Abu Dhabi vs Dubai

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the most prominent emirates of the UAE. Whether you visit UAE as a tourist or for a job, you might encounter a common dilemma – where to visit.

While Dubai is considered the commercial capital of the UAE and the most renowned emirate, Abu Dhabi is the official capital of the UAE. Dubai is centered around nightlife, parties, shopping, and an overwhelming sense of luxury. At the same time, Abu Dhabi is a more laid-back place (but definitely not less glistening than Dubai) centered on the UAE’s rich creative and cultural legacy. Modern versions of both emirates are relatively new and surrounded by golden sand.

Putting these two most popular destinations against each other will be like comparing like for like. However, both Emirates offer unique experiences to people, and individual preferences might influence personal favorites.

Let’s compare both places based on common factors that may seem relatable to most people.

Cost of living

Rent is one of the most significant benchmarks by which people compare the cost of living. So, let’s begin from there. Though the rent varies based on the type of property and area, the average rent in Abu Dhabi is slightly lower than in Dubai. Both places have a massive portfolio of properties and have something that suits every budget. The central locations are generally the most expensive ones.

Other expenses such as groceries, utilities and education costs are nearly the same, and it mostly depends on individual choices than the location in UAE.

Job Opportunities

Dubai is a well-known international city with virtually incomparable significance to the world of economy. Dubai is strategically located, actively-diversifying economy and its reputation are ideal for any businesses looking to expand or invest, especially in Middle Eastern, North African, and Central and South Asian markets. Thus, Dubai is home to several national and international businesses, which generate plenty of job opportunities. However, this also means fierce competition and too many candidates for one position.

Things are a bit different in Abu Dhabi. The emirate has grown exponentially in the past two decades, and the government is creating multiple opportunities for both international and local investors. Therefore, Abu Dhabi offers the right balance for candidates seeking lucrative jobs. Moreover, people who love a balanced work-life prefer Abu Dhabi.


Along with a great selection of traditional Arab activities, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi provide fantastic attractions for tourists. While planning your holidays in UAE, we recommend you keep Dubai and Abu Dhabi on your bucket list. UAE offers you a perfect combination of traditional culture and modern comforts.

Dubai is located on the north of the Persian Gulf and is all about glitz and glamour. In contrast, Abu Dhabi is located in the south and offers plenty of outdoor activities and natural attractions. Here’s the list of various things to see in both emirates.

Places to visit in Dubai

  • Burj Khalifa
  • Dubai Marina
  • Dubai Fountain
  • Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark
  • Dubai Miracle Garden
  • Desert Safari
  • Extreme Sports
  • Global Village
  • Mall of Emirates
  • Dubai Mall
  • Ski Dubai
  • Dubai Frame

Places to visit in Abu Dhabi

  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
  • Ferrari World
  • Qasr Al- Hosn
  • Yas Water World
  • Emirates Heritage
  • Observation Deck 300

Family Life

Expat life can be challenging and often lonely. Though telecommunication has advanced over the years, adjusting to a new city is still difficult. However, it is much easier for expats to settle in UAE. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have a large expat population. There is a high chance that you will find some old connections in the city of the neighboring Emirates.

According to the latest survey by The Family Vacation Guide for 2022, Abu Dhabi is ranked first to visit with kids. Dubai is just ranked second to Abu Dhabi. Both cities score very high on the safety index score and offer premium schools and colleges and family-friendly localities for staying. However, Abu Dhabi is considered a more peaceful family environment and a better work-life balance.

Without all the fancies of Dubai, Abu Dhabi provides unmatched elegance, safety, and a high standard of living for people and families. Compared to its flamboyant neighbor Dubai, it has a lower population density and a calmer pace of life.

In Abu Dhabi, shopping is enjoyable. Food shopping is enjoyable because there is a wide variety of goods available in supermarkets, from English to European goods. For working couples, hiring a nanny or other help in the city is also affordable. There are numerous reputable international schools in Abu Dhabi that provide a variety of courses. Finding a school and after-school care for young kids is straightforward.


While Dubai is all about glitz and glamour, Abu Dhabi can be termed the cultural capital of the UAE. Abu Dhabi can be considered slightly more conservative than Dubai, as it places a lot more focus on religion, culture, and customs. Immersed in Muslim culture and heritage, there are several areas in the city where men and women are expected to dress more conservatively. However, contrary to popular belief, there is no need for you to cover your entire body.

Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are slowly opening up to more modern dress codes eyeing to be global cities. Although it is completely normal to wear shorts and skirts in nightclubs and bikinis by the pool at hotels and waterparks, you should still be careful about how much skin you expose outside of these establishments.

If you are planning to visit or stay in UAE, you can choose as per personal choices. The traditional life of Abu Dhabi is mostly preferred by families with growing kids, whereas Dubai is the top destination for young adults who wants to enjoy the best of their young crazy lives.


For years Dubai has been the synonym for shopping, and the shopping scene in Dubai unarguably takes you to the next level. The city has been hosting the annual Dubai shopping festival for years now, attracting the biggest and swankiest brands. Dubai has one of the biggest and largest shopping malls in the world—Dubai Mall. Most people can spend their entire day in the mall and still fail to explore it fully.

Abu Dhabi is also emerging as a top shopping destination in the Middle East, with unique designer malls such as Marina mall, high-end superstores, small traditional bazaars and a gold souk. You can shop from cosmetics to branded accessories until you drop in Abu Dhabi.

However, Dubai has interestingly unique shopping avenues such as beautiful art galleries, designer couture boutiques, gold souk, and souvenir shops.

What makes Dubai special?

Dubai is undoubtedly one of the most iconic cities in the world and is considered an Arabian jewel. It is also the fastest-growing city in the world. Most ultra-modern facilities that we hear about or imagine are already there in Dubai. As Dubains proudly says, “You dream it. We make it.”

Their exemplary construction marvels and fast adoption of the latest technologies and business strategies have been behind its incredible growth. From a small fishing village to the most iconic city in the world status was achieved in a matter of half a century.

There are uncountable reasons why several tourists flock to the city again and again. Dubai reflects the future like no other city in the Middle East (even in the world). Contrary to popular belief, oil has no contribution to Dubai’s growth story. Unlike other emirates or gulfs at large, Dubai’s growth has become possible by futuristic views of government that diversified its economy on trade, tourism, finance, shipping, transportation and technology.

Another aspect that makes Dubai so special is its diversity. Most expats are either first or second-generation immigrants who have provided the city with its distinct culture and vibrancy. Dubai is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and its diversity is unmatched. In Dubai, there are people from about 200 different nationalities, and 90% of them were born abroad.

What makes Abu Dhabi special?

Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s capital city, and it sits on an island in the Persian Gulf. However, the rest of the emirate resides on the mainland. It is home to some of the most visited places in the world—Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Emirates Palace, Marina Mall, and the Ferrari world.

The success story of Abu Dhabi begins with the exploration of oil in 1958. Since then, its skyline and wealth have skyrocketed. Though its growth was slower than Dubai, it has managed to become an equally preferred location by businesses and individuals alike. Abu Dhabi is a diversified emirate that features desert vistas, an oasis, lofty mountains, gorgeous beaches, warm, clear waters, and several islands.

Abu Dhabi is more tranquil than other cities. The city has beautiful beaches and plenty of sightseeing options. While Dubai boasts of multiple entertainment options for young adults and entertaining nightlife, Abu Dhabi, even with a stricter environment, also provides many nightlife options.


Dubai city is larger than Abu Dhabi, but when it comes to the emirates, Abu Dhabi has a much larger land area. Dubai has long been the favorite traveling destination of both business and tourism enthusiasts. Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, attracts visitors because of its cultural heritage, art, and scenic beauty.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi offer a complete family package that attracts people of all age groups. With a vast array of options for entertainment, dining, and shopping, you will not have a single second to take a break. Moreover, there is a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets, including more affordable hotels. The city also has a few hostels for tourists looking for budget-friendly options. Food and dining option is on par at both emirates.

Next time when you plan your UAE trip, do not restrict it to just Dubai. Abu Dhabi is emerging as a favored tourist destination in UAE. The serene and peaceful Abu Dhabi is less chaotic and has a tradition that attracts romantic couples. Abu Dhabi is truly an underrated gem of the UAE. It is simple to commute from one to the other by bus or vehicle, but keep in mind that the trip takes three hours round trip, so it might be best to stay in each city on the days you plan to explore them and save time on transportation.


Is Abu Dhabi in Dubai?

No, Abu Dhabi is a separate emirate and capital city of the UAE. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the emirates of UAE (United Arab Emirates), along with five other emirates. The 7 Emirates of the UAE are:

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Ajman
  • Dubai
  • Fujairah
  • Ras al-Khaimah
  • Sharjah
  • Umm al-Quwain

UAE is a federation formed by seven emirates and has an independent monarchy. The country gained its independence from the British in 1966. Still, the country was formed in 1971 when  6 emirates came together under the guidance and influence of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (father of the nation). Ras-Al-Khaimah joined later in 1972.

How far is Abu Dhabi from Dubai?

The distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is around 105 km. The driving distance from central locations is 139.4 km. People mostly prefer to travel by their own vehicle; other than that, there is a good network of public transportation systems, including buses (public and private), taxis, and even helicopters are there. The Etihad Railway project is also underway, which aims to connect the entire UAE. 

Where is Abu Dhabi?

The city of Abu Dhabi is an island located on the central West Coast side of the Persian Gulf. The emirate is located on the southwest side of UAE. It is the biggest emirate. The location has been favorable for this emirate as it resides on the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula.  

Is Abu Dhabi safe?

The city of Abu Dhabi has been marked as the safest city for the past couple of years by various surveys. According to the Numbeo Safety index survey, the city has been holding on to its number-one spot since 2017. It has strengthened its position as a safe and secure place to live, work, and invest, with a safety index of 88.4. Thanks to an efficient and strict police network that offers quick response and timely resolution. It is safe for locals to go alone at night. Security and tranquillity equate to a happy existence, and safety is a blessing. Females can stroll by themselves unafraid at any time of day or night.