Where and What to Hire
Abu Dhabi has an excellent range of car hire companies to choose from. At Abu Dhabi Airport, passengers can choose from Europecar and Budget while in the city centre there are even more options. Al Raed, Thrify, Budget, Butterfly, Dollar, United Car Rentals, Eisa Car Hire, Holiday Car, Pioneer Car, National Car and Avis can all be found located around 5thStreet, 9th Street and 2nd Street, close to the shore. Thrifty, Dollar and Budget have several more branches dotted around the city. All manner of cars are available to hire from 2 and 4-door vehicles to motorbikes, scooter and vans and, this being Abu Dhabi, a range of luxury motors from 4x4s and limousines to high ends sports cars.
Abu Dhabi is not known for being the safest city to drive in. Instead it has a reputation for reckless drivers which must be taken into consideration before driving there. Alcohol tests are frequently conducted and if any is found to be in the system, a prison sentence is likely. U-turns are common, particularly at junctions, while drivers slam on brakes at the sight of yellow lights (fines and even deportations can result from skipping too many red lights). Abu Dhabi has excellent roads yet despite this, many accidents still occur and there is heavy traffic and congestion, particularly in the mornings and evenings. Abu Dhabi is not very pedestrian or cycle friendly but be aware that people may be trying to cross busy roads for some time.
Parking is certainly a challenge in Abu Dhabi, particularly in the business area of the city. Occasionally free parking can be found but most of the parking is now managed by the Department of Transport’s Mawagif program which is a mobile and on-site pay and display system. Yellow and grey road markings mean you cannot park there. Blue and black markings show standard parking which costs 2 Dhs per hour or up to 15 Dhs for the whole day. 500Dhs fines are imposed on anyone found parking without a valid ticket. Many of Abu Dhabi’s shopping malls come with multi-storey car-parking and hotels with some on-site parking – these are both usually free.
Where to Go and What to See
It is well worth hiring a car in Abu Dhabi, not just to get around the city centre but to explore the surrounding area. Just a 90 minute drive away is the super-city of Dubai with its 7-star hotel, fine dining, colossal shopping malls, gold souks and thrilling desert excursions; including nights camping under the stars Bedouin-style, camel rides and 4x4 adventures in the sand-dunes. Also 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi is the Al Ain oasis, the largest in the UAE where golden dunes shimmer in the sun with greenery and an array of stunning desert blooms to admire. If travelling with children, there is no place better than Yas Island. This island is home to the world’s largest Waterpark, a ridiculous number of white-knuckle rides, wave machines, slides, the Formula 1 racing circuit and a rollercoaster that reaches a terrifying 150 miles per hour. For an alternative shopping experience, visit the famous Camel Souq near the Meyzad border crossing, just 3 miles from Al Ain. Hundreds of camels are brought here to buy and sell while traders are very friendly, especially to younger visitors who can even sit on the creatures. For unsurpassed views, drive the 7 mile hairpin road to the top of Jebel Hafeet Mountain to witness an unforgettable sunset from the cafe nestled at its peak. To get away from it all, drive just over an hour out of Abu Dhabi to the Oasis of Liwa, which is located near the Empty Quarter – the world’s largest sand desert. Tranquillity, solitude and cloudless skies do not come any more impressive and awe-inspiring than this.