How to visit Abu Dhabi on a Budget
Where to stay
Abu Dhabi may be home to some of the most expensive and glamorous hotels in the world, but it also caters for budget travellers too. With clean, family-friendly accommodation that’s kind to your wallet as well, holidays to Abu Dhabi can be done without busting the bank. Book into hotels such as the Premier Inn and you’ll have all the amenities you expect at a price that’s easy on your pocket. The Premier Inn Capital Centre hotel is right in the heart of the commercial district, while the Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport hotel is just minutes from the Arrivals terminal, and the perfect spot if you’re on a short stop-over.
If you’re backpacking around the region then head to the Backpacker Abu Dhabi hostel. It’s in a great location just seven minutes from the beach, and right in the heart of the city close to restaurants, shops, and attractions. There are security lockers and all the facilities you need, and unlike many other hostels it doesn’t have a curfew.
Affordable public transport
The best way to get around Abu Dhabi on a budget is to use the city’s comprehensive bus routes. The fare system is relatively simple, with a set fare for rides within Abu Dhabi City, a slightly higher fare (around AED4) for a one-way ticket on a regional bus, or DAE80 for a monthly Ojra pass. Make sure that the bus stop you’re at has the DoT sign, otherwise you may be waiting for a bus that never turns up.
Abu Dhabi is quite compact, so you can easily find your way around on foot. Be aware, though, that daytime temperatures in the summer can get high so don’t go out walking in the hottest part of the day unless you’re used to the temperatures. Jaywalking is illegal, so always cross at pedestrian crossings.
You can also hire a bicycle, and it’s a popular way to explore Abu Dhabi’s 8km-long Corniche. The ADCB Bikeshare scheme has bike stations across the city (especially around the Corniche and city centre). It costs Dh20 for a day’s hire.
Where to Eat
You can eat well in Abu Dhabi without spending a fortune. With a huge variety of cuisine on offer, you can try local specialities or keep it simple with a burger and fries at a fast-food outlet. If you want to immerse yourself in the culture, though, look for falafel shacks selling hot snacks all day long, and Indian restaurants selling a great choice of budget-friendly food, including a wide choice of vegetarian options. If you have a sweet tooth then look out for the Lebanese bakeries, especially around the central Khalidiya, Al Zahiyah and Al Markaziyah districts. Grab a tasty Manakish (flatbread) for breakfast, and wash it down with some sweet mint tea or strong coffee.
What to do: free stuff and low-cost activities
There’s lots to do in Abu Dhabi for free or at prices that everyone can afford. From sightseeing to sports, souks to parks, here’s a quick look at the best free and low-cost things to do in Abu Dhabi.
Parks and gardens – Abu Dhabi may be known for its skyscrapers, but it’s an incredibly green city too. Look out for parks such as those next to the Corniche, which are free to enter and filled with flowers all year round. Khalifa park is the largest park in the city and charges a small entry fee. However, it’s well worth the price of admission as once inside you can wander around the aquarium, sit by the fountains, or check out the children’s play area. It’s a great spot for a picnic on a balmy evening, or an early morning jog.
The Heritage Village – a great chance to find out more about the history and culture of the region, the Heritage Village has displays of crafts and farming methods, as well as camel rides and events, music, and dance festivals. The Village is at the Breakwater near Marina Mall.
The Corniche – This 8km-long strip is an absolute delight in the early evening, when the cool sea breeze brings a little welcome relief from the heat of the day. Hire a bicycle and explore the gardens and souks, or head for the beach, which is free to use and has excellent facilities. The beach is popular with families, and the water is warm and shallow, perfect for a paddle.
Adventure sports – Abu Dhabi is a hotspot for adventure sports, from wake boarding and diving to game fishing, and go-karting. The go-kart track at Al Ain Sportplex will test your skills to the max, or you can slow things down a little and go sailing at one of the city’s many yachting and sailing clubs.