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Should I Visit the UAE? Pros and Cons of Travel to the United Arab Emirates

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Are you thinking of planning to visit the UAE? Wondering if this area is your type of trip? Well, we're here to share all of the pros and cons of visiting the UAE so that you can decide.

We learned a lot while traveling to Abu Dhabi last year, and we found that it is definitely a very particular place. For some, traveling to the UAE is an absolute dream, and for some others, it really isn't worth the hype.

So let's jump right in and look at all of the things to keep in mind for when you visit the UAE.

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Visit the UAE: Pros

Let's start with all of the things that we loved about visiting the UAE!

The Architecture is Next Level

One of the things that really wowed us in the UAE was the different structures they had. From incredibly tall skyscrapers, to stunning palaces, it's undeniable that they really did a great job in the UAE when it comes to the architecture.

Louvre abu dhabi, visit the UAE
Founders Memorial Abu Dhabi, Visit the UAE
Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

The architecture in Abu Dhabi is unbelievable.

It's Super Instagrammable

Want to up your Instagram game? Well, the UAE has you covered. From gorgeous buildings to cute cafes, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are an Instagrammer's dream. So pack those beautiful dresses and get ready to take some stunning photos, because the UAE is the place to do it.

Shangri La in Abu Dhabi, visit the UAE

Want some amazing photos? You can hire a professional photographer in Dubai! Here are a few that we've found:

It's Full of Unique Experiences

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are two cities that will truly blow your mind when it comes to epic activities. Want to skydive over a manmade island chain? How about sliding from the top of a skyscraper? Well, then you'll love to visit the UAE.

We haven't personally been to Dubai, but we do know that they are home to some really neat activities, and ones that you won't find anywhere else.

The UAE is a bucket list paradise, and is sure to blow your mind. So if you want some unique experiences and epic activities, then let's get you started!

National Aquarium of Abu Dhabi, visit the UAE

Even the aquariums are something to add to your bucket list.

Here are some epic activities that you can find in Dubai

Here are some awesome things you can do in Abu Dhabi

The Service is Incredible

Get ready to be treated like royalty, because that's one thing that the Middle East truly excels at.

Whether you're in a fancy hotel, or eating at a nice restaurant, the hospitality is one that is hardly matched elsewhere in the world.

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Arabic people expect to be treated like royalty, so this is the standard for anyone that is traveling to the UAE. While we felt it to be a bit much, this is definitely something that will make travelers live a luxurious and stress-free vacation.

Grand Hyatt Hotel, Abu Dhabi, travel to the United Arab Emirates

The amenities and service are impeccable in the Abu Dhabi hotels.

Here are some of the top-notch hotels to check out:

Luxury Hotels in Abu Dhabi:

  • Emirates Palace: An incredibly luxurious hotel that looks like a palace
  • Ritz-Carlton: The most highly sought after hotel, with stunning views of the mosque
  • Shangri La: Stunning hotel with beach access, and romantic boat rides

Luxury Hotels in Dubai:

  • Shangri La: the hotel with one of the best views in all of Dubai, facing the Burj Khalifa

  • The Atlantis: this hotel is definitely not our typical recommendation, but it's great for families, and those that want to experience a glamorous stay

  • Palace Downtown: a 5-star hotel facing the Burj Khalifa

  • The Dubai EDITION: has a beautiful pool facing the heart of Dubai, a fitness center, and free private parking

  •  W Dubai - Mina Seyahi: an adults-only luxury resort located on Jumeriah Beach

  • Address Sky View: the most epic infinity pool facing the Burj Khalifa

Other Luxury Hotels:

  • Telal Resort: Tucked away in the desert of Al Ain, this resort has a spa, pool, and a ton of on-site activities.

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It's Very International

Want Lebanese food? Italian? How about American? Well, the United Arab Emirates is a huge melting pot, meaning you can experience a huge variety of cultures and cuisines.

There is something for everyone when it comes to restaurants and fashion in the UAE, and you will easily meet people from many different countries.

This makes for a fun and unique destination, where everyone can come together and find a mix of people to connect with.

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There is a Variety of Landscapes

While many people just assume that the UAE is all desert, there really is so much more! You can enjoy beaches, salt lakes, and even mangroves. We were shocked when we went to visit the UAE to learn that there is so much more than just sand and hotels.

Al Wasthba Long Salt Lake, visit the UAE
Grand Hyatt Hotel in Abu Dhabi, visit the UAE
Jubail Mangrove Park, travel to the United Arab Emirates

The UAE has more than just deserts.

It's Very Clean

Everything in the UAE is new. It's shiny, clean, and inviting. So if you want to stay prim and proper, then you'll love traveling to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The UAE is flashy and luxurious, inviting you to feel fancy and indulgent wherever you go.

Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, visit the UAE

Many places throughout the UAE will make you feel super luxurious.

It's Well-Connected and Affordable to Get to

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are both home to some of the most famous airlines, and are very easily reachable. They connect well with Europe, Africa, and Asia, and also have direct flights from the Americas. We've found flights from Europe to the UAE for as low as $50!

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can put from "your city or country" to "UAE". This way you can see which is the cheapest airport in the area to fly to or from. Also, you can check the calendar to see which are the cheapest dates to go!

Search for a flight to the UAE:

Visit the UAE: Cons

While there were some things we truly loved about visiting the UAE, we can't deny the fact that some things about it we did not like at all. Here are a few cons about travel to the United Arab Emirates.

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It is Super Expensive

Well, it's no secret that the UAE is super expensive. This particularly goes for the large cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Accommodation is very pricey, and so are restaurants, bars, and shops.

Luckily taxis are the one thing that aren't too expensive, although with the layout of the city, they truly do add up. (Keep reading and you'll understand why). 

If you plan to visit the UAE, make sure you save up quite a bit, especially if you wan't to experience any type of nightlife.

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Alcohol is Hard to Come By

Alcohol is strictly prohibited in Muslim countries, and that includes the UAE. It is extremely expensive for hotels and restaurants to get liquor licenses because of this. So there isn't a way to have drinks freely or cheaply for that matter.

If you want to have a night out you can certainly find it in fancy hotels. However, you won't be able to "bar hop" or pick up a bottle of wine in the supermarket (it isn't allowed to be sold). So if your idea of a vacation is chilling on the beach with some beers, then we don't recommend to visit the UAE on this trip (unless you've got some serious money to blow).

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It Isn't Pedestrian Friendly

One of our favorite parts of traveling through Europe is that you can just wander the small streets and soak up the vibes of the cities and even small towns. Well, we can't speak for Dubai, but this certainly isn't the case in Abu Dhabi.

When we first looked at the map of Abu Dhabi, we saw just a few large streets, and thought "wow everything looks so close!". We couldn't be more wrong.

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It's nearly impossible to walk from one place to another, forcing you to constantly get taxis from one place to another. In our opinion, this takes away from the overall experience, as you have to just choose your spots, and have a pretty rigid itinerary. There isn't much room for exploring on your own, or enjoying the little things here. We suggest renting a car to make the most of your stay.

Here is a site we typically use to book our rentals:

It Gets Unbearably Hot

The heat of the UAE is both a pro and con. We visited in February, and had unbelievably perfect weather. Warm weather and sunny days were incredible, and the cool nights really made it very pleasant to be outside.

However, travel later on in the spring, summer, or early fall and this certainly won't be the case. The sun is so strong, and temperatures are so hot in the summer that people can't even go outside. The malls blast the AC, and the difference between the indoors and outdoors in unbearable.

If you do plan to travel to the United Arab Emirates, then make sure to go in the winter, so you can actually enjoy the sunny weather that this area offers.

Al Ain, travel to the United Arab Emirates
desert, visit the UAE

The UAE is a lot of desert, so temperatures get extremely hot. We suggest going in winter.

Women Are Not Treated Equally

When it comes to traveling in the Middle East, women can never feel as comfortable or free as men feel. 

There is still a serious amount on inequality when it comes to women. When you are in the streets, you won't be affected quite as much, but if you are visiting somewhere religious, then that's a whole other story that we will get into further in the article.

Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

The dress code for the Grand Mosque is extremely strict for women.

They Are Extremely Strict (In General)

If you like freedom, then the UAE is definitely not the place for you. Everywhere you go they are super strict. Enter a mosque and it's a whole other level of strictness. There are security guards every 5 steps telling you where you can walk, where you can take a photo, how you can pose, and so on. 

For women especially, it is HELL. If the wind blows your skirt every so slightly and your ankle shows, you will have security guards running and screaming like you are a convict.

Often there are many people in authority that don't even understand the reasoning behind rules. So you'll have someone blatantly telling you "no you can't do this", and "no you can't do that", with zero reasoning or explanation behind the rule. There is no negotiation, no flexibility, just a plain NO.

Jubail mangrove park, Abu Dhabi, visit the UAE
Abu Dhabi Desert, travel to the United Arab Emirates

While drones used to be allowed, they no longer are in the UAE, and will get confiscated at the airport.

There Are Intense Covid Restrictions

We're all about being safe and hygienic, but if you travel to the United Arab Emirates, you might feel just outright inconvenienced and victimized all the time.

Although they are changing, when we went in February 2022 we had to be vaccinated, have a PCR test, and then also get tested upon arrival. They texted us every day, and after 6 days you had to get retested again. Not only that, but they forced you to get an additional PCR before leaving the country! This was not only annoying, but super expensive, as you have to pay about $100 USD for each test you take.

We were forced to wear masks in empty open air parks, and constantly be showing our negative results to go literally anywhere. We can't deny that this definitely took away from our experience while visiting the UAE.

2024 Update: Covid restrictions are no longer an issue in the UAE, and all of these inconveniences have been taken away.

Travel is back! After a year and a half of the world in shambles, countries are starting to open their borders again, and things are finally starting to look like they are back to normal. But there are still things to keep in mind for Covid travel in 2022.Not everyone

Read More

It Lacks History and Culture

If you're into history and culture, then the UAE isn't particularly going to be a place that you can get that fulfilled. 

The UAE is a very young country, and while it's very international, sometimes it feels. a bit too international. You hardly ever meet someone who is truly from the UAE, as everyone just moved there later in life. Because of this, sometimes it feels that you can never really immerse yourself in the culture, because it's just a mutt of a country.

Being that it's only a few decades old, everything is modern, and there isn't much historically to learn or appreciate. If you're looking to learn and explore culture, then you might be better off going to other areas of the Middle East like Jordan or Egypt.

Al Ain, pros and cons of the UAE

Even the castles in the UAE are very modern.

The UAE is neither a place we love, nor a place that we hate. We simply think that travel to the United Arab Emirates is better suited for some over others.

Nature lovers and those that want to budget travel may consider skipping the UAE as their next travel destination. While the travelers that love luxury and modern architecture will thrive in this wildly fancy country.

Thinking of planning to visit the UAE and don't want to spend a fortune? Luckily for you, we do have plenty of ways to save you on your trip! We can help you book cheap flights and organize a customized itinerary with our travel planning packages. So now you can spend less and explore more.

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