With their recent trip to the season-ending 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina, Alice West and her husband Ed decided that their last holiday without baby West in tow would be one to remember…
Photos courtesy Alice West
Was it easy to get to the track from your hotel?
Yes, because we stayed slightly out of town and closer to Yas Island, which is about a 40-minute taxi ride from downtown Abu Dhabi. Contrary to popular belief, taxis will take you right up to the entrance gate you need, without dropping you at a designated shuttle bus stop.
Returning to your hotel from the race later, it’s difficult to hail a cab in the street and a better idea to jump on a free shuttle bus to the designated taxi pick-up area, which is extremely well run and efficient. No queue-jumping or taxi-stealing to be seen! Shuttle buses run up and down the track entrance perimeter all day and evening, and there are guides everywhere ready to get you on the right one – this was without a doubt the best organised Grand Prix I have ever been to, with friendly ushers all over the place ready to help out.
Taxis are all pleasantly affordable by European standards, and our daily 20 minute trip to Yas Island cost around 35 dirhams (8 EUR) each way. Don’t get in an unmetered Uber taxi, and don’t be afraid to ask your driver to slow down, as the driving here can be a little manic.
Where is best to stay in Abu Dhabi for the Grand Prix?
Staying out of the city itself is a great idea for anyone coming to Abu Dhabi for the Grand Prix, whether you’re staying for a week or just the weekend. You’ll be closer to Yas Island the further from the Corniche you stay, and the city itself can be visited easily and cheaply by taxi if you fancy a day on the city beach or a night dining by skyscraper.
We stayed at the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel which was about 15 minutes by taxi to Yas Island (costing around 35 dirhams or €8). The hotel was part of a small marina-based resort in itself, so didn’t feel cut off or in any way inconvenient, as we had restaurants and a supermarket just around the corner from us.
We realized too late that a lot of the drivers – and probably Pharrell Williams – stayed at the Shangri-La which is in Qaryat Al Beri, some 20 km from the track. We met people who had found very good early bird deals for these hotels, so look around now if you’re already thinking about Abu Dhabi next year. The majestic Ritz-Carlton hotel is also in this area of the wider city, and you get a superb view of the Grand Mosque if you go for dinner in Qaryat Al Beri. There’s a waterfront shopping and dining mall called the Souk right next door to the Shangri-La which is worth a visit in the evening. The Pearls bar at the Shangri-La is a great place for a drink and a bit of driver-spotting, too.
Where did you watch the action from trackside?
We sat in the West Grandstand which hugs a bend at the end of a big straight between turns 7 and 8. Great for witnessing DRS action and for a view of the sparkling Viceroy, but as you can’t choose your seats within the grandstand there’s a huge disparity in the vantage point you might end up with.
We had a great view down the straight and right on the bend, but friends sitting parallel to the straight had a broader view that encompassed the grid and many more turns.
Opting for Lounge access with our tickets meant we sat a little higher up and could exit our ‘box’ straight into an air conditioned corridor with toilets, bars and seating areas. This was very civilised, and for only €50 more than standard West Grandstand tickets.
Any tips for fans planning a trip to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?
- Look on Groupon Abu Dhabi for all kinds of deals offered in the city while you’re there. Almost every hotel seems to have a lunch, dinner, afternoon tea or spa offer running every single day, and this can often afford you experiences that may have otherwise been out of the question on holiday in a city like this.
- Fly into Dubai airport rather than Abu Dhabi itself if you want to save a bit of money. Our flights were around £200 / €250 cheaper each for doing this. A taxi from Dubai airport to Abu Dhabi shouldn’t cost over 400 dirhams (€90) and it’s a 60-90 minute journey, depending on where you’re staying. Traffic just isn’t a problem here as the motorways are so wide and new.
- Keep your eye on the testing calendar, as the end of season test was at Yas Marina on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the race. Access to the Marina and all around the track – places your F1 tickets probably wouldn’t get you – is free and easy, and there’s hardly anyone about! We found ourselves standing on a bridge in front of the Yas Viceroy as the sun came down and the lights came out, with F1s speeding underneath us. A priceless experience!
- If you want to stay in Abu Dhabi for longer than the race weekend, it’s probably not worth staying on Yas Island for the convenience as it’s so easy and quick to get there from outside. And room prices on the island itself can inflate up to ten times over! If teams decide to test at Yas Marina again next year after the final, this would be the time to relocate to a hotel on Yas Island for a few nights when the prices have dropped back. There’s also a brilliant public beach on the island, and Ferrari World of course.
- Go to the free concerts! We saw Pharrell Williams on the Saturday night at the open air Du Arena, which was a fantastic experience. You’ll be offered a wristband when you arrive at the circuit every day, and this is your entrance to the event that night. Shuttle buses run racegoers down to the arena which is situated in the grounds of Ferrari World.
- Don’t pack too much water for your days at the circuit, as there’s a well-manned water station on the way into the F1 village from each grandstand area where you can grab as many bottles as you like, for free.
- Head for the F1 Village as soon as the race finishes if you want a chance to walk on the track up to the grid. We left it too late, and the marshals had stopped letting people in by the time we got there. Instead, we went and sat in the Main Grandstand right opposite the garages to witness the celebrations at Mercedes, and the farewell party for Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull.