During a cruise in the Orient, you often have only one day to explore Abu Dhabi. Here’s what you need to know for your visit and how to best plan your shore excursion in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Entering Abu Dhabi
For entry into the United Arab Emirates – and thus Abu Dhabi – a passport valid for at least 6 months is sufficient. So there is no need to apply for a visa.
Weather and climate
The main tourist season for Abu Dhabi is from October to April. Thanks to the subtropical climate, the winter months are pleasantly warm. During this time, temperatures average 30 degrees and there is almost no rain. In the off-season from May to September, which is also very dry, it is likely to be too hot for most tourists, with temperatures of up to 50 degrees.
Money and currency
In Abu Dhabi you pay with Dirham. 1 Dirham corresponds to approx. 25 cents. You can either exchange cash in exchange offices or withdraw local money free of charge with a credit card, if you do not want to pay directly with the credit card. I can recommend DKB’s free credit card. Withdrawing or paying with a credit card is absolutely uncomplicated.
Language, religion and dress code
The national language in Abu Dhabi is Arabic. Islam is the state religion. Therefore, an appropriate choice of clothes is also appropriate among tourists. You don’t have to cover yourself, but you should preferably keep your knees and shoulders covered as both a woman and a man. You can find a detailed article on the appropriate choice of clothing in the Emirates here. Furthermore, you should note that public intimacy is frowned upon.
Abu Dhabi Cruise Port
Cruise ships in Abu Dhabi dock at Port Zayed in the northeast of the city. The port is a good 10 km from the city center. In the port terminal you can find a tourist information, ATMs and some souvenir stores. In addition, you have free access to the Internet here.
It is not allowed to move freely walking on the port area. However, there are free shuttle buses that run hourly from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. between the port and a shopping center in town. Check the notices at the cruise terminal for more information.
In addition, there are plenty of cabs waiting at the terminal to take you quickly into the city.
Cab is the best and most convenient way to get around Abu Dhabi. The cab prices are extremely low. You pay about 45 cents per kilometer. This way, the long distances in Abu Dhabi can be covered quite affordably and quickly. Cabs are increasingly located in central places such as shopping malls and hotels. But you can also wave them over at the side of the road at any time.
There is no metro in Abu Dhabi. Therefore, you have to rely on cabs or buses. However, the bus network is quite well developed and the buses are air-conditioned and modern. There are also some lines leaving near the port. Here you can plan your route. One ride is very cheap at about 50 cents. But tickets are only available at central sales stations such as shopping malls and major bus stations. Cash payment on the bus is not possible.
At this point, it should be emphasized that taking a bus in Abu Dhabi requires much more organization and time than taking a cab. For a time-limited day trip, this is rather not recommended.
Alternatively, hop-on hop-off buses, popular with tourists, operate in Abu Dhabi. The red double-decker buses run on two routes and make 19 stops, so you can cover all the major sights of the city. However, since the distances are quite large, a complete tour takes several hours. The 24-hour ticket for the Hop-on Hop-Off bus is available here for 62$ per person. (Addendum regarding Corona: tours will resume December 1, 2021).
1 day in Abu Dhabi: plan your trip
Abu Dhabi has something to offer for every vacationer. Whether culture, action or family fun – everyone will find the right day trip for them here. To help you with your planning, here are some suggestions on how to arrange your shore excursion.
#1 Abu Dhabi Excursion: Emirates Palace, Qasr Al Watan & Sheikh Zayid Mosque
The right excursion for all culture enthusiasts who want to learn about Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates. Visit the most famous sights of the city and let yourself be enchanted by the magnificent pomp and flair.
Morning: Emirates Palace & Qasr Al Watan
The day begins with a cab ride from the port to Emirates Palace. The hotel is located in the northwest of the city, about 10 km from the port. The ride takes about 17 minutes and costs around 8$.
The impressive luxury hotel can be visited free of charge as a day tourist every day from 10 o’clock in the morning. Especially in the morning there are hardly any visitors, so you can stroll around in peace. You can read all the important details about visiting the Emirates Palace here.
A 30-minute walk or 5-minute drive from Emirates Palace is the Qasr Al Watan Presidential Palace. Guided tours of the palace’s impressive interiors and gardens are held daily.
Opening hours: Sunday to Wednesday 10 am – 6 pm, Thursday to Saturday 12 pm – 6 pm.
Admission costs 15$ per adult. Tickets can be booked in advance here.
In addition to the tours, there is a 15-minute light and sound show at the Palace every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm. The tickets are also required for this.
At lunchtime, you can take a break at the nearby Marina Mall. There you will find many stores and restaurants where you can have a snack.
Alternatively, you can take a cab back to the ship, have a bite to eat and rest before continuing your sightseeing. This would even be convenient, as you could change accordingly for the next sight.
Afternoon & Evening: Sheikh Zayid Mosque
In the late afternoon, head south of the city to the stunning Sheikh Zayid Mosque. It is around 20 km from the cruise port. The cab ride takes about 20 minutes and costs around 11$.
The Sheikh Zayid Mosque is by far the most imposing building in Abu Dhabi. It is one of the largest mosques in the Orient and can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. Inside is the world’s heaviest chandelier and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet.
Visiting the magnificent white mosque in the late afternoon is ideal, because in this way you can admire it both in daylight and after sunset. In the evening, the mosque is beautifully illuminated blue. An incredible sight!
Admission to the Sheikh Zayid Mosque is free of charge. No ticket or registration is required. The free tour of the mosque is recommended, but it is only offered in English. However, it is very entertaining and enlightening if you want to learn about Islam. Participation in the tour is also without prior registration. For more important information about the Sheikh Zayid Mosque and the tour, click here.
#2 Abu Dhabi excursion: Formula 1 race track and Ferrari World on Yas Island
20 km southeast of the cruise port is an action paradise called Yas Island. The cab ride there takes about 35 minutes and costs around 16$. On Yas Island itself, the free and reliable Yas Island Shuttle operates.
Yas Marina Circuit Venue Tour
Yas Island hosts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of Formula 1 every year. Racing fans can take a behind-the-scenes look at the F1 Yas Marina Circuit on a guided tour. During the tour, there will be stops in the grandstand, the paddock, the pit lane, as well as the podium and the control center. The 2-hour tour is very informative and especially interesting for F1 fans. However, it currently takes place only on selected days and only at 2 pm. Tickets can be booked here in advance for 27$ per person. Alternatively, the excursion is often offered by the shipping companies.
Driving experience on the Abu Dhabi race track
For real adrenaline junkies, it also goes a touch faster. So you can either sit in the passenger seat or get behind the wheel of a sports or racing car yourself and take a few laps around the track.
A ride in the passenger seat with a professional driver at the wheel of a Yas Radical SST race car is available from 115$. For a mere $446, you can take the wheel of an Aston Martin GT4 and race around the legendary circuit for 20 minutes. The driving experiences are not cheap, but certainly a unique experience.
Just over 2 km from Yas Marina Circuit is the Ferrari World theme park. The theme park offers a variety of exhibits, as well as a cool Formula 1 simulator and Formula Rossa – the fastest roller coaster in the world. Tickets are available from 56$ per person. Currently, the park is open only from 1 to 8 pm. After Corona and in high season it should be open again in the morning.
#3 Excursion in Abu Dhabi: Yas Waterworld & Warner Brothers World for families
Yas Waterworld is a gigantic water park that offers countless slides of various sizes. There is also a roller coaster and an artificial wave where you can learn to surf. So not only the little ones get their money’s worth while splashing and sliding, but also the adults.
The water fun is available for adults from 61$, for children from 51$. Admission is free for children under 3 years. The water park is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. You can book tickets in advance here.
Just around the corner from Yas Waterworld is Warner Brothers World Abu Dhabi. The fairly new indoor theme park features 29 rides, interactive family-friendly attractions and some fancy live entertainment. In addition, you can meet popular movie characters like Batman, Superman, Bugs Bunny or Scooby Doo. You can recharge your batteries in thematically appropriate restaurants and buy a wide variety of souvenirs in numerous fan stores.
Adults pay 72$ entrance fee, children under 1.10 m 56$. Children under 3 years can enter the park for free. In the off-season, the theme park is open only from 12 to 20 pm. In the high season it opens even in the morning. You can book tickets in advance on the official Warner Brothers World website or through the shipping company if they offer a similar excursion.
#4 Guided tours to the most important sights in Abu Dhabi
The shore excursion in Abu Dhabi can be easily organized with Get Your Guide. The established excursion and ticketing platform has several half-day and full-day tours on offer, covering the main sights in Abu Dhabi.
The 5.5 hour City Tour with Grand Mosque & Royal Palace includes pick up from the port. The excursion begins at the magnificent Sheikh Zayid Mosque in the south of the city. Afterwards, you can stroll along the Corniche waterfront and take souvenir photos of the Emirates Palace and Etihad Towers. The tour concludes with a visit to the Qasr Al Watan Presidential Palace. So you can visit many sights in a relatively short time. Also available in German, the tour lasts from 9am to 2:30pm and you can book it here for 70$ per person.
If you want to get even more out of your shore excursion, you can take a desert safari in the afternoon and evening. The pickup from the port and the return transfer in an air-conditioned off-road vehicle is also included here. The 6-hour tour offers you a speedy drive over the sand dunes, a visit to a camel farm, and a delicious BBQ with entertainment at a Bedouin desert camp where you can get henna tattoos and smoke shisha. The varied experience lasts from 4 to 10 pm and costs about 66$ per person. Here you can book the tour with free cancellation option.
Excursion offers and tickets in the overview
|Qasr Al Watan Präsidentenpalast||Tagesticket||14€|
|Yas Marina Circuit Tour||2 Stunden||25€|
|Yas Radical SST Rennwagen-Erlebnis||15 Minuten||110€|
|Fahrerlebnis im Aston Martin GT4||20 Minuten (mit Vorbereitung 1,5 Stunden)||427€|
|Yas Waterworld||Tagesticket||ab 48€|
|Warner Brothers World||Tagesticket||ab 52€|
|Stadtrundfahrt mit Großer Moschee & Königspalast||5,5 Stunden||56€|
|Wüstensafari mit BBQ, Sandboarding & Kamelritt||6 Stunden||64€|
Organize shore excursions on your own or book them through the shipping company?
If you book excursions with the shipping company, they cost on average 60$-110$ per person, depending on how long they last. They are usually more expensive than the self-organized excursions, but the transfer is always included. In addition, you have the security that the ship will not leave without your own excursionists. You don’t have that kind of security when you go out on your own. This means that if you return late to the ship, it is not committed to wait for you.
The advantage of an individually organized excursion is flexibility. You can decide for yourself what you want to see and experience and how much time to spend on it. In addition, the trip ashore is usually cheaper, regardless of whether you travel independently by cab or book tours with e.g. Get Your Guide.
1 day in Abu Dhabi is certainly not enough to discover all the highlights of the city. However, with good planning and prior organization, you can get the most out of your trip. Decide in advance which sights or activities you are most interested in. Combine individual stops from my excursion suggestions to create your ideal shore excursion. By cab you can get anywhere in Abu Dhabi well and cheaply.
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