I had such an amazing time in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It is a dream trip and I am so blessed to have had a chance to experience it. After all of my research, there were still so many things that I did not know until I got there, so I thought I would share photos with you from my trip as well as some tips and things you should know that I wish I’d known before traveling to the country.
Yas Beach is the shit!
Yas Beach is located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi and is free for guests staying at the surrounding hotels. The beach is lined with cabanas that you can reserve, but we just chose one that was available when we arrived. There’s a DJ that was playing awesome music, there was food, plenty of drinks that are reasonably priced, shisha and warm beach water! It’s also a great location to catch the beautiful Abu Dhabi sunset.
So we didn’t make it to any clubs smh
The weekends in Abu Dhabi/Dubai are Friday and Saturday, so the clubbing nights are Thursday and Friday. Our flight landed on Friday around noon and we checked into the hotel and headed straight to Yas Beach. We met some cool people who kept telling us “Friday is clubbing night!”, but we were so jet lagged, that after dinner we went back to the room to sleep. Saturday night we were ready to turn up in Dubai but there wasn’t much going on. We weren’t totally disappointed, but next time we visit we will definitely fly in on a Wednesday so that we can experience the nightlife.
Jet lag is real!
We missed out on the clubs because we were so tired from the 13-hour flight. I’d heard of jet lag, but to actually experience it was something different. I suggest that if you plan to make this trip, add an extra day so that you can rest and get on the local time.
I wanted to respect the dress code as much as possible
I had read so much about the dress code in the U.A.E. and I was so paranoid about wearing the wrong thing. I came to find that the dress code wasn’t as strict as I’d expected it to be. However, I did try to ensure that I wasn’t wearing shorts or had my chest out. I wanted to really respect the culture, so I made sure to dress as appropriate as one could, considering how hot it is there. I mostly packed pants, long loose dresses and a wrap to throw over my shoulders when I was indoors, because most places have the a.c. blasting. I did see women wearing booty shorts and spaghetti strap tops, I just wouldn’t do it.
It’s only an hour driving time between Abu Dhabi and Dubai
We enjoyed the fact that Abu Dhabi was so close to Dubai. Our driver Aqba drove us to Dubai which only took somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half. If you visit either city, definitely make your way to the other if you have time.
Dubai Mall was cool but not that much different from the U.S.
We did visit the popular Dubai Mall. I found that they had all the same stores that you would typically find in the States in addition to the high-end luxury brands. Other amazing features are the indoor ice skating rink and aquarium.
There are deals to be had in Dubai
Anytime I travel, I always make it a point to do things like the locals. Nagey’s friend who lives in Dubai, picked us up from our hotel and took us around the city a bit. He ended up taking us to Dragon Mart , which is a souk (market), but it reminds me of a flea market where you can negotiate pricing. It’s pretty large and is broken out into sections like clothing and fabric, electronics, hardware etc.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must visit
Prior to coming on the trip, I’d done my research on activities I wanted to do and what sites I wanted to see. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi was at the top of my list. I purposely wanted to go at night, because of how pretty it is all lit up. You must be completely covered and they do provide you with Abaya’s to wear. You will not believe how much I was sweating underneath it. Even at night, it is extremely hot. Although the Abaya is beautiful to wear, I don’t know how the women wear it in the heat.
Do some research but don’t go overboard
I think it’s always a good idea to do research on the activities you want to do when you are visiting any city. We were fortunate enough to have a driver the entire time we were there, so we didn’t have to figure out how to get anywhere. I suggest that if you will be taking taxi’s etc. that you research where you want to go and how long it would take you to get there from your hotel. It’s always good to be prepared. Taxi’s are relatively inexpensive, so it wouldn’t cost you a lot to get around.
Go on a desert safari
Another item on my to-do list for Abu Dhabi, was a desert safari. My friend Karina, who lived in Abu Dhabi for 2 years, told me that there was Groupon over there, so I knew we would be purchasing our tour through the site. With the Groupon, the half day safari ended up only costing $45 per person, which was an awesome deal and it lasts about 5 hours. It included the ride to and from the desert (which was about an hour), ATV riding, dune bashing, camel riding, henna, a BBQ dinner and a host of other activities. There were several companies to book with on Groupon, but I ultimately booked with Al Badeyah Eyes Tourism. After finding them on Groupon, I went to Tripadvisor to see the reviews and the tour was highly rated. Before purchasing the Groupon, call them to ensure there will be space available for the day that you want to go.
Wifi, video chat and staying connected
The ladies and I spent the first day trying to face time and video chat via WhatsApp with family and friends with no luck. We later found out that those features are blocked in the U.A.E. unless you have a VPN/hot spot connection. You can however Skype, so that was great. I kept my phone on airplane mode and connected to wifi whenever it was available. I found that most public places had free wifi, so that was awesome. Those with iPhones, I was able to text via iMessage and everyone else I text via WhatsApp when I was connected to wifi.
4 days was not enough time
If there was one regret that I have, its that we did not have enough time. We did a lot, but I would have liked a few extra days to see more of Dubai. The next time I go, I will likely stay 6-7 days including 1 day for jet lag recovery.
Purchase an electrical outlet converter and adapter
The day before I left, a co-worker suggested that I purchase an electrical outlet converter since the outlets are different from the States. I purchased one from Bed, Bath and Beyond using a coupon and it only came to $15. Although the hotel had a converter/adapter, I liked having my own as an additional since I had my phone, portable charger, laptop and camera battery that needed charging.
I took money from the ATM in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai which dispersed it in dirham (AED) and my bank (Wells Fargo) only charges $5 per withdrawal. I did have to do the calculation of how many dirhams I needed to withdraw as the ATM only disperses in dirham. There are apps that you can download to your phone to help you with currency conversions. I noticed that no where we went accepted U.S. currency, so you should either exchange cash, pull money out of the ATM or use a credit card. Don’t exchange money at the hotel as they can charge a fee or the exchange rate is off.
I hope my tips are helpful if you are planning to visit the U.A.E.
Have you been to Abu Dubai or Dubai? What did you do?
What are some of your tips?
Traveling since she was barely able to walk, Milla Williams has always had a love for food and travel. With over 10 years experience in the hospitality industry, Milla started her blog Happily Eating in 2013, as a way to share her recipes and travel experiences with others. She believes the best way to truly experience a city or culture is through its food. Milla currently resides in Atlanta, GA where she explores restaurants sharing with her readers her favorite local eats.