Many cities are impressive from the air, but Abu Dhabi must be one of the most spectacular. As your plane makes its descent into Abu Dhabi International Airport over the shimmering Persian Gulf, you’ll be blown away by the sparkling skyscrapers rising like a steel oasis from the desert. The UAE’s fabled capital is a futuristic marvel, where even the taxis are silver. But look beyond the 21st-century superlatives to discover the city’s ancient heritage in its mosques and palaces, souqs and sweet cafés. In less than 7 hours, thanks to direct flights to Abu Dhabi from the UK, you could be enjoying your very own Arabian nights.
This thriving metropolis is an international business hub and a popular holiday destination, with a packed calendar of events and year-round sunshine, so it doesn’t have high and low seasons as such. However it’s still possible to pick up cheap tickets to Abu Dhabi if you shop around carefully and book well in advance. Summer can be very hot and humid, while the winter months are cooler but often foggy. European visitors will feel at home in the warm days and fresher nights of spring and late autumn. Prices rise during big sporting occasions such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Red Bull Air Race World Series.
UAE national carrier Etihad Airways, British Airways and TAP Portugal all fly direct from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi International with a typical flight time of around 7 hours 20 minutes. Gulf Air offers a competitively priced one-stop service via Bahrain, while Oman Air flies via Muscat. Etihad and TAP Portugal also have convenient direct flights from Manchester Airport.
The cheapest way to reach the city centre from the airport is by local bus, but fear not, this is Abu Dhabi – so you can expect an air-conditioned, comfortable journey. Bus stops are located at all three terminals, clearly signposted in blue and white. A single ticket costs AED 4 and in normal traffic the journey takes around 45 minutes, allowing you time to admire the skyline as you near your destination. Smart metered cabs await outside each terminal round the clock, so if you arrive at an antisocial time you’ll appreciate the luxury of door-to-door service from an experienced navigator.
Like its larger-than-life neighbour Dubai, Abu Dhabi has its fair share of shopping malls and nightlife, but its laid-back vibe prioritises relaxation over high-rolling. After you’ve craned your neck at the famous Etihad Towers, marvelled at the ornate golden domes of the Emirates Palace, and gasped at the bejewelled Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, treat yourself to the traditional lunch buffet at Al Arish, once the haunt of princes and sheiks. As the sun sets over the Persian Gulf, wander along the Al Khalidiyah waterfront and dream of the days when colourful dhows unloaded their precious cargoes here from the four corners of the globe.
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