Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi is a common dilemma when visiting The United Arab Emirates (UAE). So which is best, Dubai or Abu Dhabi? The answer is it depends – but this guide will help you decide which is best for you! Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi offer unique experiences!

Dubai is much bigger and has more entertainment options, nightlife, family activities, luxury hotels, and plenty of budget options. In contrast, Abu Dhabi is slightly more expensive.

Despite being more expensive, Abu Dhabi is a more peaceful location. And Abu Dhabi has better beaches than Dubai. Abu Dhabi is very traditional and religious and has a strict dress code. Additionally, Abu Dhabi does have many nightlife options.

That being said, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are unique and differ much more than people realize.

Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi

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Are Dubai and Abu Dhabi The Same Thing?

Despite their name similarities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi do not refer to the same place. Under The United Arab Emirates, these territories are two independent Emirates (UAE). There are seven Emirates in total:

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Ajman
  • Dubai
  • Fujairah
  • Ras al-Khaimah
  • Sharjah Sharjah
  • Umm al-Quwain

Map Of The Seven United Arab Emirates

The Seven Emirates

Cost of Living in Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai

Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are pricey. You’ll have a better chance of finding affordable hostels and hotels in Dubai because it is more popular with tourists.

Abu Dhabi is not a budget traveler’s paradise; there are no hostels or inexpensive hotels, so saving money can be difficult in Abu Dhabi. This said, people still backpack through Dubai.

Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s wealthiest cities, so you should expect everything to be expensive, but this is not always the case. Many staff is on minimum wage, and there are plenty of inexpensive restaurants for the working class if you look around.

I have listed a few price ranges to give you an idea of what to expect in Abu Dhabi. They may vary, but you will get a feel for typical costs:

  • $2 will get you a 3km taxi ride to Abu Dhabi
  • $0.5 will get you a public bus ride to Abu Dhabi
  • $4.5 will get you a budget breakfast, and $8 will get you a regular breakfast in Abu Dhabi
  • $8 will get you a budget lunch, and $15 will get you a traditional lunch in Abu Dhabi
  • $11 will get you a budget dinner, and $15 will get you a formal dinner in Abu Dhabi
  • $9 will get you a pint of beer in a bar in Abu Dhabi

Dubai and Abu Dhabi Cost of Living

Cost of Living in Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi

Dubai is famous for being extremely costly, and while this is true, there are many new inexpensive hotels and restaurants opening all the time, making it much more budget-friendly.

You can find tons of top-notch hotels here on any budget!

The peak season is December and January, so you should avoid going during these months if you’re traveling on a budget.

Restaurants in tourist areas can be expensive; however, many moderately priced options pop up everywhere as the city becomes more international.

I have listed a few price ranges to give you an idea of what to expect in Dubai. They may vary, but you will get a feel for typical costs:

  • $3 will get you a 3km taxi ride in Dubai
  • $2 will cost you for a metro ride in Dubai
  • $5 will get you a budget breakfast, and $10 will get you a regular breakfast in Dubai
  • $6 will get you a budget lunch, and $12 will get you a typical lunch in Dubai
  • $12 will get you a budget dinner, and $25 will get you a typical dinner in Dubai
  • $8 will get you a beer – a pint in Dubai

What Makes Abu Dhabi Special?

Abu Dhabi Special

The United Arab Emirates’ capital, Abu Dhabi, is situated on a small island in the Persian Gulf. The city’s skyline grew in tandem with the city’s oil exports.

Due to landmarks such as Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Emirates Palace, Marina Mall, and Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi has drawn thousands of visitors over the last decade.

Abu Dhabi is a much more conservative Emirate. Those looking to immerse themselves in the region’s authentic Muslim culture will probably prefer Abu Dhabi.

Furthermore, Abu Dhabi is less crowded with Western tourists, making it ideal for those looking to avoid Dubai’s maddening crowds.

Things To Do In Abu Dhabi


What Makes Dubai Special?

Dubai Special

Dubai is perhaps the most popular city on the planet. It rose to prominence as the world’s fastest-growing city. In just 40 years, Dubai has gone from being a tiny Gulf Emirate to one of the world’s most exciting business hubs.

What you want to get out of a trip to the UAE will determine whether you consider Dubai “better” than Abu Dhabi. Tourists interested in big-city life will prefer Dubai.

Dubai is home to the region’s tallest buildings, most famous attractions, and hottest clubs as the most densely populated emirate with relatively easy alcohol access. Because of the large number of ex-pats living in Dubai – it has a world-class tourism infrastructure.

Things To Do In Dubai


For many, Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi comes down to the ex-pat popularity alone.

Is Abu Dhabi Good For A Family Holiday?

Abu Dhabi attracts many people who plan a holiday with family due to its sweeping-clean beaches, cutting-edge attractions, fantastic children’s clubs, dining options suitable for children, bazaars with a unique atmosphere, top-notch restaurants, and many other attractions. You will not be disappointed by the Emirati capital!

The million-dollar question comes: Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi – which is the best place to go?  If you ask us, we’d say why not do both!

These cities are so different despite being so close to one another.

Is Dubai Good For A Family Holiday?

Dubai has something for everyone. There are attractions for all, from children to teenagers to adults.  Do you want to try something new? This Emirati city offers skydiving. Are you sick of the heat? Take a trip to the snow country and go sledding!

Do you want to spend a ton of cash? Take a trip to the mall and shop until you drop off. If you’re going to unwind, go to the marina and sit and watch the world drift away.

Dubai is, without a doubt, one of the best family vacation spots on the planet.

Shopping in Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai 

Shopping in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is home to the beautiful Marina Mall shopping center that offers a world-class shopping experience. It’s so popular it is often a part of day trips from Dubai.

Abu Dhabi is emerging as one of the top shopping destinations in the Middle East, with sprawling malls, traditional Arabic open-air markets, wealthy jewelry stores, and luxurious marketplaces.

Shopping in Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi

Shopping in Dubai

Dubai’s shopping scene is so fantastic that the city holds an annual Dubai Shopping Festival in January. The “King of Shopping” is known for its upscale shopping malls and aromatic bazaars.

The shopping malls throughout this city are the size of a small town. Shopping in Dubai is a must, with theatres, amusement parks, child-minding centers, art galleries, and even mosques located within the mall.

Unique designer stores, branded shoes, cosmetics, accessory stores, high-class boutique supermarkets, huge bookshops, cinemas and theatres, art galleries, and fine-dining restaurants are just some of the malls’ amenities. If you want to shop like a local, visit one of Dubai’s many bazaars.

When to Visit Abu Dhabi

The best time to visit Abu Dhabi is when the weather is colder due to its hot desert environment and muggy temperatures. With temperatures hovering around 33°C, spring is a pleasant season. If that’s still too hot, visit in the winter, when average temperatures are 18°C and highs are 24°C.

The best time to visit Abu Dhabi is between July and August if you don’t mind the heat and want to see as much sunlight as possible. Temperatures can reach 42°C during the day and drop to a more pleasant 28°C at night.

The Persian Gulf is hot, making swimming very enjoyable. In the summer, the average sea temperature is 32°C, ideal for cooling off after a long day in the sun.

When to Visit Dubai

In January, the weather in Dubai is enjoyable, making you want to spend the entire day outside! Good weather is ideal for adventure activities such as skydiving, zip-lining, and hot-air ballooning. Due to the end of the international holiday season after the New Year.

And January hosts the annual Dubai Shopping Festival. The month-long festival will meet your inner shopper with discounts at shopping malls and designer stores.

The city also has fantastic live entertainment, such as Cirque du Soleil, and events like the Quoz Arts Festival to give you a taste of cultural heritage.

Looking at all the perspectives, we understand that both Emirates have pros and cons. However, both of them are worth visiting.

United Arab Emirates: Interesting Facts

  • Income tax isn’t charged in the UAE, which is one of the reasons people find it so easy to save here.
  • In the UAE, more than 200 nationalities are represented, with India being the largest.
  • Abu Dhabi, the largest emirate, occupies 87% of the country.
  • Sixty-nine percent of the population in the UAE is male, while 31 percent is female.

United Arab Emirates: Fact or Fiction?

  • In most public places, women are recommended to practice modesty, but you are not required to cover your whole body or head (unless you enter a mosque).
  • There are no laws against drinking alcohol in the UAE: Most hotels have licenses to serve alcohol so that you can drink and dance with your date to your heart’s content. Wine can also be purchased in a few stores with licenses.
  • It isn’t true that Islam is the only religion allowed. The UAE has a large number of worship centers and churches. It might take some time to get accustomed to the different days of service (Friday rather than Sunday).

Frequently Asked Questions

Map Of Dubai And Abu Dhabi

Trip map courtesy of Wanderlog, a road trip planner on iOS and Android

Closing Thoughts

Consider what you enjoy when considering Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi or deciding which is best for you. Your taste should determine the best location for the two to stay at. And they are relatively close. Many people make day trips from Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi or vice versa. If you really can’t decide, choose based on what it’s within your budget and a day trip to the other.

For those of you who have been to both – which do you prefer and why?

Looking for more posts on The Middle East? Start here:

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