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4 Things to Know Before Travelling to Abu Dhabi

Credit: Katerina Kerdi – Unsplash

The United Arab Emirates might have been known for a long time for its oil resources rather than its cultural riches. But the tide has turned, and foreign visitors are now flocking to the region. Of course, Dubai is the undisputed tourist magnet of the Gulf. With its futuristic-looking cityscape, the Emirate has even taken first place as the world’s most popular destination in 2022.

Yet, Abu Dhabi is quickly rising to rival its flamboyant neighbour. The capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is a land of brazen modernity that meets vibrant traditions. Whether you’re a culture vulture or a laid-back beach-goer, the Louvre Museum is only miles away from pristine shores. However, there are challenges to consider when visiting the UAE. So, from cultural etiquette to travel requirements, here’s what you need to know to enjoy Abu Dhabi.

Check whether you need a visa

Entering Emirati territory may require you to get a visa. And the same obligation applies to the UAE’s seven emirates, even if you’re merely transiting through the airport. Several foreign nationals benefit from visa exemptions, including members of the European Union, alongside various citizens throughout Asia and America. But this visa-free entry does not pertain to countries like India, for example.

Before you make the trip, thus, carefully review your options as the visa you need depends on the nature and the length of your stay. The application is straightforward enough, however. You can usually expect your visa to be processed in no more than four days.

Refrain from flashing your camera everywhere

Snapping gazillions of pictures is a tourist’s favourite hobby. But you may have to give your Instagram feed a break when exploring Abu Dhabi. Not that you cannot take any photos to show off at home, especially at famous landmarks like the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. But street photography is much trickier.

Privacy is of the essence across the UAE. Hence, capturing pictures of locals without their consent is a punishable offence setting you out for a hefty fine. To avoid any misunderstanding, always ask people around before photographing them. Emiratis being notoriously hospitable, you may even land an invitation to share a meal. Note that photos of government and military buildings are strictly prohibited, however.

Pack culturally-appropriate clothing

Much like the rest of the UAE, with the notable exception of an increasingly liberal Dubai, locals in Abu Dhabi are conservative dressers. Men sport a long-sleeved kandura and a traditional cloth headdress called ghutra. Women wear an abaya, while many cover their hair with a hijab or their faces with a burqa. Being conspicuously foreign, locals won’t expect you to dress just like them. Regardless, visitors shall abide by some cultural norms.

Your best action is to pack loose-fitting clothes that cover both knees and shoulders. A headscarf isn’t compulsory at all times for female travellers, though. Still, women need to cover their heads in mosques. They will also be handed an obligatory abaya when visiting a religious site. That being said, beach attire is not off the table. However, keep your swimsuit for private resorts and hotel pools.

Know the don’ts of Abu Dhabi

Apart from dressing the part, certain behaviours are best avoided not to clash with local Islamic values. Drinking alcohol is illegal in public spaces, although you may sip the occasional drink at designated hotels with special permits. Public display of affection is equally frowned upon. Homosexuality is an even more sensitive issue, meaning LGBTQ tourists shall be weary not to act like couples in public.

Visitors should take notice of other cultural restrictions, such as the complete ban on gambling. Top online casinos in the UAE are a safe response to the lack of land-based casinos, though. Online platforms boast staples like machine slots and table games, alongside thrilling live dealer sessions. The best websites offer plenty of incentives to keep it going, from VIP rewards to free spins. And handy tips from expert reviewers spell out security measures for a discreet gamble away from prying eyes.

With world-class museums and fantastic Islamic monuments, Abu Dhabi is now a tourist powerhouse in the Middle East. Its prime location also makes it easy to explore the region, hopping from a Dubai day trip to a desert safari. For perfect holidays, however, better research the destination to avoid cultural faux pas.

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