Abu Dhabi or Dubai: Which Destination Is Right For Me?

saadiyat rotana beach

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the two most popular holiday destinations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Both cities are only seven hours away from the UK, and there are regular direct flights to both from London, Manchester and Dublin. However, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are very different places, so it’s important to make sure you choose the right city for you. If you’re unsure about which destination to choose, then read this blog post!

Is Abu Dhabi in Dubai?

No, Abu Dhabi is located 140 kilometres away from Dubai. Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the UAE, and as such, there are fantastic transport links to and from both cities.

Is Abu Dhabi the same as Dubai?

No, Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the UAE and the seat of the government. On the other hand, Dubai is renowned for being a popular holiday destination. It appeals more to tourists. As such Dubai has more attractions for tourists, more restaurants, hotels, and malls.

How Do You Get From Dubai To Abu Dhabi?

You can enjoy a taxi which will take around 90 minutes, take the public bus, or book a place on an airline coach (leaving from the airport).

What is Abu Dhabi Like For Tourists?

Abu Dhabi is a fantastic city for tourists. Despite the myths and misconceptions about the UAE, on a holiday to Abu Dhabi, you’ll find the relaxed atmosphere, and the friendly people incredibly refreshing. It’s undoubtedly smaller, more quiet and conservative than Dubai, but that’s part of its appeal. It is particularly popular amongst families, and couples looking for a peaceful retreat.

saadiyat rotana families

In Abu Dhabi, you will find something for everyone from beautiful beaches, to theme parks to cultural landmarks. Like all destinations in the UAE, a car is the easiest way to get around. So using taxi’s, Uber, or even hiring a car, are options worth considering before travelling to Abu Dhabi. Although there are public buses in Abu Dhabi, for ease and convenience cars are definitely recommended.

What is Dubai Like For Tourists?

Dubai is the opposite of Abu Dhabi in many ways. When thinking about Dubai, glitz, glamour, and decadence, immediately come to mind. Dubai is known as a city where anything is possible – the world’s tallest tower (Burj Khalifa), two man-made palm tree-shaped islands and some of the world’s most lavish resorts are just a few of Dubai’s main attractions.

dubai holidays

As a city, Dubai is a lot busier than Abu Dhabi, which can be off-putting for some travellers who would much rather explore at a more leisurely pace. But this is only because Dubai is more comparable to some of the world’s other big cities such as New York, or London. Dubai is where you’ll find the best of everything, and the nightlife to match.

Dubai holidays

What Places Should I Visit In Abu Dhabi?

One of the most famous places in Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This is the UAE’s largest and most ornate place of worship, with millions of tourists visiting the Grand Mosque every year. In 2017 it was ranked as the world’s second-favourite landmark according to TripAdvisor – surpassing other world stunners such as St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the Taj Mahal in India.


In 2017 the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened to the public too which is perfect for those seeking a culturally enriching experience. As one of the premier cultural institutions located in the heart of the Saadiyat Cultural District, this art-lovers dream displays works of historical, cultural and sociological significance from ancient times to the contemporary era.

However, there are lots of other places to visit in the city too. One of the best parts about Abu Dhabi is the fact that most of the main tourist attractions are located within close proximity of each other. Emirates Palace, Corniche beach, and the Marina Mall can all be found within the Corniche area. On Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, children can spend whole days running around the Warner Bros World theme park, sliding down the water slides of Yas Waterworld, and racing around the impressive Ferrari World. Ferrari World was recently voted the leading theme park in the Middle East!

Where Should I Go In Dubai?

On one luxury holiday to Dubai, it will be almost impossible to see or do everything. So the best thing to do before arriving in Dubai is to plan exactly where you would like to go. Some recommendations are below:

Best Things To Do For Families In Dubai

  • Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark
  • Dubai Mall Aquarium
  • Dubai Light Show at the foot of the Burj Khalifa
  • A 4×4 Desert Safari
  • Visit the Ski Resort inside The Mall of Emirates
  • Spend the day at Legoland Dubai and Legoland Water Park

Best Things To Do For Couples In Dubai

  • Enjoy a helicopter ride
  • Consider an early morning hot air balloon ride
  • Book afternoon tea for two at the Burj Al Arab
  • Try a meal at one of Dubai’s fine dining restaurants
  • Explore the Dubai Mall
  • Spend a few days relaxing on the beach

Best Things To Do For Friends, and Groups in Dubai

  • Book your place on a legendary Dubai Friday brunch for you and your friends
  • Visit Souk Madinat Jumeirah – a recreation of a Middle Eastern Bazaar
  • Buy tickets to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa at night
  • Enjoy a night out at one of Dubai’s popular clubs and bars
  • Visit one of the thrilling theme parks in Dubai such as IMG Worlds of Adventure

Does Dubai Have Better Beaches Than Abu Dhabi?

The public beaches in Dubai may not all be as impressive as the beaches in Abu Dhabi, however, there are slightly more of them. The main public beaches in Dubai are Jumeirah Beach Park, Umm Suqeim Beach, JBR Open Beach, and Palace Beach. The main public beaches in Abu Dhabi’ are public Corniche Beach, Yas Beach, Saadiyat Beach, and Al Bateen. The public beaches in both cities are mostly pristine, with clear water and lovely views.

Nikki Beach Resort Dubai Beach

But for a truly exclusive luxury experience in the United Arab Emirates, you’ll want to book a beachfront resort. In Abu Dhabi, the Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas is perfect for families and is situated on a private stretch of beach on Saadiyat Island. In Dubai, the Nikki Beach Resort is a fantastic choice for couples, families, and groups seeking a private escape.

Nikki Beach Dubai Resort Pool

Is Abu Dhabi Stricter than Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi has a stricter legal system when compared to Dubai. Dubai is known for its party scenes and nightlife, whereas Abu Dhabi nights are quieter and more peaceful. This means that there are also few parties, at nightlife venues in Abu Dhabi. However, unless you plan to go out every night, as a tourist, this won’t necessarily be a problem.

Are The Rules Around Alcohol Different in Abu Dhabi?

No, they’re the same. Tourists visiting Dubai or Abu Dhabi are free to purchase alcohol from Duty-Free upon landing, and can also purchase alcohol while in licenced venues across Dubai or Abu Dhabi. In both cities, alcohol can be purchased in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. However, it’s forbidden to consume alcohol in public and doing so could result in you receiving a fine or spending a night in jail. Buying bottles of alcohol from shops like in the UK is not possible unless you’re a resident with a license to buy alcohol.

Is Dubai Better Than Abu Dhabi For Honeymoons?

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are both fantastic honeymoon destinations, if luxury resorts, beautiful beaches, and divine restaurants sound like paradise to you. Spend 4-10 nights in either to fully enjoy each city. 

nasma beach resort saadiyat rotana

Both destinations are also incredibly popular for multi-centre (twin centre) holidays. The United Arab Emirates is four hours away from the Maldives, six and a half hours away from Mauritius, nine hours away from Bali, and thirteen hours away from Sydney. This means that even if you’re not considering the UAE for your honeymoon, then spending a few nights in the state before arriving at your final destination is definitely worthwhile. Our luxury travel experts can create your perfect bespoke twin-centre holiday, so leave the hard work and planning to us.

Saadiyat Rotana 1 Bedroom Beachfront Villa Private Pool

Is Abu Dhabi Good For a Family Holiday?

Abu Dhabi is perfect for a family holiday. It has the edge over Dubai for families. Overall Abu Dhabi is quieter than Dubai, good for relaxation, and the laid back environment makes it ideal for families. The action for families centres around the various islands – all natural – dotted along the coastline, with Yas Island particularly alluring for children. The Ferrari World theme park will keep children entertained for hours on Yas Island. However, the island is also home to Yas Waterworld – a 40-acre water park with 43 slides, and Warner Bros World which is particularly popular amongst young children.

saadiyat resort swimming pool kids

Abu Dhabi also has considerably more heritage than Dubai. The UAE’s only World Heritage site (Sir Bani Yas Island) can be found in Abu Dhabi, and it’s a designated a ‘World Leading Sustainable Tourism’ Destination. For culture, families may also wish to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque or the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island.

But this does not mean that a family holiday to Dubai should be discounted. Despite the glamour and busyness, there are pockets of tranquillity to be found at the luxury resorts dotted around the city, on the man-made islands. It all depends on the type of holiday you think that your family would enjoy.

Palazzo Versace Dubai Night

Can I Travel From Dubai To Abu Dhabi In A Day?

Yes! Dubai is approximately 90 minutes away from Abu Dhabi, by car which makes the destination incredibly accessible. So if you choose to book a holiday in Dubai there’s no reason why you can’t, or shouldn’t spend at least a day (or more) in Abu Dhabi and vice versa, if you’re spending a week in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi or Dubai Holiday – Which Is Better?

This 100% depends on you. Abu Dhabi is the perfect place for travellers looking for a peaceful quiet escape. It’s also particularly good for families due to the range of theme parks, white sand beaches, and attractions such as the Louvre. But Dubai’s reputation for glitz and glamour makes it incredibly popular too.

At Rich Vein Travel, we can work with you to figure out which destination would be best for you, whether you’re looking for a luxury holiday in the UAE, or you’re planning a multi-centre holiday. So contact our travel experts today, and let us do the hard work for you!

Read more:
Why Dubai Is The Perfect Luxury Destination For Families

Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas: The Best Family Resort In Abu Dhabi

Top Five Reasons Why You Must Visit Dubai

How To Spend 24 Hours in Dubai

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