Abu Dhabi vs Dubai – Which is the Better Place to Visit?

WHERE TO GO? DUBAI OR ABU DHABI

One of the questions I get asked a lot is whether I recommend Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai?! Which is the better city to visit? To cut a long story short, I can say it depends on your interests and preferences whether you prefer Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai, Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi: Which city (emirate) wins? I am happy to share a list with you, which I have created based on my experiences, hoping that it helps you make the perfect decision.

Both cities are incredibly safe regarding female solo travelers or concerning any crime. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are “rich” and “clean.”

You can do desert safaris in both places (in my opinion, desert safaris are one of the best things to do in both places), as you can do water sports activities, helicopter rides, and you can shop in both cities pretty well.

Both are quite westernized, so there isn’t a cultural shock for western tourists.

Why is Abu Dhabi better than Dubai?

Here is an itinerary for Abu Dhabi here if you want to find out what to do in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi

  • The capital of the United Arab Emirates
  • Largest emirate (in size of geography)
  • About 1 million inhabitants

Here are my personal reasons why I tend to say that Abu Dhabi wins if it comes to Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai. 

Grand Mosque

  • Abu Dhabi is the better place to visit because it is home to the stunning Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

It is home to the most beautiful building in the world: the Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Dubai has more interesting and famous buildings, but it does not have Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Why is Abu Dhabi better than Dubai
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The mosque is just beyond amazing and one of my favorites reasons to always re-visit Abu Dhabi.

To find out more about the mosque and tips when visiting click here.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi Emirates
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More Beautiful Beaches

  • Abu Dhabi is the better place to visit because it has nicer and more tranquil beaches.

Abu Dhabi has more beautiful beaches: the public beaches at Corniche or Saadiyat Island are wonderful. Overall, the beaches in Abu Dhabi were more appealing to me than the ones in Dubai.

Though Saadiyat Island charges a small fee (about 5€) it is definitely worth the money, and if you do not want to spend money on a day at the beach you will have a nice time at the free beaches in Abu Dhabi – which are quite empty, and you´ll not see them crowded.

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Luxury Accommodation is Cheaper

  • Compared to Dubai, Abu Dhabi is the better place to visit because you get more luxury for less money.

Accommodation in Abu Dhabi, especially luxury accommodation, is cheaper. As a test, I did some further research to be sure it was not only when I visited.

It seems that accommodation is cheaper throughout the year in Abu Dhabi. To check out the best hotel deals, click here.

I have stayed in several hotels in Abu Dhabi, and whenever I visited, the prices were below the ones in Dubai – while the standard is the same!

Which is better to visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi
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Abu Dhabi is Quieter

  • Abu Dhabi is, in comparison to Dubai, the better place to visit because it is more tranquil and much quieter.

Abu Dhabi is quieter. This can either be a pro or a contra argument, but if you do not like too much “bling-bling” and too much of the hustle and bustle, you´ll probably enjoy Abu Dhabi more than Dubai. Though you will also find authentic areas in Dubai, Abu Dhabi is still a bit more “Arabian-like.”

Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi
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Emirates Palace

  • Abu Dhabi is the better place to visit because you can visit Emirates Palace.

The Emirates Palace, the top hotel in Abu Dhabi, is also open to “ordinary” people who want to have a look, while Dubai´s “top” hotel (Burj Al-Arab) is much more difficult to access.

Emirates Palace Kempinski in Abu Dhabi (Emirates)
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Zaya Nurai Island

  • Abu Dhabi is the better place to visit because you will find there the Maldives of the Emirates.

Abu Dhabi has Zaya Nurai Island, which is one of the most beautiful islands in the region. Zaya Nurai Island is a private island and you can get there after a 12-minute boat ride. To be allowed on the island, you have to get either a day pass or stay there as an overnight guest.

Why visit Abu Dhabi
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So, this point goes to Abu Dhabi in terms of Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai.

Better Place to Relax

  • Abu Dhabi is the better place to visit because it is more like a vacation.

Where can you relax better? In Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Well, I would say Abu Dhabi is the better place to relax. There are fewer crowds and less traffic in Abu Dhabi. So, Abu Dhabi is the better place to relax and chill.

Abu Dhabi relax
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Read about my 12 top tips for things to do in Abu Dhabi.

Why is Dubai better than Abu Dhabi?

Here are the reasons why I like Dubai better than Abu Dhabi.

Dubai

  • The biggest city in terms of inhabitants and the most famous city of the UAE
  • About 2,5 million inhabitants

The City of Superlatives

  • Dubai is the better place to visit because it constantly breaks new records.
Dubai in 2 days
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Burj Khalifa is so tall, it does not fit into the camera and you have to tilt it if you want to have it captured

Dubai is the city of superlatives. There are many unique buildings: It is home to the highest building in the world, Burj Khalifa (pictures from the top of Burj Khalifa here), the 7* hotel Burj Al-Arab, and many more interesting buildings. If you are into superlatives, visit Dubai.

More Attractions in Dubai

  • Dubai is the better place to visit because there is so much to do and see.

There are more attractions, more to see and more to do. You will never feel bored in Dubai. Whether you head to the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalifa), or Miracle Garden, Dubai Mall, or Madinat Jumeirah – there is so much to do that it was hard for me to pick only 50 top activities in Dubai.

Click here to read my top 50 things to do in Dubai. 

Abu Dhabi or Dubai
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Even though I have visited Dubai several times, I have these “wow” effects all the time. One of them was when I visited the top of Burj Khalifa. 

Dubai is More Liberal

  • Dubai is the better place to visit because it is more liberal.

Dubai is more liberal. Yes, it is still a conservative place but I think it is less conservative than Abu Dhabi (click here to find out what to wear in Dubai as a female).

There are more bars, clubs, and more parties than in Abu Dhabi – if you are into good nightlife, you will love Dubai more. Also, you might feel less restricted in your clothing than in Abu Dhabi.

Better place to visit in UAE
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More Luxury Hotels

  • Dubai is the better place to visit because there are so many luxury hotels to choose from.
  • Lobby at Atlantis - The Palm Dubai
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    Lobby at Atlantis – The Palm Dubai

There are more luxury hotels. If you are on a budget, you can just do hotel sightseeing for free. You´ll not get disappointed – like the “Atlantis – The Palm.”

The amount of luxury hotels in Dubai is seriosuly crazy.

  • TIP: If you want to splurge but have to save money, visit during Ramadan (it might be less fun but the hotel prices drop like crazy).

Palm Island

  • Dubai is the better place to visit because it has unique islands, like Palm Island.

Dubai has Palm Island. Though the beaches are private (you can get a day pass at many hotels), it is a perfect place to ride a bike and enjoy great views.

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Madinat Jumeirah

  • Dubai is the better place to visit because you will find the recreation of ancient Arabia in a modern dress.

Dubai has Madinat Jumeirah, which is, without any doubt, one of my favorite areas in Dubai. It is just a great place to spend the day, get lost, and top the day off.

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Bigger Shopping Malls

  • Dubai is the better place to visit because you will find the biggest and most interesting shopping malls there.

Dubai has more (and bigger) shopping malls (find a quick guide for Dubai Mall here) and is the place to shop.

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Crazy Souks

  • Dubai is the better place to visit because there are also many local markets to shop.

I have a love-hate relationship with Dubai Deira. The old part of Dubai often means to be stressed out as it is hectic, but it is a place that reminds me like no other in the UAE (except for the desert) that I am in Arabia. The souks (markets) there are just something you have to experience once – you cannot find souks in that intensity in Abu Dhabi. 

Which place to visit - Abu Dhabi or Dubai
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Better Day Trips Options

  • Dubai is the better place to visit because you can do some very fun day tours.

Location: Dubai has, in my opinion, a better location. It is closer to Oman (and a day trip to Oman is fun) and to other emirates like Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah, and so day trips to other places are easier and more fun.

Oman
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Find my tips for the 50 best things to do in Dubai here – and click here to find all my Dubai posts. 

CONCLUSION: DUBAI VS ABU DHABI

As you can see, it really depends on what you are interested in and what you like to answer the question of whether Abu Dhabi or Dubai is better for a vacation.

Are you more of a person who likes to go out and enjoy those “wow” moments, or do you enjoy the “natural” beauty and more quiet?

What about me? Do I think Abu Dhabi or Dubai is better?

I actually liked Abu Dhabi as well as Dubai. I have to admit that I visited Abu Dhabi only three times, while I have visited Dubai more often and have spent much more time there.

Knowing what I know now, I would say: If I stayed in the United Arab Emirates for one week, I would probably stay 4-5 nights in Dubai and then in 2 nights Abu Dhabi.

By the way: Abu Dhabi and Dubai are not that far away from each other. So if you still cannot decide which place to visit, you can just take a hop-on and hop-off bus to Abu Dhabi or Dubai or take a taxi to get from one city to the other (about 80 kilometers).

There is also a bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and the other way around.

Ready to book your next trip? Will you visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Or both 🙂

TRAVEL TIPS FOR DUBAI AND ABU DHABI

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are both fun cities to visit with great tours and activities. Here are a few more tips for your trip – whether you visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi – or both!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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