Many vacation websites are swarming with the Dubai holidays while its sibling, Abu Dhabi, is equally fun and attractive. So do you find yourself wondering where to plan your next vacation? Whether to pack for glitzy Dubai? Or to book your tickets to Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE?
Dubai and Abu Dhabi have some of the best attractions, spectacular hotels, enormous shopping malls, and delicious cuisines. Also, home to two of the world’s best performing airlines, The UAE’s full-fledged carriers, Emirates and Etihad Airways, have been rated among the world’s best airlines by AirlineRatings. Moreover, thanks to the five-star rated airlines and top-notch airports, these two megacities are well-connected to every corner of the world.
But which city is the better city to visit? To cut a long story short, it depends on your interests and preferences whether you prefer Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are quite westernized, so there is no cultural shock for western tourists. On the contrary, they have excellent attractions for Western visitors to enjoy, along with an excellent selection of more traditional Arab activities.
Suppose you’re planning on travelling to the UAE to visit either of these cities. In that case, you’re probably searching for that perfect combination of traditional culture and modern comforts that the Emirates have to offer travellers. However, where, specifically, you want to focus your explorations can be a little bit of a challenge.
We’ve put together a guide comparing the two on multiple points to help you decide whether you want to visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
While the two cities are located at a distance of just 1.5 hours to two hours’ drive away, they give out unique vibes, but both are captivating. So let’s find out how different their ambiance is.
The unequalled appeal of the capital city primarily lies in its conservative yet extraordinarily charming cultural landscape that is draped in with the right amount of modernity. In fact, it’s the place to experience the best of both worlds.
Dubai, on the other hand, is effortlessly cool. While it too has its fair share of historical and cultural sights, Dubai is more vibrant. It especially goes well with people looking for a holiday with a mix of super eclectic and authentic cultural experiences.
Winner: If you are a fan of liberal places, Dubai is the winner. But if you would like more Emirati culture and a more family-friendly environment, then Abu Dhabi it is!
Lying along the mesmerizing Persian Gulf, UAE has a long coastline with lots of exciting beaches. In fact, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have some of the best beaches in the Middle East. Plus, with low rainfall and warm sunshine throughout the year, Abu Dhabi is a beautiful winter-sun destination city in the Middle East and worldwide. But similar to all other factors, the beaches vary between these two cities.
Abu Dhabi has a beach type to suit every traveller, whether you’re after a laid-back stretch of powder-soft white sand near the city, a family-friendly escape on a tiny island home to 17,000 free-roaming animals, or a luxury break on a lush boutique private island with swings that soar over the sea. Many of the emirate’s world-class hotels boast their own pristine beachfront facilities, but the UAE capital’s public beaches are gorgeous too. Whichever you prefer, you’ll soon find a refreshing way to escape the bustle of life, soaking up Abu Dhabi’s year-round sunshine before cooling off in the shimmering turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf. Here are some of Abu Dhabi’s must-visit beaches.
Best Public Beaches in Abu Dhabi
- The Corniche Beach
- Saadiyat Public Beach
- Al Bateen Beach
Best Private Beaches in Abu Dhabi
- Nurai Island beach
- Hiltonia Beach Club
- Sheraton Abu Dhabi
Dubai is known around the world for its brilliant beaches. There is close to 1,000km of soft, sugary shoreline across Dubai’s beaches, and there’s something for everyone. So, whether you want to curl up with a book in a quiet cove, fling a frisbee with friends, grab some incredible beach-side food or fish out a flash swimming costume to party the hours away in style, you can do. So, grab your towel, lather on the sun lotion and make the most of the coast – these are the best beaches in Dubai.
Best Free Beaches in Dubai
- 4×4 Beach
- Jumeirah Open Beach
- Kite Beach
Best Private Beaches in Dubai
- Azure Beach Club
- Nikki Beach
- RIVA Beach Club
Winner: With more options and less crowded beaches, Abu Dhabi is definitely a better place to hit the beach than Dubai.
Unlike what Hollywood made people think of the Middle East, people in this region certainly know how to P-A-R-T-Y!! For example, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, alcohol is legal, and it is typical for expats, tourists and locals to have fun at nightclubs.
Abu Dhabi’s nightlife may not be as pulsating or diverse as that of Dubai. But, it still has some decent options to suit night owls and party animals. The majority of its bars and nightclubs are within the region’s hotels or resorts and offer various themes to choose from, such as pool parties, DJ nights, Jazz nights, Ladies’ Night Out, and Thursday nights.
Whether you’re looking for the ultimate clubbing/party venue or something like high-end dining or fabulous pubs or bars, nightlife in Dubai caters to all. The plus is that some of the world’s best nightclubs are in Dubai. Most of them are attached to Dubai’s famous hotels and resorts. So besides great food and drinks, you’ll be able to go wild with the brilliant DJ performances. As with Abu Dhabi, there are even exclusive Ladies’ nights in most bars and clubs.
Winner: Compared with Abu Dhabi, Dubai has more options in nightclubs and liberal places to hang out.
UAE is an expensive country in general, but a holiday in Dubai or a vacation in Abu Dhabi doesn’t need to break the bank. While most hotels and resorts in these cities are for luxury-seeking tourists, there are ways for budget travellers to enjoy their holiday in UAE as well.
Abu Dhabi holds the reputation of one of the wealthiest cities in the world, so you might expect everything to cost you a fortune, but it is not always the case. Many of the workers are on minimum wage, so you can find plenty of diverse, more affordable restaurants if you look around. Then, if you are on a budget, you should avoid the restaurants in hotels because they can charge quite a lot.
Dubai is expensive, but many affordable new hotels and restaurants keep opening, so now it has become much more budget-friendly.
In tourist places, the restaurants can be pretty expensive, but there are more and more reasonably priced options popping up everywhere as the city is becoming more and more international.
However, drinking alcohol is quite expensive everywhere, as to serve it, the vendors need to obtain a license.
Winner: According to Numbeo, in general, Abu Dhabi is slightly more affordable than Dubai for living, but for low-budget travellers, Dubai would be the absolute winner.
UAE is one of the best countries to have fun in, and both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are good representatives of this. Having sunshine throughout the year in the country means non-stop outdoor and indoor activities. Being one of the driest countries on earth did not stop UAE from flourishing in indoor and outdoor activities.
Depending on your needs and budget, Abu Dhabi has various options to offer.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast visiting Abu Dhabi, don’t miss the surreal desert tours in this city. If you’re visiting Abu Dhabi with your family and Dune bashing, camel riding, sand skiing, belly dancing, henna painting, BBQ dinner sound good to you, you would want to consider booking a day tour with Off-Road Adventure Tours. Your kids will love their time, and they’ll thank you for it!
In case you’re a Formula 1 fan, Abu Dhabi got you covered. Ferrari World is a giant red building in the middle of artificial Yas Island. Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster in the world, is proudly waiting for you to try it out. So even if you visit Dubai over Abu Dhabi, Travtur takes you for a day tour to Abu Dhabi, including Ferrari World.
Not far away from Ferrari World lies the exciting Yas Waterworld. Spanning 15 football pitches, this waterpark will satisfy you with its great water activities, including the world-first, largest hydromagnetic-powered tornado waterslide.
Dubai has no shortage of fun activities. The place is easily recognizable for its wondrous architectural marvels. That said, it also has some quaint attractions among its iconic sights. Find the list to know more about Dubai’s top highlights.
No intro is probably is required for Burj Khalifa. At the height of 828 meters, it’s the world’s tallest building. People mainly come for the breathtaking, sky-high views from its observation decks on 124th level and 148th level (the highest of its kind in the world).
The 30-acre Burj Lake, outside of the Dubai Mall, hosts the Dubai Fountain Show, a one-of-a-kind extravaganza of light, water and sound. See water shooting up to a height of over 500 feet during this remarkably choreographed water show. You can watch this for free, but if you’re looking to catch it from an exquisite standpoint, a highly recommended way is to take an abra ride along the lake.
Dubai is also is home to the fabulous Mall of the Emirates shopping complex, where you’ll find more than 630 stores, over 100 restaurants and a selection of out-of-this-world entertainments centres, including a multi-screen cinema and the world’s largest indoor snow park, Ski Dubai.
Winner: This category is fairly a tie as Abu Dhabi, and Dubai are extraordinary in providing fun activities.
Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are well-developed world-class cities being similar in most ways. Whichever one you’re planning to visit will make you some of the most unforgettable memories of your life. Also, being only 90 minutes away, you can see one city and take a day tour to the other one.