Al Ain, the UAE’s fourth-largest city is a popular tourist attraction. The Arabic word ‘Al Ain’ literally translates to ‘the spring’, which would explain why it is often referred to as the Garden City. Ideally located, this city is easily accessible from other metropolitan areas like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It takes just over an hour and a half to travel from Al Ain to Dubai and the drive to Abu Dhabi takes under two hours. Besides the convenient access, the city offers a diverse array of sights, activities, culture, history, and natural splendour to its visitors. It may not have the signature modern skyscrapers of Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but the scenic roads and natural beauty make Al Ain a sought-after location for short city breaks. If this is your first trip to the city, use this Al Ain travel guide for everything you need to know about it.
How to Reach Al Ain
Reaching Al Ain is simple. The emirate is well connected within and outside the UAE. The strong network of roads and highways makes commute within and outside the city easier than ever. To reach Al Ain and get around it, you need to keep the following things in mind.
Buses run to Al Ain from all major cities in the UAE, including Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi. They start from 6:00 am every morning and operate at scheduled intervals until midnight. Tickets can be purchased from the bus driver and you’ll be off to the city in a jiffy.
For those of you who don’t prefer buses, taxi services and car rentals that will transport you to Al Ain are also available. Al Ain is also one of the best places for road trips in the UAE, so if you love to hit the road, get your playlist ready for a scenic ride into the Garden City of the country!
How to Get Around In Al Ain
If you have not driven to the city, your safest and most affordable bet to get around Al Ain would be using a taxi. Just hail a cab and you can be on your way, with fares relatively cheaper than what you pay for the same distance in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
You could even rent a car, depending on your preferences. But if you’re on budget travel, nothing beats exploring this place in buses and minibuses.
The Best Time to Visit Al Ain
Al Ain’s natural springs, verdant plantations and spectacular oases make the emirate quite attractive for both tourists and residents. It is, however, the gorgeous weather of Al Ain that makes the destination most appealing. The city enjoys relatively pleasant weather year-round compared to other cities in the UAE.
Al Ain’s close proximity to the Hajar Mountains makes temperatures in the emirate cooler than the other cities in the UAE. Despite the comfortable weather, Al Ain is mostly a desert area with hot temperatures during summer.
In contrast to the summers, winters in the city bring comfortable temperatures that are ideal for explorations and excursions. The winter season here lasts between October and April, making it an excellent time to visit Al Ain. Sometimes the area also receives sporadic rainfall and storms.
Things to Do in Al Ain
This Al Ain travel guide will cover some of the most popular attractions and activities in the city. Once an important pit stop for trade caravans travelling between Oman and the Gulf, Al Ain’s rich cultural history is marked with settlements that date back to 3000 BC. Al Ain is where Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father was born. This history along with the emirate’s natural splendour and modern attractions makes it an excellent destination to visit. The idea to live in Al Ain is not too bad either, especially if you’re someone who prefers peaceful city-life over the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan areas.
Regardless of the purpose that brings you to the city, there are plenty of things to do in Al Ain.
Places to Visit in Al Ain
- Visit Al Ain Zoo that welcomes you to a wildlife adventure featuring various animals in their replicated natural habitats.
- Jebel Hafeet with its craggy terrain and surrounding scenic beauty is another popular attraction for sightseeing in Al Ain.
- Located amid in the parched desert surrounding of the city, Al Ain Oasis offers a shaded, peaceful walkway engulfed by 150,000 date palms.
- Al Ain – the ‘garden city’ boasts verdant public gardens spread across the emirate. Accentuated with beautiful fountains and impressive landscaping, these public gardens offer a welcome respite from the city’s desert surroundings.
- Perfect for adventure junkies, Wadi Adventure Park offers kayaking, rafting, zip lines, wall climbing, family pools and a lot more. The water adventure park also features the largest artificial surfing wave in the world.
- Hili Fun City is one of UAE’s largest theme parks, popular for its exclusive rides, excellent facilities, and proximity to the Al Ain Ice Rink.
- To fully explore Al Ain’s local culture, make sure not to miss out on a camel racing event or a camel market excursion.
- The Aerobatics Show is an annual 4-day event featuring over 100 aircrafts and mind-blowing aerobatic stunts. The event is usually held between November and January.
- The ancient Al Jahili Fort is a magnificent relic of the city’s historic past.
- Al Ain Museum is a window into the city’s amazing culture and history. It is also the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the UAE.
- Built in early 20th century, Qasr al Muwaiji was Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan’s home for 2 decades. The building’s architecture depicts traditional Emirati fortification.
Although not as popular as Dubai when it comes to shopping, Al Ain does have a handful of impressive shopping malls. Shopaholics can splurge on leather, local fabric, handicrafts, carpets, and even international brands here. The biggest malls in the city include the Al Ain Mall, Al Jimi Mall, and Al Bawadi Mall.
In addition to the malls, traditional souqs form a vital part of the overall shopping experience. Each souq offers a different genre of shopping. While the gold souq in Al Bawadi Mall is all about intricate gold jewellery and other precious metal items, Souq Al Qattara offers more traditional items including handicrafts and traditional Arabian garb.
An Al Ain travel guide would be incomplete without a mention of some of the popular culinary experiences in the city. Al Ain has recently seen a boom in the number of restaurants and eateries sprouting up across the city. While your likes and dislikes in terms of food are entirely dependent on your personal preferences, the foodies out there might not want to miss out on these popular restaurants in Al Ain.
Al Fanar Restaurant and Café
- Open Sunday to Saturday: 8:00am-11:00pm
- Cuisine: Emirati
- Open Sunday to Saturday 7:30am-11:30pm
- +971 3 783 1066
- Cuisine: French
- Open Sunday to Saturday 6:00 am-1:00 am
- Cuisine: Filipino
Where to Stay in Al Ain
For a short visit to Al Ain, the city centre is hands down the best locality to stay in. It puts you in close proximity to all the top attractions in the city. While there are several hotels in Al Ain, we’ve shortlisted the highly-rated, centrally located ones for you. To further ease your worries over where to stay, the list is categorised as per your budget.
Al Ain Rotana Hotel: Located on Zayed bin Sultan Street, close to Al Jahili Fort and Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum.
- Phone: +971-3-754-5111
Hili Rayhaan by Rotana: Located on Bani Yas Street, adjacent to the Hili Mall.
- Phone: +971-3-705-3333
Ayla Hotel: Located on Khalifa bin Zayed Al Awwal Street in the city centre.
Hilton Al Ain: Located in Al Sarooj District on Hilton Street, Hilton stands at less than 10 minutes’ drive from most city attractions.
- Phone: +971-3-768-666
Asfar Resorts Al Ain: Great for families, this hotel is located across the new Safeer Mall on Bani Yas Street.
Ain Al Faida One to One: Centrally located with a selection of room variants to choose from.
- Phone: +971-3-766-9735
Al Massa Hotel: Located on Hamdan Bin Mohammed Street, in close proximity to Al Jimi Mall.
- Phone: +971-3-703-9000
You are sure to find reasonable accommodation in Al Ain, within your budget. However, if you are looking for more long-term options, you could also consider the rental apartments in Al Ain that fit your requirements.
Bonus Travel Tips for Your Al Ain Visit
Travel-friendly tips always come in handy and this Al Ain travel guide would be incomplete without them. We have just the tips and suggestions you need to make your travel to Al Ain worthwhile.
- For road trips to and from the city, the best time to hit the highway is at night. It will save you from the traffic and decrease your travel time.
- Pack plenty of sunscreen with you. A sun hat and makeup with UV protection will also come in handy.
- The UAE does not have stringent rules for how you dress, so you can wear pretty much anything. However, it is highly advisable to dress modestly if your visit falls in the Islamic month of Ramadan.
- Even though the city’s weather is usually dry and humid, unexpected showers and dust storms are common. Always check the weather forecast before finalising your itinerary.
- It is always a good idea to carry an umbrella around. If not rain, it can definitely protect you from the scorching sun.
- Winter season is the best time to visit Al Ain. The weather is great and the city is alive with fun festivals, like the Street Fest, the Music Festival and the Winter Festival.
We hope this Al Ain travel guide proves helpful for you. Visit Al Ain for a weekend getaway and experience some of the best that the UAE has to offer.