Abu Dhabi for less
On the latest Cities For Less feature, I am joined by Arzo, an Afghan/German travel blogger based in Germany. She often travels solo, and enjoys revisiting places she loves, but also relishes discovering new destinations. You can read about some of her adventures on Arzo Travels, and for lovers of the United Arab Emirates or Switzerland, you are in for a treat. Let me pass you over to her to share some top tips for saving money on a trip to Abu Dhabi.
The lesser known Emirate
Abu Dhabi is less well known than Dubai, despite being the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Athough, it is totally different to Dubai, there are plenty of exciting places to visit in Abu Dhabi, and many do not cost a thing. There are many reasons why I love this city and why I keep returning. While Dubai is a crazy place, Abu Dhabi is a place to escape and relax.
Before you visit, check out my survival guide to Abu Dhabi. This includes details of everything you need to know before you go.
Accommodation in Abu Dhabi
While accommodation in Dubai is extremely expensive, accommodation in Abu Dhabi is of an high standard, but more affordable. Here are a few examples based on a night’s stay in March 2019. All hotels have a pool so you will have somewhere to cool down on scorching days.
If this is still too much for your wallet to bare, beware couchsurfing and hostels do not really exist in the United Arab Emirates. A cheaper option may be to book an Airbnb apartment. These usually offer a chance to mix with locals and can often be as luxurious as any hotel. Anne: if you have yet to sign up, use this code to get £25 off your first booking. You can also read more about Airbnb in these posts.
Abu Dhabi’s airport is around 20km from the city centre, and it costs around $30 in a taxi to the city. Search for the best flight prices on Skypicker or Expedia, but remember to check flights to Dubai to see if there are better deals to that airport.
From Dubai, you can rent a car for around €20 a day, or take a taxi to Abu Dhabi, costing around €60. The cheapest option is to jump on a bus, which leaves around every 15 minutes, and costs around $8. Buses leave from either Ibn Battuta Metro Station or Al Ghubaiba Bus Station to Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station and take around two hours. If you fly Etihad to Dubai, you can also take the free transfer bus to the city.
Anne: If you would prefer to fly in style and arrive in business or first class, then check out my 14 week guide to travel hacking. Use credit cards plus tons of other hacks to build a whopping airmile balance to have you on your way in no time.
Getting Around in Abu Dhabi
Public transportation in Abu Dhabi is not perfect, but there are buses going to many hot spots and tickets are cheap at around $2. Some places are difficult to reach via bus and you might need a taxi (compared to Europe, taxi fares are quite low).
The website for bus services is however terrible and provides little up to date and reliable information. Your best bet is to ask your hotel concierge. Anne: If anyone knows of a good resource for information on the buses, please do let us know in the comments.
Once you have flights and accommodation sorted, there are some great places to visit for free. Here’s six of my top picks.
Six FREE Things to do in Abu Dhabi
The main sight in Abu Dhabi, is the stunning Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Visiting does not cost a penny, and the mosque is open to the public all day, except Fridays at prayer times. You need to be dressed accordingly, with a headscarf and covered ankles, but you can borrow clothes at the mosque for free.
The Heritage Village is close to Marina Mall and is also free to visit. It is a reconstruction of an Arabian village located on the beach with views of the Abu Dhabi skyline. There are also craft workshops to visit, as well as monthly cultural festivals. You can rush through it quickly – or take your time, unwind, learn a bit about the culture, soak in great views and spend some time on the beach.
Marina Mall is one of the biggest malls in Abu Dhabi and is just a ten minute walk from the Heritage Village. The shops may not be budget-friendly (at least not all), but window shopping does not cost a penny and it is interesting to see that many chains are the same wherever you visit.
Souks are traditional Arabian markets where you can find all kinds of goods. From clothes, to spices, gold, or souvenirs, you will find everything you might need. Though the souks are not as numerous and busy as the one in Dubai you should add them to your itinerary.
There are many different souks in Abu Dhabi. From little markets, which can be found everywhere, to the most famous souks of Al Mina. The latter is located at the opposite end of the Corniche from Marina Mall.
The Corniche is located in the north-western part of Abu Dhabi. It is a sweeping walkway that is perfect for strolls, running and riding a bike. With perfect views of the beautiful beaches (yes, Abu Dhabi has some nice beaches) it is fun to walk along the promenade and enjoy the beauty of Abu Dhabi. Another great free thing to do in Abu Dhabi.
Talking about the Corniche and the beaches, did you know that Abu Dhabi has some amazing beaches that are free to visit? Luxury hotels own some beaches but most Corniche beaches are public and they are pretty, not crowded and safe. So, whenever you are in Abu Dhabi, allow enough time to hit the pubic beaches. They will not disappoint.
Although Abu Dhabi is quite liberal, and you can wear bikinis on the beach, keep in mind that this is an Islamic destination and you should not bring the smallest bikini you own. You may find What To Wear As Women In Dubai useful
Top splurge in Abu Dhabi
As you can see Abu Dhabi has quite some great places to visit for free, but if you want to spoil yourself in Abu Dhabi, stay on Zaya Nurai Island. This private island is heaven on Earth, and has one of the most beautiful beaches in the Middle East. I was heart-broken when I had to leave, but spending a night in one of the private villas, was extremely special. Anne: Wowsers, you are not kidding!
If you are planning a trip to the UAE, and fancy some more inspiration, you may also like:
Your top tips for visiting Abu Dhabi for less
Thanks to Arzo for her fabulous tips for visiting Abu Dhabi for less. Perhaps you have some top tips too. We would love to hear them. Just pop your comments below.