the world's fastest rollercoaster, reach 240kmh on the Formula Rossa, or ride passenger in a Ferrari for a thrilling experience. The park also has attractions for families and younger visitors like simulator rides. Ferrari World brings the thrills and excitement of the legendary car brand to life.

Hidden Gems in Abu Dhabi

Al Ain Oasis

The lush Al Ain Oasis is one of Abu Dhabi's must-see hidden gems. With shaded walkways winding through thousands of date palm trees, some of which are over 100 years old, the oasis transports you to another time and place. Meander along the footpaths and take in the sights and sounds of this green oasis in the middle of the desert. Make sure to visit the Al Ain Palace Museum within the oasis grounds to learn more about its history and operation.

Observation Deck at 300

For amazing panoramic views over Abu Dhabi, head to the observation deck on the 74th floor of the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel. At 300 meters above ground, you can take in sweeping vistas of the city skyline, the Corniche, and nearby islands. Try to visit at sunset for a breathtaking view. The deck also has a cafe, lounge seating, and telescopes for zooming in on sights below.

Al Forsan International Sports Resort

Just outside Abu Dhabi city, Al Forsan International Sports Resort offers exciting activities for adventure seekers. Try your hand at wakeboarding and waterskiing on the lake, go karting on the track, horseback riding on scenic trails, shooting at the indoor range, and more. With so many thrilling pursuits to experience, Al Forsan is a hidden gem for an adrenaline-filled day.

Dubai UAE eSIM from AiraloBucket List Experiences in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences for travelers to enjoy. Here are some of the top bucket list items to add to your Abu Dhabi itinerary:

  • Dune Bashing - Buckle up and hold on tight for an adrenaline-pumping dune bashing excursion. Special SUVs take you out to the expansive desert dunes outside the city where experienced drivers take you up and down the sandy slopes, bouncing along the dunes. It's a thrilling rollercoaster ride through the desert.

  • Falconry - Falconry is a treasured traditional sport in the UAE. You can get up close and personal with these majestic birds of prey at falconry centers in Abu Dhabi. Learn about the ancient art of falconry, see falconry demonstrations, and even have a falcon perch on your arm.

  • Formula 1 Driving - For racing fans, getting behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car at the Yas Marina Circuit is an unforgettable experience. You'll drive 3 exhilarating laps of the track with a professional instructor at speeds up to 200 mph. Feel the thrill of driving a high-performance racing machine at the home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

  • Desert Safari - A desert safari is an Abu Dhabi essential. Head out to the desert in the late afternoon for dune bashing, camel rides, sandboarding, henna tattoos, and to watch the sunset over the dunes. End your evening at a traditional Bedouin-style camp with a barbecue dinner and Emirati entertainment like Tanoura dancing.

Abu Dhabi Travel Tips

Abu Dhabi is a modern, safe, and easy to navigate destination. However, there are still some important travel tips to keep in mind for your visit.


The currency in Abu Dhabi is the UAE Dirham (AED). You can easily use credit cards at most shops and restaurants. However, it's still a good idea to have some cash on hand for tips, taxis, and small independent vendors. ATMs are widely available.


The official language is Arabic but English is very widely spoken. Most signs, menus, and information will be in both Arabic and English. As an English speaker, you will have no issues communicating. Learning a few basic Arabic phrases can be a nice gesture.

Getting Around

Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive. Uber and Careem are also popular options. The public bus system can get you to most major sites. Abu Dhabi offers modern metro and tram services as well. Renting a car is also feasible if you want flexibility. Just be aware of rush hour traffic.


Abu Dhabi is very safe, especially in tourist areas. Violent crime is rare. However, you should still take normal safety precautions as you would in any major city: watch your belongings, don't walk alone at night, etc. As a very conservative place, be respectful of local customs regarding modest dress and public displays of affection.

Where To Stay in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit any budget or style of travel.


From luxurious 5-star resorts to affordable business hotels, you'll find hotels to accommodate your needs in Abu Dhabi. Some top hotel picks include:

  • The St. Regis Abu Dhabi - This opulent hotel on Corniche Road offers oceanfront rooms with balconies, multiple pools, and fine dining restaurants.

  • Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas - Located on Saadiyat Island, this elegant hotel features private beach access, infinity pools, and spacious guest rooms.

  • Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri - Set along the Khor Al Maqta canal, this hotel offers CHI spa, outdoor pools, and rooms with marina views.

  • Rosewood Abu Dhabi - A modern luxury hotel on Al Maryah Island with an infinity pool, spa, and domed lobby.

  • Jumeirah at Etihad Towers - This high-end hotel in a striking five-tower complex offers apartment-style rooms, multiple pools, and dining at Chef Alain Ducasse's restaurant.


For a resort-style getaway, check out places like:

  • Saadiyat Beach Club - A chic beachfront resort on Saadiyat Island with a spa, pools, water sports, and luxury villas.

  • Emirates Palace - This expansive luxury resort has its own marina and private beach, opulent rooms, and top dining options.

  • Bab Al Qasr Hotel & Residences - Located directly on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, this hotel offers elegant rooms, private beach access, multiple pools, and 8 restaurants.

Vacation Rentals

To experience living like a local, Abu Dhabi has many furnished villas and apartments for rent. Options on Airbnb include modern highrise apartments on Al Reem Island or Arabic-style villas with courtyards. Vacation rentals are great for families or longer stays.

What to Eat in Abu Dhabi

The cuisine of Abu Dhabi highlights fresh ingredients and local flavors. Here are some iconic dishes and where to try them during your visit:

Local Dishes

  • Machboos - This national dish features rice, meat, or fish mixed with spices. Try it at Al Fanar Restaurant.

  • Harees - A porridge-like dish made from boiled, cracked wheat and meat. Have an authentic version at Mezlai Emirati Restaurant.

  • Madrouba - A savory rice dish with chicken, carrots, raisins, and nuts. Sample it at Milas Emirati Restaurant.


  • Li Beirut - High-end Lebanese food in a posh setting. Order the mixed grill platter.

  • Zahrat Lebnan - Casual and affordable Lebanese joint with fantastic shawarma wraps.

  • Pai Thai - Elegant decor and flavorful Thai cuisine. Try the green curry and mango sticky rice.

Street Food

  • Shawarma - Chicken or lamb carved off a rotating spit, stuffed into a pocket bread.  

  • Falafel - Fried balls or patties of spiced, mashed chickpeas.  

  • Fruit Juices - Vibrant, fresh juices blended on the spot.  

Day Trips From Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi makes an ideal base to explore the surrounding emirates. Here are some of the top day trips to consider from Abu Dhabi:

Al Ain

Al Ain, also known as the Garden City, is located about an hour and a half drive from Abu Dhabi. This lush green oasis town is home to numerous museums, forts, archaeological sites, and the country's highest mountain peak Jebel Hafeet. Top attractions include Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain Zoo, Al Ain National Museum, Al Jahili Fort, and the hot springs at Green Mubazzarah. Al Ain makes for a great day trip to experience a laidback side of the UAE away from the glitz of Abu Dhabi.


The flashy emirate of Dubai is only a 90 minute drive north from Abu Dhabi. Spend a day basking on Dubai's beaches, marveling at the world's tallest building Burj Khalifa, shopping at the Dubai Mall, or taking an abra across Dubai Creek. Don't miss visiting the old Bastakiya neighborhood with its wind towers and alleyways. If you have more time, check out the Palm Jumeirah or take a desert safari. With so many sights, Dubai deserves more than just a day trip from Abu Dhabi.


Sharjah is the cultural hub of the UAE and is located only a 40 minute drive from Abu Dhabi. Top attractions include the gold souq Central Market, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Al Majaz Waterfront, and the restored Heart of Sharjah district. The Rain Room art installation at the Sharjah Art Foundation is also worth experiencing. Sharjah provides a dose of art, culture, and history to complement the skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi.

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Getting an eSIM for Abu Dhabi

Staying connected while traveling is crucial, especially if you’re visiting Abu Dhabi for the first time. An eSIM allows you to access data, calls, and texts without having to insert a physical SIM card.

An eSIM (embedded SIM) is a digital SIM that is embedded directly into your phone, tablet, or smartwatch. This allows you to quickly activate a cellular data plan remotely, without having to obtain a physical SIM card in each destination.

Getting an eSIM before your trip to Abu Dhabi has many advantages:

  • Convenience - Activate data instantly, no need to go to a store or airport kiosk to get a local SIM card
  • Flexibility - Change plans or destinations on the fly, right from your phone
  • Reliability - Get connectivity from leading providers without roaming charges
  • Security - Reduce risk of lost or stolen SIM cards

Airalo is a top choice for eSIMs for Abu Dhabi travelers. With Airalo eSIMs you can:

  • Access high-speed data worldwide, staying connected throughout Abu Dhabi
  • Manage your plan entirely through the Airalo app
  • Swap between data plans and destinations with a few taps
  • Avoid multi-day or recurring data plan commitments

Getting an Airalo UAE eSIM before your Abu Dhabi trip ensures you always have a reliable global connection, enhancing your travel experience. 

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