Affordable luxury: Abu Dhabi’s top 10 best hotels

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Abu Dhabi used to be a cheap destination. Today it ranks among the most expensive cities for living in the world. Luxury here, however, is much more affordable for visitors than many imagine, and few cities in the world offer such comfort at such prices.

Package deals, seasonal discounts, fierce competition between hotels plus the recent economic downturn has made bargain-bagging a reality. To combat the plummeting visitor numbers, top-ranked hotels are presently offering discounts of up to 65%.

With hotels competing fiercely to offer the most extravagant facilities - ranging from lavish spas and private water parks, to fine dining and shopping malls, and with the city’s licensing laws limiting the sale of alcohol to bars, clubs and restaurants inside hotels, many visitors end up spending most of their time in their hotels. For many, the hotel ends up forming a highlight of their holiday, so it’s a good idea to choose carefully. Here’s a ‘Top 10’ to suit all budgets.

Top 10 Hotels

1 ) Emirates Palace, West Corniche
Abu Dhabi's answer to Dubai’s iconic Burj Al-Arab, the Emirates Palace awards itself seven stars also and insists on a rating as a palace not a hotel. The sumptuous facilities include on-call butlers, a pillow ‘menu’, a 1.3km beach of specially-imported white sand, and a private water park.

2 ) Shangri-La, Al-Maqtaa
Palatial in size and neo-Moorish in design, the ultra-chic Shangri-La rivals the Emirates Palace for its ‘experience’. Attractions include a Venice copycat-like system of waterways and gondolas connecting the complex, 1km of private beach, five swimming pools, two health clubs, a shopping mall and some of the city’s finest restaurants and bars.

3 ) Le Royal Meridien, East Corniche
Considered the town’s top business address, Le Royal Meridien is all about making an impression. Service is first-class and facilities include top-notch bars, restaurants and clubs. Rooms are elegant, well-furnished and have stunning Gulf views.

4 ) Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana, East Corniche
Conveniently located between the Corniche and the centre of town, the Al Maha Arjaan offers studio apartments and suites at excellent prices. Air-conditioned, well-furnished and well-serviced, they also have sweeping city views.

5 ) Hilton International, West Corniche
Situated next to the Corniche, close to the Marina Mall and a short cab ride from the Financial District, the Hilton is the perfect place for a business-cum-leisure or family trip. Amenities include a private beach club offering a good range of water sports, a luxury spa, and some of the city’s most popular restaurants and bars.

6 ) Beach Rotana Hotel & Towers, Tourist Club Area
With a private beach, PADI dive centre, children’s play area, tennis and squash courts, a couple of pools (including a children’s one) and an excellent spa, the good-value Beach Rotana is the perfect place for families. Rooms are spacious and stylish with impressive sea views.

7 ) Le Meridien, Tourist Club Area
Recently modernised, the mid-range Meridien’s biggest boon is its verdant and peaceful Meridien Village with its eclectic range of popular, al-fresco bars, cafes and restaurants. Facilities include swimming pools, a spa, nightclub and hamman. The rooms are stylish and the service attentive.

8 ) Al-Diar Regency, East Corniche
Located within walking distance of the Business District, the Al-Diar Regency is a good choice for dirham-conscious business travellers. Rooms are simple but workmanlike and include kitchenettes and balconies with sea or city views. Facilities include a Business Centre, several restaurants and bars.

9 ) Centro Yas Island, Yas Island
One of a new breed of budget hotels, the Centro targets dollar-conscious businessmen without sacrificing style, service or facilities. The hotel lies minutes from the F1 Race Track, and Links Golf Club, ten minutes away from the airport and 20 minutes from the Financial District.

10) Grand Continental Flamingo Hotel, East Corniche
A stone’s throw from the Financial and Commercial Districts as well as the Corniche, the budget-range GCF feels like it’s in the thick of things. With good facilities to boot including rooms with views, a decent gym, restaurants and a nightclub, it represents excellent value.

Top Tips for Affordable Luxury

  • Avoid the high season (November to February) and consider the stifling summer months of the low season (June to August) when the rates can drop by up to 75%
  • Search the web for last-minute offers and package deals
  • If you’re set on staying at a particular hotel, ‘phone to request the ‘best rate’ and ask if there are any special deals on offer
  • Check that rates are all-inclusive. Many hotels charge 20% tax, 10% municipal tax, and 10% service charge
  • Many hotels offer complementary (but unadvertised) airport, beach and mall shuttle buses; enquire
  • If you plan to stay for a week or more, consider renting an apartment. Some of the city’s hotels offer serviced, furnished apartments (with full access to the hotel’s facilities) for rent by the day/week/month. Prices start from around Dh650 for a midrange studio apartment but drop significantly the longer you rent them.
  • Check out the city’s top restaurants for special dining discounts including up to 50% off for ‘early birders’ (eating dinner before 8.30pm), and excellent-value set menus
  • Check out hotel spas which are beginning to offer special deals