On a budget

Abu Dhabi can be an expensive place to visit, but a trip here needn't cost a fortune, with some cheap and even free fun to be had. One tip is to visit a supermarket and pick up a copy of Entertainer Abu Dhabi. The book is quite expensive at Dhs.399, but offers stacks of buy one get one free offers on everything from main courses at top restaurants to admission fees to theme parks and desert safaris.

Where to stay
The cheapest hotels tend to be three star or less, but many of the three star hotels are excellent. The Park Inn or Centro on Yas Island are perfect examples of this, or somewhere like the Mecure near the Corniche. These can often be booked for under Dhs.2,500 for seven nights, or around Dhs.350 per night. If you get breakfast included you can probably gorge yourself on a good buffet selection and not need to pay out for food again until the evening.

Sunday: See the sights
Morning: Start the holiday with some urban exploration. Take a taxi to Madar City (around Dhs.20 from Yas Island, or Dhs.50 from city centre). You can look around interesting architecture of this carbon neutral complex for free and even ride in a fully automated, driverless car. After that, move on to Khalifa Park where there's an aquarium and time tunnel ride that explains the history of Abu Dhabi, again both free to visit and quite intersting, although a little quirky perhaps.

Afternoon: If you still have enough time, visit the nearby Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It's free to visit and looks spectacular at dusk when the lights come on. Just remember to dress appropriately.

Evening: Finish the evening off with a game of ten pin bowling at the nearby Zayed Sport City for around Dhs.11 per game and a bite to eat at the bowling centre's surprisingly good and affordable Noodle Box restaurant.

Monday: Beach time
Day: Head to the free Corniche beach for a day in the sun. Alternatively, take advantage of the cheaper weekday rates at the likes of Yas Beach or Saadiyat Beach if you fancy somewhere a little quieter with comfy loungers. Usually prices are half what they are at weekends.

Evening: If you're staying near the centre of the city, try one of the many independent restaurants for dinner. They may not serve alcohol, but the food is often excellent and much cheaper than large chains or hotel restaurants. Lebanese Flower near Al Wahda Mall is often cited as a favourite; it will certainly give you a taste of real Abu Dhabi and a belly full of food for not much money.

Tuesday: Shop 'til you drop
Day: Fancy some bargains? Time to head to the downtown area of Abu Dhabi. While there are malls like Abu Dhabi Mall or Al Wahda Mall, you'll also find smaller shopping centres in the area that sell copies of designer goods as well as some more traditional souvenirs. The area also has many Indian restaurants that offer incredibly good value for money; think two people having thali and sharing a bottle of water for well under Dhs.50. Or you can pick up a shawarma wrap for around Dhs.5 for a street stall.

Evening: On Tuesday evenings you can register for TrainYas for free, where people can walk or run around the famous Yas Marina Circuit (bikes can also be hired). Even a gentle walk around the course is a great way to see it. Follow it up by visiting the nearby Yas Marina for dinner. Fantastic views and some great restaurants that don't incur the same taxes as hotels yet still serve alcohol. Rozzanah, Stars N Stripes, Cafe D'Alsace and Diablito are all reasonably priced, the latter serves large pizzas for around Dhs.80 that should satisfy two hungry people.

Wednesday: Take to the water
Day: Time to take to the water. While boat trips can be quite expensive, there's nothing to stop you hiring a kayak for a few hours of exploration. Sea Hawk Watersports, which is based on the promenade behind the Eastern Mangroves Hotel, will hire you a double kayak with life jackets for around Dhs.100 for three hours (although if you over run a bit, that's not a problem). You can head straight in amongst the mangroves and see all manner of sea birds, including flamingos, fish and crabs.

Evening: Wednesday is a popular eveining in the city for Ladies' Nights, where women guests drink for free. This can help you have a cheaper night out, and with bars like Skylite at the Yas Viceroy holding a raffle every Wednesday evening for vouchers for a pair of designer heels you could even be into profit.

Thursday: Desert safari
Day/ Evening: Desert safaris are surprisingly good value if you shop around, with a trip to the desert, dune bashing and evening entertainment with a meal costing from as little as Dhs.75 per person. The most you're likely to pay with any operator is around Dhs.250. After a morning by your hotel's pool or exploring the local area an afternoon and evening out in the desert is an unbeatable experience.

Friday: Brunch
Day/ Evening: Even those watching their dirham can afford to brunch. A number of restaurants and hotels offer their Friday brunches with a selection of house beverages for Dhs.200 per person or less. The C.Taste restaurants in the city's three Centro hotels are a decent bet, or somewhere like Spaccanopili at the Crowne Plaza which gets even more affordable with the Entertainer voucher for buy one, get one free.

Saturday: Culture vulture
Day: Your final day in Abu Dhabi. Give yourself a reason to come back in the future by visiting Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island. Not only does it have regular art exhibitions, but the fantastic venue also has a detailed exhibition showing the coming culture attractions on the island, such as the Louvre and Guggenheim. It shouldn't cost much more than Dhs.20 in a taxi from the Corniche or around Dhs.35 from Yas Island.


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