Author: sunny

A Layover guide to Abu Dhabi

A Layover guide to Abu Dhabi

Layovers can be stressful and sometimes unavoidable. I always try to avoid connecting flights, even if they’re cheap. But sometimes the price difference is too big to justify, and sometimes it’s just not possible to get where you’re going without a connecting flight.

Being an Indian citizen residing in Manchester, I visit India at-least once in a year, and hardly any flight operators provide direct connection. Abu Dhabi being the main stop over for most of the flights, I decide to use my layover and convert it into a day trip.

Below is bit by bit on how it all went:

12 hours enough for Abu Dhabi??

In a way, it is, for visiting main attractions, taste the local food and for souvenirs shopping and it was made possible by efficient road infrastructure throughout the city, which minimise your commuting time.

Taxis are the most important mode of transportation and are available for a relatively cheap price. Most of the taxis are metered, the fare per kilometer is fixed at around 1.60 AED per minute. The fixed starting fare is about 3 or 4 AED; if you take a taxi from the airport it’s 20 AED.

Pre-Requisites Done!

Instead of short layover, we opted for the flight with longest daytime layover (14 hours) and because of its lengthy layover, it was the cheapest option.

Getting a Transit visa was child’s play; just fill simple application form, upload scanned copies of documents and pay the corresponding visa fees, that’s it. Visa was for single entry, valid for 96 hr and it costs $58.

We decided to withdraw the local currency (AED) from ATM at Abu Dhabi Airport as it was the most convenient option considering our day trip and as per my experience local bank ATM always provide better exchange rates then travel desks.

11:45 AM: Touch down at Abu Dhabi International Airport

Without wasting much of our time in the airport, we followed the way-out signs. Thanks to Abu Dhabi airport’s integrated bio metrics system, we zoomed through immigration control.

While waiting for the taxi at the airport, initially we were bit confused as only 7-seater minibus was available, but later we got to know that this is the only option available from the airport. We hired one and short ride from airport let us to Yas Island.

13:00 PM: Yas Island

We choose to visit Yas Island first because of its proximity with the airport. Daytime soaring temperature made this a perfect option as most of the attractions on Yas Island are indoor.

Yas Island is home to the state-of-the-art Yas Marina Circuit – host to F1 Grand Prix.

Yas Marina, F1 Grand Prix Circuit, Abu Dhabi

At the circuit’s centerpiece is Yas Viceroy, a five-star, iconic hotel, it is the only one in the world to straddle a F1 race track being breathtakingly built half on land and half over water.

The island also houses Abu Dhabi’s biggest and the UAE’s second largest shopping center, the Yas Mall. We used Yas Express, free shuttle bus service, from Marina Circuit to reach Yas mall. You will find many options for satisfying your taste buds with authentic local food and vibrant getaway shopping experience for shopaholic in the mall.

Strolling through we reached towards end of the mall, which is also an entry point for  Ferrari World, a Ferrari-themed amusement park, boasting world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, which touches 150 mph. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to visit the amusement park, but we visited the exhibition, displaying collection of Ferrari’s cars and engines with models dating back to 1947 and a Ferrari store.

16:30: Corniche Beach

It was perfect time to visit the beach for catching the sunset. We left Yas island in our taxi around 16:10 and reached Corniche beach, covering 40 km in just 20 mins, all thanks to our cab driver, who maintained the maximum permissible speed of whooping 120 kph.

Strolling through the Corniche road, we enjoyed skyline of Abu Dhabi on one side and on another side beautiful scenery of sun settling down the sea.

17:00: Emirates Palace

Walking towards the far end of Corniche road, we found ourselves in between two icons of Abu Dhabi; scintillating Emirates place on one side and stunning Etihad Towers on another.

Although entry to the hotel is free but on entry to Emirates Palace you are sometimes asked your reasons for your visit at the gatehouse. If you don’t have a restaurant booking, you may not be granted entry. Fortunately, we got a spot booking and permitted to enter the hotel.

Emirates Palace is a fine example of UAE’s luxurious lifestyle. Its golden-sandy color contrasts with its fresh green gardens and the silvery water fountains. Once inside, we were amazed to see glitter and decor of its lobbies and restaurants and its pristine private beach. They even have a “Gold ATM” inside… just in case…. if you need.

Emirates Palace Hotel under rainbow lights

By the time we came out of the hotel, it was almost dark and the golden-sandy color of the hotel was changed due to majestic rainbow lighting effect over the main dome. Right across the Emirates Palace we can see the Etihad towers, which are now in full glow and it is the perfect time for nice panoramic views of Abu Dhabi.

18:15: Etihad Towers

Etihad Towers, is a group of five towers, sparkling in never-ending sunshine of Abu Dhabi.

Etihad Towers at night

On the 74th floor of Tower 2 at the Etihad Towers, the Observation Deck at 300 offers unbeatable panoramic views of Abu Dhabi’s cityscape. But we missed it by 15 minutes as it closes at 18:00 PM. Seeing the disappointment on our face, their staff offered us to visit Ray’s Bar on 63rd floor.

Ray’s Bar on 63rd floor at Jumeirah At Etihad Towers

Although they allowed us free entry, just for having the views from the bar without any conditions, we couldn’t resist ourselves after seeing the city views from floor-to-ceiling windows of the bar and we reserved a table for ourselves for having couple of drink and to soak up the ambiance.

20:30: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, we walked into the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a spectacular Macedonian marble architectural work, featuring 82 domes, over 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful mosque I have ever visited.

Beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

We saved the best for last because of its extended closing timing of 22:00 PM, so when every other landmark is closed for visit, you can still visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Also, the charm of the mosque is enhanced under the moon when reflective pools around the mosque reflects the phases of the moon because of unique lightning system.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open daily to visitors (admission is free), except on Friday morning, which is for worshipers only. But please note, they enforce strict dress code, especially for women. You will be required to wear traditional robe, which can be obtained free of charge from the mosque. Also, please note that, women are required to cover their head all the time and you cannot remove the cover even for single photograph…seriously…security guards are kept for keeping close watch.

23:15: Back to Airport

While returning to airport from the mosque, we asked our cab driver to take us to a restaurant where locals like to eat. He took us to a central street, filled with eateries and directed us towards one of his favorite and food served there was seriously authentic middle eastern.

We were already late and were nervous about making it to the airport in time for our 1:45 AM flight to New Delhi. But we actually reached before time, again due to efficient immigration control system implemented at the airport. You just need to do the Eye scan at the e-gates  and you will be inside the main terminal.

Camel is a symbol of Abu Dhabi — and you can find this one at Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal 3

Layover in Abu Dhabi was one of the most awesome days of my life! From ecstatic Yas Island experience via glitter of Emirates Place till mesmerizing beauty of Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque, the day was a roller coaster, filled with surprises and reminded me of how much life can be lived in a single day.

If time permits, consider turning your layover into an adventure of its own. It’s like booking two trips in one and you could be pleasantly surprised at how much joy you can experience in only a few hours.

Cheap Luxury of Côte d’Azur with French Riviera Pass

Cheap Luxury of Côte d’Azur with French Riviera Pass

I have always wanted to explore the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur), just thinking about it conjures up exotic images of blissful beaches and dazzling blue seas, Cannes Red Carpet, Monaco Grand Prix, Luxurious yachts, Casinos, Glitz and Glamour.

But Cote d’Azur has a reputation for being pricey, jam-packed in peak season and beyond the budget for many families or couples. I was under the impression that it is only for rich and luxurious people. But I was wrong, you don’t have to be a millionaire to visit French Riviera. With proper planning and French Riviera Pass you can have a blast and that too with in your budget.

When I started planning my French Riviera trip, I was looking for the best way to cover entire Côte d’Azur and then I came across French Riviera Pass. It provides free access to the most important sites in the Côte d’Azur and helps you make big savings on your holiday budget! So, I planned my 5 days trip to French Riviera around it and got best of French Riviera through the pass.

French Riviera pass is not restricted to a city but can be used across French Riviera and includes activities for tourist of all ages. It includes free entry in the museums, recreational activities like Casino, Segway, guided tours, day excursion trips and many more. You can get the complete list of activities here. Apart from leisure activities and see-sighting offers, it also offers discounts and reductions on various shopping outlets.

I purchased 3 days pass for €56 and it is valid for 72 hours from your first use. Pass is available for 24 and 48 hours as well, but will be of best use if purchased for 72 hours.

Pass can be booked online and can be collected later from the tourist information office in Nice and many other shopping outlets across Nice. These locations are easily accessible and are near to famous landmarks. You also have the option to get it shipped, but it has extra shipping cost.

You can also use transport option as an add-on to this card.

Below is the itinerary that I used with my card across French Riviera:

Day 1: Collected my card from Tourist office situated on Promenade des Anglais, next to Ruhl Casino. My plan for the day was to roam around the Nice and visit all the famous landmarks and I opted my activities accordingly

  • Petit Train, Nice: A 50 minutes guided tour in multiple languages. It covers The Flower Market, Massena Square, the Old Town, the Castle Hill, the Front de Mer seafront esplanade, the Bay of Angels, the Promenade des Anglais, Albert I Gardens.Actual cost €10, free with French Riviera pass.
Petit Train de Nice
  • Coastal Tour: Best way to Discover Nice is through the coastal route,from Cap de Nice to the Promenade des Anglais passing through the famed Villefranche bay, you will marvel at the dream surroundings, rich with splendid structures and magnificent villas. Actual cost €18, free with French Riviera pass, prior booking required.
Villefranche-sur-Mer view from the Cruise
  • Nice Le Grand Tour: I choose for evening Hop on Hop off double-Decker city bus tour. You can enjoy unique views from the upper deck with enough time to admire the exceptional monuments and landscapes of Nice. Actual cost €22, free with French Riviera pass for one day.

Day 2: We took a day trip to Monaco from Nice and guess what, your pass can be used in Monaco as well for multiple activities. But I did not stop with that, after coming back from Monaco we tried our luck at Ruhl Casino

  • Jardin Exotique de Monaco: Beautifully located on a rocky cliff overlooking the Sea, the garden has a remarkable panoramic view over the Principality of Monaco and offers an opportunity to discover nearly a thousand plant varieties, some of which are over a hundred years old. Actual cost €7, free with French Riviera pass for one day.
  • Oceanographic Museum, Monaco: Built up against the legendary rock of Monaco, this Temple of the Sea, with its aquariums, historic collections, shark lagoon and tortoise island on the panoramic terrace, offers visitors a unique experience. Actual cost €14, free with French Riviera pass
  • Ruhl Casino, Nice: You will get free Chips for playing and a glass of Champagne. Actual cost €12, free with French Riviera pass

Day 3: Pass even offers you a full day excursion either to Monaco, Cannes or Saint Tropez, so why not take the advantage and save even the travelling cost to any one of these destinations. Your tour will take around 8 hours and come back to Nice in evening so you will be having ample time to choose one more activity and I choose for the Segway tour

  • Nice Excursion Tour: Actual cost €48, free with French Riviera pass
  • Segway Tour: Stroll on the streets in Nice in style, Segway provides for a fun, unforgettable tour, a unique experience. Actual cost €17, free with French Riviera pass, needs prior booking.
Segway tour of Promenade des Anglais

Day 4: Advantage with 72-hour card is that it includes entry to Marine land, Antibes which is not available with 24 and 48-hour card. Have you noticed, I am able to use my card on 4th day as well? As on Day 1, I activated my card around 12:00 PM and on day 4, I visited Cathedral early morning and got entry in Marine land before 12:00 PM.

  • Marine land, Antibes: Get ready to be amazed  by killer-whales, dolphins, sea-lions, tunnel of sharks, the aquariums and the polar bears. Actual cost €39, free with French Riviera pass.
  • Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Nice: Free Guided tour of the Cathedral. Actual cost €10, free with French Riviera pass
Russian Orthodox Church, Nice

By using French Riviera card, I used €190 worth activities for just €56.

You can plan your activities according to your interests and can save big.

Let me know your experience with the pass. You are always welcome to inbox me any queries regarding the pass or planning you French Riviera Trip.

Alhambra: A must visit in Southern Spain

Alhambra: A must visit in Southern Spain

When I planned my trip to Southern Spain (Andalucía), Granada was not in my list. But only after visiting Alhambra in Granada I realized that it is a must visit destination.

Alhambra is epitome of Moorish architecture, a sprawling 14th century palace and fortress complex in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, trip to southern Spain would be incomplete without a visit to Alhambra.

The Alhambra was so-called because of its reddish walls, in Arabic Alhambra means Red Castle.

What make Alhambra great are its enchanting Garden full of beautiful flowers, sweet sound of water from the fountains, chirping birds everywhere, patios with beautiful walkways and mesmerizing city view from the Alhambra. It makes you feel like you are also a part of something royal.

Alhambra is divided in 4 sections: Nasrid Palaces, Alcazaba (Fortress and Former Military Quarters), Partal Gardens, Generalife Palace and Gardens (Garden of paradise) and you need at least 6 hours to visit entire Alhambra. I will advise to visit Generalife Palace and Gardens last as it is bit separated to other sections.

 

You should also visit The Charles V Palace, typical European style building, a sharp contrast to its Arab surroundings. You can also visit Alhambra museum which is a part of Charles V Palace.

If you want a full distant view of Alcazar then you need to go to Mirador San Nicolas, EL Albaicin which is located opposite to Alhambra. It is a picturesque square on an elevated hilltop boasting great sunset and Alhambra views.

It is very difficult to get tickets to the Alhambra as they have specific number of tickets sold per day. They have this limitation as only limited number of people can enter Nasrid place and some other places in Generalife Palace. Also they have time specific entry to Nasrid Palace and if you miss your slot then you will be denied entry.

Spanish websites for Alhambra are pretty messy and complex, so I will be writing a Guide to Alhambra Tickets following this post.

I love to explore cities on foot hence I will advise you to walk up to the Alhambra, this way, you will get to know the city better and will get to know about other city landmarks which are not that well-known but are worth visit. If walking is not suitable for you then bus is an option. Bus service runs from City Center (starts near Granada Cathedral) and it goes up to entrance of Alhambra and it cost €1.2 (May2017).