Major airlines and their partners fly directly into Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). Etihad Airways is the national carrier, is based in Abu Dhabi, and flies routes to destinations around the world. Neighboring Dubai airport (DXB) is another port of entry and is also served by major carriers, including its own airline, Emirates—though the drive from DXB to Abu Dhabi is nearly two hours. The newer Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) in Dubai is 30 minutes closer to Abu Dhabi, but is not yet popular with commercial carriers. If comfort and service are important to you, Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airways all recieve some of the highest rankings in the industry. It’s difficult to secure visas to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so driving across the border to and from KSA is challenging. It is much easier to cross the border with Oman, but check with your car rental agent and insurance carrier to understand any visa requirements ahead of time.
Unless you plan on staying in one neighborhood, like Sir Bani Yas Island or the Corniche, a car is the best way to navigate Abu Dhabi. Parking can get a little difficult, but taxis are reasonably priced. Prices start at AED 3.50 during the day, and a trip from Emirates Palace Hotel to Reem Island or Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque costs about AED 25–30 each way. Trips from the airport to the Corniche in special airport taxis are a bit more expensive, and cost about AED 80–90.
Modern-day Abu Dhabi is a little less Lawrence of Arabia and a little more The Fast and the Furious, but as much as Emiratis appreciate their exotic cars, luxury accessories, and caviar, they still hold on to the heritage that ties them to the sands, the sea, and the oases of the Arabian Peninsula. It doesn't take long for travelers who spend time in Abu Dhabi to begin to see the depth and richness of cultural tradition in the young country of UAE.
Holidays are marked by large celebrations and feasts. During Ramadan, mini-celebrations are held at sunset, when Muslims begin eating iftar, the meal that breaks the day's fast. For National Day in December, the town paints itself red, green, black, and white—the colors of the flag. Most of the public holidays, such as Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr, and Eid Al Adha, follow the Islamic lunar calendar. This shifts backwards in respect to the Gregorian calendar, so be sure to check what festivities might occur during your stay.
Born in Vancouver, Canada, and raised in Washington State, Andrea calls North America home with a predisposition to the Pacific states. She most recently lived and worked in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she relished long weekends on the neighboring islands and searched for the best fish taco on Oahu. A marketing professional, Andrea is currently developing her own travel, photography, and design business, The Earth Ink, with postcards and travel items in the development pipeline.