United Arab Emirates Travel Guide (Middle East | Visit U.A.E)

  • Capital: Abu Dhabi
  • Currency: United Arab Emirates dirham
  • Official language: Arabic
  • The country is well known for:
    • There are ATMs in Dubai that shell out gold bars
    • In 1998, Sharjah was named the “Cultural Capital of the Arab World” by UNESCO.
    • The Dubai police has luxury cars like Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley in its fleet to catch speeders.
    • Ski Dubai is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East and has 22,500 square meters covered with real snow for skiing
    • The UAE hosts many leading international film festivals, such as the Dubai International Film Festival and Abu Dhabi Film Festival

The oil-rich UAE is a federation of seven emirates. The most spectacular of the Arab nation, the Emirates give travelers a gift of sunbaked desserts, skyscraping building, mall and complex big enough to fit in a village, the cuisine that feeds the soul, mosques so peaceful, history so rich and lives of locals which is always so larger than life. Experience the touch and feel of royalty at every step. The economy that is growing at a fast pace. The countries that build infrastructures sure to challenge the height of expertise in the world.

The UAE has always set records with either building the tallest building or the largest shopping mall. The culture that balances the past and the present. A unique blend of modernity and ethnicity is what sets it apart from the rest of world. In this UAE travel guide, we take you on the virtual journey of these mesmerizing emirates of the Middle East.

A short history about U.A.E

The UAE founded the seven emirates on 2nd Dec 1971. The six countries that came together first are – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain. The seventh country to join in was Ras Al Khaimah. It joined the group on 10the Feb 1972. They were formerly known as the Trucial States.

A number of incursions and bloody battles took place along the coast. Today, the UAE is a modern, oil exporting country with a highly diversified economy, with Dubai, in particular, developing into a global hub for tourism, retail, and finance, home to the world’s tallest building, and largest man-made seaport.

Where is U.A.E located?

The grand and superfluously rich UAE is located at the entrance of the Persian Gulf on the east of the Arabian Peninsula. It shares the coastline with Saudi Arabia on the west and Oman on the southeast. The two coastlines that line UAE are Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. It is surprisingly located at the strategic position between the East and the West, intermingling the cultures of both in its heritage, yet not losing its own cultural identity. While preparing your UAE travel itinerary don’t forget to make note of some of the exclusive things that you will only see in the UAE alone.

When is the best time to visit? the weather in U.A.E by season

The UAE has a desert climate and is extraordinarily dry, getting only a few days of rain a year. Tourist prefers to visit during the spring season which is from March to May and the autumn from September beginning. For winter experience October to March is the ideal time to visit. From late May to September the temperature is extremely high and the heat is unbearable. Tourists must avoid this time to travel there.

Winter activities in UAE: One can trek to Ras Al Khaimah where the temperature is at the lowest. The cold can be beaten by setting up a bonfire and sip on the Arabic coffee or hot chocolate.

Spring activities in UAE: Visit the Al Noor Island in Sharjah and have fun with Play Park, trampolines and literature house. One can visit the many adventure parks and get the best of the pleasant weather.

Summer activities in UAE: During the summer one can beat the heat with Ski Dubai and other indoor activities at the Dubai theme park. The indoor games include climbing a wall, playing mini golf in the dark or simply roam around the mall.

Autumn activities in UAE: If cultural events and fall festivals are your thing, then fall is the best time to visit UAE and immersed in the classic display of art, culture, and history.

BEST WAYS TO TRAVEL TO UAE

By Air

There are airports in all major cities of the UAE. The main airport is the Dubai airport, where all the flights from major international destinations land. Dubai based Emirates has connectivity to major cities. Other airports include the Abu Dhabi airport and the Sharjah airport. Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways is also a major flying hub. Cheaper flights can be made available from the Sharjah Airport of Air Arabia.

By Train

The longest and the most inconvenient way to travel to Dubai is by a train. They are time-consuming and expensive. Though there are trains to Dubai going via Pakistan, the flight is always a better option to travel.

By Water 

One can take the thrill of traveling by sea, on a cruise ship or a boat. Cruises sail between two nations, making for a great water-based travel mode.

By Bus

Emirates Express connects Dubai to all other emirates. There are frequent bus services between Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Masafi, Abu Dhabi and others. So, one lands on the neighboring country may take a bus to an Emirate country. Explore UAE with the exclusive and comfortable emirate express.

By Car

The excellent smooth highways from Saudi Arabia to UAE from the south and from Oman to UAE from the east are entry points to the country. A toll amount is to be prepaid to enter the Emirates. The huge traffic may make the journey long and tiring.

BEST WAYS TO TRAVEL AROUND UAE

Bus

The intercity bus service has been improved to provide a comfortable ride to the travelers. There are a number of buses that run from one stop to other. One can easily get a bus to their desired destinations.

Car/Taxi

One can hire a taxi or rent a cab to explore the city on their own. One must have a valid international driving license which should be carried all around. One can have a map handy to not get lost or wander in a foreign land. The laws in the Emirates are very stringent.

Walking

Exploring the city on foot may not be the wisest decision because of the heavy traffic and unpopular driving style of the locals.

Train (Dubai)

Metros to all major stations is available. The extensive network of metros has made traveling around easy and cheap.

Travel cost breakdown: How expensive is UAE?

Accommodation

UAE is popular for its luxurious accommodations where they exceed your expectation by providing you with the best service so don’t be surprised if the prices are too expensive, its pretty standard because you’ll get your money’s worth.

Hotels in UAE

Hotels in UAE can be expensive but it is totally worth the stay. The average price per night is about 80USD and it can go up to thousands depending on how many stars the hotel has. Below are hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with their average pricing: 

Abu Dhabi Hotels
Dubai hotels

NOTE: these prices are rough estimates from the time of writing this article which is in October of 2017. I will try to update the prices along the way but please check the links to see the current prices.

Cheap accommodation in UAE

Although UAE is known for its top-notch luxury accommodations, there’s still a way to cut down on the hotel costs if you wish to keep your stay budgeted. Hostels and hotel apartments are two alternatives you can stay at during your trip to UAE. Below are hostels and apartments in Abu Dhabi and Dubai:

Abu Dhabi cheap accommodations

Dubai cheap accommodations

Food

  • Average price of food for one day is 41 USD
  • A meal in an inexpensive restaurant will cost you approximately 8USD
  • A meal in an expensive restaurant (fine dining) will cost you about 50-80USD per person including drinks
  • A local brew will cost you about 10USD per pint
  • An imported beer comes a bit more expensive at 11USD per pint
  • A coffee from Costa or Starbucks will cost you about 4-5USD per fresh brew
  • A water bottle costs under 1USD
  • A shawarma (local street food) will cost you about 3USD per order

NOTE: Alcohol in UAE is not easily accessible and they sell these in special shops (similar to Alko in Finland) and you need a license to purchase from these stores. To get a license, you need to be a resident so if you’re a tourist, you can get alcohol from hotel bars and restaurants. Independent restaurants you’ll stumble upon in the malls and streets aren’t allowed to sell alcohol so don’t be surprised if you don’t find these in their menu. Also, regular stores do not sell alcohol.

Transportation Costs

  • The average daily cost to travel around big cities such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai will run around 10USD per day
  • If you’re staying for a longer period, you can purchase a monthly pass that will cost you 62USD
  • If you’re staying for a short time, taxi’s will be your best friend and they only cost about 3USD per ride (about 3km)

Tours in UAE

Depending on what you are planning to do while in UAE, there are several options in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi when it comes to organized tours. You can either do the top attractions in UAE through purchasing a tour online or you can DIY, it is up to you! However, if you are staying for only a few days – a tour is recommended and most of them are pretty good. I personally booked a tour for the desert safari which turned out to be the highlight of my stay while visiting Abu Dhabi but pretty much covered all of the attractions on my own (read: things to do in Abu Dhabi).

 Tours in Abu Dhabi

Tours in Dubai

fun things to do in UAE you must not miss!

Burj Al Arab

It is a luxury hotel, which is also the third tallest hotel in the world. Completed in 1999, the Burj Al Arab stands on an artificial island and its structure mimics the sail of the ship. It has a helipad and a fleet of chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. The interior is as breathtaking as the interior. Decorated with gold leaf fountain, the hotel is luxury personified.

Burj Khalifa

One needs to advance book the ticket to visit the work of architectural excellence. The tallest building cuts the sky at 828m. The sunsets from here are always unforgettable. The prices do hike during this time, so plan and book way ahead.

Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque

A key place of worship in the country, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, is visible from the bridges joining Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland. The mosque was built by the late president of UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and later became his resting place. The majestic beauty is adorned with vast gardens and pristine pearl white marble. It is one region open to non-Muslims.

IMG Worlds of Adventure

The epic indoor amusement park is Dubai’s first mega themed entertainment destination. The fully air-conditioned park can house 28 football fields. The minimum age to enter the park is 15 years. The park is split into 4 themes, all different from the other.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

The first of its kind, Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital has become one of the largest avian hospitals since its inception in 1999, Oct. Falcons are part of the Gulf culture and no stone is left unturned to look after the welfare of these beautiful birds. The ticket to the hospital also allows entry to the Falcon Museum which is one of the must things to do in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai Mall

For all the shopping spree visit the world’s largest mall by total area. It has around 1200 shops and one can surely not visit the entire mall in one go. There is no brand or no item in the world that this mall does not have.

The list of wonderful places to explore and visit in UAE is vast. Some other places include Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Food Festival, Dubai Museum, and Emirates Palace.

UAE POINTS OF INTEREST: WHAT TO SEE AND WHERE TO GO

UAE has recently been added to the world’s must-visit destination and thanks to promoted tourism and retail shopping that attracts travelers from all across the world to this amazing land. There are many things to do in UAE and many places to visit in UAE which will leave you awestruck. Here is the list of the seven Emirates of the UAE and their points of interest:

Abu Dhabi

The largest and one of the most modern cities in the UAE, Abu Dhabi is the capital city and center for the government of UAE. The beauty and diversity of the Gulf culture are sprawled all over Abu Dhabi. The city has the largest hand-loomed carpet, the fastest rollercoaster, the tower with the greatest lean are some examples of the exemplary skills of the city.

Dubai

A popular Emirati city, Dubai is a progressive and a fast developing city. Your travel to UAE will be incomplete if you don’t visit the skyscraping buildings, the palm-shaped island, flying taxis, high-speed trains are clear indicators of the economy is ready to become one of the most powerful economies, with the ominous amount of wealth and technological expertise it has at its hand. Dubai will be hosting the World Expo 2020, after the approval of the Bureau of International Expositions (Paris) after it won a bid for it.

Sharjah

It is the third largest city of the seven emirates. It was once declared as the cultural capital of the Arab, Sharjah doesn’t boast of glitz and glamour, but a preserver of art, history, tradition, and culture. It is pretty close to Dubai and has a comparatively very low cost of living. Residents of Sharjah usually come to Dubai for work and travel up and down. Another beauty of the city is that it is the only emirate that has a coastline on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

 

Umm al Quwain

A quiet, secluded city, far off and different from the rest of the UAE, Umm al Quwain has no malls or sky-high buildings. But it has beautiful mangroves lining the shores of the Persian Gulf. One can see the flora and fauna sitting on the island.

Ra’s al Khaymah

The fisherman village of the UAE, Ra’s al Khaymah has seen exceptional development in the recent times. What attracts visitors here is the scenic beauty, oases, sunbaked desserts and the mountains. It was once a town for pearl drivers. There exists the pristine multi-domed Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Fujairah

The youngest of the Emirates, it got its independence at the last. It is the only Emirate to not have a coastline along the Persian Gulf. The city is bubbling to be the commercial hub, with various infrastructural developments taking place.

Ajman

When one wants to take a break from the hustle bustle of the exotic and peppy cities like Dubai, Ajman is the city to go to. Being the smallest of the lot, it has beautiful sandy beaches. Enjoy the walk through the quiet streets and relish the local delicacies. The city is ruled by the family of AL Nuaimi tribe.

FOODS YOU MUST TRY WHEN YOU VISIT UAE

Camel Meat

Camels are the pillars of the UAE. From being used for transportation to having camel’s milk, the camels have a huge role to play in the Emirates. Camel Meat is a popular Emirati Cuisine Since the camels are highly prized, the meat is made mostly on special occasions. Initially tough, but upon cooking the meat becomes soft and tender. Camel Meat is used to make a separate dish or is added to pulaos and biryanis.

Dates

The list is of Emirati cuisine is incomplete without the mention of these tiny jewels. Dates are part not only of the platter but also of the culture. Dates and Arabic Coffee are staple items that are served to guests. Even the holy fasting starts with consuming dates and milk.

Khabees

A treat for those with a sweet tooth, Khabees is a traditional dessert food item popular not only in UAE, but also around in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait. This delicacy is usually prepared for breakfast, during the celebration of Eid.

Kabsa

The national dish of UAE, kabsa is traditionally prepared with rice, meat, vegetables, and spices. The spices added to it are the star ingredients and the flavors and aroma mainly depend on the choice of spices added.

Luqaimat 

Another sweet delight, Luqaimat are round deep fried pancakes made of flour, sugar, starch, cardamom powder, and yeast. After frying, they are rolled in date syrup and sprinkled with date syrup.

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