Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi, a common dilemma when deciding to visit 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, 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, religious, and has a strict dress code. Additionally, Abu Dhabi does have many nightlife options.

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

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Are Dubai and Abu Dhabi The Same Thing?

Despite their similarity in name, 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.

Abu Dhabi has the reputation of being one of the world’s wealthiest cities, so you should expect everything to be expensive, but this is not always the case. Many of the staff are 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 in 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 traditional 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!

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

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 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 skyline of the city 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 been drawing 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, 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.

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

Things To Do In Dubai


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!

Now comes the million-dollar question: 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 from one another despite being so close to one another.

Is Dubai Good For A Family Holiday?

Dubai has something for everyone. From children to teenagers to adults, there are attractions for all to take in.  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. 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. Titled the “King of Shopping,” it 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

The weather in Dubai in January 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 that will give you a taste of cultural heritage.

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

Closing Thoughts

When thinking through Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi or deciding which is best for you, consider what you enjoy. 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 fit’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 in Dubai? Start here:

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