On the way to Canada we had a 21 hour layover in Abu Dhabi. When we booked the trip this sounded awesome, until we felt the heat and humidity of UAE.
With an economy class Etihad airways flight you are able to book a free shuttle from Abu Dhabi to Etihad Travel Mall (in Dubai).
Above is the link to the Etihad Shuttle. If you scroll down the page you are able to click on a bus schedule which will help you a lot.
Remember to book this shuttle from the Etihad website 24 hrs before your departure by phone or online. (I failed to do this but had read on tripadvisor that you can still get on the bus without registering). So we went to the bus line and had to wait in line until there were extra seats on a bus. We didn’t have to wait long, but I wouldn’t recommend relying on this method if you arrive in Abu Dhabi in the afternoon, because you will be standing in the sun in at least 40 degrees.
Speaking of weather, UAE is by far the hottest place I’ve ever been. The humidity is so awful that you can feel it sitting on your shoulders weighing you down. Mind you we were wearing pants and long sleeve tops and walking in what feels like 50 degrees Celsius (I’ll get back to the dress code shortly).
The shuttle from Abu Dhabi airport to Etihad Travel Mall is roughly 90 minutes long. The views on the drive consist of a lot of construction work all around the cities.
Some tips to keep in mind:
Drink a lot of water. I kept my little water bottle from the plane so that I had water on me as soon as we started our day.
Wear comfortable shoes. Seriously my biggest regret of the day was wearing thongs/flipflops. Dubai involves a lot of walking.
Put your backpack in a locker or keep it light. I couldn’t feel my shoulders and had a kink in my lower back for the whole day. And your sweat pools up on your back and you have a kick ass sweat stain when you sit down at a nice restaurant.
You can’t get on the bus without a bus card. **** Super important because we were trying to catch a bus because taxis were so expensive, and we couldn’t get on one.
Get a data plan for your phone. Everything in Dubai is really spread out and involves transportation between places. We constantly had to check google maps.
Google maps can run without your data being on. Simply select your destination and load everything while in wifi, and it continues to direct you after.
Don’t trust people who say that they are cab drivers (they will scam you).
And if you’re worried about getting scammed by taxi drivers check out worldtaximeter.com. You can input your location and destination and it will tell you how much that cab will cost. Take a screen shot of the price and show it to your driver if they try to overcharge you.
Everything is pretty expensive.
Take a taxi to Old Dubai and explore the Souk’s. There is a whole street of Souk’s that sell jewelery. Be sure to haggle to get better deals!
***Read about the do’s and dont’s in Dubai before heading out on the town.
Here are two examples from thatdubaisite.com that you made not have known before reading this article:
Dress Code: Emirati dress conservatively in traditional dress and can be offended when people dress inappropriately or not in accordance with Islamic values.
In public places such as shopping malls, restaurants and parks, you are encouraged to dress appropriately. Clothing should not be transparent, indecently expose parts of the body or display offensive pictures or slogans. Be careful as well if you are tattooed with what could be deemed offensive images or slogans, if in doubt cover up. Be aware that if you enter one of these areas dressed inappropriately you may be asked to leave (most of the larger shopping malls display signs warning respectable clothing should be worn). Any form of nudity is strictly forbidden, including topless sunbathing. Swimwear should not be worn in any other area outside the beach, water parks, or swimming pools.
It is preferable for both men and women to have their shoulders and knees covered and for women not to reveal too much decolletage when not on the beach or at a hotel. It is not appropriate for men to walk along the street bare-chested.
Dancing is allowed in the privacy of your home or at licensed clubs and events. But dancing in public is classed as indecent and provocative.
Again the above is taken from the following website, http://www.thatdubaisite.com/info/dos-and-donts/. Give the list a read if you’re interested in heading to Dubai, especially as an unmarried couple who wants to get a hotel room together in UAE.
We ate dinner at an incredible Lebanese restaurant with one of the best views in Dubai; Al Hallab Restaurant in Dubai Mall. The food, service and prices were amazing. If you want great food and a great view this is the place to visit. Seriously, the staff pulled my chair out for me and happily took pictures for us.
If you have to catch the Etihad Shuttle back to the airport be sure you keep track of time! There is quite a time gap between buses in the evening so be sure you are back at the Etihad Travel Mall before your bus arrives. If you are ending your day at Dubai Mall, allow time for a roughly 15-20 minute cab back to the Travel Mall.
Dubai was extremely beautiful. However it was so hot (and we were there in autumn) that we were constantly looking for places with air conditioning to hide out in. Someone we met told us that 37-40 degrees was very cool for Dubai. He told us that people are much happier in autumn and winter, but in the spring and summer the heat gets to a lot of people and they hide out in shopping center’s to cool down. This time of year makes people miserable apparently.
If you’re visiting Dubai and do not want to experience 50 degrees Celsius I suggest visiting between Oct-March.
If you do decide to explore Dubai on a layover I encourage you to put your backpack in a locker at the Abu Dhabi airport. It was 30 Dirham (12 AUD) to check a 9kg backpack. 🙂 Easy 5 minute process. Keep in mind it’s cash only!
We both enjoyed Dubai and would go back as long as we had more money to spend and a place to stay where we could put our things and have a shower. It was not the easiest place to have a 21 hour layover as everything is quite spread out across the city and we were exhausted.