Just arrived in the capital? Here's a run-down of the best things about our city to help you settle in
16 things to know if you've just moved to Abu Dhabi
1. It is so much more than a cool skyline in the desert
While Abu Dhabi may appear more subdued when compared to its glitzy neighbour Dubai, the capital can hold its own in other areas. For example, we'd like to pride ourselves as being the UAE’s cultural capital. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is just one of the gems in our cultural crown, as will be the new Guggenheim museum.
2. If you didn't have to work, you'd (almost) never have to leave your apartment again
While we're sure you're probably going to want to venture into the big wide world at some point to take a breath of non-AC tainted air, the good news is: if you don't want to leave the house, you don't have to. Plenty of supermarkets will deliver their goods (for free or for a small fee) within the hour, as will laundry services, some pet groomers, cafes and restaurants (but more on that later). If you're halfway through an episode of Game of Thrones and simply unwilling to leave the cosy imprint you've ingrained on the couch to go and buy the milk you forgot earlier - check to see if your local grocer delivers.
3. Don't rely on typical public transport
No, there's no metro in Abu Dhabi (yet). There's a reliable bus system though, and better yet, taxis are reasonably priced (or very cheap, depending on where you've come from). Uber may not be available but the regional version, Careem, is. One thing to note though, is that taxi drivers rarely know street names. Try to learn a landmark near your destination to use for directions instead. But at the end of the day, we're about to get flying taxis in the UAE anyway, so this information could all soon be redundant.
4. Just like in your home country, you can call a cab
Though we'll all recall a nostalgic pastime or two where we've spent a hot, sweaty minute wandering the streets in search of a vacant taxi, we're pleased to say this isn't actually an initiation test into the city. There is a number you can call to get your own taxi, direct to where you're standing. Use TransAd 600 535353, and forget angrily stumbling through the streets in the heat of the day.
5. Or commute yourself
Getting your driver's licence in the UAE is a lot easier than most people think. Depending on where you're from, all you need to do is just transfer your licence through some paperwork and within a few days, you will get your licence delivered to you for just Dh303. However if you're not from a country which allows for a transfer, you'll have to start from square one and go through lessons and driving tests before getting it. But once you do get your licence, the next step to hitting the road is renting a car.
6. Sand is not our only environmental feature
The Eastern Mangroves are a favoured playground for residents who need a bit of a leafy outdoors escape - without the flight to Salalah. Hire a kayak, up paddles, and spend a day exploring this designated natural park and its inhabitants. The scenery is a nice change to the sandy gold we have plenty of around here. Plus, if you're a teacher it's the perfect place for a school trip.
7. There's an app for that
Before we finish the next ten spots on this list with different apps for almost every mundane task in day-to-day life, let's just say that whatever you need; there's likely to be an electronic resource on your smartphone to help you with it. Want to book a car for a quick trip to the supermarket? Try Ekar. Looking for discounts for your weekend activities? Cue, the Entertainer. Searching for a new place to live? Try Dubizzle, or propertyfinder.ae. Carrying cash to the bank every month to pay your ADDC bill? The ADDC app will considerably reduce your risk of losing hard-earned cash to an abrupt gust of wind.
8. Getting fit doesn't need to mean being handcuffed to a gym
GuavaPass is a centralised (read: app) way to keep your workouts interesting. You'll pay a monthly rate of Dh449, and with that you'll get access to dozens of different gyms across the city, and a timetable to check what class is where and when. The only hindrance to GuavaPass is that you'll be restricted to how many classes you can take at one studio per month - usually it's capped at three classes per studio per month. You'll also be penalised if you book a class and don't show up.
9. It's more conservative, but it's not oppressive
But, there are rules - and it's important that you observe them, even if you're not Muslim. Dress appropriately (especially during Ramadan), respect prayer times (you'll hear the call from the mosques dotted across the city), and just use your common sense and avoid public displays of affection.
Did you know? Abu Dhabi guidelines state there must be a mosque within 350 metres of every home.
10. Tipping is welcomed, but not compulsory
Tipping anyone from your waiter, taxi driver and cleaner is common practice here. While it's common to leave around 10 per cent of your bill as a tip, most people just round their restaurant bill or cab fare up to a nice round number and leave the rest.
11. Know where to go
With your tax-free dirhams, you're bound to have a little more disposable cash at the end of the month than you did after four weeks' slog in London. So treat yourself. While we don't have any Michelin stars just yet (we're working on it, okay), there are plenty of places to fritter away a day's pay on delicious fare; try Coya, Asia de Cuba, Hakkasan, Nusret (remember Salt Bae, anyone?) or Zuma if you're feeling fancy. One of the beauties of the UAE is in the range of foods you can get, for a wide range of prices. You can easily fill your belly on less than Dh40 at the likes of Tandoori Corner, Lebanese Flower, or India Palace. Failing all else, head for the Corniche: Abu Dhabi's prime promenade on the water.
12. Life doesn't stop at June
Sure, the mercury tends to hover in the high 40s by then, but that doesn't need to translate into weekends held captive by the AC in your apartment with last night's pizza, watching Friends re-runs (or it could, depending on how you view that scenario). There's plenty to keep you occupied when it's hotter than Hades outside, the plethora of malls being one (Yas Mall is a perennial favourite), the 24C oasis of Ferrari World, plays and events around the city, and the water parks. Another advantage to sightseeing in summer? You're guaranteed a solid discount at most attractions.
Plus, all of the above means that while the majority of the rest of the world are shivering under sheepskin blankets, clutching cups of tea, from November onwards, we're packing a picnic and getting ready to sun ourselves at the beach. A life of leisure, indeed.
13. Alcohol can be consumed - but there are rules
That old adage that you'll hear as you're preparing for a move to the Middle East is one long trotted out with other cultural stereotypes, and it goes along the lines of "well, get ready to not touch another drink in your life". The truth is, alcohol can be purchased in restaurants, bars and nightclubs affiliated with a hotel. However, it's forbidden to consume alcohol in public and if you try it, you're at risk of a fine or a night in jail. You'll also need an alcohol licence if you want to buy it from a store.
14. Food deliveries will make you question why you ever schlepped to a takeout yourself
The wondrous arrivals of the likes of Deliveroo, Talabat and Zomato have made life in the UAE so much easier. The plethora of restaurants available to bring you a sandwich at all hours of the day, straight to your door has made the modern-day worker's day even more efficient (yes, maybe a little lazier too) - and it's not solely the realm of fast food outlets as it is in other countries. Pay a minuscule fee (Dh3, 5, or 7 usually) to have a smiling lad on a motorbike weave his way through traffic to deliver you a steaming hot curry in record time - they'll even wander through your office to get it to your desk. Life hack: in December, these guys even make like Santa and will deliver you a Christmas roast to your door.
15. Showing your visitors around does not have to involve a trip to Dubai
There's plenty to see without leaving the emirate. For starters, you could always visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the world's largest holy sites, and impress your friends and family. Then there's Yas Island, and its myriad high-octane attractions. Corniche beach makes for a beautiful day on the sand on a sunny day (which is practically every day), Emirates Palace may sound regal but is actually an architecturally astounding 7-star hotel, and the Yas Circuit needs no explanation.
16. Find the hidden gems - they're everywhere
If you're not swayed by the luxury of the impressive malls and restaurants of the city, stray off the beaten track for an experience a little more authentic. For instance, take in the dhows of Mina Zayed, the nearby arts scene at Warehouse421, or just forego your weekly shop at Waitrose for a visit to Mushrif Mall. At their local markets, you'll find butcher's shops, fresh produce, and plenty more to fill your cupboards. Another of the beauties of Abu Dhabi is the mish mash of cultures and diversity of its people, laying fertile ground for authentic Emirati restaurants and eclectic neighbourhoods, such as Hamdan and Madinat Zayed.