We arrived in Abu Dhabi from Doha at 6:00 pm. Immigration was a breeze and we were out of the airport in no time. The United Arab Emirates has a Visa-on-Arrival free of charge for citizens of the United States. We exchanged $20 at the airport money exchange so we could buy our bus tickets. We usually try to exchange just enough at the airport to get us to our destination and then exchange more once we’re there. Typically, the airport offers the worst exchange rates and charge a commission because people have to get some out there.
As easy as the Doha bus system was, the Abu Dhabi one was equally as difficult. We had a tough time figuring out exactly what we were supposed to do after the first bus declined our entry with cash. We talked to a guy that told us to get a ticket inside. Then we talked to the information inside to see where to get a bus ticket and she sent us back outside and around and around we went. Finally, thanks to great wifi at the airport, we figured out that we needed to get a prepaid bus ticket with a fixed amount of United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) on it.
We bought the tickets for 20 AED each and then had to wait for the next bus. It said they come every 20 minutes, but that was not to be the case. We were looking for the A1 bus that takes us into town. One drove by and we tried to wave it down, but it just kept on going. A random guy told us it would be back. So we waited. And waited. Luckily, there were AC bus stands there. Finally, we hopped on the bus and we were on our way.
We didn’t know exactly what bus stop to get off at (which would be a problem the next day), but we did know the bus would take us close to the Holiday Inn that we were staying at.
We overhead a young guy speaking English we could understand so I struck up a conversation with him and showed him my map on my phone. He explained where to get off and we were fairly confident we were going to be good to go at this point. The bus stop ended up being only about 100 yards from our hotel and we quickly checked in, received an upgrade into a massive room with a decent view thanks to our IHG status, and got ready to explore.
We headed out of our hotel into the direction of the Corniche along the bay in search of food. We were really hoping to find some kind of local food, but were unable to track any down. Our choices ended up being KFC, McDonalds, and a pizza place. We decided on Donalds. We got a few things off the value menu and each got an ice cream cone for $9.92.
After dinner, we continued walking towards the Corniche. Once we got there, a divided four lane stood in our way. We looked both ways and couldn’t find anywhere to cross. We ended up finding a break in the fence that separated the road and, once again, participated in a friendly game of Frogger to cross the road.
The Corniche provided us with a view of the skyline and a decent breeze to help cool us off. It was late at this point, but still 1,000 degrees.
The skyline wasn’t nearly as impressive as we had hoped and the same could be said about the city in general. We didn’t make it down to the Emirates though, which is probably the most intriguing set of skyscrapers that make up the skyline.
We found an underground crosswalk on our walk and headed back for the hotel. Since breakfast was not included, a huge bummer after our amazing breakfast in Doha, we decided to stop at a fruit shop to pick up a few things for breakfast. We got bananas and apples for $2.14 and then headed back for the night.
The next day was interesting. We didn’t have that much time because our flight left at 2:00 pm and the airport was a decent ways away and we were planning to take the bus again.
Our one sight for the day was to be the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I looked up the buses that would take us in that direction and we headed out. We walked to the nearest cross street to have a better selection of buses to take. We waited for a few minutes and one of the buses showed up, but it was full. Or so we thought. People began piling in and we followed suit. There was a pretty obvious division of women in the front and men in the back. We stood right at the cutoff point so Skye was with the women, I was with the men, but we were still right next to eachother. We weren’t sure if it would have been rude otherwise.
The bus was a far cry from Doha. We never had more than a few people on the bus with us there, but this was packed and continued to get even tighter with every stop. As we started to get further from the city center and closer to the Grand Mosque, it started to thin out a bit.
This is when things went terribly wrong. I read online that we should get off a decent walk before the mosque, but I wasn’t sure of the name of the bus stop. There was a screen at the front of the bus with the names of the stops and eventually Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque appeared. It said it was the next one and we could see the mosque so we felt pretty good about ourselves. Then, the bus drove straight by the mosque and kept going and going and going right on to the highway. Now we were nervous. The next bus stop was literally on the highway and we had to hop off there.
After a quick argument brought on by not knowing what to do while stranded on the highway a solid mile and a half from our destination in 110 degree weather with our flight leaving relatively soon, a cab drove by and we flagged him down. The fare ended up being about 20 AED and the fare from our hotel would have been about 30 AED. We probably should have just taken a cab to begin with, but this sure was an eventful experience.
We toured the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque free of charge and it was absolutely stunning. It made the hassle of getting there completely worth it. Skye had to put on a traditional black burka to make sure she was covered from head to toe, as is their culture, and she brought a scarf to put over her head.
After touring the mosque, we decided to not play around with the bus as we were short on time and hopped in a cab back to the hotel for 30 AED. We had a woman driver and apparently I wouldn’t have been allowed to take the cab by myself, but since Skye was with me, it was allowed.
I exchanged a little more money at the hotel so I could pay the fare and Skye went upstairs to pack. I called an Uber on my phone and was lucky to find a promotional code from Google Maps that covered the entire fare to the airport.
We got to the airport in plenty of time, got through security quickly, and waited at our gate while texting Emily to prepare for our meetup in Delhi. Little did we know, the next 24 hours would be one of our craziest travel experiences to date.