Accessible Travel

Nearly all the sights, all malls and many other buildings have facilities such as ramps, lifts and toilets for wheelchair users. For example, the Shade House in Umm Al Emarat Park has a lift for its three-storey canopy viewing platform. All midrange and top-end hotels have rooms fitted out for wheelchairs. Access to budget restaurants is more difficult. Pedestrian underpasses for crossing the main roads in the central city have ramps as well as stairs.

The city's taxi firm has specially fitted out cars (which need to be ordered in advance) for wheelchair users.

Abu Dhabi International Airport has a special check-in gate for travellers with accessibility issues and a meet-and-assist service called Marhaba.

Accessible Travel Online Resources

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Dangers & Annoyances

Abu Dhabi is a very safe city to travel around during the day or night.

  • The UAE has zero tolerance towards illegal drugs. Having illegal substances in your bloodstream counts as possession.
  • Keep a cool, calm head if driving in the city. Turning without indicating and speeding into roundabouts are common. As a pedestrian, note that pedestrian crossings are a suggestion rather than you having right-of-way.
  • For tourists, drinking alcohol is only allowed in licensed premises. You cannot buy alcohol from a shop or drink in public parks, on beaches or on the street.

Discount Cards

  • ISIC (international student) card-holders can get discounts at some restaurants and when using some recreation services. See www.studentcard.ae for a full list.
  • Etihad Airways passengers can access a bundle of discounts on theme park and beach entrance fees, spa services, restaurant meals and shopping purchases by showing their boarding pass at participating businesses. See www.etihad.com/before-you-fly/abu-dhabi-pass for full details of the offer.

Electricity

Electrical current 220V. British-style three-pin wall sockets are standard.

Emergency & Important Numbers

UAE country code971
Ambulance998
Police999
Tourist Police02 800 2626
Fire Department997

Embassies & Consulates

Entry & Exit Formalities

Customs Regulations

Visitors over 18 arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport are allowed to bring in the following duty-free:

  • 4L of alcohol or one carton (24 cans) of beer
  • 400 cigarettes
  • 2kg of tobacco
  • Gifts up to the value of Dhs3000

UAE regulations on what you can bring into the country are very strict. Along with the usual bans on illegal drugs, firearms and other weapons, you may not enter the country with the following:

  • Materials (such as books) insulting to Islam
  • Pork products
  • Pornography
  • Israeli products
  • Many over-the-counter and prescription medications

For a full list of medications that are illegal in the UAE check www.mohap.gov.ae/en/AwarenessCenter/Pages/UnauthorizedMedicines.aspx. Note that many of the banned medications (such as painkillers using codeine) are perfectly legal as over-the-counter drugs in many countries, so read carefully.

For controlled, but not banned, medications, the UAE introduced a pre-approval entry form for importing drugs for personal use in late 2018. It can be found at www.mohap.gov.ae/en/services/Pages/361.aspx. Approval generally takes around five days.

Passports

Visitors travelling on an Israeli or a Qatari passport will not be allowed to enter the country. Passport holders from other countries that have an Israeli stamp or a Qatari stamp in their passport should have no issues.

Visas

Free visas (either 30-day or 90-day depending on country) are available on arrival for 60 nationalities.

Visa on Arrival

Citizens of 20 countries including Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, UK and USA can get a 30-day single-entry visa on arrival, which is extendable.

Nationals of a further 40 countries, including nearly all European countries, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras and Uruguay, receive a 90-day multiple-entry visa on arrival, which can't be extended.

Other Visas

If you are not eligible for a visa on arrival, you need to apply for a sponsored visa before travel. If you're flying to Abu Dhabi International Airport on Etihad Airways, you can request for the airline to pre-arrange the visa (30-day single-entry visa Dhs350).

Etiquette

  • Clothing Modesty is key. Swimwear is only for the beach. Shoulders and knees covered at all times – for both sexes – is a good rule to stick to.
  • Greetings Handshakes (though not firm as that's seen as disrespectful) are normal. Men should refrain from shaking hands with a woman unless she offers her hand first.
  • Politics and religion Avoid contentious issues such as the UAE's involvement in Yemen and the Qatar blockade. Insulting Islam is against the law, as is publicly expressing sympathy towards Qatar.
  • Public displays of affection A no-no. Couples should refrain from kissing, cuddling or hand-holding in public. Technically all are public decency offences though most people turn a blind eye to hand-holding.
  • Ramadan Drinking, eating, smoking, loud music and dancing in public during daylight fasting hours are illegal.
  • Swearing Considered highly offensive and people have been prosecuted or deported for it.

Insurance

Make sure you arrange adequate travel insurance that covers any activities (kayaking, boat trips, 4WD desert excursions etc) you are planning to take part in.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

All hotels, restaurants and cafes provide free wi-fi. Most malls in Abu Dhabi offer free public wi-fi, if you're using a UAE sim card, as part of the WiFi UAE initiative (www.wifiuae.ae/en). Check the website for a map of all public wi-fi locations.

Pornography, LGBT-interest sites, websites considered critical of Islam or the UAE’s leaders, dating and gambling sites, drug-related material, Qatar's Al Jazeera news network and the entire Israeli domain are blocked in the UAE.

In 2018, VoIP call services such as Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp continued to be officially blocked. WhatsApp's texting function still works.

Note that although VPN usage is rampant in the UAE, using a VPN remains illegal.

LGBT Travellers

Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE. If accused, visitors can face deportation, fines or a jail term. Discretion here is key.

All public displays of affection (cuddling, kissing and hand-holding) are officially illegal for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, as is sex outside of marriage. Unless you're staying at a five-star resort, where staff are likely to look the other way, it's advisable to book two single beds rather than a double bed.

Most LGBT+ websites, including dating apps such as Grindr, are blocked inside the UAE.

Despite this, because of the number of young foreign nationals working in Abu Dhabi, there is an active underground LGBT+ scene, though tapping into it can be difficult as a visitor on a short stay.

Money

ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops.

ATMs

Many credit and debit cards can be used for withdrawing money from ATMs. There is usually a charge (around 1.5% to 2%) on ATM cash withdrawals abroad, and some local bank ATMs also charge a fee for withdrawals by cards not issued by their bank.

Credit Cards

Visa, MasterCard and American Express credit and debit cards are widely accepted at shops, hotels and restaurants in Abu Dhabi.

Tipping

  • Hotels Tipping hotel staff is at your discretion. A tip of Dhs5 to Dhs10 for porters is common practice.
  • Restaurants Tip 10% at restaurants unless service is already included on the bill.
  • Spas Tip the therapist 5% to 10% of the treatment fee for more expensive treatments. Add an extra Dh5 to Dh10 onto the fee for smaller treatments such as manicures.
  • Taxis Round taxi fares to nearest Dhs5.

Opening Hours

In Abu Dhabi the weekend is on Friday and Saturday. Many private businesses open on Saturdays. During the holy month of Ramadan, most restaurants and cafes (outside of hotels) shut during daylight hours.

Banks 8am to 1pm (some until 3pm) Sunday to Thursday, 8am to noon Saturday

Restaurants noon to 3pm and 7.30pm to midnight

Shopping malls 10am to 10pm Sunday to Wednesday, 10am to midnight Thursday to Saturday

Souqs & markets 9am to 1pm and 4pm to 9pm Saturday to Thursday, 4pm to 9pm Friday

Post

The postal system is reliable. Standard postcards and letters to Europe cost Dhs6 and to Asia, Australasia, and North and South America Dhs7.

Public Holidays

New Year’s Day 1 January

Commemoration Day 30 November

National Day 2 December

As well as the set-date public holidays, there are several Islamic holidays (some of which are also public holidays) with dates determined by the lunar calendar. The exact dates are announced in the papers (www.thenational.ae) beforehand.

Smoking

New laws governing smoking came into effect in 2015 throughout the UAE. The key facts are as follows:

  • No smoking in public places.
  • Shisha smoking is prohibited under the age of 18.
  • Smoking is still permitted in designated hotel rooms (most hotels reserve one floor for smokers) and some bars and nightclubs. Some restaurants still have an indoor smoking area.
  • There are fines for throwing cigarette butts into the street and for smoking in nonsmoking areas.
  • E-cigarettes are illegal.

Taxes & Refunds

Many high-end restaurants charge a 3.5% tax, often incorporated into menu prices. Hotels also charge this tax, plus a city tax of 2% and a Dhs10 per room, per night tourist tax.

In 2018 the UAE introduced VAT refunds for visitors. VAT refunds for purchases from registered retailers can be obtained from a designated area in Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Telephone

UAE country code971
UAE access code00
Abu Dhabi area code02

Mobile Phones

The UAE’s mobile phone network uses the GSM 900 MHz and 1800 MHz standard. Mobile numbers begin with 050 or 055. If your phone is unlocked, consider buying a prepaid SIM card, available at the airport and shops across the city.

Pre-paid Mobile Plans

Etisalat (www.etisalat.ae/en) and Du Mobile (www.du.ae) are the two main mobile phone operators. Both offer rechargeable pre-paid 'tourist plans'.

Etisalat offers a 14-day plan costing Dhs100 (rechargeable at Dh75) with three different minute-and-data combo options, including one with 700MB of data, 40 minutes of local and international calls plus 40 local and international SMS.

Du Mobile offers a seven-day plan costing Dhs65 (rechargeble at Dh55) with 500MB of data, 20 minutes of local calls and 20 local texts.

3G is widely available, 4G increasingly so.

Toilets

All malls and many parks and other outdoor public recreation areas have free public toilet facilities. They're usually clean but sometimes run out of paper. Bring tissues.

Toilets in restaurants, hotels, malls, tourist sites and museums are sit-down style and generally very well maintained.

Tourist Information

DCT Tourist Information Centre Gives out a free map of the city and offers some glossy brochures, though actual 'information' is thin on the ground.

More Information

DCT also has branches at Abu Dhabi International Airport and Ferrari World.

Visit Abu Dhabi (www.visitabudhabi.ae) The city's main tourist-oriented website.

Yas Island Information (www.yasisland.ae) A good online overview of what's on, when and where on Yas Island.

Travel with Children

Kid-wise Abu Dhabi is best known for its theme parks and beaches, but there's more than roller coasters and sand to family travel here. Children are hugely welcome in this family-focused city, though be prepared for many of the activities to take place indoors because of the extreme heat.

All-weather Fun

  • Ferrari World

Nearly everything in this theme park is indoors.

  • Warner Bros World

The rides and activities of this theme park are completely covered.

  • Bounce

Epic trampoline park at Marina Mall.

  • Fun Works

Learning is the focus of this play environment for tots.

Nature Encounters

  • Noukhada Adventure Company

Kids are welcome on the mangrove and eco-kayaking tours.

  • Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

A chance to learn about falcons and meet them up close.

  • Arabian Saluki Centre

Who can resist cuddling a puppy?

Discovering Culture

  • Abu Dhabi Pearl Journey

Both little ones and teens will enjoy this boat trip while learning about pearling.

  • Louvre Abu Dhabi

There's a dedicated children's museum here.

Splashing About

  • Yas Waterworld

A good haul of water slides.

  • Murjan Splash Park

Waterguns and slides in Khalifa Park.

Park Life

  • Umm Al Emarat Park

This spot has a shade house canopy walk, petting zoo and playground equipment.

  • Capital Gardens

Mini-climbing wall and play areas in the heart of downtown.

  • Al Khalidiyah Public Park

Good climbing frames and other playground equipment opposite the Corniche.

Family Entertainment

  • Zayed Sports City Ice Rink

Work off some steam on the ice.

  • Khalifa International Bowling Centre

For a competitive family night out.

  • Vox Cinemas

A colourful mini-cinema in this complex, specifically for younger ones, plays the latest animated films.

Need To Know

  • Clothes A warm layer is useful to avoid overly cold air-con in malls and cold nights in winter.
  • Weather Avoid May to September when it's too hot, even after dark. Year-round, dehydration is a danger. Hats are essential.
  • Discounts Available for children at sights. The cut-off age is usually 10 years old or dictated by height.