Saudi Arabia's royal decree allowing women to legally drive from Sunday June 24 means the UAE is now closer than ever for citizens of the Kingdom.
And there's no better time for the thousands of new drivers on the roads to take a trip to the emirates.
It's an approximately five-hour journey from the Saudi capital Riyadh to cross the border into Abu Dhabi via Route 10 and Route 90M.
If you live in the country's West, for example in Al Hofuf, it's even faster – with the drive to the UAE taking just over three hours. Plenty of time for a long weekend exploring the Emirates.
From there, the options are limitless. Whether it's the bright lights of Dubai or the lush greenery of Al Ain, the UAE is full of incredible destinations.
According to the UAE government, visitors driving into the country require an international driving licence, valid vehicle insurance, the correct exit permit from their country of origin and an entry permit which is available at the border.
Of course, you’ll also need a valid entry visa, but if you’re a citizen of a GCC country then you won’t need one.
It’s also worth remembering that cars here drive on the right-hand side of the road, with traffic signs available in both English and Arabic.
Here are some top things to see and the best places to eat across the emirates.
Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for astonishing marble architecture, crystal chandeliers and the world’s biggest hand-woven carpet, which weighs 47 tonnes.
Upmarket hotel Emirates Palace (www.emiratespalaceapp.ae, 02 690 9000) is one of the capital’s must-visit places. Saddle up on this wonderful hotel’s camels for a trot along the beach and make sure you drop into the luxurious resort’s traditional Bedouin-style tent for Arabian coffee and dates.
FOOD AND DINING
Head to our 2018 Restaurant of the Year Coya (www.coyarestaurant.com, 02 306 7000) for top-notch Peruvian cuisine that is vibrant; full of colour and consistently pings off the palate.
Also worth a visit is the winner of the Best Newcomer award, 99 Sushi Bar & Restaurant (www.99sushibar.com, 02 672 3333) for a super-stylish Japanese dining experience that’s atmospheric with an added touch of glamour.
If you fancy seafood then you’ll do well to head to Catch (www.catch.ae, 02 611 0909) where wonderful waterfront views are complemented by super-fresh fish.
If you’re more of a carnivore, then 1930s, Chicago-style steakhouse Butcher & Still (02 333 2700) can’t be topped.
If you’re going to start anywhere it might as well be at the tallest building in the world. The Burj Khalifa (www.burjkhalifa.ae) is the best place to get a bird’s eye view of the city and you can reach dizzying heights from the At The Top (www.tickets.atthetop.ae) observation decks on the 124th and 148th floors, or book a table at At.mosphere (www.atmosphereburjkhalifa.com, 04 888 3828) to enjoy a meal from the 122nd floor.
For a glimpse of old Dubai, head to Dubai Creek for a wander around the souks and an abra ride for just Dhs1. While you’re down that way you might as well pop your head into the Dubai Museum for a look back at the city’s humble beginnings, before taking it back to the modern day with a trip to The Dubai Mall (www.thedubaimall.com) and a marvel at The Dubai Fountain.
FOOD AND DINING
If you are a fan of Italian food then you must visit our 2018 Restaurant of the Year, Dubai, Il Borro Tuscan Bistro (www.ilborrotuscanbistro.ae, 04 275 2555). This classy Italian works with ingredients supplied by the original estate in Tuscany, and this is reflected in the taste and quality. Simple, yet delicious, it’s stunning in every way. A stone’s throw away at Jumeirah Al Naseem is Flamingo Room by tashas (www.ilborrotuscanbistro.ae, 04 244 7278). The winner of our Best Fine Dining Newcomer award has a stunning al fresco terrace overlooking the Turtle Lagoon. From the retro lobster vol au vent to the melt-in-the-mouth beef carpaccio, dishes are exquisite in both taste and presentation. If you’re after some good laid-back grub then try our Best Casual Dining Newcomer winner, BB Social Dining (www.thisisbb.com, 04 407 4444) in DIFC. The menu has innovative, fun dishes, such as edamame hummus and cauliflower popcorn. The desserts are awesome, too.
The Fujairah Fort outdates the formation of the UAE by centuries and has a colourful and proud history. Damaged in the early 20th century by British soldiers, it has since been restored to its former glory and the surrounding area turned into a heritage village that should sit high on your list of must-see sites. While Fujairah Fort rightly dominates photo albums, the neighbouring Fujairah Museum (09 222 9085) is worthy of exploration and Al Hayl Castle is another excellent attraction that’s worth the 15-minute drive.
FOOD AND DINING
For good food on a budget make your way to Sadaf (09 223 340) restaurant. The handy Iranian chain serves up huge portions of traditional Persian food, such as grilled meat platters and kebabs. It’s on the opposite side of the fish roundabout to the Hilton Fujairah hotel. If you fancya curry then Swaad (09 2449000) at Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort is worth a shout for spectacular Indian food.
There are plenty of museums (www.sharjahmuseums.ae) to quench your thirst for culture in Sharjah including Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah Heritage Museum and Sharjah Maritime Museum.
If you want to get at one with nature then you can take a turn around Sharjah Aquarium (06 528 5288) and Sharjah Desert Park (06 531 1999) where you can pet and feed goats, camels and ducks as well as ride camels.
Al Qasba (www.alqasba.ae) is also worth a visit where you can enjoy 60m ferris wheel, the Eye of the Emirates, a musical fountain, boat rides and cafés.
FOOD AND DINING
Head to Marasea (06 599 0088) for Asian fine-dining with a focus on seafood. The restaurant is located in the Sheraton Sharjah Beach Resort & Spa and is an atmospheric to way to spend an evening enjoying wonderful food in gorgeous ambiance.
Raju Omlet (06 535 1133) is a great choice for tasty Indian food if you’re on a budget for no-frills feasting.
RAS AL KHAIMAH & THE NORTHERN EMIRATES
Relax on one of the many white-sand beaches, climb the county’s tallest mountain Jebel Jais (www.jebeljais.ae) or take on the world’s longest zip line in Ras Al Kaimah. Thrill-seekers will travel at speeds of up to 150kph at a height of 1,680 metres above sea level after leaping from Jebel Jais mountain – head-first in superman-style. You must weigh between 45kg and 150kg and must be at least 120cm tall to have a go.
You can also visit Jazirat Al Hamra Fishing Village to try your luck at catching your supper, or Dhayah Fort is worth the climb for 360-degree views below of RAK and the Jebel Jais mountain range.
FOOD AND DINING
If you’re a fan of a good steak than Lexington Grill (07 203 5533) at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Kaimah should be top of your list. It’s not cheap, but the food is superb, and the setting isn’t too shabby either. UMI (07 203 5533), at the same hotel, serves up Japanese food in dimly lit surroundings.