WHERE TO GO? DUBAI OR ABU DHABI
One of the questions I got asked a lot is whether I recommend Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai?! Which city 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 this list 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 is not a cultural shock for western tourists.
Why is Abu Dhabi better than Dubai?
Find an itinerary for Abu Dhabi here and find out what to do in Abu Dhabi.
- The capital of the United Arab Emirates
- biggest 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
- 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: Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque – Dubai has more interesting and famous buildings, but it does not have Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
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 (and see many more images click here).
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, the beaches in Abu Dhabi were more appealing to me.
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 it crowded.
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 prices in Dubai – while the standard is the same!
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.”
- 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.
Zaya Nuria 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 – one of the most beautiful islands in the region. Zaya Nurai Island – after a 12-minute boat ride, you will get to the private island – to be allowed to get on the island, you have to get either a day pass or stay there as an overnight guest.
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.
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.
- 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 is the city of superlatives. There are many interesting buildings: It is home to the highest building globally, 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. It will not get boring 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.
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).
Though I am not into clubbing, there are more bars, clubs, more parties than in Abu Dhabi. I, somehow, also feel less restricted in my clothing than in Abu Dhabi.
More Luxury Hotels
- Dubai is the better place to visit because there are so many luxury hotels to choose from.
There are more luxury hotels. If you are on a budget, you can just do hotel sightseeing for free – and you´ll do not get disappointed – like the “Atlantis – The Palm.”
The amount of luxury hotels in Dubai is seriosuly crazy.
Tip: if you want to slpurge but have to save money, visit during Ramadan (it might be less fun but the hote prices drop like crazy).
- 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 though at many hotels), it is a perfect place to ride a bike and enjoy great views.
- 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 crop the day off.
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 shopping (and bigger) malls (quick guide for Dubai Mall here) and is the place to shop.
- 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.
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.
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 quietness?
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 Abu Dhabi for 2 nights.
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 or 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 to see – before you plan your trip to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, check out visa regulations.
- What to Pack for Dubai and Abu Dhabi: Read more about important things to pack for Dubai and Abu Dhabi
- Dubai on a Budget: Click here to find some budget travel tips for Dubai
- Where to Stay in Dubai: Check out my accommodation guide for Dubai.
- Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi: Check out my full Abu Dhabi accommodation guide.