Need help planning your day trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai? You’ve come to the right place!
Despite being the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi actually receives considerably less visitors than Dubai. Many travellers hit the beaches and malls of Dubai, without ever doing even a day trip to Abu Dhabi.
Make sure you’re not one of them! Abu Dhabi is an incredible city, with lots of unique sights that Dubai can’t offer you. I strongly believe every Dubai itinerary should include a visit to Abu Dhabi, even if just for a day trip.
If you want to plan your Dubai to Abu Dhabi day trip, but aren’t sure where to start, I’ve got you covered! In this guide I listed everything you need to know to plan the perfect Dubai to Abu Dhabi day tour.
Including how to get from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, the best things to do once there, what to pack, where to stay, the best Abu Dhabi day tours and more!
So without further ado, let’s dive in and start planning the perfect Dubai to Abu Dhabi day trip.
- 1 How to get to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
- 2 Best places to visit on a Abu Dhabi day trip
- 3 Best Abu Dhabi day tours
- 4 Is doing a Abu Dhabi day trip from Dubai worth it?
- 5 What to pack for your Abu Dhabi day tour
- 6 Where to stay for your Dubai to Abu Dhabi day trip
How to get to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
Dubai to Abu Dhabi by car
If you’re embarking on an Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai, and you’re doing it independently, chances are you may want to drive between the two cities.
There’s around 140 kilometres between them, so it takes only an hour to an hour and a half to drive it. That makes it super easy and straightforward for a day trip.
Public transport to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
Travelling by bus is the cheapest option. Air-conditioned buses connect the two cities, leaving every 15-20 minutes from Dubai’s Al Ghubaiba Bus Station.
The journey takes around two hours, and then arrives at Abu Dhabi’s Al Wahda Bus Station. The cost is the attraction here, costing around 25 AED (€6.4 or $USD6.8).
With a Dubai to Abu Dhabi day tour
There’s also the option of going to Abu Dhabi from Dubai via an organised tour. These are convenient and mean you don’t have to worry about renting a car, or figuring out public transport timetables.
Usually they’ll pick you up from your accommodation and whisk you all the way to Abu Dhabi. It’s the easiest option, but also the most expensive one.
This Abu Dhabi Full-Day Premium Sightseeing Tour is the most popular and highly reviewed tour online, and it’s easy to see why.
Besides facilitating travel to Abu Dhabi, this tour includes pretty much everything you would want to see in Abu Dhabi. It offers a complete experience, so that you can make the most of your time in Abu Dhabi.
I will review other tours later in this article, but if you want a highly reviewed, thorough and entertaining tour, then look no further, this one is perfect for you.
Best places to visit on a Abu Dhabi day trip
If you prefer to travel to Abu Dhabi independently, here are the best places to visit in Abu Dhabi that you should absolutely visit during your day trip.
I have listed them in the most travel efficient way, so as to minimise taxis and transfers between places.
So if you visit these Abu Dhabi attractions in the order I have listed them, up to sunset at Wahat al Karam, you will also have a convenient Abu Dhabi 1-day itinerary ready for you.
Corniche Walk & Beach
The Corniche is an eight kilometre-long part of the coastline at Abu Dhabi. Dotted with palm trees, fountains and attractively paved, it’s a great spot to start your day in the city.
It comes complete with views out across the gulf, and a good chance to glimpse the Abu Dhabi skyline, too. Here you’ll also find a public beach – an idyllic spot to kick back and lap it all up.
Etihad Towers observation deck
The Etihad Towers is a collection of five high towers that pierce the sky in Abu Dhabi. The tallest of these, Tower 2, is a whopping 305.3 metres (1,002 feet) tall.
Not only can you admire it from street level: you can actually head up in a lift all the way to the 74th floor of Tower 2 to the observation deck.
It’s the highest viewpoint in Abu Dhabi, 300 metres above the city, boasting panoramic views of the skyline. From here you can really get a feeling of what the city is about.
The cafe here does nice food, and sunset is probably the best time to visit Etihad Towers.
Qasr al Watan
Completed in 2017, this presidential palace is a reflection of the modern side of the United Arab Emirates. It was only used in its official role as palace until 2019, at which point it was then opened to the public to visit.
The facade is made from white granite and limestone, with white ornately decorated interiors and an enormous dome to impress visitors. Inside there’s a chandelier made with 350,000 pieces of crystal. It’s complete grandeur.
The entrance to the palace is 60 AED (€15.4).
Some of the tours to Abu Dhabi from Dubai might include the entrance fee, but even if it’s not I would say that it’s super worth it – if only to be extremely impressed with the over-the-top interior design going on here.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Officially called the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, this huge religious structure is the most famous, must-see sight in the city. Almost all Abu Dhabi tours will include a visit to the Grand Mosque on their itinerary.
Not only is this the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, standing at over 100 metres tall, but it is also one of the largest in the world.
Completed in 2007, and costing two billion AED ($545 million), it’s an elaborate display of Islamic architecture and design.
The Grand Mosque features Swarovski chandeliers, an enormous courtyard with marble mosaics, and the world-record-breaking prayer carpet: the largest hand-woven carpet in the world.
Sunset from Wahat AlKarama
Just opposite the Grand Mosque you’ll find Wahat AlKarama, one of the most popular Dubai Instagram spots you’ll find online.
If you’re a keen photographer, you’ll want to get a view of the mosque from this side, as there’s a shallow lake where you’ll see a shimmering reflection of the grand building itself.
The best time to visit the monument and its glassy reflecting pool is at sunset, when the light is at its most beautiful.
You’ll also get to see the mosque illuminated as evening falls, providing an extra dimension to the architecture.
Saadiyat Island beaches
If you’re not that interested in sightseeing or looking at (or going into) large buildings, or if you simply want something more chill, then you can always head over to Saadiyat Island.
This natural island is just a stone’s throw from the skyscrapers, and features powdery white sand lapped by turquoise seas.
Naturally, it’s replete with resorts and beach clubs for those who want to spend a little longer chilling out. If you want a taste of beach life here, the Saadiyat Beach Club is a gorgeous spot – but it’s very pricey.
Alternatively, Soul Beach is a more affordable option.
The public beach at Saadiyat Island has everything you’ll need for a day at the beach: sunloungers, showers and eateries. You can even do a spot of yoga, or try a windsurfing lesson.
For some people, this may be worth more than just a day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi – you may even want to stay a night or two.
Also located on Saadiyat Island is The Louvre. The name is obviously taken from the much more famous Louvre Museum in Paris, with the Abu Dhabi iteration representing the relationship between France and the UAE.
Go here to see masterpieces from around the world that bridge that gap between East and West.
The Louvre of Abu Dhabi is particularly famous for its unique architecture and design. If you don’t fancy spending hours seeing art pieces, you could also just pop by to see its beautiful architecture and then continue with your day.
As the largest indoor theme park in the world, Ferrari World would wow any visitor, let alone if you’re visiting because you’re a fan of Formula One.
The rides are Ferrari themed: think Turbo Track, Formula Rossa and Tyre Twist.
This luxury hotel is so grand that it’s worth a visit even if you’re not staying. The lobby is super impressive and even features a rotating roster of exhibitions.
Glo for dinner
If you are visiting Abu Dhabi from Dubai on a day trip that you’ve planned yourself, and you feel like sticking around for dinner, then definitely try out Glo.
You’ll find it at the Rosewood Hotel. It’s got a delicious menu, cool aesthetics and an awesome Abu Dhabi skyline view to match.
Best Abu Dhabi day tours
If you don’t want to drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi alone, or don’t want the headache of having to work out the public transport for your Dubai to Abu Dhabi day trip, then you’ll most likely be opting for a tour.
There are a whole bunch of great tours for you to choose from, making it both easy to get from A to B, and providing extra insight that visiting independently may not give you.
Most of these tours will visit the places I have listed above, as they’re the most popular on every Abu Dhabi day trip. Some will differ a bit, visiting one big attraction over another (eg. Ferrari World over the Louvre or vice versa).
That will allow you to choose the Abu Dhabi day tour most suited for your personal interest.
Easily the most popular Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai, this experience is the most complete organised tour on offer. Granted, it’s a long day out, but it covers all of the must-see sights along the way.
You’ll get picked up from your hotel, and from there you’ll cruise along the coast to Abu Dhabi.
Here you’ll visit the Grand Mosque – complete with its impressive 82 domes – before taking a drive along the Abu Dhabi Corniche for epic views over the gulf.
Then you’ll hit up Emirates Palace, admire the Etihad Towers, and lunch at the Marina Mall. Finally, your afternoon will be spent at the beautiful Qasr al Watan palace before heading back to Dubai.
If you’re short on time and you’re mainly only interested in seeing the Grand Mosque, then this tour is a fantastic option for you.
Starting off, you’ll leave your hotel and travel from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in an air-conditioned car.
Arriving at the Grand Mosque, your guide will show you around the impressive structure; it’s the eighth largest mosque in the world, and can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers at a time.
All in all, you’ll get a much better understanding of the mosque and its intricate architecture. Then it’s back to Dubai.
This Dubai-to-Abu Dhabi tour takes you to two of the city’s top sights, namely the Louvre Museum and the Grand Mosque: both big-hitter attractions.
Formula One fans will love this trip to Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. The tour also includes a trip to the Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace.
This full day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi ticks off the highlights of the city, including the Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace and the impressive Etihad Towers observation deck.
Is doing a Abu Dhabi day trip from Dubai worth it?
Absolutely! Being the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi offers a much stronger insight into Emirati culture and lifestyle than Dubai.
Also, while the skyscrapers and views of Dubai are impressive, the Grand Mosque and Presidential Palace of Abu Dhabi are simply jaw-dropping.
Being just over an hour away from them in Dubai, and not making the effort to see them would be, in my opinion, a wasted opportunity.
Many people fight over the whole Abu Dhabi vs Dubai debate, but I personally believe they’re simply too different to compare.
Dubai is more touristy and has more to offer the average tourist, so it makes sense to spend more time there, but if you can I would absolutely make time for a visit to Abu Dhabi, and if your Dubai itinerary allows it, even extend it to one night there!
Spending at least one night in Abu Dhabi will allow you to see this iconic skyline lit up, and to throughly immerse yourself in the city’s vibe. If you can’t stay overnight, then a Dubai to Abu Dhabi day trip will do.
What to pack for your Abu Dhabi day tour
You don’t really need to pack anything specific for your Abu Dhabi day trip. Whatever you’re putting on your Dubai packing list, will do also for Abu Dhabi.
However, beyond the usual travel essentials, there are a few things you need to make sure you don’t forget.
Head scarf for women – If you plan on visiting the Grand Mosque (which you really should be) then you have to remember to bring a scarf to cover your hair. You won’t be allowed in without one.
If you do forget or don’t have space to bring one, then worry not, leading up to the entrance of the Grand Mosque there are tons of shops where you can purchase traditional Emirati clothing.
Modest clothing that fully covers you – This goes for both men and women. For both the Grand Mosque and Presidential Palace you will need to wear clothing that fully covers your legs, arms and shoulders.
Camera – Given how beautiful Abu Dhabi is, you want to make sure you capture it in all its beauty!
Reusable water bottle – Especially if you plan to do a lot of walking, bring a bottle you can refill and ensure you stay hydrated. It will save you money and you’ll also waste less plastic, it’s a win-win!
Where to stay for your Dubai to Abu Dhabi day trip
Personally, I always suggest staying in Dubai Marina, as it’s one of the most iconic and coolest neighbourhoods to stay in Dubai, regardless of your travel style and budget.
However, since all Dubai to Abu Dhabi tours will include pick-up and drop-off, you could stay in any area of Dubai. Here are some suggestions for every budget in Dubai.
Budget: Ramada Downtown Dubai – Overlooking the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain, this is a polished, modern property made up of studio rooms, suites and a penthouse.
Mid-range: 25hours Hotel One Central – I spent one night here and loved it. This hotel has an epic rooftop pool with a view of the Museum of the Future, and the interior design is truly unique.
Luxury: Address Downtown Dubai – Among other things, this luxury hotel features an incredible infinity pool with an equally incredible view of Burj Khalifa: the world’s tallest building. The location in Downtown Dubai is prime for exploring top sights, and the spacious rooms offer a luxurious experience.
If you can, I highly recommend extending your Abu Dhabi day trip and spending at least one night in Abu Dhabi. It will give you more time to thoroughly discover this beautiful city, and also relax a bit at the gorgeous beaches.
Here are some great places to stay in Abu Dhabi for every budget.
Budget: Novel Hotel City Center – This affordable hotel is a great option for budget travellers. Also, when it comes to the UAE, budget is still fancy and means spacious and clean rooms with a rooftop pool.
Mid-range: Rosewood Abu Dhabi – This gorgeous hotel is a bit on the higher end for mid-range prices, but is well worth it. With its sweeping views and luxurious pool, it’s a great choice if you want to treat yourself without breaking the bank.
Luxury: The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort – If you want to treat yourself after a long day of sightseeing in Abu Dhabi, this is the place to do so. Located right on the beach, this gorgeous resort is the perfect luxury stay.
Final thoughts on the best Dubai to Abu Dhabi day tour
There you have it, the ultimate Dubai to Abu Dhabi day trip guide! Have you done a day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
During my many trips to Dubai, I had the pleasure of visiting Abu Dhabi twice.
I can confidently say that the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Presidential Palace of Abu Dhabi are amongst the most stunning buildings in the world, and no Dubai trip would be complete without seeing them.
Getting away from the beaches, malls and dinner cruises of Dubai, even if just for a day, is well worth it.
Many travellers do desert safaris in Dubai, with activities like sand boarding and dune bashing, and while it’s a great way to get out of the city, it can’t be compared to the grand sights of Abu Dhabi.
I strongly believe every traveller to Dubai should do an Abu Dhabi day trip, and see these gorgeous sights.
Obviously if you’re only doing a Dubai layover you might not have time, but if you’re spending at least a few nights in Dubai you should definitely consider it!
Whether you want to explore the Ferrari World, or just relax on the beach at Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi won’t disappoint you.
If you don’t want to bother with travel planning, make sure to book the most appropriate Abu Dhabi day tour for you!
I hope you have found my Dubai to Abu Dhabi day trip guide guide useful in planning your own day tour to Abu Dhabi day! If you have any questions, just let me know in the questions below.