Your Backpacking UAE Travel Guide On Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai

uae travel guide

Introduction to the UAE Travel Guide

Are the United Arab Emirates (UAE) your next backpacking adventure? Pose this question to yourself as we delve into a world that offers more than just luxury. Let’s discover why the UAE is an destination you can definitely travel on a budget!

Our journey through the UAE was short but packed with exploration. In just 6 days, we managed to cover the key highlights of Dubai, experience the cultural richness of Abu Dhabi, and uncover the hidden treasures in Sharjah.

Of course, no UAE trip is complete without indulging in a variety of Arabian dishes. From local street food to authentic cuisine, we made sure our taste buds got a true flavor of the region.

What set our trip apart was that we didn’t do the typical tourist activities. Instead, we wanted a more authentic experience, discovering lesser-known gems and get to know better the genuine local culture.

But now let’s dive into all the information you’re dying to get to know. I hope you enjoy this UAE travel guide.

Want to fly to Abu Dhabi or Dubai but you only have a limited budget? Check out WayAway, your ultimate flight comparison tool down below or get the iOS app or android app here.

Weather & Best Time to Visit UAE

First and foremost, we want to begin this UAE travel guide with addressing the best time to visit the country. Understanding the climate of the UAE is crucial for planning the perfect visit. Across the Emirates, the weather showcases distinct patterns:

The UAE experiences two primary seasons – a scorching hot summer and a milder winter. Summers, from June to September, bring soaring temperatures, often exceeding 40°C (104°F).

Winters, from November to February, offer a more temperate climate with daytime highs ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F).

While the coastal areas enjoy milder temperatures, the inland regions, especially those closer to the desert, can witness more extreme heat. The mountainous areas, like Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, offer cooler escapes.

For a comfortable visit, aim for the winter months, specifically from November to February, when the weather is more pleasant for outdoor activities. This period aligns with the peak tourist season, so plan accordingly to make the most of your UAE experience.

How to get around UAE?

Tips for Cost-Effective Travel

For budget-conscious travelers, the UAE offers various cost-effective travel options. Investing in an NOL card for public transport in Dubai and Sharjah not only streamlines your commute but also offers discounted fares.

You can get a NOL card at major bus stops or metro stations and buy them on a counter. Recharging this card is possible everywhere.

In Abu Dhabi you can get such a card only at the central bus station (this is what locals told us) which you can recharge at different stations too. In all cities, weekly or monthly passes are available, no day-passes!

Public Transport within Cities

You can easily get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai or Sharjah and the other way round. A ticket is between 25 and 35AED (6-9€). The busses are traveling between Sharjah Al Jubail, Abu Dhabi Central Station and Al Ghubaiba Bus Station.

The busses will leave every 30mins to 1 hour and cost about 25AED. The journey between Abu Dhabi and Dubai takes 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the traffic.

Useful Transportation Apps

RTA (public transport) Uber, Abu Dhabi Taxi, Careem, Dubai Taxi

I can absolutely recommend getting a local sim card for this because there are no open Wifis in UAE, except for people who have a local phone number. Our German numbers did not work when we tried to login in any of the Wifis except for the one at Dubai Mall.

If you don’t want to stress yourself with getting a local sim, it might be also helpful to get an eSIM. Airalo offers plans starting from 5$ already!!

Need a stress-free ride to or from the airport? Choose KiwiTaxi for a comfortable and reliable airport transfer. No more waiting in long lines or navigating public transport with luggage! Use the tool down below to check for your next transfer.

uae travel guide
Boat Ride Across the River
uae travel guide
Burj Khalifa, 828m, tallest building worldwide

Safety Tips for Travelers in the UAE

General Tips

Low Crime Rates: The UAE boasts low crime rates, making it one of the safest destinations globally.

Dress Modestly: Adhere to local customs and laws, as the UAE places a strong emphasis on cultural and legal norms. Respect the local dress code, particularly when visiting religious or cultural sites.

Stay Hydrated: Given the arid climate, staying hydrated is crucial, especially during outdoor activities.

Well-Lit Streets: Public areas are well-lit, enhancing safety for pedestrians and late-night explorers.

Quality Healthcare: Access to excellent healthcare facilities ensures prompt assistance in case of medical emergencies.

3 reasons why you can visit UAE as Solo Female Traveler

For solo female travelers, the UAE stands out as an exceptionally secure destination due to the low crime rates! Here are three reasons why:

Homelessness Prohibited: The absence of homelessness is by law, ensuring a secure urban environment.

Women-Only Areas: Public transport features designated areas for women, including separate sections on buses and metros.

Women-Only Taxis: Opt for women-driven taxis catering exclusively to female passengers, offering an extra layer of comfort.

Emergency Contacts and Services

Police: Dial 999 for immediate police assistance
Ambulance: In case of medical emergencies, dial 998 for ambulance services
Fire Department: For fire-related emergencies, call 997

What’s the Culture Like in the UAE?

The United Arab Emirates emerges as a captivating blend of tradition and modernity, where deep-rooted cultural practices seamlessly coexist with the forces of globalization.

Anchored in values of hospitality and respect, Emirati culture finds expression through traditional arts, such as falconry and Al Ayala dance, reflecting a commitment to preserving a rich historical tapestry.

The multicultural landscape of the UAE, with a diverse population comprising expats from around the world, contributes to a harmonious coexistence evident in the nation’s cuisine and daily life.

As modernity shapes the skyline with iconic structures in cities like Dubai, the UAE strikes a delicate balance between progress and heritage, evident in landmarks like the Al Fahidi Historic District.

Greetings: Learn the art of traditional greetings, such as „Salaam Alaikum,“ to initiate friendly interactions.
Thank You: Express gratitude with a simple „Shukran“ for a deeper connection and appreciation.

Festivals and Celebrations

Eid Al Fitr: Celebrated at the end of Ramadan, usually determined by the lunar calendar, marked by festive meals, charitable acts, and lively gatherings.

Eid Al Adha: Commemorated during the Hajj pilgrimage, the Feast of Sacrifice is observed on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, featuring prayers, feasts, and the spirit of giving.

National Day: Celebrated on December 2nd, National Day marks the union of the emirates with parades, fireworks, and cultural events.

Clothing Etiquette and Behavioral Norms

Modesty in Dress: Encouraging modest dress, particularly when exploring religious sites or public spaces, reflects cultural sensitivity.

Respecting Religious Practices: Respecting Islamic practices, such as refraining from eating or drinking in public spaces during Ramadan, is customary.

Must-Visit Places in the UAE

Dubai, a global city, is a thriving business hub known for its futuristic architecture and vibrant multiculturalism.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, is synonymous with opulence, housing the country’s political and cultural epicenter.

Sharjah, the cultural capital, is recognized for its commitment to preserving and promoting Islamic heritage and the arts.

Ras Al Khaimah, the northernmost emirate, boasts the highest peak in the UAE, Jebel Jais, and a rich historical landscape.

Fujairah, on the east coast, is distinguished by its strategic location and historical significance in maritime trade.

Umm Al-Quwain, the smallest emirate, embraces a laid-back atmosphere and is a destination for family-friendly leisure activities.

What To Eat In The UAE?

Emirati cuisine is a mix of flavors from the Arabian Peninsula with influences from across the globe. Traditional dishes often feature staples like rice, lamb, and fish, prepared with a harmonious mix of aromatic spices.

Traditional Arabian Dishes

Al Harees: A slow-cooked dish made from wheat and meat, usually served during special occasions like Ramadan and weddings.

Al Machboos: A flavorful rice dish with meat (often chicken or lamb), seasoned with a distinctive blend of spices, including saffron.

Luqaimat: These sweet dumplings, deep-fried and drizzled with date syrup or honey, are a popular treat during festive celebrations.

Jareesh: A porridge-like dish made from crushed wheat, often combined with meat and seasoned to perfection.

Harees Laham: Similar to Al Harees, this savory dish is made with tender shredded meat and wheat, creating a hearty and comforting meal.

Street Food Highlights

Shawarma: Thinly sliced marinated meat, usually chicken or lamb, wrapped in flatbread and served with garlic sauce and pickles.

Falafel: Deep-fried chickpea or fava bean patties, often enjoyed in sandwiches or as a snack with tahini sauce.

Manakish: Flatbreads topped with a variety of ingredients such as cheese, za’atar (a blend of herbs), or ground meat.

Samosas: Triangular pastries filled with spiced vegetables, meat, or lentils, offering a delicious and portable snack.

Karak Chai: A sweet and spiced tea, often enjoyed throughout the day, providing a comforting and aromatic beverage experience.

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Falafel Sandwich, Arabian Flatbread + Mezzes and Meal Platter
uae travel guide
Fattoush Salad

Unique Experiences in the UAE

Embark on curated activities that promise unforgettable moments, blending tradition, adventure, and relaxation to discover the essence of the United Arab Emirates.

Desert Safari with Sandboarding: Experience the vastness of the UAE’s golden sands on a thrilling desert safari. Try sandboarding for a heart-pounding adventure amid the dunes.

Dhow Cruise on Dubai Creek: Sail through the historical heart of Dubai on a traditional Dhow cruise along the Dubai Creek. Witness the city’s stunning skyline and illuminated landmarks.

Visit Qasr Al Watan: Immerse yourself in regal splendor with a visit to Qasr Al Watan, the magnificent Presidential Palace. Explore its opulent architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens.

Relaxation at Saadiyat Island Beach: Indulge in serenity at Saadiyat Island Beach, where pristine sands and turquoise waters offer a tranquil escape from bustling city life.

Kayak Tour in the Mangroves: Embark on a unique adventure through the Mangrove National Park, exploring the intricate waterways and biodiversity of the mangrove ecosystem on a guided tour.

For a broader selection of tours and activities beyond the ones highlighted here, explore platforms such as Viator or GetYourGuide to tailor your UAE adventure to your preferences and interests.

Dubai – UAE Travel Guide

Where to Stay in Dubai?

Low Budget: Consider neighborhoods like Deira and Bur Dubai, which offer affordable accommodation options without compromising on accessibility to key attractions. Here is a capsule hostel in Deira.

Mid Budget: Areas like Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) provide a balance between comfort and cost, offering a range of mid-budget hotels and serviced apartments. This hotel here for example is located in Internet City.

High Budget: Indulge in luxury at Downtown Dubai or the Palm Jumeirah, home to high-end hotels with stunning views of the city and the Arabian Gulf. This hotel is located in Deira.

Main Attractions of Dubai

Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall: Witness the awe-inspiring Burj Khalifa and explore the world-class shopping and entertainment at the adjacent Dubai Mall. Book your Ticket for Burj Khalifa here!

Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah: Experience the glamour of Dubai’s modern architecture in the Marina and marvel at the iconic Palm Jumeirah.

Dubai Miracle Garden: Explore the world’s largest flower garden, the Dubai Miracle Garden, a vibrant oasis with breathtaking floral displays. Book your ticket and hotel transfer here.

AYA: AYA stands as an unparalleled immersive entertainment destination, spanning approximately 3,716 square meters, where guests can traverse through 12 uniquely designed rooms, featuring dynamic interactive encounters that harmonize art and cutting-edge technology (entrance fee: 125AED). You can get the ticket here.

uae travel guide
Dubai Marina
uae travel guide
Dubai Marina Beach

Hidden Gems in Dubai

Al Fahidi and Al Seef Historic District: Explore the rich history of Dubai at the Al Fahidi and Al Seef Historic Districts, where narrow lanes and traditional architecture offer a glimpse into the city’s cultural heritage. Book your tour to Old Town Dubai here!

Alserkal Avenue Arts District: Uncover Dubai’s artistic side in the Alserkal Avenue Arts District, a hub for contemporary art galleries, cultural events, and creative spaces.

Jumeirah Mosque: Experience the serenity of the Jumeirah Mosque, one of Dubai’s most beautiful mosques, offering guided tours to non-Muslim visitors.

Karama Shopping District: Step away from tourist crowds and explore the diverse shops and eateries in Karama, known for its authentic local flavor and budget-friendly shopping experiences.

uae travel guide
Historic District
uae travel guide
Al Seef Historic District

Abu Dhabi UAE Travel Guide

Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi?

Low Budget: Consider budget-friendly accommodations in the Al Markaziyah area, providing accessibility to city attractions without compromising on cost. Book a budget-friendly accomodation here.

Mid Budget: Explore the Corniche area for a blend of comfort and value, with many mid-range hotels offering scenic views of the waterfront. This hotel is located in Downtown Abu Dhabi.

High Budget: Indulge in luxury at Saadiyat Island or the Emirates Palace area, where upscale resorts and high-end hotels provide lavish experiences. This hotel is located by the beach.

Need a cheap place to sleep on your backpacking trip? Hostelworld is perfect for solo trips or group travels, all without breaking the bank. Click here to find your hostel or use the tool down below!

Main Attractions in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Louvre Abu Dhabi: Marvel at the architectural splendor of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and immerse yourself in art and culture at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Corniche and Public Beach: Enjoy the picturesque Corniche waterfront and relax on the public beach for a perfect blend of leisure and scenic beauty.

Yas Island and Ferrari World: Experience the thrill of Yas Island, home to the iconic Ferrari World and other entertainment venues that cater to all interests. Book your ticket for the Ferrari World here.

uae travel guide
Rixos Hotel Abu Dhabi
uae travel guide
In front of the Rixos Hotel

Hidden Gems of Abu Dhabi

Heritage Village and Abu Dhabi Dates Market: Discover the city’s cultural roots at the Heritage Village and delve into the flavors of the region at the Abu Dhabi Dates Market.

Exploration of Al-Hosn Quarter: Wander off the beaten path in the Al-Hosn Quarter, exploring historic sites and traditional architecture away from tourist crowds.

Culinary Discoveries at Madinat Zayed Shopping Center: Embark on a culinary journey at the Madinat Zayed Shopping Center, where local flavors and authentic dishes await your taste buds.

uae travel guide
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
uae travel guide
Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Sharjah UAE Travel Guide

Where to Stay in Sharjah?

Low Budget: Opt for budget-friendly accommodations in the Al Khan area, offering accessibility to key attractions without compromising on affordability. Book your low-budget hotel here.

Mid Budget: Explore the Al Majaz district for a comfortable stay with a range of mid-budget hotels, providing a central location and modern amenities. Book a hotel located in Al Majaz here.

High Budget: Indulge in luxury at Al Buhaira Corniche or Al Qasba, where upscale hotels and resorts offer premium experiences. Book your beach hotel here.

Main Attractions in Sharjah

Museum of Islamic Civilization, Al Noor Island: Immerse yourself in Sharjah’s cultural richness at the Museum of Islamic Civilization and discover artistic beauty at Al Noor Island.

Sharjah Art Museum and Calligraphy Museum: Explore the vibrant art scene with visits to the Sharjah Art Museum and the Calligraphy Museum, showcasing the region’s artistic heritage.

Heart of Sharjah: Stroll through the Heart of Sharjah, a historic district with restored heritage buildings, providing a glimpse into the city’s past.

Hidden Gems of Sharjah

Alserkal Avenue Arts District: Uncover Sharjah’s artistic side at Alserkal Avenue Arts District, a hub for contemporary art galleries and cultural events.

Khor Fakkan: Venture to Khor Fakkan for a serene beach experience, surrounded by mountains, providing a tranquil escape from the city.

Al Majaz Waterfront: Enjoy family-friendly fun at Al Montazah Park, featuring water attractions and amusement rides in a lush green setting. Pro tip: There’s a water fountain show here everyday at 8pm.

uae travel guide
Skyline of Sharjah
uae travel guide
Grand Mosque Sharjah
uae travel guide

Our 6 day itinerary in the UAE

No UAE travel guide would be complete without an example itinerary across the country. We’ve spent 6 fabulous days in total and I’m sure you can spend even more but let’s dig deeper into our route:

6 Day UAE Itinerary

Day 1 – Dubai: guided tour around the old town of Dubai, lunch at Dubai Mall, Top of Burj Khalifa, walk along Dubai Marina, watch the sunset at Marina Beach

Day 2 – Dubai: Desert safari with sandboarding, camel safari, a traditional Emirati lunch in the desert, and watching the desert sunset. You can have a look for such a tour here.

Day 3 – Sharjah: Museum of Islamic Civilization, Al Noor Island, walk through historic Heart of Sharjah

Day 4 – Dubai: visit of the Miracle Garden, visit AYA Museum for futuristic illusions, take a bus or private transfer to Abu Dhabi (takes ~ 2 hours)

Day 5 – Abu Dhabi: visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and do a city tour, stroll along Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beach

Day 6 – Abu Dhabi: visit Heritage Village and Dates Market, go to the Louvre, discover the hidden gem Al-Hosn Quarter

If you want to book your tickets for any museum or other interesting sight in advance, check out Tiqets, a user-friendly platform offering access to a world of experiences.

Our Expenses in UAE & Money Saving Tips

Average Daily Expenses (Per Person)

Accommodation: 20 – 35€ (hotels and guesthouses)
Meals: 5-10€ (local eateries and street food)
Transportation: 8€
Activities: 17€

➡️ total: 58€ per day

Low Budget Tips for Backpackers

Accommodation: budget-friendly hotels or guesthouses in areas like Deira (Dubai), Al Khan (Sharjah), and Al Markaziyah (Abu Dhabi).

Transportation: For sure you should use public transportation (buses, metro) as this is very easy and straight-forward. Prices for taxis have been increased, unfortunately it is not as cheap as it was before.

For short distances we recommend walking because they have a minimum fare and most of short-distances would be below this minimum fare.

Dining: Explore local eateries and street food markets for affordable meals. There are lots of Arabian or Indian local eateries where you can get a full meal for 5 to 7€.

Activities: Take advantage of free or low-cost attractions, such as public beaches, Old Dubai walking tours, and parks. Look for discounted tickets or promotions for major attractions.

Looking for a cozy, affordable place to stay on your travels? Hostelworld is your go-to for finding the best hostels around the globe. Click the link or use the tool for a quick search:

Conclusion on this UAE Travel Guide

Based on the information provided in this UAE travel guide, it is possible to travel to this fascinating country as a backpacker. While the UAE’s cost of travel is more comparable to Europe than Southeast Asia, the guide emphasizes money-saving tips, making the experience accessible and rewarding for budget-conscious travelers.

Alright backpackers, I hope you found some useful information in this UAE travel guide. Make also sure to check-out the visual guide for further insights into the different places we visited.

Do not forget to save this for later and follow us on our world trip on Instagram for daily updates, travel tips and tricks as well as inspiration. If you’re interested in more content about the UAE, click here. Until next time!

I hope to see you again soon on this blog. Do not forget to share this backpacker UAE travel guide with your friends and family too 🙂

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