Travel Basics – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Start planning your trip to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina circuit. The season-ending race takes place this year on November 23-25, 2017.

The United Arab Emirates borders Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar. Its population of 9.2 million is predominately expatriate, with only 1.4 million Emirati citizens. The UAE is comprised of seven emirates (similar to principalities); Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Each is ruled by a hereditary Emir, with one of the seven elected to be the President of the UAE. Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s capital.

With just 420,000 Emirati citizens living in an expat-heavy city of 1.5 million inhabitants, each Abu Dhabi resident’s net worth works out at an unbelievable $17 million! This is a super-luxury city and the Abu Dhabi development boom shows no signs of abating. The Yas Marina Circuit, the Ferrari theme park and both a Louvre and a Guggenheim Museum scheduled within the next few years are just a few of the attractions that will keep drawing tourism to the island.

Money in UAE

Abu Dhabi use the Emirate Dirham (AED) currency, which is pegged at a fixed rate of 3.67 to the USD. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are easy to find. If you are carrying foreign currency, change your money at banks, which offer better rates than money changers at the airport, hotels or shopping centers.

UAE Visas for F1 travelers

Passport holders from the following countries can enter Dubai or Abu Dhabi without the need to arrange a tourist visa in advance, as a free entry visa is granted upon arrival: Australia, Andorra, Austria, Brunei, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America and the Vatican State.

Everyone else coming to Abu Dhabi or Dubai needs to apply for a tourist visa prior to their trip. Passengers with Etihad Airways can often arrange their visas through the airline. Likewise, many 3-5 star hotels and travel agencies can request a tourist visa on your behalf. Alternatively, allow time to apply for your tourist visa at your local UAE Embassy. Click here for more info.

Language & Culture

The UAE is officially Islamic, though non-Islamic faiths are tolerated so long as they do not interfere with Islam. Sharia Law is the main source of legislation in the UAE. The holy day in Abu Dhabi and the rest of the Emirates is Friday, and the call to prayer is transmitted through loudspeakers on mosque minarets five times a day. Arabic is the official language of the Emirates, though English is widely spoken, especially in cosmopolitan cities like Abu Dhabi, where 80% of the inhabitants are expatriates and foreign workers. Abu Dhabi’s culture shifted dramatically when ruler Sheikh Zayed died in 2004 and his son took over. Lifting the ban on land sales to foreigners and easing alcohol prohibitions are two notable changes brought in that have changed the face of this city exponentially. Despite the ongoing boom development, Abu Dhabi is loyal to its cultural heritage, promoting traditional sports like falconry and camel racing. Homosexuality is still currently illegal in the UAE with severe penalties that include deportation at best.

UAE travel: need to know

  • The timezone in Abu Dhabi is GMT +4 hours.
  • You drive on the left in the Emirates.
  • The tap water in Abu Dhabi is safe for human consumption, but most locals and tourists drink bottled water.
  • Useful telephone numbers in the UAE: Police 999, Ambulance 998, Fire 997.


Abu Dhabi has been voted the world’s safest holiday destination twice, and the UAE is widely considered to be among the safest places in the world to visit as a tourist. Tourists are rarely caught up in violent crime since the city has a strong police presence and imposes very serious penalties for theft and assault. Women travelling alone may sometimes receive unwanted attention from taxi drivers or on the streets, which is normally harmless. Dressing modestly will help avoid bothersome attention from men, as will sticking to hotel beaches (not the public ones) and dining in the ‘Family Room’ at restaurants if eating alone.

Climate in UAE

Abu Dhabi gets blue skies and sunshine all year round, with very little rainfall. The milder winter months of November to April are the best time of year to visit the Emirate, with pleasant temperatures of around 24C by day and 13C at night. The sun sets at around 5.30pm on Grand Prix weekend.


Winter is not Abu Dhabi’s hottest time of year, but it’s still warm when you’re out and about in Abu Dhabi during the F1 weekend. Direct sun exposure for long periods of time, coupled with lack of appropriate hydration, will lead to problems if you’re not careful, so pack plenty of water and keep the sun cream handy. Abu Dhabi is extremely clean and known for being one of the last places you could expect to get food poisoning on holiday, but to safeguard against any chance of falling ill, an up to date hepatitis A vaccine is advisable, and you should stick to drinking bottled water. Most large hotels have on-site doctors for day-to-day ailments, and Abu Dhabi’s hospitals are of extremely high, Western standards.

Have you been to the UAE? Leave a comment below with your travel tips.

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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He's been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

Comments (3)

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  1. rupert riley says:

    I wonder if you can help me with locating a bus or coach company departing Dubai for Yas Island
    So far all I can find are Expensive private hire or public bus which takes forever

    • Editor says:

      Hi Rupert,
      I am afraid your options are limited to what you have found. I took the public bus last year from Dubai and it does take almost 2 hours. The only advice I can give you is to get off at Shahama, the park and ride near Yas Island (where you can get a shuttle to the track). If you stay on the bus to its terminus in Abu Dhabi, you then have to take a bus back to the circuit, costing you another 30 minutes. I don’t think this advice holds going the other way – you need to get to the main bus station in Abu Dhabi to take a bus back to Dubai. If you are going all three days to the race (and want to go to the concerts), I would consider booking a hotel in Abu Dhabi. More information in Getting Around

  2. Great article, thanks for the tips! With pristine sandy beaches, blue seas, palm trees and cosmopolitan cities, UAE is a dream to visit. However, with the rise of tourism, cases of tourist targeted scams and crime have risen as well.

    Do be wary of the spilled liquid/spit scam, pickpockets, woman with sick child, travelling salesman scam, man with injury, out of petrol sob story, fake goods/jewellery, unofficial taxis, rogue taxis, door knocking scam, fake police and many more!

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