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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Abu Dhabi

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Relocating to Abu Dhabi

  • Prepare for hot weather and a desert-like climate and beware of the unpredictable sandstorms in the summer.
  • Expats from 34 countries can get their visa on arrival in Abu Dhabi, but others must apply in advance so check with your local embassy.
  • Public transport is affordable and easily accessible in Abu Dhabi and there are even specialized forms of transport for woman and children only.

Moving to Abu Dhabi gives you the chance to fully appreciate this emirate’s diversity. Due to its combination of modernity and tradition, you get the chance to learn about its culture and to enjoy great leisure activities during your free time.

Expats will also experience an emirate proud of its time-honored customs. Camel races and dhow sailing, as well as different cultural events, make moving to Abu Dhabi the beginning of your journey into the cultural heart of the UAE.

From Desert to Oasis

The destination is the northeastern part of the Arabian Gulf, with Abu Dhabi City located on an island 250 meters off the shore. This place has a beautiful coastline and two bridges connecting it to the mainland. On the Corniche promenade, you can go for a walk, ride your bike or take in the breathtaking view.

The emirate itself borders Oman in the east, Saudi Arabia in the south, and Dubai in the northeast. Expats moving to Abu Dhabi can visit some of the islands along the 600 kilometers of coastline, with sandy white beaches and turquoise water surrounding them. You get to experience a diverse landscape with beautiful sand dunes, the legendary Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter) and the sabkha (salt flats) by the coast.

Another important sight in Abu Dhabi is the garden city of Al Ain, located on the Omani border near the majestic Hajar Mountains. With its oases, Al Ain offers expats moving to Abu Dhabi a greener environment than any other place in the country.

The Climate in Abu Dhabi: Hot and Humid

The summer months in Abu Dhabi are rather hot and humid, with maximum temperatures at over 40°C. Adding to this, there are unpredictable sandstorms in summer, sometimes even affecting those moving to Abu Dhabi City. However, the winter months from October to March are fairly cool in comparison (around 15°C), with hardly any rainfall at all before February.

Visa Requirements for Abu Dhabi

For expats moving to Abu Dhabi requirements vary greatly, depending on their country of origin. Nationals from GCC countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar or Saudi Arabia need not expect any bureaucratic obstacles. Expats from other countries, however, need to secure a visa before moving to Abu Dhabi.

If your passport contains a stamp from the Israeli immigration authorities, showing that you have recently been to Israel, it is probably wise to get in touch with your nearest UAE Embassy or Consulate. Ask whether this might cause any difficulties for you. It shouldn’t be a problem for most tourists, visitors, or expats, but it can’t hurt to be on the safe side.

Abu Dhabi: Visa Information

Entry Permits for Visitors to Abu Dhabi

If you come to Abu Dhabi as a tourist, e.g. on a fact-finding trip prior to your expat assignment, you need to enter the country with a valid passport and a tourist visa or visitor visa. Either of the above visa types needs to be applied for at the nearest UAE Embassy or Consulate well in advance of your trip. However, nationals of the following countries, among a few others, can get their tourist or visitor visa upon arrival in the UAE, provided they have a valid passport:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Vatican, UK, US.

This list may vary so be sure to check with your nearest embassy or consulate if you are eligible for such a visa.

A tourist visa is valid for up to 30 days and can be renewed for another 30 days. It only applies to individual tourists from selected countries sponsored by hotels, commercial tour operators, etc. in the UAE.

Visitor visas are for tourists or non-touristic visitors (e.g. for visiting a relative or attending a trade fair). They are valid for 30 days and can be renewed for a total stay of up to 60 days. Usually, your relative in the UAE, your tour operator, the business organization that invited you, etc. will act as your sponsor for the application process.

Work Visa for Abu Dhabi

Neither a tourist visa nor a visitor visa allows you to take up gainful employment or any kind of work in Abu Dhabi. Moreover, a tourist visa can never be transferred into a work entry permit. Temporary work visas are valid for 90 days and can be extended for an equal amount of time. During this time, expats have to make sure that their residence permit is processed. In order to obtain a work visa and, later on, a residence permit, you usually need a sponsor in Abu Dhabi (e.g. your future employer) who is going to take care of the process for you.

There are different types of work visas for private companies, depending on the applicant’s position. Employees of governmental institutions and ministries receive their visa directly from the GDRFA (General Directorate of Residence and Foreigners Affairs) and are not allowed to accept work in the private sector.

The type of visa and work permit you need always depends on your nationality and on your individual situation. It is therefore hard to provide specific information. For all questions relating to work visas (also known as work entry permits or labor entry permits), please ask the Embassy staff or the GDRFA.

Public Transportation in Abu Dhabi

Public Transportation

In 2008, public buses entered the roads of Abu Dhabi. The Department of Public Transportation offers commuters new, modern buses with air-conditioning and access for passengers with disabilities. The buses serve the city of Abu Dhabi with its suburbs, as well as Al Ain and Madinat Zayed.

Expats can download comprehensive maps of all the bus routes on the homepage of the Department of Transport. Apart from the designated main stations on each route, buses also stop at lay-bys between the main stops to let passengers board or step off the bus. Bus services run daily from 5:00 to 24:00 and until 2:00 on weekends.

The fares vary, depending on frequency and distance of travel. Passengers have to purchase a so-called Ojra bus pass before they get on the bus. It is available at the main office of the Abu Dhabi bus station, as well as at Emirates Red Crescent branches. There are four different kinds of bus passes, ranging from weekly to monthly passes, as well as special tickets for students, senior citizens, and people with special needs.

Taking a Taxi in Abu Dhabi

Another very popular way to get around in Abu Dhabi is by taxi. Abu Dhabi’s taxi fleet is controlled by the Center for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars (TransAD), a government organization established in 2006.

Taxi stands are only available at shopping centers. However, passengers can always hail a taxi on the street or book one in advance via the TransAD hotline or the Abu Dhabi Taxi App. Most of the drivers speak Arabic as well as English, Urdu, and Filipino, making taxis the perfect mode of transportation for expats from all over the world.

Types of Taxis

Often equipped with air conditioning, GPS and other luxuries, silver-colored taxis offer their passengers exceptional comfort. There are six authorized national companies which have the permission to run the new silver taxi models:

  • Al Ghazal Transport
  • Arabia Taxi
  • Cars Taxi
  • Emirates Taxis
  • National Taxi
  • Tawasul Taxi

As of November 2013, taxi vans replaced silver taxis at the airport, slightly increasing the price of a trip from the airport. The fixed starting fee for use of these black Mercedes vans is 25 AED; however, the rate is the same – 1.6 AED per kilometer. All in all, visitors of the airport may pay up to 21 AED extra for their trip.

In the cities of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, passengers can also order pink taxis. These come with a female driver and ensure safe transportation for women and children younger than 10 years of age. They operate for the usual fare.

Long-distance taxis which travel to other emirates are available as well. You will find them at the main bus station at the intersection of Al Muroor and Defense Road. The fare is determined by the meter.

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  • Antoine Mariaux

    Thanks to InterNations, I've received very useful tips about the Emirates and expat life in Abu Dhabi.

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    The idea to connect expatriates in Abu Dhabi is just fantastic! Have been looking for such a platform for a long time.

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