Information & Facts
Sunshine and blue skies are guaranteed almost every day in Abu
Dhabi. Temperatures between June and September can be unbearably
hot for most Westerners, exacerbated by high humidity and sometimes
reaching up to 118ºF (48ºC) in July and August. Air-conditioning is
the norm in all buildings, however. The best months to travel to
Abu Dhabi are between October and May, and in January and February
it becomes cool enough to warrant wearing a cardigan outdoors.
Rainfall is almost non-existent.
The restaurant scene in Abu Dhabi is growing more cosmopolitan,
with new international fast food chains and restaurants like the
Hard Rock Cafe and Chilli's opening with increasing frequency.
However, there are still many independent restaurants worth
visiting, and the small family-owned places in side streets and
less touristy areas are often of better quality and cheaper than
the global chains. For a cheap meal on the go, try a shawarma from
a roadside stall.
Travellers to the UAE should keep in mind strict regulations
regarding the consumption of alcohol, meaning the only restaurants
that are licensed are in hotels and private clubs. Some restaurants
are segregated into 'family sections' where men and women must sit
Abu Dhabi is well-supplied with a vast number of metered taxis
offering very reasonable fares; these are the best way of getting
around in town, and outside of it. There are unmetered taxis, too,
and when using these it is best to agree on a fare up front. Most
taxi drivers speak good English. It is worth noting that a
surcharge can be added for air-conditioning in the taxi. But as
temperatures in summer are sweltering, this may still be a better
option than walking. There is a limited bus system, but it does not
follow fixed routes. Most hotels offer bus service to principal
destinations, including the airport. Car and limousine rental is
slightly more expensive than in the West, but of course petrol is
cheap! Driving in the Emirates, however, is a hair-raising
experience, with an established hierarchy as to who has right of
way, so unless you are fearless and aggressive behind the wheel, it
is best to hire a vehicle with a local driver.
Arabic is the official language of the Emirates, but
English is widely used.
The currency of the United Arab Emirates is the Dirham (AED),
which is divided into 100 fils. There are no currency regulations
in the UAE and all major currencies are readily exchanged at banks
and large hotels. The Dirham is fixed against the US Dollar. The
best exchange rates are found at private moneychangers who operate
throughout the territory, particularly in the more popular souks
(markets) and shopping centres. Most major credit cards are
accepted, as are travellers cheques (best carried in US Dollars or
Pounds Sterling). ATMs are common throughout the UAE. Banking hours
are generally Saturday to Thursday from 8am to 1pm, but some are
also open between 4pm and 8.30pm.
Abu Dhabi has a very festive nightlife, with most of the bars
and clubs located in the city's upmarket hotels, which are allowed
to serve alcohol under UAE law. The nightlife only really kicks off
at around 11pm; many venues have a strict dress code to adhere to
but an otherwise relaxed and safe atmosphere to enjoy. There are a
number of English, Irish and American style bars and pubs to go to
in Abu Dhabi, some of the most popular including the Harvester's
Pub at Sands Hotel, the Jazz Bar at Hemingway's and the Irish pub
at the Abu Dhabi Grand. Live performances, happy hour, ladies
nights and quiz evenings are regular events in Abu Dhabi bars. The
local nightclubs feature international and local DJs, as well as
live performances from Arab singers and belly dancers. Exotic
cocktails, vintage brandies and Arabic mezzes (snacks) are also
offered by most venues. Popular Abu Dhabi nightclubs include Le
Meridien's Gauloises Club, and the Tequilana Discotheque at the
Shopping in Abu Dhabi is a very rewarding experience with souks,
malls and the airport duty free shops offering some of the lowest
prices in the world on a wide range of goods, thanks to very low
import duties. Most shopping malls are open Saturday to Wednesday
from 10am to 10pm, on Thursdays from 10am to 11pm, and on Fridays
from 2pm until late. Independent shops close for lunch from 2pm to
4pm, and then stay open until at least 9pm.
There are a number of souks (markets) in Abu Dhabi offering a
vast selection of oriental carpets, gold and antique jewellery,
electronic gadgets, designer clothes, cosmetics, spices and
souvenirs. The Al Nasr Street, Sheikh Hamdan, Sheikh Khalifa,
Iranian and Al Meena souks are among the most popular in Abu Dhabi.
Local souvenirs include items such as traditional coffee pots,
Bedouin jewellery and antique chests.
There are more than 18 shopping malls and centres in Abu Dhabi
offering a variety of brand-name outlets, hypermarkets, cinemas,
cafés, restaurants and fast-food joints for shoppers to enjoy; two
of the biggest are the Marina and Abu Dhabi malls. Some of the
international outlets at these malls are IKEA, Woolworths, Body
Shop, Virgin Megastores, Versace, Burberry and Gucci. The Abu Dhabi
Shopping Festival is held each March in malls throughout the city
and consumers can find excellent bargains and win a number of
Abu Dhabi is not a tourist destination, but there is whole lot
more to see and do here than shopping or business meetings. More
good news is that many of Abu Dhabi's quality attractions free.
Travellers should take note that getting around the city by foot is
not much of an option due to the extreme heat and the best time of
year for sightseeing in Abu Dhabi is between October and May.
Famed for its amazing shopping opportunities, many visitors
might choose to scrap any sightseeing and spend their time
wandering the seemingly endless amounts of shopping malls and
districts, but for those who don't a good place to start is
Corniche, Abu Dhabi's spectacular waterfront which stretches for
miles. Stroll along the walkway, stop on of the sandy beaches or
take the kids to the playgrounds or go-karting track. The Sheikh
Zayed Mosque is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and
is an interesting cultural attraction for westerners to visit.
Khalifa Park is a must for travellers, especially those with
kids in tow, as it features an aquarium, museum, play parks, a
train and even formal gardens to enjoy some time out under the
shade of a tree. Most of Abu Dhabi's hotels have their own beaches
and swimming or simply lazing in the sun is a popular pastime for
travellers to Abu Dhabi - but don't forget the sunscreen!
Local time in the UAE is GMT +4.