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How to Pick the Best Abu Dhabi Tour from Dubai (+Our Experience)

How to Pick the Best Abu Dhabi Tour from Dubai (+Our Experience)

Thinking of visiting Abu Dhabi from Dubai for a day and wondering which tour to choose? We had the exact same question on our recent trip – what is the best Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai?

After several hours of research, comparing dozens of itineraries, and reading hundreds of reviews, I can tell you that the choice is overwhelming. There are hundreds of Abu Dhabi tours from Dubai, with widely varying itineraries. You have to read in detail which places you actually visit and which are not more than a quick photo stop. Furthermore, often they also list the sights which you only pass by…

You’ll find private tours and (small) group tours, full-day tours, or those that only take a couple of hours… There is one thing in common – pretty much all Abu Dhabi tours from Dubai visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. But the rest of the itinerary can vary from short stops at some local low-key markets to thorough visits to some of the most impressive landmarks…

In this article, we share our hand-picked selection of Abu Dhabi tours that we shortlisted for our own trip, as well as a detailed description of the tour we ultimately chose. I hope that this guide will save you time and help you choose the best tour from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and have a truly unforgettable experience.

TIP: If you don’t want to read the entire article and simply want to see the best of Abu Dhabi on a day trip from Dubai, we recommend this highly-rated tour. It’s the tour that we chose and it was perfect. It brings you to the three main landmarks in Abu Dhabi – Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Etihad Towers, and Qasr Al Watan – and you actually get to visit each of these places and not just pass by or see from a distance, as with many other tours.

Best guided tours to Abu Dhabi from Dubai - helpful info and tips based on personal experience and research

Why Visit & What to See on Abu Dhabi Day Trip

Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. It’s also the richest of the seven Emirates, home to some of the most prestigious projects and remarkable architectural landmarks. So no trip to the UAE would be complete without at least a short introduction to this beautiful city!

Just like Dubai, Abu Dhabi is a quickly growing city with many new attractions, one more impressive than the other. So you have to understand that there is no way to see all the best places in Abu Dhabi on a day trip from Dubai. There are simply too many options and you would need several days in Abu Dhabi if you want to see all the top sights.

So when looking for a day tour to Abu Dhabi from Dubai, you have to decide which of the top sights and attractions you absolutely do not want to miss. Once you make the choice, it becomes easier to pick the right tour that fits your interests.

Here are some of the TOP attractions in Abu Dhabi:

  • Sheikh Zayed Mosque – the most famous landmark in Abu Dhabi, included in pretty much all Abu Dhabi tours.
  • Qasr Al Watan – UAE Presidential Palace (sometimes also referred to as the Royal Palace) – an actual visit inside is only included with very few tours.
  • Etihad Towers. Many tours pass here, but only a few include a visit to the Observation Deck.
  • Louvre Abu Dhabi – the largest museum in the Gulf region, among others, displaying artworks from The Louvre and other top museums in Paris. There are just a few tours that visit here.
  • Yas Island where you can find the following theme parks: Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros. World, and SeaWorld. This is not the best place to visit on a day trip since you could easily spend a day at each of these theme parks and still not see it all. So if tours from Dubai include Yas Island in their itinerary, at best, it’s a half-day visit to Ferrari World (most tours that mention Ferrari World, usually only stop for a picture at the parking in front of it).

Here are some additional sights sometimes included in some Abu Dhabi tours:

  • Abu Dhabi Corniche – a waterfront road with bike paths and a nice pedestrian promenade. Most tours just pass by here.
  • Founders Memorial – a monument. Most tours just pass by here.
  • Emirates Palace – this luxury hotel (full name – Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental) is one of the most expensive hotels ever built. Some tours include a visit, but most just drive by.

Good to know: The best Abu Dhabi day tours include a visit to 2-3 of the ‘TOP attractions’. Depending on the tour and how much time you spend at the main landmarks, they sometimes include one or two short stops at some of the ‘additional sights’ listed above.

However, some tours only seem to offer great value at first sight. When you look deeper, you realize that the majority of your time will be spent in the car or with short stops at ‘cultural’ attractions, such as a vegetable and dates market, Abu Dhabi Heritage Village, or local art galleries. While this could be a nice addition to the main sights, there are so many better things to do with just a day in Abu Dhabi than spend your precious time shopping… So choose your tour wisely!

Below, you can find our hand-picked selection of the best Abu Dhabi tours from Dubai.

Abu Dhabi city skyline and Etihad Towers skyscrapers
Abu Dhabi city skyline and Etihad Towers as seen from the Royal Palace.

Best Abu Dhabi Tours from Dubai

As I said, there are so many Abu Dhabi tours from Dubai that the choice can look daunting. Based on the research I did for our recent trip, I made a selection of just a few VERY BEST options. This was my personal shortlist.

Here are some of the best-rated Abu Dhabi tours from Dubai, with a short overview of just the main landmarks that you actually visit:

  • Full Day Tour with Ferrari World (+-10 hrs). This tour includes a visit to Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Ferrari World, as well as a stop at Heritage Village. If you want to see the Mosque and ride some of the fastest rollercoasters in the world, this is by far the best tour. Most others only include a photo stop at Ferrari World.
  • Half Day Tour (+- 5hrs). This popular tour only visits the famous Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It’s a good option if you are really short on time.

Good to know: Most of the tours listed here are small-group tours, but they are also available as private tours. You can choose from different options once you select the number of people and travel dates.

Further below, you can read a short review of the tour that we chose and see some more pictures of the places that we visited on this Abu Dhabi day trip.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi UAE
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is not to be missed in Abu Dhabi!

Review of Our Abu Dhabi Sightseeing Tour from Dubai

As already mentioned, we chose this highly-rated guided tour for our Dubai to Abu Dhabi day trip.

Just to be clear – we do not organize these tours or have anything to do with the company that runs them. Like you, we are just travelers who do their own research, pay for the experiences we like to have, and hope that we made the right choice.

This Abu Dhabi tour was not cheap, but it brings you to the most impressive places in Abu Dhabi. We felt that it offers really good value. If you want to see the most important landmarks of Abu Dhabi in just a day, then you really cannot go wrong with this tour.

Here is what our Abu Dhabi tour looked like:

Pick up in Dubai & Drive to Abu Dhabi

We booked the tour starting at 8:45 AM. The evening before the tour, I received a WhatsApp message from the tour company informing us that they would pick us up at 8:15 AM.

The driver was on time and we stopped to pick up two other people along the way. He then brought us all to yet another hotel where we transferred to a small bus (our group had 18 people).

Good to know: The drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi normally takes about 1.5 hours, but it can also take much longer due to busy traffic. The same on the way back.

PRO TIP: When booking a full-day tour from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, don’t make any other plans for that day – that way, you don’t have to worry about busy traffic or potential delays. If you are planning a half-day trip, I would also foresee some buffer time, or opt for an afternoon tour (or a ‘sunset’ tour, as they call it) – that way, you can still do something else in Dubai in the morning.

Abu Dhabi Corniche
Abu Dhabi Corniche

Drive through Abu Dhabi

On the way to Abu Dhabi, our guide informed us that we would start our tour with Qasr Al Watan Royal Palace and visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at the end of the day. This is because there was a big cruise ship in town and since pretty much all visitors go to the Mosque, it’s extremely crowded in the morning.

This was a good decision, indeed. By the time we got to the Mosque, it was just pleasantly lively. I can’t imagine what it must look like in the mornings when several gigantic cruise ships are visiting.

On the way to the President’s Palace, we passed Yas Island and could see the famous Ferrari World and other attractions in the distance. We also saw Saadiyat Island with the Abu Dhabi Louvre – also from quite far away. Once in the city center, we drove past the Corniche – Dubai waterfront – and saw the Founders Memorial as well as the Emirati Palace.

You only get to see all these places from the bus, but it gives you an idea of what Abu Dhabi is like.

Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Abu Dhabi
Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Qasr Al Watan

Abu Dhabi’s Presidential Palace sits in a huge opulent complex by the sea overlooking the city in the distance. The main highlight here is Qasr Al Watan.

This magnificent palace might remind you of the famous Taj Mahal in India, but this one was built just recently – between 2010 – 2017. Its architecture and grandeur will take your breath away!

The palace was built using some of the finest materials including Italian marble, gold, Swarovski crystals, and gigantic handmade carpets. It is absolutely magnificent and I would even say that it’s one of the most beautiful buildings on the planet.

Quite frankly, I don’t understand why it’s not as popular as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. These two places are just as impressive and both are absolutely not to be missed in Abu Dhabi!

Qasr Al Watan - one of the main landmarks in Abu Dhabi UAE
Qasr Al Watan.
Inside Qasr Al Watan Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi UAE
The main assembly room at Qasr Al Watan.

Our tour guide gave us a short introduction to the Palace and explained where to find the ‘must sees’. After that, we had about more than an hour to explore the palace and its grounds on our own.

This is something I really liked about this tour – we got just plenty of information, but also plenty of free time at each of the landmarks visited.

Good to know: While it is a working palace, it’s mostly used for ceremonial functions and big political gatherings. So the palace is open to the public, except if there is some special political event or a visit by another head of state.

You will have to go through airport-style security here, but you can simply leave all your belongings on the tour bus and just take your camera with you.

Qasr Al Watan Royal Palace of UAE - Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai
Qasr Al Watan.
Qasr Al Watan Royal Palace in Abu Dhabi
Qasr Al Watan.

Etihad Towers

The next stop on our itinerary was the Observation Deck at the Etihad Towers. There are five skyscrapers here, of varying height. We were told that the five towers represent unity, like the five fingers of a hand. I also read somewhere that they refer to several important Arabic symbols, such as falconry and swords. 

In addition to their unique architecture and symbolism, Etihad Towers offer stunning 360° views of the city and the Arabian Gulf from the Observation Deck at 300 meters. It’s located on the 74th floor of Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers Hotel.

The views from here are spectacular and – in my opinion – more impressive than from most of the viewpoints in Dubai, including the views from Burj Khalifa.

Right below, you can see the entire Presidential Palace complex as well as the Emirates Palace and several other luxury hotels, including Rixos Marina Abu Dhabi which looks like a copy of the famous Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. The seashore and Corniche make the views even more special.

Good to know: Etihad Towers Observation Deck is supposedly just a short stop of about half an hour, out of which you have about 15 minutes to enjoy the views at the top (which sounds little but is actually plenty). However, depending on the queue at the elevators, it might take longer.

View from Etihad Towers Observation Deck - Abu Dhabi day trip from Dubai
View from Etihad Towers Observation Deck.
Observation Deck at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi
Observation Deck at Etihad Towers.
Abu Dhabi skyline aerial view from Etihad Towers
View from Etihad Towers.


After the visit to Etihad Towers, we drove to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. There is an underground mall here – Souq Al Jami – where you can find a big food court with a wide variety of restaurants.

Before we headed for lunch, our guide quickly checked if everyone was dressed ‘acceptably’ for the Mosque visit and went to get some Abaya (long black dress) and scarves for women.

If you wear long pants/skirt, a blouse that covers your arms completely, and have a scarf to cover your hair, you don’t need this dress. But if your clothes are just not long enough or see-through (even a bit), they recommend wearing the Abaya. So I opted for that, just to be safe.

If you choose the tour that includes lunch, you will have a traditional lunch at the Michelin-star Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant. Otherwise, you can decide where you want to eat when you get there. You will find all the famous fast-food chains here as well as Italian and Mexican restaurants, etc. However, it’s your chance to try some really good Arabian food so we recommend that you go to Al Khayma.

We had lunch at this restaurant, following our guide’s recommendation and everything was delicious.

I read in some reviews that people felt lunch was a bit rushed, but we had about 1h15 which was plenty. I even found the time to quietly put on the Abaya before meeting the guide at the agreed time and place.

Arabian welcome coffee at Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant in Abu Dhabi
Arabian welcome coffee at Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant.
Food at traditional Arabian restaurant in Abu Dhabi
One of the starters we ordered at Al Khayma.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the most famous landmark in Abu Dhabi and a must-see! It’s the finest example of Islamic architecture and is absolutely breathtaking, both outside as well as inside.

As a non-Muslim, you can only visit part of the Mosque, but no worries – you can see the most impressive parts. You are also allowed to view the main worship hall which is nothing short of remarkable.

Here, you can see the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet, ornate decorations, and several impressive Swarovski chandeliers. It’s also incredibly spacious and can accommodate about 40,000 people inside!

If you are a Muslim, you can also go to pray inside, but during the week, the main hall seemed to be empty. The main prayer hall is closed to visitors between noon and 3 pm on Fridays, so tours try to visit before or after that.

Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai - Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
The main worship hall with a giant carpet at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
The main worship hall with the world’s biggest hand-knitted carpet.
Ornate interior of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
Interior of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

As mentioned earlier, the Grand Mosque is one place that is included in all tour itineraries and is visited by pretty much every tourist who sets foot in Abu Dhabi, even if just for a few hours. This means that the Mosque is always extremely busy. Tickets have to be reserved in advance, for a specific time slot, etc.

Because of really bad traffic in Dubai on the day of our visit (it rained the day before which only happens a few times a year and leaves the area in chaos :)), we were way too late for the time slot booked. No worries, though. Everything was rearranged by the tour company while we were having lunch.

We entered without any wait at all and our guide made sure that we had plenty of time inside the Mosque (about 15-20 minutes with a guide and more than an hour on our own).

I liked that they didn’t rush us or cut the tour short and gave us the full experience. This meant that we were back in Dubai later than planned but that was no big deal since it was a full-day trip anyway.

Good to know: Also here, you will have to go through airport-style security. As mentioned before, there is a dress code as well. In general, they recommend long, loose ankle-length trousers or skirts. As a minimum, for men, shoulders and knees have to be covered. For women, the rules are stricter and you have to cover up everything except your face, hands, and feet (which means that sandals are ok).

Our tour provided Abaya dresses and scarves for women, which just made things simpler.

Dubai tour to Abu Dhabi - Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque at sunset - Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai
Sheikh Zayed Mosque at sunset.

Drive back to Dubai

After our visit to the Mosque, the shuttle brought us back to Dubai. There was plenty of time to rest (or even sleep) on the bus.

Just as in the morning, the bus dropped us off at a place where they had private drivers waiting to take everyone back to their hotels. This way, nobody had to wait longer than necessary. The tour was really well organized and I couldn’t fault anything.

The only issues we had that day were related to exceptionally hard rain that left the roads blank and resulted in really bad traffic. Knowing that it only rains a few days per year in the UAE, the risk of you encountering the same is pretty low. Still, as mentioned before, I wouldn’t make any other plans for the evening – that will make your tour more relaxed.

Capital Gate - the Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi
Capital Gate – the Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi. This was just one of the many landmarks we passed by on this tour.

Abu Dhabi Tour with Kids

If you are travelling with children and wonder if you can do a day tour to Abu Dhabi with kids, my answer is yes, of course. Most tours allow children of any age.

However, which tour to choose also depends on your family situation, how many kids you have, how old they are, etc. In addition, consider how well your children can handle a long bus ride, explore the landmarks, and – not to underestimate – practicalities such as the heat or not being able to use the bathroom or eat whenever they fancy.

That being said, if you can keep the kids busy in the car for 1.5- 2 hours and they can behave at the Mosque or the Presidential Palace, I see no reason why you couldn’t take them.

We did this Abu Dhabi tour with teens and – while they were the only kids in our group – we had no issues whatsoever. They were also truly fascinated by the incredible architecture we saw and truly enjoyed the day (having their phones for the long ride definitely helped though).

When I asked them about their top experiences on this trip, the Abu Dhabi day trip was in their top 3, together with a camel ride in the Dubai desert and a boat ride on the Burj Lake. They also really enjoyed Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark but ‘ranked’ the Abu Dhabi day trip as a more special experience.

TIP: If you want to take a day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi with children, consider booking a private tour. As already mentioned, pretty much all the tours we listed in this article can also be booked as private tours. It will be much more relaxing and you will spend less time in the car since they will pick you up from the hotel and drive directly to Abu Dhabi rather than gathering the whole group in a bus.

Alternatively, look into tours that visit the Mosque and maybe Ferrari World or one of the other theme parks on Yas Island (e.g. this tour). That way, your tour has something for everyone in the family. That said, with very young kids, consider height restrictions for rollercoasters and similar.

Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai - kids enjoying the view from Etihad Towers
Our kids really enjoyed this Abu Dhabi tour!
Abu Dhabi souvenirs
Abu Dhabi souvenirs. You will have several opportunities to buy souvenirs on this tour, but frankly, most of them are the same as in Dubai.

Practical Info & Tips for Abu Dhabi Tours

Here is some additional information you may want to know when considering a tour from Dubai to Abu Dhabi:

  • Most Abu Dhabi tours from Dubai include a pick-up/drop-off at your hotel. Keep in mind that the pick-up time can be up to an hour earlier than the official tour starting time (the same as the drop-off).
  • Pretty much all tours in the UAE include drinking water (on our tour, there was a large cool box full of water on the bus).
  • Keep in mind that entry to Sheikh Zayed Mosque might be restricted at certain times of the day during Islamic holidays and also on Fridays. Qasr Al Watan might also be closed if there are any political meetings at the palace. That’s another advantage of going with a tour – they know the schedules and adjust the visit. Still, you can never exclude a tiny chance of some last-minute changes when visiting places like that.
  • Some Abu Dhabi tours also include Abaya dresses for women at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, but that’s not always the case. So be sure to double-check that in the tour description if you need one.
  • There is no strict dress code at other places in Abu Dhabi, only at the Mosque. However, if you are visiting the Presidential Palace, they also recommend loose long pants or a skirt and a modest blouse/shirt that covers your shoulders.
  • Take some sunscreen lotion and sunglasses with you. A sun hat can be a good idea as well.
  • Pack only what you need – it will be easier to go through security checks everywhere. Furthermore, you can safely leave other belongings (food, sunscreen lotion, etc.) on the tour bus.
  • There are free bathroom facilities at all the sights we visited on this tour, but not on a bus. They also don’t stop anywhere along the way.
  • You get about 60-75 minutes for lunch on this tour, but depending on the traffic, it can be quite late in the day. So if you need some more energy during the day, pack some small snacks with you.

PRO TIP: There’s one thing we noticed when booking our tour to Abu-Dhabi is that on some days, prices were much higher than on others (this could be related to school holidays, public holidays, and similar). So if you are somewhat flexible, check a few different dates when booking the tour – sometimes, travelling a day earlier or later might save you quite some money.

Best tours from Dubai to Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

So, this is our guide to Abu Dhabi tours from Dubai and a short review of the tour that we chose. I hope that it gives you a better idea of what to expect and helps you find the best tour that suits your interests.

I want to add that visiting Abu Dhabi was one of the main highlights of our recent trip to Dubai. It’s such a rich and memorable experience, and I’m so glad that we did it. Yes, it was a long day, but it felt rather relaxed and we came home with a much better appreciation of the UAE culture. Highly recommended!

If you want to book the same tour as the one that we did and described here, you can do so via this link through GetYourGuide. This is the website we personally use for all our tour and ticket bookings worldwide and I can only recommend it. We booked all tours and experiences in Dubai through them.

TIP: If you are planning a trip to the UAE and are wondering what to expect in general, take a look at our guide with experience-based tips and tricks for your first visit to Dubai. It contains all the info we wish we had known before our visit. Check it out!

More travel inspiration and information for visiting Dubai:

READ ALSO: How to Plan a Trip to Dubai: Itinerary for 1-7 Days

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Abu Dhabi day trip from Dubai

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