A desert safari is one of the most popular activities for visitors to experience in Abu Dhabi. Driving over towering sand dunes in a 4×4 vehicle and enjoying traditional Emirati hospitality makes for an unforgettable experience. With many tour operators offering desert safari packages, prices can vary. This guide provides an overview of desert safari options and average prices to help you plan your Abu Dhabi itinerary.
The desert surrounding Abu Dhabi provides a majestic landscape of vast sand dunes known as the Empty Quarter. Safaris to the desert offer a glimpse into traditional Emirati culture with camel rides, sandboarding, falconry displays, henna tattoos, and Arabic cuisine.
Popular highlights of Abu Dhabi desert safaris include:
- Dune bashing – An exhilarating drive over sand dunes in a 4×4 vehicle with an experienced driver
- Camel riding – A chance to ride camels and appreciate their importance in Emirati culture
- Sandboarding – Sliding down enormous sand dunes on a board
- Sunset views – Watching the sunset over the dunes creates an incredible ambience
- Stargazing – The lack of light pollution provides amazing views of the clear night sky
- Arabic cuisine – Smoked shisha pipes, Arabic coffee, dates, homemade hummus and more
- Entertainment – Live performances of traditional music and belly dancing
- Henna tattoos – Intricate henna designs applied to hands and feet
- Falconry – Interacting with majestic falcons and learning about this tradition
- Luxury camps – Lavish Arabic-style camps with comfortable seating, shisha and food
Desert safaris offer a cultural immersion and the chance to experience Abu Dhabi’s natural beauty first-hand. Prices vary based on the duration and specifics of each tour.
Average Prices of Desert Safaris in Abu Dhabi
Several factors affect desert safari prices in Abu Dhabi:
- Duration – Half-day, full-day or overnight tours are available. Longer tours with more inclusions are more expensive.
- Group size – Prices are usually cheaper per person for large groups due to economy of scale. Private safaris for solo or couple travellers have a premium price.
- Luxury options – Multi-day tours with luxury camps, entertainment and gourmet cuisine have premium pricing. Budget options skip extras like entertainment.
- Tour operator – Reputable, licensed operators may be slightly pricier than budget providers. Check reviews carefully when choosing a provider.
- Season – Peak winter season from November to March sees higher prices overall. Summer tour prices are usually discounted.
- Inclusions – More inclusions like soft drinks, hotel transfers, meals etc can increase the overall price. Check exactly what is included before booking.
As a general guide, most travelers can expect to pay the following for Abu Dhabi desert safari experiences:
- Budget half-day tours: AED 150-300 per person
- Standard full-day tours: AED 300-500 per person
- Overnight safaris: AED 500-800 per person
- Luxury VIP tours: AED 800+ per person
Family rates are usually available with discounts for children under 12 years old. Solo travelers and couples may pay a premium rate but can still find shared group tours at reasonable prices in the AED 200-400 range.
Always check if hotel transfers are included or if an additional fee applies. Some desert camps and hotels have in-house safari tour providers with special packages for guests.
It’s recommended to compare prices and reviews across reputable tour providers like Arabian Nights Desert Safari, Rayna Tours, Alpha Tours, Sandland Tourism, Desert Safari Tour Company and others. Reputable providers emphasize safety and will use well-maintained 4×4 vehicles with professional drivers.
What to Expect from an Abu Dhabi Desert Safari Tour
Desert safari tours in Abu Dhabi typically include hotel pickup and drop-off either by bus or 4×4 vehicle. Tours then drive out to the desert located around a 40-60 minute drive from Abu Dhabi. Professional drivers expertly manoeuvre the 4×4 vehicles over the dunes which is thrilling yet remarkably smooth.
Camel riding, sandboarding and quad biking provide hands-on desert experiences. Sunset photo stops showcase the incredible scenery. The tours then continue on to a traditional desert camp with low seating, pillows and rugs, offering Arabic hospitality.
A typical itinerary includes:
- Dune bashing thrill ride
- Camel riding opportunities
- Sandboarding down dunes
- Henna tattoo artists
- Sunset photo shoot
- Arabic buffet dinner and drinks
- Shisha smoking options
- Live entertainment like dancing and music
- Stargazing in the clear night skies
- Camel farm visit
- Falconry display
- Souvenir shop access
Quality and specifics can vary so check full itineraries before booking. Some tours offer add-ons like quad biking or private falconry encounters for an extra fee. Photographers can request stops at picturesque spots. Overnight camping under the stars in luxury tents creates a magical memory.
Desert safaris provide an authentic Emirati cultural experience suitable for all ages from young children to seniors. The tours seamlessly blend adventure, natural beauty, heritage and hospitality.
Booking Your Abu Dhabi Desert Safari
Follow these tips for choosing and booking a great value desert safari in Abu Dhabi:
- Compare itineraries and prices – Check different tour providers’ offers for inclusions, group sizes etc.
- Read reviews – Look for consistently excellent reviews mentioning safety, quality vehicles, professional drivers and friendly service.
- Book in advance – Reserve your place at least 2-4 weeks ahead to get the best price and availability.
- Understand cancellations – Many operators have strict cancellation policies or fees. Read the terms before booking.
- Confirm hotel transfers – Check if return hotel transfers are included or arrange your own pickup/drop-off.
- Bring essentials – Pack closed walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera etc to fully enjoy the desert.
- Dress code – Modest attire covering shoulders/knees is appropriate for visits to camel farm and camps.
Booking your desert safari through a reputable tour operator ensures a smooth, enjoyable experience showcasing the highlights of Abu Dhabi. With an average price of AED 300 per person, a desert safari is great value for an unforgettable Abu Dhabi travel experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Which company offers the best desert safari in Abu Dhabi?
Some top-rated desert safari operators in Abu Dhabi include Arabian Nights Desert Safari, Alpha Tours, Rayna Tours and Desert Safari Tour Company. Comparing itineraries and reviews can help identify the best fit for your group.
- How long do desert safari tours take?
Typical durations are 4-6 hours for evening half-day tours and 6-8 hours for full-day trips. Multi-day overnight camping safaris are also available. Half-day tours generally offer the main highlights.
- Is desert safari suitable for kids?
Yes, most desert safaris cater well for children with family-friendly activities like camel rides. But some fast-paced dune bashing may be too intense for very young kids. Always check age policies.
- What is the best time to go on desert safari?
Sunset tours timed for optimal desert views at dusk are most popular. Morning/daytime desert safaris are great in summer to avoid the intense midday heat. Overnight safari camps are magical during the cooler winter months.
- What should I wear and bring?
Wear casual clothes, closed shoes appropriate for walking on sand, a sweater/jacket and scarf if going near dusk. Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, motion sickness tablets if dune bashing may affect you.
- Will I be safe dune bashing and riding camels?
Reputable operators emphasize safety with good vehicles, protective headgear if quad biking, and well-treated camels supervised by experienced guides. Seatbelts must be worn dune bashing.
- Can pregnant women go on desert safaris?
High-adrenaline dune bashing and quad biking would not be recommended. But expectant mothers can still enjoy camels rides and culture at a gentler pace. Check with your doctor.
- Is desert safari suitable for seniors?
Many senior travellers enjoy desert safaris focused on cultural immersion more than adrenaline activities. Camel rides and camp hospitality are accessible if mobility is reasonable.
- Are desert safaris wheelchair accessible?
Special needs accessible desert safaris are limited. Some operators like Alpha Tours offer select wheelchair-friendly vehicles and assistance if booked privately in advance.
- Can I eat pork or drink alcohol on the safari?
Out of respect for cultural considerations, pork and alcohol are not included in camps catering halal cuisine. But some may allow discreet alcohol consumption upon request.
- Will I really see falcons and shooting stars?
These traditional highlights totally depend on timing. Stargazing success varies with moon phases. Falcons may not always be present. Manage expectations that not every iconic inclusion is guaranteed.
- Do I need a tour or can I drive into the desert alone?
Due to safety risks like getting stuck in soft sand, you need an official safari tour operator to access open desert areas. Solo driving is prohibited. Guided tours provide expertise navigating the dunes.
- Are desert camps open year-round?
Most permanent camps operate all year but some seasonal camps only run during peak visitor season from November to March. Summer months have fewer tour options but lower prices.
- Can I wear shorts or sleeveless tops?
Modest knee-length shorts or pants are fine but avoid anything too short or revealing. Out of cultural respect, shoulders should be covered in rural areas. Lightweight clothing is ideal.
A desert safari through the iconic sand dunes surrounding Abu Dhabi offers an engaging perspective into Emirati heritage and hospitality. Prices for most travellers fall in the reasonable range of AED 150-500 per person for a half or full day tour. Comparing desert camp packages and reading recent reviews helps identify a quality tour operator matching your priorities, budget and group needs. With epic dune bashing, camel encounters, delicious Arabic cuisine and stargazing, a desert safari often ranks as a highlight of any Abu Dhabi vacation.