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Once a tiny fishing and pearling village, Abu-Dhabi has developed into the political and cultural heart of the United Arab Emirates. Even though Dubai steals much of the international limelight, Abu-Dhabi is the largest emirate in the country. There are plenty of amazing sites scattered across this cosmopolitan metropolis, which are best explored via rental car. Daytrips to the surrounding emirates by car is also recommended.
Who to Book With
There are numerous car hire suppliers found in the heart of Abu-Dhabi. International companies include Dollar, Thrifty, Budget and Hertz. Tourists can also find local rental companies like SuperPrice and Eagle. For the cheapest deals, check online for rental bookings.
Best time to go
It is best to visit Abu-Dhabi between the months of November and March, when the climate is coolest. Expect temperatures to still exceed 30°C, however, and for prices on rental and accommodation to increase. Between April and September, Abu-Dhabi still experiences blue skies, but temperatures tend to soar.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents are required when renting a car:
- A valid, national or international driving license
- A passport or secondary form of identification
- Credit card used at the time of booking
- The confirmation booking sheet
Roads in and around Abu-Dhabi are well maintained, and traffic conditions are much better than in the nearby emirate of Dubai. Sandstorms during the hotter months of the year can decrease visibility, so driving should be avoided when sandstorms hit. Local motorists tend to be aggressive, so tourists need to be cautious of others when on the road. Do not go through red lights, or even amber for that matter, as heavy fines are often handed out.
Abu-Dhabi is certainly orientated towards car transportation. Navigating on foot is not suitable, due to the large roads, sprawling landscape and searing temperatures. With limited public transportation in Abu-Dhabi, tourists will find they can get around the city and emirate more conveniently by rental car. The city does not have a railway network, but there is an extensive bus system readily available. However, this is certainly geared more towards locals than tourists.
Taxis are a reliable way to get around Abu-Dhabi. Two of the more popular companies offering taxi services are Al Ghazal and National, which dominate the industry. Most of the cabs in the city can be recognised by their white and gold body paint a green taxi sign on top. However, there are also silver-coloured taxis that recently came into service too, offering higher-standards than regular cabs. Tourists can book taxis via phone or hail them from the curbside.
The bus network is serviced by Abu Dhabi Transport. There are more than 90 different routes running throughout the city and emirate, but the buses rarely travel to areas of touristic importance. In general, stops are found outside schools, hospitals and other civic services. Nevertheless, buses are extremely cheap, safe and punctual.
Once Abu-Dhabi’s sites have been toured, tourists have a great opportunity to explore the rest of the emirate, not to mention various other destinations across the United Arab Emirates. Places like the dazzling city of Dubai, the tranquil spot of Umm Al Quwain and the oasis of Al Ain are within a two-hour-drive from the streets of Abu Dhabi.
Dubai - Less than two hours by car hire from Abu Dhabi. The world’s newest global city provides a sensational experience, even on a daytrip. Visit the planet’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, or the always-popular Dubai Marina. Alternatively, stroll through the historic streets of Bastakiya District, and shop at one of the megamalls, such as the Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall.
Liwa Oasis - A collection of Bedouin villages in the heart of the UAE desert. Easily reached by car from Abu Dhabi, the Liwa Oasis is the perfect spot to explore the desert culture of the region (such as date-palm cultivation), and provides a base for desert safaris, which can be pre-organised. Tal Mireb sand dune stands just to the south of Liwa.
Al Ain - Otherwise known as the United Arab Emirates’ Garden City, Al Ain is less than 100 miles from Abu-Dhabi, and should certainly be on any tourist’s itinerary. The Museum and Fort of Al Ain are worth visiting, not to mention the local Camel Souq and the 1,350-metre high Jebel Hafeet.