Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi
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Abu Dhabi vs Dubai – Which One is Better for Holiday in 2023?

When it comes to luxury holidays, Middle East tops the charts. The two best cities of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are home to some of the best attractions, spectacular hotels, enormous shopping malls, and scrumptious cuisines.

Also, home to two of the world’s best performing airlines, these two megacities are well-connected to every corner of the world.

Many vacation websites are swarming with the Dubai holidays? But Dubai’s sibling Abu Dhabi is equally fun and attractive. DO you find yourself wondering where to plan your vacation next? Whether to pack for glitzy Dubai? Or to book your tickets to the capital of UAE?

Read on and decide for yourself.

Abu Dhabi vs Dubai – Side by Side

Before we jump to detailed comparison, here are quick FAQ answers:

Abu Dhabi vs Dubai? 

Dubai is definitely better than Abu Dhabi in many aspects! It’s much bigger with more options for entertainment, nightlife, family activities, luxury hotels but also plenty of budget options. Abu Dhabi is a slightly more expensive, way more relaxed option with fewer (but prettier) beaches than Dubai. Abu Dhabi is very traditional and religious, therefore it’s strict with dress code and doesn’t have many nightlife options.

Is Dubai and Abu Dhabi the same thing?

While their names look similar, the names Dubai and Abu Dhabi don’t refer to the same place. Indeed, these territories are legally two separate emirates within the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Abu Dhabi serves as the governmental center of the UAE while Dubai is a major international hub for business and tourism. Thankfully, both of these emirates are only about a one and a half-hour drive away from each other, so you could easily tour both on a UAE vacation.

Is Dubai more expensive than Abu Dhabi?

Honestly, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are pretty expensive. Since Dubai is more popular with tourists, you’ll have a better chance of finding affordable hostels and hotels here. 

Is Abu Dhabi safer than Dubai?

Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are extremely safe cities to visit. Believe it or not, both of these emirates are often ranked as two of the safest cities in the world. Recent data suggests the UAE’s average homicide rate is only 0.3 percent per 100,000 residents and muggings are extremely rare.

What is the dress code in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

Although the UAE is officially Muslim, it’s far more lenient on its dress code than other Middle Eastern nations. That doesn’t mean, however, you can walk around in skimpy bikinis and expect a warm reception.

Men should wear button-down shirts, trousers, and shoes at all times. Women should consider wearing dark-colored dresses that completely cover the shoulders. While it’s not necessary to cover your head outside of mosques, you’ll find that most women in the UAE wear headscarves.

Is Abu Dhabi stricter than Dubai?

Yes, Abu Dhabi is definitely more strict than Dubai. It’s more traditional, cultural, and religions with less nightlife than Dubai.

How far is Abu Dhabi from Dubai?

The distance between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is 140 kilometers. It takes around 80 minutes by car to get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.

Can I go to Abu Dhabi with a Dubai visa?

Yes, once you enter the UAE and obtain your visa on arrival you can visit both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, regardless of your entry point.

Abu Dhabi vs Dubai – Which one is better for a holiday?

What makes Abu Dhabi special?

The capital city of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi sits on an island in the Persian Gulf. As the oil exports skyrocketed, so did the city’s skyline.

Boasting some of the world’s most visited attractions like Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Emirates Palace, Marina Mall, and the Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi has been attracting scores of tourists over the past decade.

What makes Dubai special?

Perhaps the most iconic city in the world, Dubai rose to fame thanks to its claim of being the world’s fastest-growing city. Dubai has transformed from being a small Gulf country to being one of the hottest business hubs in the world in a matter of 40 years.

When to go to Abu Dhabi?

Being a desert city, Abu Dhabi is subjected to scorching heat during the summers. While wintertime is the best time for a holiday in Abu Dhabi (December to February), you can also visit Abu Dhabi during spring and fall shoulder seasons.

When to go to Dubai?

Being located in a desert, the summers here are very intense. So, the best time to visit Dubai is during the winter when the city enjoys a pleasant climate.

Planning a vacation to Dubai? We suggest you travel between December and February. Check out the packing list and what to wear in Dubai!

Shopping in Abu Dhabi?

Home to the stunning Marina Mall shopping center, head to Abu Dhabi to indulge in some world-class shopping experience.

With sprawling malls, traditional Arabic open-air market, affluent jewelry store, and rustic marketplaces, Abu Dhabi is coming up as one of the top shopping destinations in the Middle East.

Shopping in Dubai?

The shopping scenes in Dubai are so amazing that the city hosts an annual Dubai Shopping Festival, or DDS, in the month of January. Aptly called the ‘King of Shopping,’ Dubai boasts swanky malls and flavourful bazaars.

The malls here are the size of a small city (we are not overstating!) With theatres, amusement parks, child minding centers, art galleries, and even mosques located inside the mall, shopping in Dubai is a must!

Exclusive designer stores, branded shoes, cosmetics, and accessory stores, swish boutique supermarkets, massive bookshops, cinemas and theatre, art galleries, fine-dine restaurants, are just a few of the facilities of the malls here. If you wish to go local, you can shop at one of the many souks of Dubai.

What are the best things to see in Abu Dhabi?

A perfect family destination, Abu Dhabi has a plethora of sightseeing options to choose from.

Things to see in Abu Dhani:

  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Abu Dhabi’s landmark monument),
  • Ferrari World (A branded theme park that brings Formula 1 racing to this capital city),
  • Observation Deck at 300 (an observation deck located on the 74th floor),
  • Qasr Al-Hosn (the oldest building in Abu Dhabi),
  • Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (A working veterinary hospital with guided tours),
  • Yas Waterworld (an aquatic theme park),
  • Yas Island (a luxury destination with stretches of white sand),
  • Emirates Park Zoo (where animals include rare white tigers, giraffes, elephants, a herd of zebras, a Siberian bear, and many more).

What are the best things to see in Dubai?

There are so many things to do and see in Dubai.

These include:

  • Burj Khalifa (World’s tallest building),
  • Dubai Mall (a premier shopping mall with an ice-skating rink, gaming zone, and cinema complex),
  • Dubai Museum (housed inside the 18th century Al-Fahidi Fort),
  • Bastakia (Old Dubai),
  • Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House (Home to the Ruler of Dubai who ruled the city from 1921 to 1958),
  • Dubai Creek,
  • Jumeirah Mosque,
  • Deira,
  • Heritage and Diving Village.

There are many sightseeing places located outside the city as well. Use this vacation planner to make sure you do not miss out on anything. 

What is the cost of life in Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi is definitely not the place for budget travelers, it has zero hostels and cheap hotels so it might be hard to save money there.
It holds the reputation of one of the richest cities in the world, so you might expect everything costing you a fortune but it is not always so. Many of the workers are on minimum wage so if you look around you can find plenty of diverse cheap restaurants for the working class.
If you are on a budget, then you should definitely avoid the restaurants in hotels because they can charge quite a lot. Luckily for you, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is free to visit for non-muslims except on Fridays and Saturdays so take advantage of that!
Same as in Dubai the alcohol is restricted to only a few bars so this is not the best place to get drunk.
Here are some of the general prices:
  • $2 – 3km taxi ride in Abu Dhabi 
  • $0.5 – Public bus ride in Abu Dhabi 
  • $4.5 – Budget breakfast / $8 – Regular breakfast
  • $8 – Budget lunch / $15 – Regular lunch
  • $11 – Budget dinner / $15 – Regular dinner
  • $9 – Pint of beer in a bar 

What is the cost of life in Dubai?

Dubai is known to be really expensive and that is definitely true but there are many affordable new hotels and restaurants that keep opening so now it has become much more budget-friendly.
During December and January, the hotels are the most expensive so you should definitely avoid it at that time if you are traveling on a budget.
In tourist places, the restaurants can be quite expensive but there are more and more reasonably priced options popping up everywhere as the city is becoming more and more international.
However, drinking alcohol is quite expensive everywhere as in order to serve it the vendors need to obtain a license.
Here are some of the general prices:
  • $3 – 3km taxi ride in Dubai 
  • $2 – Metro ride in Dubai
  • $5 – Budget breakfast   / $10 – Regular Breakfast
  • $6 – Budget lunch  / $12 – Regular Lunch
  • $8 – Budget dinner  / $15 – Budget Dinner
  • $8 – Beer (pint)              

If you are not planning holiday but budget trip, check out best things to do in Dubai on budget! and Best Dubai Hostels for Backpackers

What are the beaches in Abu Dhabi?

Soaking up the sun while enjoying the shimmering blue Gulf waters seems like a perfect way to enjoy your Abu Dhabi vacation. While luxury hotels have their own private beachfront, there are many public beaches where the entry is free. And they are as much fun!

Some of these beaches are:

  • Corniche (8-kilometre-long beach with plenty of activities),
  • Saadiyat Public Beach (located close to Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, choose from 300 loungers and spend a day doing literally nothing),
  • Al Bateen Beach (This one has a very family-friendly vibe to it and is a popular beach destination among the locals as well as the expats).

What are the best beaches in Dubai?

While the beaches in Dubai have very strict rules for women and men, they are pretty fun too. Some of the beaches in Dubai are strictly private, while the others are public beaches.

These include:

  • Jumeirah Bach Residence Beach,
  • Burj Beach,
  • Mamzer Beach Park,
  • Jumeirah Beach Park,
  • Jumeirah Open Beach among many more.

Most of these beaches have no facilities and it is always advisable that you carry your own food and water. The best thing to do at these beaches is to take an exploratory tour. While some beaches allow swimming, some don’t.

How is the nightlife in Abu Dhabi?

There are many bars, pubs, and clubs in Abu Dhabi that make up its nightlife, but the only drawback is that these places centered around hotels. This restricts the use of many clubs in the capital.

How is the nightlife in Dubai?

Dubai has much to offer to people looking for late-night entertainment. There are many bars and nightclubs that add to the vibrancy of Dubai’s nightlife.

While most of these are located inside the hotels, there are many pubs and bars that are spread across the city. Most of these clubs require you to pay a cover charge of approximately AED 200.

Is Abu Dhabi good for a family holiday?

With its sweeping-clean beaches, state-of-the-art attractions, excellent kids’ clubs, and child-friendly dining options, atmospheric bazaars, top-class restaurants, and many more natural and man-made attractions, Abu Dhabi surely attracts a large number of crowds. This Emirati capital will surely not disappoint you!

Now the million-dollar question, which one is better to visit? Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Well, if you ask us, we would say why not both! Having located so close to each other, these cities are so unique from each other.

Is Dubai good for a family holiday?

From kids to teens to adults, there is something here for everyone. Feeling adventurous? You can skydive over this Emirati city. Tired of the heat? Visit the snow world and enjoy sledding.

Want to splurge? Hit the mall and shop till you drop. Want to relax, visit the marina and watch the world go by. Dubai is hands down one of the top family destinations around the world. Use this Dubai vacation trip planner while planning your vacation next time to make sure your travel is hassle-free.


Whether you’d consider Dubai “better” than Abu Dhabi depends on what you want to get out of a holiday to the UAE. For instance, tourists interested in big-city life will undoubtedly prefer Dubai. As the most densely populated emirate, Dubai is home to the area’s tallest buildings, most popular attractions, and hottest clubs (with relatively easy access to libations). Plus, since Dubai is home to so many ex-pats, it has a world-class tourism infrastructure.

Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, is a far more conservative emirate. People who are interested in experiencing the area’s authentic Muslim culture will undoubtedly prefer the sights and sounds of Abu Dhabi. Plus, Abu Dhabi tends to be less crowded with Western tourists, which makes it great for people who want to escape the maddening crowds of Dubai.