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Abu Dhabi First Timer Guide

Occupying 80 percent of UAE’s landmass is UAE’s glamorous capital, Abu Dhabi. The combo of allure and culture is sure to captivate any individual eager to explore its inventive architecture, dynamic culture, old-age charm, luxurious lifestyle and captivating history. But before getting into all of that there are some things all travellers should know when visiting Abu Dhabi to ensure a trouble-free and pleasant trip. Read up on Extreme Arabia’s compiled list of certain points first-time visitors to Abu Dhabi should know.

1. Know the local laws

Unlike anywhere else, Abu Dhabi doesn’t allow consuming alcohol out of hotels or restaurants permitted to sell alcohol. To stay on the right side of the law avoid carrying alcohol to parks, beaches or any other public places.Additionally, drunk driving and getting drunk in public is prohibited in Abu Dhabi.

2. Be mindful of your attire

Although tourists aren’t obliged to wear traditional attire, unless they are visiting a mosque, it is best to wear loose-fitting and long clothing that is preferably made from cotton, linen or other natural materials to help bare the heat of Abu Dhabi. Its best to avoid any skin-tight or revealing clothes and stick to knee-length or long skirts/trousers and short or long-sleeved tops. Carry a pashmina or a shawl especially if you are visiting the mosque. Shorts (for men and women) and two-piece swimwear are allowed at the beach.

3. Decide when to travel

Abu Dhabi has 365 days of pleasant sunshine and can be visited at any time of the year. But the deciding factor is your tolerance level for heat and crowds. If you don’t mind the massive crowd and are looking forward to pleasant weather, then plan your trip between October to May. This is the peak season so be ready to pay a high price for hotels and tolerate the crowd. If you are cool about the high heat, then visit any time during summer (June to September) and be benefited with cheaper hotel rates and less crowd. Make sure to check when Ramadan begins and ends as the holy month is not an ideal time for tourists to visit. Every year the starting date of Ramadan comes 10 days earlier and lasts for 30 days. Eating and drinking in public is not allowed from sunrise till sundown to respect individuals who are fasting and the operating hours of many businesses change to accomodate the ramadan timings.

4. Carry local currency

The Emirati Dirhams is the local currency but many top organizations and businesses accept USD, AUD, CAD and certain other foreign currencies. High-end shopping malls and shops will accept Debit and Credit card payments. But make sure to carry some local cash for tipping or if you plan to do some bargaining and traditional shopping in souks. Money can be exchanged to AED at licensed exchange centres, hotels and banks with your passport.

5. Hold back on the PDA

You might have been able to kiss in the park when you visited Paris, but that won’t be possible in Abu Dhabi. Holding hands is permitted but any display of affection more than that won’t be tolerated and is regarded as offensive. Although police don’t monitor the city for such cases, a report by a local or being spotted by a police can land you in some serious trouble.

6. Track the occuring events

Abu Dhabi loves playing host to multiple concerts, sporting events and exhibitions. Make sure to check the events that are scheduled to take place during your visit and attend them. November is when the famous Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place and October, the Abu Dhabi International Boat Show.

7. Tipping is expected

Tipping your hotel staff, car valet, taxi driver and waiter for a pleasant service is expected in Abu Dhabi. Before you tip scan your bill. If there is a 10% gratuity fee (mostly charged by high-end restaurants and establishments) then you can skip the tipping. Otherwise, leaving 10% of your bill as a tip in cash is preferred even if you pay by card.

8. Knowing the language isn’t a must

Abu Dhabi is multicultural so majority of the population speaks English. If you are staying in a 4 or 5 star hotel there will be staff who speak Arabic, Chinese, German, Russian, etc to make it easy for tourists who don’t speak English. But, if you are the type who likes connecting with the locals then knowing a few Arabic words won’t hurt.

Kayfa Haluk?  How are You

Sabaah AlKhayr Good Morning

Masaa’ Alkhayr Good Evening

Shukran Thank You

Aafwan Your Welcome

Min Fadlik Please

9. Getting around is easy

Thanks to the cheap petrol rates, taxis in Abu Dhabi are very cheap compared to other western countries. You can hail a taxi from anywhere on the road (if allowed) or a taxi stand in hotels and malls. If you prefer to pre book a taxi, its best if you have a local number. Abu Dhabi’s silver taxis are operated by a reputed company and has meters. White and gold taxis also have meters although the driver sometimes negotiates the fare before the ride. The pink taxis are run by female drivers and transport female passengers and families. Majority of the drivers know the landmarks (buildings, hotels, malls, etc) than the road names.  If you prefer more luxury, you can book a chauffeur driving service from your hotel or tour agent. If staying for more than 30 days, save up a bit on money and sweat by renting a car.

10. Pork is not easily available

This is because pork is prohibited (haram) as per the islamic law. However, certain hotels and shops do sell pork.

11. Not your usual weekend

Most countries enjoy weekends on Saturdays and Sundays but Abu Dhabi has the weekend on Friday and Saturday. So people go out on ‘Thursday night’ rather than the usual Friday night. This is because friday is the ‘Prayer day’ and all muslims go to the mosque. Most shops take Friday off while some have open in the late afternoon. Sunday is a normal working day.