Asia > United Arab Emirates > Abu Dhabi
See: Why rent a car in Abu Dhabi ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments
(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)
Your key questions for any destination:
Do I need a car in Abu Dhabi?
Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.
That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!
- The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
- How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
- Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
- Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?
Is it worth hiring a car in Abu Dhabi?
This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Abu Dhabi car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.
How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Abu Dhabi with other destinations locally and around the world.
This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.
Should I rent a car in Abu Dhabi?
This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Abu Dhabi, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.
Compared to its larger and glitzier brother Dubai, Abu Dhabi is substantially more compact.
Nowhere in the downtown area is more than a short bus or taxi ride away from anywhere else, but you will still be using motorised transport more than walking. There is also still a fair amount of sprawl in Abu Dhabi, so you may be staying somewhere a bit outside the centre.
Please note that Carornocar.com is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season.
We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.
Abu Dhabi is in car rental price band: 4/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)
General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Abu Dhabi?
Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.
Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Abu Dhabi between the peak and the off peak season?
3/10 (0 = stable prices)
Driving score: 4/10
Non car score:2/10
(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)
General comment -
Whereas Dubai has invested heavily in rail-based transport, there is no such service in Abu Dhabi, and proposals to develop such a network are on hold. You’ll have a choice of waiting outside in the dusty heat for a bus or taking the much more commonplace option of a taxi. Then there’s the natural question that if you are spending let’s say one week in Abu Dhabi, will you also want to visit Dubai? Will you want to travel elsewhere within the UAE, and possibly even on to Oman? Abu Dhabi car hire certainly isn’t for everyone, but it might still be an option for your visit.
It certainly is perfectly possible to travel between Abu Dhabi and Dubai by bus, and plenty of people do so. Abu Dhabi is also not lacking in its own huge range of architectural gems. Visitors can either use state-backed scheduled bus services, or they can take guided tours.
For trips into the desert, then 4×4 vehicles tend to be more popular, although the practice of “dune bashing” has been heavily criticised for its environmental damage.
Why? Visiting Abu Dhabi using a hire car
Why do you need a car in Abu Dhabi ?
Reasons why you need a car in Abu Dhabi
- Fuel is cheap!
- Public transport in the city is poor – no metro, no rapid bus network, only taxis and conventional buses.
- Plans for an Abu Dhabi metro are currently on hold. Dspite the rapid growth of the city, including huge expansion of the airport, there are still no confirmed plans for mass rapid transit in the city.
- Coaches to other cities in the UAE only offer limited service. They are an excellent option for getting to Dubai or Al Ain, but less so for anywhere else.
- A car provides more flexible access across the whole city.
- A hire car is useful for day trips to Dubai.
- Car rental in Abu Dhabi is generally good value when compared with other destinations in the Gulf region. Expect to pay a little bit more than in Dubai, as it’s not quite so competitive here.
Why not? Visiting Abu Dhabi without a car
Why don't you need a car in Abu Dhabi ?
Visiting Abu Dhabi without a car
- The roads in the UAE are amongst the least safe in the world. It might be better to leave the driving to somebody local.
- Abu Dhabi is actually very compact. You can get by using buses or walking, especially once you are outside the midday heat.
- Some parts of Abu Dhabi are well shaded with trees, whereas there are also many other places which are refreshed by the sea breeze. Abu Dhabi is hot by any standard, but there are still ways to enjoy the city on foot without being completely overwhelmed.
- Plenty of activities based around the waterfront, car not needed.
- Vist the Mangrove National Park – this is in a very central location, and easy to reach by bus or taxi. You can also go kayaking here.
- Car fanatics can have lots of fun at the Yas Circuit – but you can easily get there by bus or taxi.
You don’t need a car to visit the main points of interest in Abu Dhabi.[/caption]
Ratings: How does Abu Dhabi compare?
Is it worth hiring a car in Abu Dhabi? TBC
This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Abu Dhabi, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.
How does this compare if:
You are travelling:
Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc
Does car rental make sense on different budgets?
Do you need to hire a car in Abu Dhabi? TBC
This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Abu Dhabi (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".
Should you rent a car in Abu Dhabi? TBC
This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good.
See global comparisons
Hiring | Driving | Parking
Trains | Buses | Local travel
Car hire basics:
Public transportation basics:
Regular bus services: YES
Coach (inter-city): YES
High Speed Rail:
Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):
As you start ....
Does Abu Dhabi airport have a direct rail link?
(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No
Has our advice for Abu Dhabi car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?
2017 - 4
2019 - 7
2021 - 8
Average score - 7
Any Abu Dhabi car hire advice also has to come with the significant caveat that the roads in the United Arab Emirates have some of the worst accident figures of any country that publishes this data. However, given the sheer volume of tourists and expats, these figures tend to look even worse than they actually are. On balance, there is certainly no need to get a hire car if you are literally just stopping over in Abu Dhabi, but for a longer trip then car rental starts to become something as well worth considering.
Anyone with an interest in technology might well want to take a look at the futuristic Masdar City near Abu Dhabi International airport. Masdar is designed to have much more in common with traditional Middle Eastern cities, with steep sided streets having additional natural climate control systems to make them inherently walkable.
Masdar does also have its own bus terminal. If all of Abu Dhabi was built like Masdar, then our verdict would be very different, but sadly it is not – Masdar is the experiment, not the reality, and it’s only really worth visiting if you have an interest in the architecture or the technology.
Do I need a car in Abu Dhabi? Verdict – yes (may be useful for longer visits, especially for getting out of the city).
Do you or don't you need a car in Abu Dhabi ?