Manila to Abu Dhabi to Dubai - Flight, Land Arrangement and Hotel near Dubai Mall!

I haven't thought of going to UAE (United Arab Emirates) this soon. Thanks to suggestion and arrangement made by our trusted Meteor Philippines in Manila, my long trip to Turkey was extended to a few days in Dubai and Abu Dhabi without adding any cost to airfare. This particular land operator's specialty is for wholesale and retail Mediterranean and European trips from Manila. They can do land arrangement to Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and extended services to UAE and Europe. Their Holyland Tour came highly recommended.

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This arrangement was made possible because of the Turkey flight of Etihad Airways - which had a layover route of Manila - Abu Dhabi - Istanbul - Abu Dhabi - Manila. They connect to around 55 countries all over the world so you can also do this Abu Dhabi/Dubai trip if you're going to other places via Etihad. A few of us were going to stay in UAE, get to Dubai and back to Abu Dhabi via car and just meet the others in a few days on the same flight to Istanbul. We secured a UAE visa that we can use for both Dubai and Abu Dhabi easily using Meteor Travel (faster if you have a valid US visa).

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One very good thing we did was online Etihad check-in! We breezed through the long regular economy check-in at NAIA 1 to go to the empty (as in zero!) online check-in counter to drop our bags after the visa check. It only took a few clicks and printing time at the comforts of our home to save all that time lining upIt was my first time to use the long-haul service of this airline.

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Their Coral Economy class had the basic amenities for a good night's sleep. We all got the window seat so we didn't know our seatmate.. Most of the passengers were OFWs to the Middle East.

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Each seat has a pillow, a pair of branded noise-cancelling headphones, a blanket and a sleeping kit (which contained a reversible eyemask with an ingenious design, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks and ear plugs).

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I was impressed with the entertainment system and movie selections (it kept me awake actually haha). I created my very own nook using the window wall and blocked everything off. Not a lot of planes have a huge collection and we had our own screens so I gladly let go of some of my sleep time hihi :) I had a hard time choosing from their list but I was able to narrow it down to a compromise - watch 2 full movies and a half for this flight and finished where I left off and add another 2 for the flight home. =D

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One movie down and my pillow was already calling me. They had this smart tear-and-pull pillow sheet, which ensures that you get a new one every time.

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When I don't get enough sleep, my stomach compensates by growling for food. In those wee hours, a flight attendant passed by with a cart of cup noodles for us zombies! I requested for some cold milk too and he went out of his way to get me some hehe. I read you can also get cappuccino, hot chocolate, filter coffee, green tea and the like. ;)

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Armrest-hogger seatmate aside, I had a very pleasant experience from Manila to Etihad's hub at the Abu Dhabi International Airport. It would do me good to request for an aisle seat next time because I want to stretch my legs and go to the restroom without waking people up during an 8-hour flight! We got to an impressive-looking but full waiting hall (first picture above, this was the same area where we will meet the others for the Istanbul flight) and proceeded to Passport Control-Arrivals (just follow the signs).

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We made our way to the exit after a long walk. The airport was really big so it took a lot of time to go out.

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We arrived at sunrise and it was one of the most beautiful (and liveliest) colors in the sky that I've seen. I was already looking forward to sunsets here and I've only just arrived. FYI, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are 4 hours behind Manila at GMT+4.

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A van from Meteor's partner local agency picked us up from the Abu Dhabi airport.

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We were going to spend more days in Dubai then our last one in Abu Dhabi for this trip. I would probably arrange for an airport transfer again (by car around 1.5 hours, 30 minutes by plane). Flying to Dubai straight or Etihad's complimentary express coach services (at Abu Dhabi International Airport, to and from Dubai and Al Ain) are other options next time but this won't get you to the hotel in one go unlike the airport transfer =)

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We had an early flight so we were looking for some places to exchange our money. The driver and greeter took us to a restroom stop with a changer (sadly it was still closed, FOREX available in Dubai Mall below), a big convenience store and Costa Coffee (good thing they accept credit cards! Haha).

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Costa Coffee is a coffee shop chain from the UK. I saw a lot in Beijing too! My sis says it's good. I got the strawberry tart for breakfast.

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We got to the Radisson Blu Downtown Dubai Hotel (there are 5 Radisson Blus in Dubai, this one is in the Downtown area with the 5-star hotels) in no time. The hotel location and the rooms are not bad. One suggestion would be is to approach a Pinay in the front desk. They are much more approachable and efficient in my opinion. Do not miss the yummy breakfast - I loved their selection here better than Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi near Ferrari World.

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We stayed in a business suite and just arranged for 3 people in the room. It was spacious and the amenities were okay.

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Our room had a view and there was construction going on around the whole area. It's a good idea to bring ear plugs if you're a light sleeper like me :)

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This hotel has a shuttle to Dubai Mall (around 15-minute walk for me beside the highway). They were kind enough to arrange a limousine for us since we missed it hehe.

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The driver dropped us off to a good location :)

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I came face-to-face with the unobstructed view of the majestic Burj Khalifa (the tallest man-made and free-standing structure in the world at 829.8m and other world records) prematurely haha.

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The Dubai Mall was huge! I could understand, after going here almost every day for some reason, as to why they say Dubai is a great malling place... even if for some it's only for window shopping ;) It is the "world's largest shopping, leisure and entertainment destination." Everything here in Dubai is the breaking world records of some sorts - the fastest, the biggest, the tallest and many more

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We also exchanged USD to AED (Emirati Dirham), unofficially abbreviated into DHS (dirhams), here. For Dubai, we learned that they have a fixed rate everywhere and they add the service fee per transaction (like 2 DHS) only so it's better to pool your money and exchange once if you're a group :) We didn't need as much though since almost everything was included in the Meteor tour rate already. We only used around 100USD to 300USD for some extra meals and shopping money. Dubai Mall has over 1200 shops in total,

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restaurants, 

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big stores like Hamley's,

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spacious common areas,

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indoor theme parks...,

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an ice skating rink,

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a chocolate world (there's another big candy store near the aquarium)

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and numerous food stalls all in one mall!

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We decided to get Indian food from Shamiana and lamb chops from Persian restaurant Noon O Kabab for our first meal at the food court. We were greeted by fellow Pinoys (they call them kabayans here) EVERYWHERE. The place was grand but we didn't feel lost and unwelcomed because of their presence. :)

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We were scheduled for a late afternoon Desert Safari Tour so we had to get back to the hotel. We were told to just look for the Cartier store to find the transportation area for the hotel shuttles and buses. 

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That's our hotel (below) on the right side of the picture.

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Sadly, our hotel shuttle wasn't a Mercedes (in this side of the world, a Chedeng or luxury car is the norm) and has no designated stop and clear sign. We were able to catch it when it quickly passed by.

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This was just half a day of our very first impromptu trip to UAE. All arrangements like our visas, plane tickets, easy airport transfer and hotel above (up to our activities - will post next) were done by Meteor Philippines from Manila.

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More surprises to come in the following posts :)

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