UAE Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Abu Dhabi on a Budget

Compared to the neighboring city of Dubai in the UAE, the capital city Abu Dhabi seems to be underrated despite the fact that it's the hub for Etihad Airways. The latter makes it one of the best places for layover in the Middle East for international travelers.

In the international pop culture, the most popular exposure of Abu Dhabi is probably when it's used as the setting of one of the “Sex and the City” movies.

While the movie portrays the lavish traveling lifestyle there, traveling to Abu Dhabi doesn't have to be expensive, as there are still plenty of things you can do in Abu Dhabi on a budget. 

Keri from Family Travel in the Middle East is going to share some tips for traveling to Abu Dhabi without breaking the bank, which you can use for resources whether you're planning to travel extensively around the UAE or just there for a stopover when flying with one of the UAE airlines

Whether you plan to do a day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi or prefer staying for a few nights in the capital city, here's everything you need to know about traveling to Abu Dhabi on a budget!

The Ultimate Tips for Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Abu Dhabi, UAE

The UAE dirham is fixed to the US Dollar at an exact rate if 3.67, so – give or take your exchange commission – you should end up with 36AED to spend.

Small change isn't common, most things are rounded to the nearest dirham but with the introduction of 5% VAT you now find somethings a little oddly priced.  You may also need to use a 50 fil coin (half a dirham) or 25 fils (a quarter of a dirham).

So, in a city with a glamorous reputation, how far will your $10 go?

Landmarks in Abu Dhabi

The most visited attraction, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque including abaya/kandura hire has no entry charge. Don’t miss heading over the road to the war memorial Wahat al Karama as well, see this beautiful tribute and commanding mosque views.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – Credit: Family Travel in the Middle East

Many of the cities other great buildings can be seen and photographed driving by at no cost – like Emirates Palace or Etihad Towers.

Outdoor Activities in Abu Dhabi

When it comes to parks and outdoor time, there are loads of free options – the popular Corniche beach front which includes new entertainment zone A’l Bahar, free to walk around and a big line up of evening entertainment.

There are also free public beaches at al Bateen Beach, parts of Saadiyat Beach and the newly opened al Hudayriat Island. For marina views, stroll around Marba, al Bateen, or stroll along the Grand Canal front Bab al Bahr from the Fairmont to the Shangri-la for great Mosque views and the perfect sunset spot.

Abu Dhabi Corniche – Credit: Family Travel in the Middle East

Visit the Heritage Village, near the Marina Mall for a taste of what Bedouin life was like. You’ll find a display here of traditional housing, handicrafts and an opportunity to see falconry and speak with Emirati volunteers about their culture.

If you are staying out on Yas Island, there's a free shuttle to take you between attractions (You won’t get far without packing your dirhams for a marina cruise, or visiting the theme park trio Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, and Warner Bros World). Alternatively, you can also purchase the multi-park entry ticket to Yas Island here.

The good news? You CAN experience the Yas Marina Grand Prix track without charge. On a Sunday and Tuesday night fitness fanatics can walk, run or ride the track, just register if you're a one-off visitor. Early comers can also hire a bike for free too.

Yas Marina Open Training Nights – Credit: Family Travel in the Middle East

If you wish to hire a bike, Cyacle runs a bike share scheme where 20AED will give you unlimited 60-minute hire blocks for 24 hours.  There are several bike stations spotted all over the city, popular spots include along the Corniche and around al Raha Beach and Yas Island.

What to Eat in Abu Dhabi

While there's plenty of fine dining to indulge in Abu Dhabi, there are plenty of fast food options to fit within your $10 budget too.

In any of the malls, you will find popular fast food chains. A medium Big Mac meal deal comes in at 25 AED or a KFC twister meal 14 AED.  A subway meal is 31 AED.  Traditional Arabic meals can vary hugely depending on your suburb or street you are in – a quick shawarma might cost you 10 AED.

If you’re sticking to your major chains, a Starbucks coffee at the mall will cost you 17 AED for a Grande Latte.

To self-cater, there are plenty of supermarkets offering some cheap and easy eat alternatives.  A freshly roasted chicken leg may set you back 8 AED, a breadstick 2 AED and a can of soft drink 2.25 AED.

Public Transportation in Abu Dhabi

Taxis are relatively cheaper than many other cities and a quick and easy way to jump between attractions but even if you’re actual fare is small, costs can add fast.  The flag fall is 5 AED but minimum fare is set at 12 AED even if you don’t travel that far.   Pre-booking will add 5 AED to your bill and you’ll be slugged 25 AED extra for an airport taxi.

If you just wanted to enjoy the Grand Mosque during a stopover, you could catch the A1 Bus from the airport, get off at the Zayed Sports City stop and walk (4AED) – your return taxi from the Mosque should then come in about 40 AED– just shy of the $10 budget!

Whilst the UAE might have a reputation for being a glitzy, glamorous place you can still enjoy A LOT on a budget but you will need to balance where that money is spent.

Contributor: Kerry from Family Travel in the Middle East

Keri is a UAE resident, having lived in Abu Dhabi for the past 6 years. She is a freelance family travel writer, a blogger at Our Globetrotters and the founder of Family Travel in the Middle East. 



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