City Trips Travel Blog

Dubai or Abu Dhabi: Which is best for a holiday?

Dubai or Abu Dhabi: Which is best for holidaymakers?

Over the past twenty years, the Middle East has become almost synonymous with luxurious holidays, with this trend being driven by two of the most important cities in the region: Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Although both cities offer their own unique charms, it’s not always clear which of them is the best for families… or for couples… or for thrill-seekers… the list goes on. If you’re considering a holiday to the Emirates but aren’t sure where to stay then worry not, because we’ve disseminated the key differences between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to help you make the decision which is best for holidaymakers.

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and is home to around one million people. Here are things that make the city unique:

1) The Grand Mosque

The Grand Sheik Zayed Mosque is, arguably, the most beautiful building in the whole of the Middle East. Voted the world’s second favourite landmark by Tripadvisor for two years running, this is a must-see for anyone interested in the area’s culture and religion.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi

2) Beautiful Beaches

Dubai has beautiful beaches but – in our humble opinion at least – cannot match the pristine shoreline of Abu Dhabi. Even the public beaches at Saadiyat Island or Corniche are quite a sight to behold. Better still, many of the public beaches are rarely crowded.

3) Luxury for Less

According to Best at Travel, accommodation is generally slightly cheaper in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai. That doesn’t mean that Abu Dhabi is any less luxurious however: It has roughly the same ratio of five star hotels as Dubai.

4) Quiet Charm

Abu Dhabi boasts several places in the city that still provide an authentic middle eastern charm. Aside from the many souks which are dotted around the city, there is also the fantastic Qasr Al Hosn fort to visit, which dates back to the 18th century and is the oldest stone building in the city.  It is an ideal location if you need a place to cool down and relax.

5) Emirates Palace

The Emirates Palace is the top hotel in Abu Dhabi, but worry not if it’s a little outside of your budget because this establishment is also open to the public to view – free of charge! This is unlike the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which has restricted access and charges those who wish to take a nosey.

6) Zaya Nurai Island 

Zaya Nurai Island is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, a short boat ride away from the coast of Abu Dhabi. It has a mix of crystal blue waters, wild green landscape, lovely weather and awesome palm trees. You will need to have a day pass or stay there as an overnight guest if you wish to visit. It is an awesome place for a little self-pampering.


Dubai is the largest and most famous city in the UAE, with an estimated population of 2.5 million. Here are some of the best reasons for visit the city:

1) The City of Superlatives

Dubai currently holds some 340 world records, from the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, to the largest airport terminal and the tallest hotel. Here you will find a shopping mall with no less than 1,000 shops, complete with a zoo, an aquarium, and a 270-degree acrylic walkthrough tunnel, ice skating rink, cinema…and any other attraction you can think of. Dubai does things only in superlatives. If you love everything big and ever so slightly over-the-top, then this is the city for you!

2) Attractions Galore

Spend a fortnight in Dubai and you will only have touched the surface of what there is to explore. Some of our favourite attractions include the Miracle Garden, Madinat Jumeirah, skydiving, shopping at the Dubai Mall, desert buggy racing and a more slow-paced camel riding tour. You will never get bored in Dubai.

3) Liberalism

Dubai tends to be slightly more liberal than its counterpart to the south with, for example, the beaches being less restrictive in terms of clothing.

4) Dubai = Luxury

As you will have gathered by now, Dubai is synonymous with luxury and extravagance. If you have the cash to splash, you will receive a world class service and enjoy the best hotels in the world. You can even access private islands, such as the Palm Island if your hotel offers activities on the island.

5) Shopping Heaven

Dubai is the shopping hub of the United Arab Emirates, with shopping malls stretching as far as the eye can see. You can even shop in the desert, where you can buy Arabian spices, as well as more traditional souvenirs!

Dubai vs Abu Dhabi – Costs

Apart from the cost of accommodation, here are some examples of what you get for your money in the two cities:

  • 3 km taxi ride – £2 in Abu Dhabi, £3 in Dubai
  • Public bus ride – £0.5 in Abu Dhabi, £2 for a metro ride in Dubai
  • A pint of beer – £9 in Abu Dhabi, £8 in Dubai
  • Budget breakfast – £4.2 in Abu Dhabi, £5 in Dubai
  • Lunch on a budget – £9 in both cities

Both cities have their advantages, but they have one thing in common: They are amazing holiday destinations for sunseekers, shoppers, and families.

The Palme Atlantis in Dubai

About the author – Single Parents on Holiday:

If you want to find more about us, go to single parent holidays for more information of our fully-organised holidays for single mums and dads and their children.

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