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Big Bus Abu Dhabi - A Touristy Travel Across The City

Every traveler takes on a tourist hat at times and we too are struck by that streak at times!

Hopefully, the first line gave you the hint that this post is going to be as touristy as it can be. We had been in Abu Dhabi for over a month and had quite often seen two-storied, open roof bus plying on roads with groups of people seem to be having great fun in it. While we are more of that kind who like to immerse into the city and use public transport to travel around, this definitely intrigued us somehow and we decided to spend one of our weekend hopping across the city - truly like a tourist and experiencing something we saw others enjoying. This was how we started looking into the what, where and hows of the city bus tour in Abu Dhabi.

The Big Bus Arriving at First Stop
What and How to book?

As the research ensued, we realized that there were a couple of tour operators in the city which offered such a service but the most networked of them was the Big Bus Tours. They provide similar services across many cities in the world and hence we found them a tad more reliable than others. The Big Bus Tour is a hop-on-hop-off service which covers major tourist attractions of Abu Dhabi plying on a combination of two circuitous routes at a fixed time interval. The reviews online were decent and having seen their buses on the road we were inclined to take our chances with them.

Once we were settled in on the operator, the next thing was to finalize the best plan and get the tickets done. Big Bus in Abu Dhabi offers multiple options for tourist passes depending on the number of days you want to spend on their network. Generally the more the number of days, more are the freebies they offer to the buyers. We found the Deluxe Ticket - a 2-Day pass - to be the most valued-offer which allowed us unlimited travel on the two routes they have and allowed access to the Sky Tower and Observation Deck @ 300 (with a 50% of the access fee). We decided on the offer and checked the prices on their website. However, we being us - how could we have taken their price on the face value and spent some time trying to figure out the price at various third-party aggregators. We stumbled on a relatively new player which was offering some discounts for first-time users along with a reduced basic rate. In general, we would have been wary of such players but this one had good reviews on a couple of sites we trust and we booked our tickets online. In case you are not opting for a busy season - a weekend trip, you could also choose to pay while boarding the bus for the first time on the day of the trip. Alternatively, one could also book a trip at one of their kiosks - which are located in most of the shopping malls in the city.

To know more about the Big Bus Tour and its routes please visit - https://www.bigbustours.com/en/abu-dhabi/

Enjoy a ride - across the town!

How was the experience?

On the date of the trip, we decided to take the bus starting from the World Trade Center stop.  We found a representative available at the stop along with a few other tourists. The bus arrived on time and we started two days of fun-trip across this Emirati City. Over the two days, we were able to spend time evenly on both the routes. The trips did give us a chance to visit some of the spots which we would have not covered.

Here are some of the areas where we thought the tour adds value:

  • At Your Own Pace
    The Big Buses arrive at each stop every 10 minutes and one can choose to spend any amount of time at a stop and board the next bus (of course considering the end time of the service). This gives you a way to choose your pace and decide the amount of ground you would want to cover each day. Also, it allows you to visit the same spot again if you are inclined to do so.

  • Covers all the potential Tourist Spots
    Well, that is given but still, if you are in town only for a couple of days and want to go through all that there possibly is - may be obviously not doing justice to each of them - this is the perfect way to cover all spots. Their research in terms of places that a tourist may want to go seems through and hence you save that effort on yourself.

  • Live Commentary
    All seats on the buses have a headphone jack (headphones are offered complimentary) through which you have an access to a live commentary of the city of Abu Dhabi. Listen in to an entertaining and informative pre-recorded commentary during the tour. The commentary is definitely interesting and engaging, offering fascinating insights into Abu Dhabi's history, culture, architecture, and landmarks. The commentary is offered in 8 different languages. Don't worry if you lose your headphones - simply ask for one from the driver.

  • On-Time Service
    The buses are scheduled at every stop at an interval of 30 minutes and we found that the service was timely to most extent. We found the bus already waiting at the stop or arriving in time as we tried to hop on from across the city. There, of course, is the pressure from traffic during office hours and you may notice a few minutes of delay at times but that is all you are going to bear!

  • Top Notch Staff and Hospitality
    One thing that definitely they offer is the top-notch hospitality. All the drivers and attendants are courteous and helpful. They would do anything in their power to make your experience memorable. In their own words - "you've paid hell lot of money for this experience - you may as well get some value."  They provide complimentary water bottles and wifi on board – so you are hydrated and connected!
Free Wifi on Board

What's not so good about the tour?

However, there is certain education that you need to equip yourself with. They marginally misrepresent facts and to some extent showcase things that aren't. Also, to some extent, there are things which aren’t their fault but you may not get value for the money you spend. Things to consider include:
  • Limited points of interest
    There aren't many places to visit as such in Abu Dhabi. The only worthwhile place to visit as a tourist point of interest in the entire tour is the Grand Mosque and Marina mall area. A Yas Island tour is included however if you are not planning to go to the Ferrari World or the Yas Waterworld, the tour ends up being a journey on the bus. You would anyway not take a bus in case you are planning a visit to these as you don’t want to waste your ticket time on bus roaming around the city before reaching there. Most other places on the itinerary are exhibition centers, malls or hotels.

  • Misrepresentation or Lack of information

    1. They advertise a free access to the Marina Sky Tower – only they forget to mention that it is closed for renovation. This you only come to know when you are at Marina Mall asking for the way to the tower! And it is then you realize that the top of Sky Tower anyway is a cafe with free access.

    2. With a Deluxe Ticket, they advertise a half-price entry to the Observation Deck at 300 (Etihad Towers) which is right away lying. The normal entry ticket to the deck is AED 85 which includes a food coupon worth AED 50 (effectively a 35 bucks ticket). Now what Big Bus ticket gives you is an entry to the deck for AED 50 with no food coupons. So you are basically paying 50 bucks for something that a normal ticket charges 35 (85-Food Coupon).

  • Identification of Bus StopsWhile on some of the stops, there are representatives or kiosks, other stops clearly are devoid of any markings in terms of where the bus would stop. Many spots cover large areas and we found tourists scouting for the potential bus stop - especially if you are going to board the bus for the first time from the spot. I would say that it would have been handy if they offered an app based navigation to guide tourists. Learn from the city's transportation department - their app rocks!

In all a good way to go around the city if you have time to kill and are alone. For any group more than one and interested in the most iconic city places, a taxi may marginally come to the same cost and save you a great time!

Do let us know what you think about the article and if you have any experiences on the Big Bus or similar tours. Let's compare notes :)

One pose is deserved - isn't it?
For more articles from our stay in the country,

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