Abu Dhabi can be an expensive place to visit. But is possible to spend time there without spending too much. This article gives some suggestions of cheap or free activities. Whether you are travelling on a budget or just on a stop-over and wanting to save money for your main holiday, this article is intended for you.

Getting around

The cheapest way to get around Abu Dhabi is on foot, but when it is too hot or you need to cover longer distances then the bus is the next best option. Each bus trip costs 2 AED.  You can also purchase one-day or monthly passes from bus stations and grocery shops.

Parks and Gardens

Abu Dhabi is home to many parks and gardens. Some, such as the parks next to the Corniche, are free to enter. Others, such as Khalifa Park and Khalidya Gardens, have a small charge (usually 1 or 2 AED).

Khalifa Park is Abu Dhabi’s largest park and there is a nominal charge for entry. It contains fountains, gardens and a train around the perimeter. There is an aquarium here and special activities are often put on for children (for which there is sometimes an additional charge).

Arabian Culture

Below are suggestions of sights for tourists to visit in Abu Dhabi to get a sense of the culture of Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – you are unlikely to miss this as you approach the city main island from any of the 3 mainland bridges. The mosque is on your right if coming into the city from Mussafah direction and on your left if approaching from Dubai direction.  It is free to enter the mosque or you can join a free tour. There are beautiful marble, glass chandeliers and carpets in the mosque. Most other mosques in Abu Dhabi do not allow non-Muslims to enter.

The Iranian Souq is located at the mina (port) end of the city near the fish market. The wooden dhows are moored close by. The Iranians bring goods across the Arabian Gulf in these boats and sell them where they are unloaded. They sell plants, terracotta plant-pots, cooking pots, plastic items, cutlery and other kitchen hardware. The sort of things tourists might buy for souvenirs include: pottery items, copper and brass, coffee pots, trays and wooden book-rests.

The Fish market is also at the mina (port) end of the city. It is best to visit early in the morning to see the fish caught locally being unloaded for sale. Whether you are self-catering or planning a picnic, this is the best place to buy your fish.  The staff here will prepare it for cooking for a little extra. At one end of the market you can even get it cooked for you.

Dhow harbour – located just next to the fish market. See Abu Dhabi’s traditional wooden fishing fleet, which landed the catch you can see at the fish market.

The Heritage Village is located at the breakwater near Marina Mall. This is reconstructed local village with displays of traditional crafts as well as farming methods. It is also possible to ride a camel (for a small charge) and buy souvenirs here.

Scenic Views

Below are some suggestions of where to go for scenic views in the city of Abu Dhabi.

Corniche and Breakwater – walk any part of Abu Dhabi’s seafront path at any time of the day or night. Even at the hottest time of the year there is usually a slight breeze. There are public toilets and vending machines at regular intervals.

From the far North East end of the port area of Abu Dhabi there is a good view of Abu Dhabi’s high-rise skyline and the developments on nearby islands.

Marina Mall Tower – A new perspective on the city can be gained from Café Columbiano on ‘V’ level. Just go for a coffee or a sandwich – just be aware of the extra charges, which are mentioned in fine print at the bottom of the menu page.

Adventure Sports in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is most sorted destination for adventure sports. Try your hand at adventure activities including wake boarding, jet skiing, under water diving, karting, fishing and more. Cruise through mangrove forest in a traditional pearling boat or sail at the speed-boat pace in the clear blue waters of Abu Dhabi’s expansive coastline. Test your driving skills at Al Ain Sportplex, Arabia’s largest and most exciting go-karting track. Make your stay more memorable with these interesting as well as adventurous activities offered by popular resort, Al Forsan International Sports Resort. Some of the sailing clubs in Abu Dhabi include Al Bandar Sailing School, Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club, Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club and more.

Shopping and Souqs

If you can resist buying, even a walk round some of Abu Dhabi’s shopping malls and souqs can be an interesting free experience. Some of the more interesting souqs to walk round are listed below.

Gold souq – located next to Madinat Zayed shopping centre. Go into the larger gold shops to see what jewellery the locals and residents buy.

Carpet souq – in the port area of Abu Dhabi.

Fruit and vegetable souq – near the Central Post Office on Airport Road.

Iranian souq - already mentioned above.

In the evening

The city does not sleep as soon as it gets dark. Many buildings are brightly lit and colourful. Take a scenic walk or drive along the Corniche or busy high-rise streets such as Airport Road, Hamdan Street or Electra Street.

You can get cheap or free drinks most evenings in Abu Dhabi. Happy Hour and Ladies’ Nights are popular (see the Nightlife article under ‘Things to Do’).