Flying Via Abu Dhabi?
Flying via the Middle East has become increasingly popular among South Africans as airlines like Etihad, Emirates and Qatar operate flights from South Africa’s key hubs.
If you’re headed via Abu Dhabi and have a long layover, why not consider leaving the airport and seeing the sights?
South African passport holders need to apply online for a transit visa through TTS UAE Visas, which will give you four days to explore the city. It’s a short, easy process and takes a few days for your visa to be issued. Check out Visitabudhabi.ae for more visa information.
Have a day to explore the city before you travel to your final destination? Here are some of our travel experts’ ideas to get the most out of a day trip into Abu Dhabi:
There really is no quicker way to orientate yourself in any city than on the Hop-on, Hop-off bus. Not only is it a great way to get around to the key tourist attractions, it will give you insight into where everything is and how it fits together. The Big Bus Abu Dhabi takes travellers to all the city’s famous landmarks, including Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Heritage Village and Abu Dhabi’s beautiful Corniche. You can hop-on, and off as many times as you like in the designated 24- or 48-hour period (depending on which pass you’ve bought) and you’ll also receive a free Yas Island Drive, free Dhow Cruise and half price discount on the Etihad Towers’ Observation Deck entry, which is absolutely unmissable. Book online to save 10% off the standard price with 24-hour passes for adults priced at US$56.70 and kids US$24.30.
Get your pulse racing
Abu Dhabi’s self-proclaimed island of all things fun – Yas Island – is an absolute must-visit if you’re short on time. It’s close to the airport and home to the annual Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November. In line with its racy nature, Yas Island is also home to the very popular Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest indoor theme park and a celebration of all things… well, Ferrari, and Yas Waterworld, an unforgettable water adventure for all with five one-of-a-kind rinds that have never been seen before in a waterpark.
If you’re planning to visit both, it makes sense (plus it’s cheaper) to buy a two-park pass online. Ferrari World is located adjacent to Yas Mall so if you need a bit of retail therapy or a bite to eat there are a myriad of options to keep you busy, plus one of the Middle East’s largest Ikeas. For a fun dining experience, look no further than Rogos where you order your American budger and milkshake by iPad and your food is delivered by rollercoaster. Yas Island also has its very own beach and Yas Beach Club where you can relax or take part in watersports, including kayaking and water skiing, or you can tap your inner Schumaker and head to Yas Marina Circuit for a go-karting experience that will blow your mind. You may just need more than a day to explore all that is Yas.
The shimmering white Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque stands impressively as one of Abu Dhabi’s finest and most popular icons. Closed on Fridays to visitors, the Mosque welcomes travellers (dressed appropriately) to admire its beautiful interiors, including a hand-woven Persian carpet that spans 5,627 m2 and took two years to complete, the delicate floral inlays of mother of pearl and chandeliers incorporating millions of Swarovski crystals. The Mosque is large enough to accommodate 40 000 worshippers and lights up at night in an enchanting blue and pink hue making it a magnificent building to photograph both by day and night. Entrance is fee, but note a strict dresscode applies (no shorts, short skirts, vests or sleeveless shirts). Ladies’ hair, legs and arms must be covered at all times.
Another landmark on everyone’s agenda during a visit to Abu Dhabi is the seven-star luxury Emirates Palace which featured in such Hollywood blockbusters as Sex in the City 2 and Fast and Furious 7. You haven’t seen luxury until you’ve set foot in this glamorous Kempinski hotel built to reflect traditional Arabic architecture and decorated in gold, marble and Swarovski crystals. Again, a dress code applies and if you’re keen to splurge on yourself sit down to a cappuccino drizzled with gold leaf or a camel cappuccino and a slice of the famous chocolate cake (also drizzled with gold). There’s even an ATM in the lobby that dispenses gold memorabilia.