Nestled on the scorching hot, sandy coast of The United Arab Emirates is a city named Abu Dhabi. Popular but maybe not as popular as its bigger brother 150 km down the road, Dubai. Abu Dhabi is considerably more laid back, easy going and friendly. It’s home to just over 600,000 people, is situated on the pristine Persian Gulf. It was also my first choice to fly into and explore while I was in the UAE.
Having wanted to visit this Arabian sun drenched land for some time now, I jumped on the opportunity of a 3 day layover in Abu Dhabi while enroute to Tbilisi, Georgia. With world class airlines like Emirates and Ethihad, which I flew with, it has become a piece of cake to make the UAE a destination.
When I have a short stop in a city on my lonesome. I prefer to discover whats best through a local. But arriving at the airport and asking the customs officer if he wants to show you around later most likely won’t happen. A better place to find a friendly, like minded local is couch surfing. You might have or should have heard about this site by now if you are a backpacker/traveller/human being. It’s an online social hub that connects people who are interested in meeting people from all around the world. It is also a place to land a couch for a night or two.
I went about the routine of scoping out some profiles to find a compatible couch companion. Not always the easier thing to do. But after a sort while I found a guy with an available couch and great positive reviews. Within half a day of sending out a message I was okay’d for CS with Harly.
Fast forward—> I landed in Abu Dhabi around 7:30 am after a bit of a mission flight via India. I grabbed some wifi and scoped my options to hit the city centre. The public transit in and out of Abu Dhabi airport is not great at all. Not gunna lie. Not clear cut and not a lot of info on it. But lucky I found some guys that were taking it and matched up the number of stops to my destination. The fact I got organized the way I did was pure luck. Once on the bus the driver asked for 4 dirham . I only had 100’s because I had just been to the ATM. The driver took my 100 and told to sit down and I’d get my change later. Great I thought, I’ve been duped by the bus driver. But indeed when I got off the bus 45 mins later I was given exact change.
Found the apartment straight away, was greeted by Raymund one of the 2 flat mates. He was headed to work but made me a quick coffee and told me to feel at home. Shortly after he left Harly and Kornel returned. They had been at a charity marathon earlier that morning. Kornel who was from Hungary, and also there couch surfing was turning around and heading to Dubai to see the exotic car show. Being that I did also want to go see Dubai I followed him out the door.
At the main bus station we lined up to hop in an 8 person van that took people on a First come first serve basis to the big city. If you need to transit these two cities quickly and cheaply, do this. They fill up fast so you don’t have to wait long.
After an hour or so ride we got the driver to dump us off on the freeway. By pure luck again it was 150m from the car show. The cost to enter the car show was a whopping $15. That’s stiff for me and apparently Kornel as well, who was down to just sneak in. So that’s what we did. A casual walk past of the door keeper while there was an influx of people entering. Shhhhhhhh.
After the car show we took the metro to see the Burj Khalifa. I’m really glad I got to see this because I’m a super architecture buff. Especially modern towers. After a quick visited to friend of Kornels we headed back to Abu Dhabi.
We arrived after midnight and everyone was home by this point. Harly, Raymund and Ric. We exchanged stories of our day and found out that we were waiting for yet another couchsurfer to arrive. A girl from Germany. So that night 6 of us crashed in a two bedroom apartment. Cozy.
The next day we woke up early and headed straight to the beach. The beach we went to cost a small amount of money but was private with lush white sand. We chilled and swam for just over an hour and then made a move to our next destination. Ferrari World.
Rick, Kornel and myself headed to the park. Ferrari World has the fastest roller coaster on the planet. It reaches speeds of 370km an hour! The price for entrance was something like $60-70 but Rick works at a hotel and receives a promotion that allows him and up to 3 friends to only pay $15. We went straight to the fastest coaster. It was so fast my cheeks almost peeled back to my ears.
After two or so hours of checking out the park we parted ways with Kornel who was headed back to Dubai. Rick and I carried on to Abu Dhabi Waterpark. Also a $60 value that we got for $15. The water park was crowded but worth it with tons of big slides and a roller coaster.
We left there as the day was ending and headed to the grand mosque. It is one of the largest mosques in the world and was truly impressive. Men aren’t allowed to wear shorts in the temple so we were handed white robes to wear while we checked out the monster mosque. I was looking pretty fly indeed.
As it turned to night we headed back to the apartment where the guys had made an amazing Philippine spicy beef dish. We all sat on the floor of the living room and chowed down. It was delicious.
At around 10pm we headed out to have a coffee and some sheesha with the guys friend from Germany. The cafe was right on the sea and offered a spectacular view of the Abu Dhabi skyline. Perfect cap to the day/trip.
I wonder now if I hadn’t couchsurfed, would have have seen half of what I did in that short time? I highly doubt it. Spending time with locals in a country is the greatest way to see any place and couchsurfing allows that to be so much easier. If you haven’t done it before, next time you have a few days in a new city give it a try!