This is the first time in 3 years that I have taken holiday over Christmas; as I don’t celebrate it, it doesn’t have the same special significance, so I have often worked through it and taken advantage of the fact that it’s quiet at work. This year, I have been forced to take some days off or lose them (work policy), so I faced the prospect of almost 2 weeks at home – nice but probably dull and most likely ossifying. I had told myself that I wasn’t going to go anywhere, I’ve spent too much on holidays and shopping anyway, but found myself idly browsing for flights on Christmas Day, said to be one if the cheapest days to fly, even for last minute flights. An idle search became a focused one as I thought the Middle East would be ideal for a quick sojourn, flights and accommodation allowing. Initially, I was thinking Dubai, but something inside me wasn’t enthused (I’ve been twice before), and the flights were also becoming more expensive every hour (I HATE it when that happens; I’m convinced that airline websites use information in cookies to detect the flights you’re interested in and then incrementally increase the price). It was 23rd December, and all of a sudden I thought of checking flights to Abu Dhabi – I’ve always wanted to visit, and it ticks all the Dubai boxes, too (good weather, good cuisine, things to do), plus the most important thing: it’s a new place. When I found a flight with Etihad for £525 return, my gut said book it. I did. I was going away, yay!
Two things I learned during this last-minute holiday planning process:
1) Flights really are cheaper on Christmas Day, even on Christmas Eve. I suspect this is particularly true for destinations which are not Christian countries, and so there isn’t a lot of traffic of people coming and going to see family etc? Don’t know, just speculating. In any case, I was surprised to find this cheap flight, and 2 days before I wanted to fly!
2) One thing I have to grit my teeth and bear is that being a solo traveller is more expensive than travelling as a couple or group. That is most true of accommodation, and is a big consideration for me when I plan my trips. It has also been one of the reasons I haven’t thought of travelling to the UAE alone before. Dubai is known for how dear it is, and I have always thought that travelling solo there would be prohibitively expensive. My recent search proved me wrong. If you are willing to dispense with being near a beach and go for a city hotel instead, then there are affordable options out there. As a general rule, anything less than £50 a night is a good deal, and I would expect something decent for that (I don’t do motels unless I absolutely have to, and say an unwavering no to shared dorm rooms, bathrooms etc). I found a hotel in Dubai with good reviews on Tripadvisor for approx £56 a night (with taxes included, I think: in the UAE they charge 10% hotel tax and 6% tourism tax to the rate), including New Year’s Eve! Abu Dhabi hotels are generally cheaper, and some of the best rated ones (like the Crystal Salaam hotels, there are two in Abu Dhabi) are about £55 a night. I was lucky to find a good deal for the Millennium Hotel on Khalifa Street for less than £50 a night! My trip for 5 nights was booked within 3 hours of researching 🙂
I’ve actually just landed back at Heathrow after an amazing 6 days in Abu Dhabi, plus a day trip to Dubai. I’ve been keeping notes, so I’m going to organise and post them as soon as possible. One thing I have to say straightaway, though: The UAE defied all my expectations and has proved to be one of the best places for a single female to travel! More to come…
(Photo is the view from the plane as I was arriving in Abu Dhabi early in the morning)