The slide in sterling — currently down about 18 per cent against the dollar — has been disastrous from the UK traveller’s perspective. While we can (in the short term at least) still get to all sorts of places cheaply, prices at the destination are typically one-fifth higher in sterling terms.
The United Arab Emirates dirham is locked to the US dollar, therefore the fall in sterling has pushed up prices by as much as in the US — which presents a challenge for those tempted by low air fares to the country.
British Airways starts flying from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi at the end of this month without the Muscat extension, it will have many more seats fill — which is why tickets in November are as cheap as £350 return. The home-town airline, Etihad, is only slightly more expensive. Or, of course, you could stop over in Abu Dhabi en route to one of dozens of Asian, African and Australian destinations served by Etihad, often for no extra charge.
The problems start when you touch down and have to start shelling out for everything, whereupon you realise that a British travel document is a passport to penury. But in a city as rich as Abu Dhabi, there is plenty on offer that is free — as well as some very good deals if you know where to look.
Where to stay
The Premier Inn is actually part of the airport terminal complex, but none the worse for that. It also happens to be the best-value hotel in Abu Dhabi, with rooms for around £50 double. Because of the emirate’s odd geography, it is actually very well placed for many attractions.
The Happy House serves up a superb south Indian thali for 7 dirhams (about £1.50), with second helpings offered freely.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a magnificent 21st-century structure that catches the eye even in a city with modern monuments galore. The free tour provides an insight to the structure, the UAE and Islam.
Driverless, lithium-powered cars run around the “future technology” Masdar City out by the airport. Visitors are free to try them out.
One of the most colourful “local” scenes can be found beside the Fish Market at Al-Mina: traditional dhows, with sailors mending nets in preparation for the next voyage.
The Saadiyat Cultural District is under construction (and running late), but the Manarat Al Saadiyat exhibition space on the edge of the complex provides a glimpse into the future plans for “universal museums” including an annexe of the Louvre and a Guggenheim.
The UAE Heritage Village is a “re-imagined” complex offering a glimpse into the region’s tradition. But perhaps more eye-catching are the fabulous views across to the corniche.
Pop into the Emirates Palace Hotel to be astonished at the lavish structure, especially the dome. Don’t take a backpack — unless you’re a guest.Reuse content