Did you know Abu Dhabi gets an average rainfall of only 12cm per year?

What to do with a 15 hour layover in Abu Dhabi?

Much like Dubai, the sights in Abu Dhabi are fairly spread out around the city. In my opinion, the best way to see the city in a day is to take a hop on hop off bus tour.

Unfortunately there is only one tour bus company in Abu Dhabi; Big Bus, and therefore competitive pricing does not exist ahah.

Here is a link to the website that shows pricing as well as a map.

http://eng.bigbustours.com/abudhabi/home.html

The tour for the day was approximately $57 USD. It is quite steep but if you compare it to the cost of your cabs around the city for the day, it makes sense.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the closest bus pick up location from the airport. Take a cab from the airport to the Mosque for roughly 40 AED. (The cost is higher leaving the airport as there is a 20 AED airport fee. Therefore it will be 20 AED less on the way back to the airport).

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque offers a free guided tour which is a MUST.

Complimentary ‘walk-in’ guided tours are:

Sunday – Thursday:              10am, 11am and 5pm*
Friday:                                     5pm, 7.30pm**
Saturday:                               10am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm*, 7.30pm**
My suggestion would be to take the 5pm tour. It was amazing seeing the Mosque at sunset. I have never seen anything like it.
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There are two separate bus routes that your ticket enables you to go on. These are:
  • City Tour, which includes all the sights you need to see in and around the city.
  • Yas Island Drive, which gives you the opportunity to see the Formula One Yas Marina Circuit, drag racing centre, Ferrari World, theme park and waterworld park.

The map provides you with first and last bus times at the top left corner. I noticed the map says “Buses every 15 minutes”… more like every hour. Whenever we were dropped at a destination the next bus was set to arrive in approximately an hour.

From the Mosque, the first bus arrives at 9:45am for the City tour and 9am for the Yas Island tour.

On our tour we made stops at:

  • The Etihad Art Gallery: It was a very small gallery. The art was done by mostly young and local artists and it was all for sale. The gallery takes about 15 minutes to go through, and then you’re left with 45 minutes waiting in heat for the next bus. There was a cafe attached to the gallery, we had a quick glance at the menu but the prices were quite high. 20 AED for a coffee. Roughly 8 CAD or AUD. There is a small grocery type store directly across the street from the gallery if you need any drinks or snacks!

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  • WTC Souk: We were expecting to find Souk’s like we saw in Dubai, but found more of a mall with a few Souk shops in the lower level. Everything was fairly overpriced compared to the Dubai Souk’s.
  • Heritage Village: The village was cool to see, but again something that only takes you 15-20 minutes to go through and then you’re stuck waiting for the bus. The village is water front so there are some beautiful views of the city. There are also some great little museums that you can walk through to learn about the culture.

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  • Marina Mall: We decided to walk from the Heritage Village to the mall as we could see it in the distance. Terrible decision. We both ended up with mild heat stroke after this 20 minute walk. The mall again is overpriced but a good way to get out of the heat. **No free Wifi in the food court unless you have an Abu Dhabi phone number.

 

There were many other cool places to visit and many of them are in walking distance of each other, in case you do not want to wait for the bus. The Heritage Village, Corniche Cruise, Marina Mall and Etihad towers are all in close proximity to each other.

We finished the day with a guided tour of the beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. In order to go into the Mosque you must be dressed appropriately. Men are to have knees and shoulders covered while women must wear Traditional Dress.

 

The staff will tell you which direction to go and you take an elevator to an underground parking lot where you trade your license for an abaya and a card with a number on it.

An abaya is a long black robe with a hijab.

 

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When you are finished the tour you bring the abaya and numbered card back to the parking lot area and they give you your license back.

Cabs back to the airport are very easy to catch from just outside of the Mosque.

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HELPFUL TIPS

Here are a couple of tips that you may find helpful:

  • There is a shower in Abu Dhabi airport in the departures area. They are located between gates 32 and 37. Follow the signs to a stair case that brings you to the men’s and women’s public bathrooms.
  • It is extremely HOT. Carry water with you at all times.
  • Keep in mind appropriate dress wear!!! Girls and guys should cover their shoulders and knees. On our previous layover in Dubai I wore a long sleeve shirt and a light pair of pants. This was too hot! I saw many women wearing dresses or shirts that showed their shoulders off. On the way through Abu Dhabi I opted for a long summer dress with a cardigan. I wore the cardigan in most places but walked around without it occasionally when it got too hot. While you’re not going to get in trouble for it, you will get blown kisses and honked at quite often.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Bring sunglasses.
  • If you are traveling with your significant other be careful of how much physical contact you show when in public. **
  • Premarital sex is illegal. It is very hard to get a hotel room with someone of the opposite sex unless you can prove that you are married. You can go to jail for this.
  • Homosexuality is illegal.
  • Pornography is illegal.
  • No photos of government or military organizations.
  • When traveling to the UAE check if you are traveling during Ramadan as you will not be able to eat during the day!!!
  • The Big Bus staff were very helpful! They have a person waiting at every destination that are more than happy to suggest things to see and how to see them.

Overall, Abu Dhabi was very beautiful. However at this current time there is a lot of construction going on. One of the new builds is the new Abu Dhabi airport (give it a quick google it is incredible).

I have no desire to travel back to Abu Dhabi, but I am glad I got to tick it off of my list. 🙂

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A Day in Dubai

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).

http://www.etihad.com/en-us/experience-etihad/etihad-express/

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.

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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.