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The Ultimate Guide to Experiencing Abu Dhabi's F1 Grand Prix and Beyond

Bubbly Tourist has seen Formula 1's Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi now in back to back years and is glad to share our learnings and tips with you. As in all things Emirati, the Grand Prix is full of glitz and glamour. Abu Dhabi may not have the image or worldwide awareness of its next door neighbor, Dubai, but it still has the wealth. After all, it is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and with that comes certain luxuries. The F1 Grand Prix attracts the big yachts, the supercars and the stars. It's an attraction in the middle of the desert on Abu Dhabi's YAS Island. It does not disappoint. Read our ultimate guide to find out what to know and how to best experience the F1 Grand Prix, what to do on YAS Island, and what else to do while visiting the friendly city of Abu Dhabi.

Sunset over Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 Grand Prix; Bubbly Tourist; Ultimate Guide; places to see; things to do
Sunset view over Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 Grand Prix from the Main Grandstand

What to know about Abu Dhabi's F1 Grand Prix

1. Getting to the Grand Prix and Parking

The F1 Grand Prix location in Abu Dhabi is always on YAS Island. It is a permanent track that resides year long. It's 30 minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi and only 15 minutes from the airport. It's convenient to get to. You can drive to it and park on the island or use a car service to drop you off. We parked for free on race day at the underground parking structure just down the road from the Yas Island Hilton so that we could surface within the Hilton. From there, we were able to take the shuttle bus located out front of the Hilton directly to any gate. We also used a car service (Uber) on other days to drive us in and pick us up. Pickup can be a little bit of a wait though with all the visitors doing the same thing.

2. Getting Around YAS Island

There is a shuttle bus service that is offered for free around the track. As mentioned above, we picked up the shuttle bus at the Hilton and then took it to our gate. There are numerous buses so the wait is never more than a few minutes. Look on your ticket to see which gate you need to be dropped off near. There are only a few shuttle bus stops, so chances are you'll need to walk 5 - 10 minutes to your gate as there are only a handful of entry points where you go through security to enter the race grounds.

3. What can I bring into the Race Grounds?

You can bring purses into the Race grounds and they aren't limited in size or need to be clear or see-through. You can even bring backpacks in. Of course, you'll need to go through security and your bags will be checked by security personnel, but the checks aren't nearly as stringent as airport security checkpoints. No liquids are allowed in.

4. Are there food and refreshments available at the course?

There are plenty of food and drink options on the grounds once you go through security. The vendors are setup between security and before you enter the stands to see the race. There's an average selection of food vendors. And although not advertised, there are vendors selling alcohol - be it wine, beer or spirits. Even bubbly!

5. What's the Temperature Like in Abu Dhabi at this time of year?

November and December in Abu Dhabi are absolutely perfect. Gone are the scalding and humid days of summer. The temperature is still warm but not too hot. And race day and the qualifying rounds start at 5pm which means you're not sitting outside in the heat of the day. You'll likely be treated to a beautiful sunset too.

6. How should I dress?

The official dress code policy of the YAS circuit is "wear comfortable wearing, loose-fitting clothes that cover your shoulders, arms and legs". However, most anything goes. Shorts and t-shirts are certainly acceptable for both women and men. You can certainly dress up from that as there are plenty of people that do. However, you shouldn't dress down from there. In other words, don't wear tank tops and flip flops. We even saw short shorts and cleavage.

Bubbly Tourist; Champagne;  Ultimate Guide to F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi
Bubbly Tourist casually dressed about to order some bubbly at the Hilton

7. Can I buy merchandise?

There is plenty of F1 merchandise inside the race grounds. There are general stores and team stores where you can buy caps, jerseys, shirts and whatnot. You can also buy YAS Marina circuit clothes and souvenirs. Bubbly Tip: It's overpriced at the race course (e.g., $75 USD for a cap), so if you want merchandise, we recommend buying on Amazon or elsewhere before you go.

8. Where are the best seats for the race?

Bubbly Tourist recommends both the Main Grandstand and the North Grandstand. The Main Grandstand seats have a view of the race start and finish line as well as the pit row and team garages. It's fun to see the action in pit row and in the garages. While on the course, the cars whip by pretty quickly though. You can go inside for air conditioning and food too, but the prices are expensive. The North Grandstand has a view of Turn 7 which is a hairpin turn that provides excellent views of cars decelerating and accelerating out of the turn. The North Grandstand is also right next to Etihad Park, the after hours music venue. So take your pick based on either depending on your needs.

Bubbly Tourist Ultimate Guide to F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi; Main Grandstand; things to do; places to see
View from the Main Grandstand of the F1 Garages

9. What are Paddock Club Tickets?

If you're interested in a luxury experience, the Paddock Club gets you the VIP access you're looking for: front row seats in each of the Grandstands, daily Pit Lane Walks, curated food menus and open bars, 'backstage' access to the Paddock where you can meet drivers, and access to the podium celebration after the race. It's very expensive, but may be exactly what you're looking for. Full disclosure: Bubbly Tourist did not have Paddock Club tickets.

10. Can I do a Pit Lane walk?

Yes, the three day passes include a pit lane walk. Be aware though that while Paddock Club tickets offer pit daily walks on each day, the non-Paddock Club tickets only offers only one Pit Lane walk and it's on Thursday afternoon. Plan accordingly!

What to do on YAS Island before or after race events

1. Featured performers after the race events - Etihad Park

Starting Thursday evening and including Sunday evening there will be a featured musician / band playing on the race grounds at Etihad Park. Etihad Park is located just north of the North Grandstands. You don't need to exit the race course to gain access to Etihad Park. But you must have a wristband to see the performers. If you didn't get a wristband when entering the race grounds, find one of the Ask Yas workers who can direct you appropriately how to get your wristband. The evening headliner will start at 9pm.

YAS Circuit Course on YAS Island; Bubbly Tourist ultimate guide to F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi
Head to Etihad Park to see the concerts each evening

2. Take in the Glitz and Glamour and party at YAS Marina

Whether it's for dinner, drinks, or partying, YAS Marina has plenty to offer. It can be glitzy as people are dressed nicely and the ladies can be seen in nice dresses at times with sequins while the men are not quite formal but smartly casual. And the marina is rocking. There are parties going on the yachts in the marina makes for an interesting foreground to the racetrack which borders the marina. Go to Ishtar at Yas Marina if you want to see plenty wealth displayed in the supercars parked out front. Bubbly Tip: You cannot walk from within the raceground to the marina, and you'll need to go through a separate security checkpoint to get to YAS Marina.  

Supercars outside the yacht parties in YAS Marina at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; Bubbly Tourist Ultimate Guide to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; Places to see; things to do
Supercars outside the yacht parties in YAS Marina

3. Grab a bite to eat at YAS Marina

There are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from if you want to take in a meal before or after the race events. The food is good but not cheap as one might expect with a captive audience. Bubbly Tip: You cannot walk from within the raceground to the marina, and you'll need to go through a separate security checkpoint to get to YAS Marina.  

YAS Marina restaurant; Bubbly Tourist Ultimate guide to F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi;
Have a bite to eat and something to drink while taking in YAS Marina and the racetrack behind it

4. Race Day Fireworks

Right as the winner crosses the finish line on race Sunday, the fireworks begin. It's a pretty spectacular sight that can be seen no matter where your seats are. If you're not in the race course when the race ends, you can still see the fireworks from YAS Marina or the hotels on YAS Island. From within the race grounds, it is pretty cool to see the race winner taking his victory lap as you see the magnificent display of fireworks overhead.

Max Verstappen's Victory Lap under the Fireworks; Bubbly Tourist's ultimate guide to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; Max Verstappen victory lap; YAS Island; p.aces to see; things to do
Max Verstappen's Victory Lap under the Fireworks

5. Aerobatic air shows and flyovers

These are fun and a must-do while at the Grand Prix. The aerobatic air show takes place Friday afternoon and you'll see a spectacular display of color as the UAE's aerobatic team, Al Fursan, do their aerobatic maneuvers from high in the sky to just above the race course. And 15 minutes before the race start on Sunday, you'll see the flyover, led by one of Etihad Airways (Grand Prix sponsor) commercial jets and flanked by team Al Fursan, as it crosses over the starting grid.

Bubbly Tourist Ultimate Guide to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; YAS Island; Things to do; places to see
Aerial Show at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix time trials

6. Go to the Golf Course on YAS Island at Yas Links Golf Club

The Yas Links Golf Club is an off-the-beaten-path option which few consider as a race destination regardless of the fact that it's the UAE's best golf course. If you're looking for a chill environment to have a bite to eat and/or a drink, look no further. It's almost directly across from the North Grandstand and only a few minutes walk from the race course. It does not require a membership, so you can walk straight through the front lobby into the indoor restaurant / bar or grab a seat on the back veranda overlooking the water and across YAS Island. It's comfortable and relaxing and highly recommended. You can also use it as a reprise after the day's events while you wait for the music headliner to begin.

YAS Island Golf Links; Bubbly Tourist Ultimate Guide to Grand Prix; YAS Island; Things to do; places to see
Golf and/or take in a view of the city from the YAS Island Golf Links

7. Take in one of YAS Island's amusement parks or shop at YAS Mall

Ferrari World, SeaWorld, Warner Bros World, and YAS Waterworld are four options for enjoying your time on YAS Island. Ferrari World headlines the Formula Rossa rollercoaster that blasts you out of the building and accelerates you to 240km/h in 4.9 seconds. SeaWorld is home to over 35 interactive experiences and rides, live characters and performances. Warner Bros World includes 30 action-packed rides, family-friendly experiences and world-class entertainment that are all in a climate-controlled setting. YAS Waterworld offers 45 water rides, slides and attractions. Yas Mall is home to over 370 international brands, 68 food & beverage outlets and a range of entertainment destinations which includes a 24 Screen Vox Cinemas, and the family-entertainment venue Fun Works.

8. Chill at one of YAS Island's Hotels

The W Hotel is right in the center of all the race action. In fact, it has views into the racetrack and some of the F1 drivers have even stayed there. There is no closer hotel to all the race action than the W. But there are plenty of other beautiful hotels on YAS Island too. If you're interested in just chilling, then one popular activity is to just relax poolside.

F1 YAS Circuit course from YAS Marina; Bubbly Tourist ultimate guide to F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi
View of the W Hotel (in blue) and grandstand seats (in red) from YAS Marina

Other Must See Places in Abu Dhabi

Bubbly Tourist Bon Voyage!


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