Last Updated on August 1, 2023
So you’re trying to decide whether to take a vacation to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Both are great choices, as they are the two most popular vacation destinations in the United Arab Emirates. But when considering Abu Dhabi vs Dubai, which one is the better choice for your next trip?
To help you decide, we’ve put together a list of the major factors in each city that may sway your decision. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and is known for its luxury hotels and resorts, as well as its cultural attractions. Dubai, on the other hand, is a more modern city with a vibrant nightlife and shopping scene. Let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights and differences between these two incredible cities.
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How to Get There – Abu Dhabi vs Dubai
Both cities have their own airports, though since they are not too far from one another, if you find a great flight deal, don’t be afraid to snatch it up even if you’re going to the other city!
Getting There – Abu Dhabi
There are a few ways to get from Abu Dhabi International Airport to the city. The most popular option is by taxi, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to find. You can also take the bus or rent a car, but these options may take longer.
If you’re taking a taxi, be sure to use a reputable company like Yellow Cab or Blue Diamond. It’s also a good idea to agree on a price with the driver before getting in the car.
The bus is another option for getting from the airport to the city. The fare is only a few dollars, but the ride will take longer than a taxi.
If you’re renting a car, be aware that driving in Abu Dhabi can be a challenge. Traffic can be heavy, and roads can be congested. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the city’s traffic laws before getting behind the wheel. That being said, Abu Dhabi attractions are quite spread out, so having a car to get between everything can be helpful, and our Driving in UAE Guide will have you ready to drive in no time.
Uber and Careem are the local ride share services, which are available but sometimes difficult to get a driver.
Distance from airport to city: 20 miles (32 km)
Distance from Dubai Airport: 72 miles (116 km)
Getting There – Dubai
There are a few different ways to get from Dubai International Airport to the city, depending on what your budget and preferences are. Note that there are actually two Dubai airports, DXB and DWC, so be sure to double check which airport you are arriving at.
Taxis are always available outside of the airport and can be hailed right off the street. They’re probably the most convenient option, but also the most expensive. Try to agree on a price with the driver before the trip begins if they do not have a meter, as not all taxis do.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, there are buses that run from the airport to various parts of the city. The downside is that they can be quite crowded and you’ll have to lug your bags around with you.
If you’re renting a car, most car rental companies have locations at the airport. This is a good option if you’re planning on doing a lot of driving while you’re in Dubai.
Finally, there are ride share services like Uber and Careem that you can use to get from the airport to your destination. These can be a bit cheaper than taxis, but sometimes it can be hard to find a driver when you land.
Distance from airport to city: 9 miles (15 km)
Distance from Abu Dhabi Airport: 93 miles (150 km)
How to Get Around Abu Dhabi vs Dubai
There’s no easy answer when it comes to figuring out whether Abu Dhabi or Dubai is easier to get around. It really depends on a number of factors, including your own personal preferences and needs. That said, we will take a closer look at both cities to see which one might be better suited for getting around.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and is located on an island in the Persian Gulf. It covers an area of about 67 square miles (172 sq km). In comparison, Dubai is much larger, covering an area of nearly 2,000 square miles (5,200 sq km).
When it comes to population, Abu Dhabi is home to about 1.6 million people, while Dubai has a population of over 3 million. So, when it comes to population density, Abu Dhabi is much more densely populated than Dubai.
This can have an impact on how easy or difficult it is to get around each city. In general, the more densely populated a place is, the more challenging it can be to get around. This is because there are more people and vehicles competing for space on the roads and sidewalks.
So, if we take these factors into account, it would seem that Abu Dhabi might be the more difficult city to get around. However, there are a few other factors to consider.
For one, Abu Dhabi attractions are much more spread out than Dubai. This means that there are typically fewer people and vehicles concentrated in any given area. As a result, it can actually be easier to get around in Abu Dhabi, even though it is more densely populated overall.
Another factor to consider is the infrastructure of each city. Abu Dhabi has a well-developed bus system and plenty of taxis and private cars available for hire. In contrast, Dubai’s infrastructure is quite advanced with extensive buses, as well as a metro, tram, monorail, and even more taxis and private cards than Abu Dhabi.
Getting Around Abu Dhabi
There are plenty of ways to get around Abu Dhabi, whether you’re looking to explore the city or getting out into the desert. The city is a bit more pedestrian-friendly when comparing Abu Dhabi vs Dubai, making things a bit easier.
Renting a car is a great option if you want the freedom to explore at your own pace. There are plenty of car rental companies located throughout Abu Dhabi, so you’ll be able to find a great deal on a vehicle that suits your needs.
Abu Dhabi’s public transportation system is reliable and efficient, making it a great option for getting around the city. The bus network covers most of Abu Dhabi, and there are also a few tram lines that run through the city center. If you’re looking to travel outside of Abu Dhabi, there are also plenty of options for long-distance bus and train travel.
Taxis are a convenient option for getting around Abu Dhabi, and they can be found throughout the city. You can hail a taxi from the street, or you can call a taxi company to request a pick-up.
Getting Around Dubai
If you’re visiting Dubai, you’ll want to know the best ways to get around. The city is huge and can be difficult to navigate, but there are a few options that will make getting around much easier.
The first option is the Metro. The Metro is a quick and efficient way to get around Dubai, and it’s also very affordable. There are two lines that cover most of the city, and they’re easy to use. Just be sure to buy a ticket before you get on the train, as tickets are not sold at the station. When considering the ease in getting around between Abu Dhabi vs Dubai, Dubai wins simply because it has the Metro.
The second option is taxi or Uber / Careem. Taxis are plentiful in Dubai, and they’re usually reasonably priced. If you’re taking a taxi, be sure to agree on a price with the driver before you get in the car.
The third option is to rent a car. This is a good option if you’re going to be staying in Dubai for an extended period of time, as it will give you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Just be aware that traffic can be heavy, and parking can be difficult to find.
Which Has Better Beaches – Dubai vs Abu Dhabi
Before heading to the beach, it’s important to be aware of the cultural norms here. Some beaches in Abu Dhabi are segregated, with separate areas for men and women. It’s also important to dress modestly, as clothing that is too revealing is not allowed.
As a general rule of thumb, in the contest of Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi tends to be more conservative. This applies, not only to the beaches, but all aspects of life and vacation in the two cities.
Beaches in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is well known for its stunning beaches. With miles of coastline and beautiful weather all year round, it’s no wonder that the (mostly man-made) beaches here are some of the most popular in the world.
There are many different beaches to choose from in Abu Dhabi, so whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or a more lively area to enjoy some water sports, you’re sure to find the perfect beach for you.
The most popular beaches in Abu Dhabi include Yas Beach, Corniche Beach, Hudayriyat Beach and Saadiyat Island Beach. Each beach has its own unique character and offers a different experience.
Beaches in Dubai
The beaches in Dubai are some of the most beautiful in the world. With their white sand and clear blue waters, they are perfect for a relaxing day by the sea. There are many different beaches to choose from in Dubai, so you can find one that suits your needs.
The most popular beaches in Dubai are Jumeirah Beach, Dubai Marina Beach, and The Palm Jumeirah. These beaches are all situated in different parts of the city, so you can choose one that is convenient for you. If you are looking for a more secluded beach, then there are also many private beaches that you can visit.
Things to do in Abu Dhabi vs Dubai
Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have no shortage of things to do and keep you busy on your vacation. Abu Dhabi has more cultural experiences, while Dubai is more glitz and glam.
Things to do in Abu Dhabi
If you’re looking for things to do in Abu Dhabi, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The city is home to world-class attractions, including the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the beautiful Emirates Palace hotel, and the spectacular Ferrari World theme park.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must-see. With its stunning white marble exterior and intricate Islamic architecture, the mosque is truly a sight to behold.
Read our Abu Dhabi Itinerary for more great things to do!
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a beautiful museum that showcases art from around the world. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in learning more about art and culture.
The Abu Dhabi Corniche is a 5 mile (8 km) stretch of road along the city’s waterfront. It’s a great place to take a walk, go for a jog, or just relax and take in the incredible views.
Other popular things to do in Abu Dhabi include visiting the heritage village of Al Ain, taking a desert safari, and exploring the mangroves by kayak.
But considering the epic beauty of the city, for sure one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi is to stroll around with your camera to capture some of the best Instagram spots in Abu Dhabi!
Things to do in Dubai
There’s no shortage of things to do in Dubai, whether you’re looking for adrenaline-pumping activities or more laid-back pursuits.
For those who want to get their heart racing, there’s skydiving, Bungee jumping, and desert safari rides. Or, if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, you can go sandboarding, camel riding, or 4x4ing in the dunes.
For those who prefer a more relaxed pace, Dubai has plenty to offer as well. There are beautiful beaches to relax on, interesting museums and galleries to explore, and a whole range of activities to enjoy, from golf and tennis to horse riding and desert safaris.
Of course, no trip to Dubai would be complete without taking in some of its iconic landmarks. The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is a must-see, as is the man-made Palm Jumeirah island. Other popular attractions include the Dubai Museum, the Gold Souk, and the Dubai Fountain, many of which feature on our guide to the Top Dubai Instagram Spots!
Day Trips from Abu Dhabi vs Dubai
As they are so close together you could theoretically do the same day trips from either city, however some are better suited to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. If, like us, you love a good day trip, perhaps stay in the city with better options when considering Abu Dhabi vs Dubai.
Day Trips from Abu Dhabi
There’s no shortage of things to do in Abu Dhabi, but sometimes you just need to get out of the city and explore what else the United Arab Emirates has to offer. Luckily, there are plenty of great day trips you can take from Abu Dhabi.
If you’re looking for a dose of history and culture, take a trip to the city of Al Ain. Just a short drive from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain is home to some of the Emirate’s most important historical sites, including the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Al Jahili Fort. You can also explore the stunning oasis that gives the city its name, or visit one of the many museums and art galleries.
For something a little more active, head to the Hajar Mountains for a day of hiking or mountain biking. There are trails to suit all levels of fitness, and the views from the top are simply breathtaking. Alternatively, you can go camping in the mountains overnight to really make the most of your time there.
For a taste of traditional Emirati life, head to the city of Sharjah. Just a short drive from Abu Dhabi, and even closer to Dubai, Sharjah is home to a number of traditional souks (markets), as well as museums and art galleries showcasing the city’s rich heritage. Be sure to visit the stunning Blue Mosque while you’re there.
Or, if you’re looking for a beach day, there are plenty of great options to choose from. You could head to Yas Island to relax on the sandy beaches or take advantage of the island’s many attractions, such as Ferrari World and Warner Bros.
Day Trips from Dubai
Similar to Abu Dhabi, Dubai is a great base to explore day trips to the Hajar Mountains or the city of Al Ain.
If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, why not try sandboarding in the desert? There are plenty of operators offering tours from Dubai, and it’s a great way to see the desert in a different way. You can go for a camel ride, try your hand at sandboarding, or just take in the stunning desert scenery. If you’re up for a bit of adventure, you can even go quad biking or dune bashing.
Fujairah is another great day trip from Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for a more traditional Emirati experience. Fujairah is home to many historic sites, including the oldest mosque in the country. The emirate is also well-known for its beautiful beaches and stunning scenery.
Shopping in Abu Dhabi vs Dubai
There’s no shortage of shopping options in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But which city offers the best shopping experience? It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a more traditional shopping experience, Abu Dhabi is the place to be. But if you’re looking for luxury shops and malls, Dubai is the city for you.
Shopping in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is home to some of the best malls in the UAE, including Yas Mall, Marina Mall and The Galleria. These malls offer a wide range of shops and restaurants, as well as plenty of entertainment options.
If you’re looking for a truly local shopping experience, though, you’ll want to head to one of Abu Dhabi’s many souks.
These vibrant markets are the perfect place to pick up traditional souvenirs, spices, fabrics and more.
Souk Qaryat Al Beri is a chic souk located in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s luxury resort district. The souk is home to a range of high-end stores selling everything from fashion and jewelry to home décor and art.
If you’re looking for a more traditional souk experience, head to Souk Madinat Zayed. This bustling market is located in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s old city and is the perfect place to pick up spices, fabrics and more.
Shopping in Dubai
Dubai is known for its luxury malls, including the Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Battuta Mall. These malls offer a wide range of high-end shops, as well as plenty of entertainment options.
For a more traditional shopping experience, Dubai’s souks are equally worthy of a visit. The Gold Souk is home to hundreds of gold shops, all vying for your business. You can find every type of gold jewellery here, from simple chains to elaborate wedding sets. bargaining is expected, so don’t be afraid to haggle for a better price.
The Spice Souk is a must-visit for any foodie. This souk is crammed with stalls selling every type of spice imaginable. From saffron to cardamom, you’ll find it all here. The Spice Souk is also a great place to buy local spices for cooking at home, which make for a great souvenir.
Nightlife Abu Dhabi vs Dubai
When it comes to nightlife, there are two very different scenes in Abu Dhabi vs Dubai. Which city is better for nightlife? It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a more subdued and upscale experience, Abu Dhabi is the place for you. But if you’re looking to let loose and have a truly wild night out, Dubai is the city that will not disappoint.
Nightlife in Abu Dhabi
In Abu Dhabi, the nightlife is much more subdued and focused on upscale restaurants and bars. There are a few nightclubs, but they tend to be less crowded and more expensive than those in Dubai. The city’s nightlife scene is centred around the Corniche, a waterfront promenade that offers stunning views of the skyline. Clubbing hotspots include White, Cirque Le Soir, and Boudoir.
Another great party destination in Abu Dhabi is Yas Island. This man-made island is home to some of the best clubs and bars in the city, so you’re sure to have a great time. Additionally, Yas Island is home to the world-famous Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, so you can expect a lively atmosphere when the race is on.
Abu Dhabi is also generally a much safer city than Dubai, so you can feel more comfortable walking around at night. This is due to the fact that there are more police officers patrolling the streets and there is a higher concentration of security cameras in Abu Dhabi.
Nightlife in Dubai
In Dubai, on the other hand, the nightlife is much more wild and varied. There are dozens of nightclubs, bars, and lounges to choose from, and the party scene here is truly world-class.
In Dubai, the most popular area for nightlife is probably Jumeirah Beach. This area is packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants, so you’ll never be bored. If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, Dubai Marina is a great option. This area is known for its chilled-out vibe and beautiful views of the water. The city is home to some of the world’s most exclusive clubs, such as Cavalli Club and Cirque du Soleil.
However, it is also important to be aware that Dubai can be a bit more dangerous at night, so you should take extra caution when walking around.
Restaurants in Abu Dhabi vs Dubai
There’s no easy answer when it comes to deciding whether Abu Dhabi or Dubai has better food and restaurants. Both cities have a wealth of dining options to choose from, so it really depends on what kind of food you’re in the mood for. If you’re looking for a traditional Emirati meal, then Abu Dhabi is the place to be. But if you’re craving international cuisine, then Dubai is your best bet. Whichever city you choose, you’re sure to find plenty of delicious food options to enjoy.
Keep in mind that there are also a few fasting periods observed in the UAE throughout the year. During these times, many restaurants will be closed during the day and only open for business in the evening. So, if you’re planning on dining out during a fasting period, be sure to check the hours of operation in advance.
Restaurants in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is generally considered to be more family-friendly than Dubai. This means that you’ll find more casual dining options in Abu Dhabi, as well as a greater selection of restaurants that cater to families with young children.
In Abu Dhabi, you’ll find plenty of excellent Arabic and international cuisine on offer. The best areas to head for restaurants are the Corniche and Marina Mall. During the holy month of Ramadan, many restaurants will be closed during the day, but there are still plenty of options for those who want to eat out.
Restaurants in Dubai
If you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience, on the other hand, Dubai is the place to be. This city is home to some of the best restaurants in the United Arab Emirates, as well as a number of Michelin-starred establishments.
The best areas for restaurants in Dubai are Downtown Dubai, Jumeirah Beach Road and Dubai Marina. Keep in mind that many restaurants will be closed during the day during Ramadan, but there are still plenty of options available in the evenings.
Abu Dhabi Hotels vs Dubai Hotels
If you’re planning a trip to the United Arab Emirates, you might be wondering what types of hotels you’ll find in Abu Dhabi versus Dubai. Both cities are home to some of the best hotels in the world, but they offer different experiences.
Abu Dhabi is known for its luxury hotels, which offer visitors upscale amenities and stunning views of the cityscape. If you’re looking for a five-star hotel experience, such as the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi is the place to be. However, these luxury accommodations come at a price – hotels in Abu Dhabi are typically more expensive than those in Dubai.
Dubai, on the other hand, is known for its diverse hotel options. You’ll find everything from budget-friendly hotels to luxury resorts in Dubai. And while you might not get the same level of service and amenities at a lower-priced hotel, you’ll certainly be able to find something that fits your budget.
So, which city has better hotels? That depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a luxurious, five-star experience, Abu Dhabi is the place to go. But if you’re looking for more affordable accommodation options, Dubai is your best bet.
Which Destination is Better for you – Abu Dhabi or Dubai?
There’s no simple answer to the question of which city is better – Abu Dhabi or Dubai. It all depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation destination.
If you’re looking for a cheaper city, then Abu Dhabi is the better option. Abu Dhabi is also more family friendly, with more attractions and things to do within the city limits. Abu Dhabi is also more conservative than Dubai.
Dubai is much better suited to luxury travelers and party goers. It has more glitz and glam, and world-class shopping options.
Both cities have a lot to offer in terms of activities and day trips, so it really comes down to what you’re looking for in a vacation. Since both cities are in the United Arab Emirates, you will have to remember to take certain things, such as Ramadan, into consideration when planning your trip to either city. Both are unbelievably incredible cities, depending on what you are looking for!
Still can’t decide? Abu Dhabi and Dubai are close enough to one another that you can easily split your trip and spend time between the two great cities. Get a little taste of life in each, and let us know in the comments which you prefer!