Abu Dhabi or Dubai?
October 3, 2012 3:34 AM   Subscribe

My mum and I are flying to Latvia next year (hooray!) and we are considering where to break up the massive flight ex Sydney. Currently we are tossing up between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Anyone have experience with either of these two places as stopovers (no more than a day or two)?
posted by thylacinthine to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
If you like malls and shopping: Dubai

For more traditional middle eastern culture: Abu Dhabi

Both have nice beaches, resorts, hotels.

I prefer Abu Dhabi, Dubai reminds me (not so pleasantly) of Houston.
posted by zia at 3:37 AM on October 3, 2012

Things to do in AD
- Camel racing
- AD city tour
- resort/beaches
- desert tour
posted by zia at 3:39 AM on October 3, 2012

If you like malls and shopping: Dubai


You can also do desert tours from Dubai. There's a good water park as well (Wild Wadi).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:04 AM on October 3, 2012

emirates used to offer free stopovers in dubai- they'd pay for the hotel and i think the airport transfers for a couple of nights- you might want to check it out for that reason.

if you've never seen dubai before, it's definitely an experience- and I'd hate to see it for more than 2-3 days because it's too artificial to my tastes but something to see.

haven't been to abu dhabi but unless you've traveled some in the middle east before I'd stick to Dubai for now as it's still a different experience but very (westerner) foreigner friendly. good luck!
posted by saraindc at 4:09 AM on October 3, 2012

Another vote for Dubai, lots more touristy stuff. Also, I've never been in the Dubai Airport but it's got to be better than the weird echo-y funnel that is the Abu Dhabi terminal.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:53 AM on October 3, 2012

OTOH, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi has a really excellent tour and is very beautiful.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:56 AM on October 3, 2012

I thought Dubai was fun as a 24 hour stopover. It's easy to get around by the metro or taxi. The skyscrapers are amazing, but you can also go to the old town and see the souks and the river port which feel like something from decades ago.
posted by smackfu at 6:32 AM on October 3, 2012

Been to both; Dubai is head and shoulders for a short visit. There's all the ridiculous buildings, the ridiculous malls, Wild Wadi, the gold souk, the desert. If you want to tour a mosque, the Jumeirah mosque is beautiful and has guided tours. Abu Dhabi seemed more livable, but otherwise had nothing to recommend it.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:02 AM on October 3, 2012

I would go for Dubai, for the reasons listed above but also because Emirates is a great airline with excellent service.
posted by goo at 8:56 AM on October 3, 2012

I've been through Dubai (but not Abu Dhabi). Airport clean and shiny, but horrible, unwelcoming, confusing, and short on places to relax. Nobody at tourist info desk seemed to know anything about the city (at least the bits I was asking about). Got in around 11pm, 3-hour line for passport control. City's OK for a day. Even as a mall-hater, I enjoyed wandering the streets and docksides taking in the strangeness and gawping at things.

If you do go to Dubai, and you wish to go up the Burj Khalifa (world's tallest building), learn from my failure and make sure to book in advance. I think that about three days advance booking was necessary when I was there.

For a stopover I'd also advise getting hold of (and reading) a map and guidebook in advance, since I wasted a lot of my short time there orienting myself and figuring out where I wanted to go and how to get there.
posted by pont at 3:35 PM on October 3, 2012

Dubai was good for one day. We went to the water park at the Atlantis - it was awesome. They have two slides (one super fast, one super slow) that take you inside a clear tunnel through the middle of an aquarium.

Looking at the sky scrapers at night was cool. Even if you don't go up the Burj Khalifa it's cool just checking it out from the bottom - there is an amazing fountain that puts on shows I think every half hour after sunset.

We did a half day 4WD tour in the desert which was cool. They do some crazy stuff on sand dunes, then take you out to their little tourist town where you can sample foods/drinks etc, ride camels, watch a belly dancing show.

I thought the malls/shopping aspect was WAY over rated. We were just interested in the supposedly huge aspects of the malls, but Parramatta Westfield seems bigger...
posted by trialex at 3:54 PM on October 3, 2012

Thanks folks, everyone very helpful. We'll probably see what deals we can arrange with the airlines, as both places seem to have pluses. Thanks!
posted by thylacinthine at 4:59 PM on October 3, 2012

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