Abu Dhabi visitor information
- Mon 09 Nov 2009, 10:46AM
As we build up to City’s prestige game against the United Arab Emirates national team on November 12th, we would like to provide supporters planning on making the trip to the Emirate with some valuable information on Abu Dhabi culture and laws.
Getting to Abu Dhabi:
Abu Dhabi International Airport is the main gateway to the Emirate and is approximately seven hours flying time from the UK and six hours from continental Europe. It is currently undergoing a significant US$ 6.8 billion redevelopment and expansion project to serve the fast-growing tourism industry. The airport offers a full range of facilities and services including Abu Dhabi Duty Free, VIP meet-and-assist service, car-hire desks and efficient city transfers by taxi, shuttle bus or hotel limousine.
The national carrier, Etihad Airways, has a rapidly-expanding network which reaches more than 50 destinations around the world. Visit www.etihadairways.com for the latest flight schedules and routing updates.
Al Ain, the emirate’s second city, also has its own modern international airport, which mainly serves regional destinations.
The official currency of the United Arab Emirates is the dirham (abbreviated to Dhs or AED), with each dirham divided into 100 fils. Dirham notes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 denominations, while coins come in Dhs 1, 0.5, 0.25.
Banks and money exchange bureaus can be found throughout Abu Dhabi, the latter located in most shopping malls and key locations. All major hotels will also readily exchange currency for guests. Nearly all major retail establishments in Abu Dhabi accept credit card payment; however it is advisable to carry some loose local currency, in dirham, to use at smaller local convenience stores.
Abu Dhabi and the UAE are moderate and progressive Muslim states and many non-Muslim beliefs and ways of life are tolerated and accepted. However, there are some strict rules of which every visitor should be aware.
Alcohol is served to non-Muslims in all major hotels and licenced restaurants, but public drunkenness and drinking and driving are not tolerated. The latter is a serious offence, with zero tolerance for driving while under the influence of alcohol.
There is also no tolerance for drug use, and visitors may face long prison sentences if apprehended with any drugs, however small the quantity.
The Ministry of Health’s Drug Control Department publishes lists of restricted drugs and medications that may otherwise be prescribed in travellers’ home countries, so travellers must take special care to ensure that their medications or other substances are not restricted before travelling.
Visitors to Abu Dhabi should avoid photographing women in general, and particularly local women, without their permission. It is always courteous to ask before photographing people. There are few other restrictions on photography in the emirate – only military, government and airport installations are not allowed to be photographed.
All public shows of affection between adults are technically illegal in the United Arab Emirates; this applies to visitors as well as locals. Hand-holding and kissing are not permitted and can cause offence to locals.
Shops are generally open daily but hours are restricted on Friday, the holy day. Most shopping malls are open 10.00am to 10.00pm from Saturday to Wednesday, 10.00am to 11.00pm on Thursday, and usually from 2.00pm to 10.00 or 11:00pm on Friday. Food outlets usually stay open until 1.00am.
Shops outside the malls usually close for lunch between 2.00pm and 4.00pm and stay open late in the evening until 9.00 or 10.00pm. Shopping rush hour can often be at midnight, especially in the heat of summer.
Abu Dhabi is blessed with a very low crime rate and almost zero violent crime. Abu Dhabi Police has highly efficient law enforcement and emergency procedures in place and officers are courteous and helpful.
For emergencies, call the following toll-free numbers:
998 Ambulance services
999 Police (also +971 2 4461461)
999 Helicopter Service
Getting around: taxis
The most common form of hailing a taxi is to stand on the street or walk to the closest hotel. From the street, you’ll be able to catch one of the fleet of new air-conditioned silver taxis which will gradually replace the old white and gold ones.
All silver taxis have working meters and a cross-city trip in the afternoon should cost between 15 and 25Dhs. Tips are not expected but are appreciated. White and gold taxis have meters too but sometimes drivers like to fix a price. A calm but stern request for the meter to be turned on usually does the trick.
If you catch a taxi from the hotel you might find that it is a private taxi and a more up-market car such as a Mercedes, for which you will pay a little more.
To book a taxi, call Al Ghazal: +971 2 444 7787. These bookings need to be made in advance of your journey.
Getting around: bus
In 2008, Abu Dhabi city introduced a fleet of new air-conditioned buses running from Marina Mall through the centre of the city to the eastern end of town (Tourist Club area and Abu Dhabi Mall) and out towards the airport. The buses are free until the end of 2008 with a small fee expected to be introduced in 2009.
Getting around: car hire
Visitors can rent and drive cars in Abu Dhabi but only with a valid credit card and international driving licence (your national driving licence is not enough). Check before making payment that the company’s insurance policy covers you as a non-UAE resident.
All major car rental companies are represented as well as a number of local firms. Rates vary considerably so it is worth making a few phone calls to compare prices.
Abu Dhabi Duty Free is among the region’s best duty free facilities, with top brand names in fashion, cosmetics, fragrances, confectionary, beverages, tobacco, electronic equipment, gold, toys, gifts and souvenirs.
The UAE allows non-Muslim travellers arriving in Abu Dhabi to buy up to two litres of spirits and two litres of wine per person. You can also buy perfume in reasonable quantities and up to 2,000 cigarettes, 400 cigars or two kilos of tobacco.
Embassies and consulates are generally open from 8.45 a.m.–1.30 p.m. They are closed on Fridays; many also close on Saturdays. For more information visit: www.uaeinteract.com/travel/embassies.asp
Abu Dhabi is generally conservative but tolerant when it comes to dress code. The attitude to dress is relaxed, but visitors (both men and women) are advised not to wear excessively revealing clothing in public places, as a sign of respect for local culture and customs. This also applies to public beaches, where swimmers should avoid excessively revealing swimming suits. Most nightclubs require their guests not to wear shorts, caps or sport shoes on their premises. Unless otherwise indicated, official events usually require non-locals to wear formal dress; a suit and tie for men and an evening dress for women.
As for the weather requirements, lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year (summer, spring and autumn), though a light sweater or cardigan could be handy when visiting a shopping mall, hotel or restaurant where the temperature might be kept too low to counter the outdoor heat. Slightly warm clothes are needed for the short winter season, especially in the evening.
There are four daily English language newspapers: The National, Gulf News, The Khaleej Times and Gulf Today. Many international newspapers and magazines are available in hotel bookshops and supermarkets and cost between 12 – 30 Dhs.
Most major hotels offer a range of satellite TV channels. Local channels also have English-language broadcasts.
The official language of the United Arab Emirates is Arabic. English is widely spoken and understood and a wide range of European languages are spoken within the hospitality industry.
Abu Dhabi offers great shopping options – choose from the comfort of air-conditioned malls or soak up the atmosphere at a traditional souk. Souks are a definite must-see for visitors – as much for the atmosphere as for the fun of bargaining for that special gift. In Abu Dhabi city, the Iranian and carpet souks (the central souk is being redeveloped) and Madinat Zayed gold market are well worth visiting. Al Ain also has its own souk.
There are a number of major malls throughout the city, the largest being the Marina Mall and Abu Dhabi Mall.
GMT + 4 hours
Hotel restaurants add a 16 per cent service charge to the menu tariff which is incorporated into the customer’s bill. An additional 10 per cent tip will be greatly appreciated by the very hospitable staff but this is optional.
Some non-hotel restaurants may include service in the price and this information will be indicated on the menu. If not, 10 per cent is adequate. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, but will be grateful for any change.
The electricity supply in Abu Dhabi is 220/240 volts at 50 Hz. Square three-pin sockets are standard. It is advisable to bring a plug adapter with you, but most hotels can supply you with adapters for other kinds of plug or you can purchase adapters locally.
Tap water is perfectly safe to drink in Abu Dhabi, but if you prefer the taste of bottled water, locally bottled mineral water is readily available in supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere.
More Information: www.visitabudhabi.ae