With year-round sunshine and pristine white sand beaches, why not make your next family holiday to Abu Dhabi. I think Abu Dhabi is one of the most child-friendly cities we have been to so far. Like its neighbour Dubai it feels very familiar, the flight is only 7 hours from the UK and the people are so welcoming.
Compared to other UAE cities, its capital Abu Dhabi has a more chilled out, a relaxed vibe which makes it a great destination for a family holiday.
In this blog post, I want to break down some of the budgeting tips to help you plan your dream family holiday to Abu Dhabi and keep it within your budget.
Currency: Arab Emirates Dirham (AED)
Time difference: +4hours GMT and +3hours BST
Flight time: London to Abu Dhabi is around seven hours
British Embassy: (+971 2 610 1100; https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-embassy-abu-dhabi), Al Hisn Street, Al Markaziyah West PO Box 248 Abu Dhabi.
Emergency services: Dial 999 for Police, 998 for Ambulance and 997 for Fire Department
Visa – A Full British passport holder will be given a free visa on arrival. This lasts for 30 days.
Important local laws in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi has some of the lowest crime rates of any city in the world. Ranked as one of the best places for personal safety. Making Abu Dhabi a great family-friendly holiday. The main threat to tourists is unknowingly breaking the local laws. I would highly advise looking up the laws before travelling here. However, in my experience, some of the laws can be quite relaxed in places such as hotels.
- It is legal for non-Muslims to consume alcohol in Abu Dhabi. Drinking is allowed in a licensed venue. Typically hotels, bars or restaurants. Once outside of a legal venue, if you’re seen to be drunk or disorderly in public you could be arrested.
- The official legal alcohol limit for drivers in Abu Dhabi is zero there is no leeway at all.
- Public displays of affection are frowned upon.
- Sexual relationships or unmarried couples cohabiting is illegal in Abu Dhabi. This includes staying in hotels, however, most hotels do not enforce an ‘only married couples’ rule even if you have different surnames on your passports, I had my maiden name on my passport for all our visits even when we have Roman (I didn’t want to pay to update it until it ran out) and we were never even once asked.
- It is an offence to use rude language or aggressive hand gestures, including when driving.
Best time to visit Abu Dhabi
The best time to visit Abu Dhabi for a family holiday is between April and May or from September to October. This is the spring and fall months, the weather can get quite hot during the day but manageable crowds and reasonable hotel rates. For the best weather not too hot and humid you’ll want to visit in the winter (December through March). Especially with children, I would avoid visiting in the summer it is very hot and quite unpleasant, we visited Dubai in August and could hardly leave the hotel pool!
Tourists and residents should dress modestly when out, no matter how hot the climate. You won’t end up doing jail time for dressing inappropriately, but you will gain some stern looks from locals. It is best to just cover up to avoid offending anyone. In some areas such as Corniche beach, you will see people dressed more casual. In some older areas of Abu Dhabi, people dress much more modestly. The majority of the dress codes are aimed at women. Although, men are advised to cover their shoulders (no vests or nips out) and shorts that cover their knees. These rules don’t apply at the beach or your hotel pools – any swimwear is appropriate once there.
Avoid wearing –
- Dresses that are tight and fitted
- Anything see-through
- Swimsuits and bikinis unless at the beach or pool
- Tops showing your bra
- Too much cleavage
- Shorts or skirts that are too short (no cheeks please)
- Clothes not covering your midriff
- T-shirts with inappropriate slogans or jokes
Family-friendly things to see and do in Abu Dhabi for all budgets
There are so many family-friendly attractions in Abu Dhabi for all ages. I have selected some of our favourites, a mixture of free and paid for things to do. However, we also manage to spend lots of time playing on the beaches, around the pools and in the malls which are all free.
Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque
This is an absolute must-do for anyone visiting Abu Dhabi. The daytime temperatures at certain times of the year can however be extremely hot. We had this issue with visiting in late May. After I did a little bit of research I realised that the mosque is open to visitors until 10 pm! We visited at 6 pm and this was actually a perfect time. It allowed us to marvel at its beauty during golden hour, sunset and in the evening when they switch on the lights.
We spent around 2 hours in total exploring the mosque and its grounds. We made the decision not to take any kind of buggy for Roman, however, they do have free golf buggies driving round that you can use. Before visiting I would advise having a read of the website at the dress codes. As an active place of worship, dressing appropriately is a must. They can provide you with free respectful clothing and headscarves if needed.
£ – Entrance and guided tours are free
This was on our itinerary before we even left for Abu Dhabi. Roy being an artist loves to drag us around galleries everywhere we go, pointing out my lack of art knowledge. We have visited the Louvre in Paris and equally loved the one in Abu Dhabi. It is a little different, I would describe it more as a museum mixed with an art gallery. They had everything from Egyptian artefacts, roman ruins and then modern art. At first glance, the building is a work of art in itself, it is worth a visit if only to marvel at its incredible visage built over crystal clear water. Roman loved all the space it offered him, he practised his walking skills all day. It felt so clean I had no worries about letting him crawl around whilst we browsed.
££ – Adults 18 plus are 63 AED, under 18’s are free
You can’t go on a family holiday to Abu Dhabi and not spend a day playing on the beach. Corniche Beach is one of the best, so beautiful and clear. Sitting around 5.5 miles long it starts from Mina Fishmarket to the Marina Mall. There are many hotels along the front that have a private beachfront spot with free sun loungers. Nevertheless, this makes it perfect for a family beach day with easy access to food, drink and your room. We found ourselves sheltering from the heat here every day as it was so beautiful and clear. As far as beaches go the UAE know how to keep them clean and thanks to the very hot climate the water is like a bath! just don’t forget your factor 50 and protective swimwear for the kids!
£ – Free
Ferrari World – Yas Island
For the speed junkies of the group then a visit to the world’s largest indoor theme park is a must. How does the world’s fastest rollercoaster, the highest loop ride, the tallest space-frame structure ever built on the planet and over 40 record-breaking attractions sound? For the younger members of the family, there is an interactive play area and soft play zone.
£££ – Adult tickets are 295 AED, children under 1.3meters are 230 AED and children aged under 3 years are free.
Warner Bro’s World – Yas Island
Explore the rides, see a show and get to meet all of your favourite characters from Warner Bros.’s franchises. meet your heroes from the Looney Tunes, DC Comics, Hanna-Barbera, and so much more. You could spend a whole day exploring this indoor theme park. The majority of the rides are aimed at ages 3 years and up. However, there are also some interactive family-friendly attractions and entertainment for the little ones to enjoy.
£££ – Tickets are 295 AED, children under 1.3meters are 230 AED and children aged under 3 years are free.
WaterWorld – Yas Island
Every visit to a scorching hot country needs a day out to play at a waterpark. And Abu Dhabi certainly has one of the best! Water world located on Yas Island is home to 45 rides, slides and attractions. Indeed, you’ll find some in Waterworld for all ages, toddlers can enjoy the water wars and the tot’s playground. Whilst the adults can get an adrenaline kick on the freefall drop waterslide.
£££ – Tickets are 270 AED, children under 1.1meters are 220 AED and children aged under 3 years are free.
Yas Island Pass
Additionally, If you are looking to visit all three of the parks on Yas Island, a multi-pass may be a more cost-effective option. An unlimited 3 days, 3 park tickets will cost you 545 AED compared to 295 AED per park. Or have a full day with the 1 Day Any 2 Parks for 395 AED.
Hopper tickets can be purchased at each of the Yas Island parks for all parks included.
Family-friendly eats in Abu Dhabi
Cheap Eats – Salt & Caramel
Salt & Caramel is an all-day breakfast cafe. It prides itself on its salty caramel delights and offers a perfect menu of hand-picked international breakfasts, sandwiches and the most loved sweet treats freshly prepared every day. A relaxed destination cafe where families & friends can enjoy delicious coffee and treat.
Mid-Range – Il Forno
IL FORNO Restaurant is an Italian cuisine company born over 20years ago. They have a couple of branches around Abu Dhabi, one being in the Abu Dhabi Mall. Out of love for the Italian food culture in the United Arab Emirates. IL FORNO has over the years maintained its standard of preserving the unique recipes and tastes of various Italian cuisines. Il Forno is known to be the home of succulent Italian Pizzas, Pastas and many Tuscan dishes.
Treat Meal – Byblos Sur Mer
The award-winning Byblos Sur Mer is one of Abu Dhabi’s most celebrated Lebanese restaurants. Enjoy authentic grilled meats and mezze platters in a contemporary, two-level dining room. Guests rave about the Byblos Sur Mer, from the stylish décor to the live entertainment. From the terrace, views of the sparkling marina are also best enjoyed with a chilled glass of arak in hand and the chalky smoke of a shisha wafting through the air.
Family-friendly hotels in Abu Dhabi
Budget – Novotel Abu Dhabi Al Bustan
This family-friendly hotel also features a well-equipped fitness centre and massage rooms in addition to an outdoor temperature-controlled pool with a fantastic children’s pool. Great for its exploring, Abu Dhabi Downtown is a 15-minute drive away while famous attractions such as Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, Yas Mall and Warner Bros and the Louvre are within a 12.4 miles radius. Family rooms are available to give that extra space as well as dining options such as a buffet restaurant, Starbucks and vibrant lounge.
Mid-range – Radisson Blu Corniche
We chose this hotel for its location and amazing facilities. Within walking distance to the marina mall, which we visited most evenings. The hotel boasts multiple outdoor pools, water slides, and a covered children’s playground. There was an extremely wide selection of dining options including; Italian, international flavours and a live band and DJ at the Jazz Bar and Dining. The staff were amazingly helpful and friendly, we found every one of them a pleasure.
Luxury – Emirates Palace
Located just a 4 minute’s walk to the beach, Emirates Palace is one of the most luxurious resorts in Abu Dhabi. The hotel offers expansive options for dining, choose from one of the 14 food and beverage outlets. For families, room options are available to give enough space for everyone. Children will love the 2 play areas, one outside and one sheltered from the heat indoors as well as the waterpark.
How to get around
Transport options in Abu Dhabi are very similar to most big cities. Metro is a great option; it runs across most of the city and is cheap. Taxies are available everywhere and offer cheap metered trips, you can also set a price with them, however, the meters are reliable and low cost. Abu Dhabi also widely uses Uber and Careem. Drivers are easy to find and the price is clear before you get in.