Thursday, April 2, 2015

My Fun (and Affordable) Trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Lots of people have been asking when I would write about my trip to UAE. I've been swamped with grad school work, but now I can finally come up for air and give you all the deets!

I was one of many blessed folks who received an early Christmas present on December 24th in the form of an Etihad Airlines glitch fare for cheap,cheap,cheap! I called the BF and he immediately said, "Let's book it!"

We got a roundtrip ticket for $287 which included taxes and all. For glitch fares, book right away or it will disappear. A tip for the readers who got the same deal, call Etihad ahead of time and confirm your seat if you didn't do so when you purchased. Doing this allowed us to sit together for the long journey.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai hadn't been on my short list of travel destinations, but the more I read, the more excited I became. Having just visited Morocco, I was looking forward to learning more about that area of the world and even more excited about my first international trip with my main squeeze.


The first thing I did was book the hotels. I use and often and do the pay later option so that I can book ahead and cancel it if I find something better. I am pretty belligerent about it. I booked about 4 different hotels between the two sites so that we could have choices. Once we both took a look at the locations and amenities, we canceled the ones we didn't want, then chose the "pay now" option to lock in the cheaper price. This is CLUTCH and one of my top travel tips. Paying ahead on the ones we wanted saved us a couple hundred dollars, but having the time to cross check it on Trip Advisor was necessary. In Dubai, we stayed at the Park Regis. The hotel was great, but the location was not. Although nothing was too far, traffic was pretty awful so we spent a lot of time (and money) dealing with taxis. If you don't mind that. go for it. Otherwise I'd highly recommend staying near the Dubai Mall or Palm Jumeirah. WE LOVED our hotel in Abu Dhabi. It wasn't in the middle of the action, but it didn't seem far either. The service, the food, everything was perfection at Southern Sun and it was such an amazing price ($116!)

Delicious Southern Sun Breakfast! 

Activities in Dubai

My boyfriend's birthday was during our trip so I did some digging for concerts and activities and located the UAE Ticketmaster! Gotta love the world wide web. I found out that John Legend would be performing on his actual birthday at the annual Dubai Jazz Fest. I secretly bought those tickets and let's just say he was more than surprised and excited to go. Check out Ticketmaster, What's On Dubai/Abu Dhabi and Time Out that might be happening while you're there.

The Dubai Mall was an activity in of itself. We had fun checking out the aquarium, walking around and shopping a bit. The area that it's located in is really lively and fun as well. I heard Emirates Mall is just as amazing, but seeing that we spent so much time in Dubai Mall...

The view of the Burj Khalifa is perfect from the Dubai Mall

Visit the Gold Souks. It's a really great chance to see a more authentic side of Dubai and you can get some great deals. There are also great shoes, jewelry and scarves as well. My trick to bargaining is to let them offer first, then I come back at 1/3 of the price and only move up slightly from there. Stay strong!

Convincing us that his shop was the best shop :-)

You've gotta head to the beach at some point. I did a lot of research on this and now I'll just hand it to you. There are a few public beaches, but for about $30-60/day, you can buy a day pass to a really nice resort (if you're not staying at one). We went to Le Royal Meridian where their restaurant Maya they offered a beach pass AND an amazing multi-course brunch all as one package. We chilled at the beach all day and ate “lovely” as my students would say. The Dubai weekend is Thursday-Saturday so brunch is on Friday & Saturday. Call or email ahead to book a table! If the brunch doesn't interest you, here is a list of day pass hotels.
View from the beach at Le Royal Meridian

Activities in Abu Dhabi

The Grand Mosque is just..everything. To maximize our time, we stored our luggage in the Abu Dhabi airport when we first arrived. Just go to customer service and it'll cost about $30. We took a taxi to the Grand Mosque and spent a few hours touring and walking around. When you arrive, there will be signs that will lead you to where you can get an abaya to wear inside since women must be covered. Tip for the ladies: take your own scarf because the hoods on the abayas are nothing fancy. I would have much preferred a pretty scarf or lengthy one at least, rather than the attached hood it came with. We had time to kill afterwards, so we also visited Yaz Island. We had a nice lunch outside and shopped a bit at the mall before heading back to the airport to take the shuttle.

The gorgeous Grand Mosque

While doing research, I saw that desert tours were very popular so I took a look at a few of their websites. Then I thought...I bet UAE has Groupon. Sure enough, they do! I booked our tour through Groupon for super cheap and we had the BEST time riding ATVs in the desert, hanging with camels, and dune bashing in Jeeps. It's a must. Just make sure you find the name of the company and CROSS REFERENCE using Tripadvisor. You wouldn't want to have a bootleg experience just because you paid half price. We booked ours with Desert Rose.

Desert Chillin

We only spend the first day and last day in Abu Dhabi, but I definitely could have hung out there for a while. It's more chill than Dubai, which I personally enjoyed.

What to Wear

I packed lots of light harem "beach" pants (thanks Asos!), tanks and scarves. This way, if I got too hot or if I was in a less conservative area, I could remove the scarf. UAE wasn't as conservative as I thought it would be, but you would definitely be looking crazy in a little sun dress. I'd say harem pants and maxi skirts are a safe bet with tanks and a scarf over your shoulders or a short sleeved top. The best thing about UAE in comparison to Istanbul or Marrakech, is that the men won't harass you much. I have, however, heard stories of people being corrected in public for their attire. Don't be that girl.

As for guys, most men wore long pants and short sleeved tops. You could get away with shorts, but definitely look around and scope it out on your first day and see what you feel comfortable with.


We were nervous about this! Abu Dhabi seems to be more conservative so we didn't hold hands or anything while there. As far as Dubai, it was much more liberal. We held hands when we saw that other couples were doing it, but no kissing or anything like that. Plus, I think it's important to respect the culture of where you are so we obliged.

The Etihad Shuttle

I booked multiple shuttle times, two with my name and two with my BFs name, just so we had options. (Are you seeing a trend here?) You can add multiple people to one booking on the website. This way, we were able to explore Abu Dhabi before heading to Dubai the day we arrived. The bus was completely empty on the way to Dubai, but packed heading back. Book early friends!

Lessons Learned

-I needed more days to adjust to the time difference. UAE is the farthest I've been from the US since Turkey. I was sooo tired the whole time.

-Book a hotel with free wifi.

-Write down/store the exchange rate just in case you don't have wifi to look it up. Things are going to sound crazy expensive in Dirhams so you need to be prepared.

-People smoke everywhere, all the time. Sorry in advance if you loathe ciggy smoke as much as I do.

-Zomato=Yelp. It's great.

-If paying with a credit card, they'll ask if you want to purchase in Dirhams or Dollars.Charging in Dirham will save you money (at time of publishing)

-Abu Dhabi and Dubai are only 90 minutes away from each other. Enjoy them both!

-Dubai is to Miami Beach as Abu Dhabi is to Los Angeles (in my opinion)

-The Abu Dhabi airport does US Customs there so get there 3 hours early. No exceptions!

However, if you do happen to miss your flight because you didn't look up this information ahead of time and thought you could pop up two hours before like you do in most other countries...

Go back to your hotel, take out your swimsuit, and chill until you get the later flight. LOL!

Lemons to Lemonade Moment


  1. That was funny. Lol. At least you got to hang out in your swimsuit a little longer. Great post!

  2. I wish I caught that glitch! This is the best insight I've seen thus far!

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