Abu Dhabi, UAE

Day Trip Guide:

Abu Dhabi

Doing a day trip to Abu Dhabi is quite easy if you have a long layover either there or Dubai. In our case, we had an overnight flight from India to the UAE with a 16 hour layover. So instead of hanging around the airport, we decided to get out for a bit and make a day trip to downtown Abu Dhabi.

While we were speaking with the information desk about public transportation we met a German girl looking to go to the same places. Our time was limited so we decided to split an Uber 3 ways and make our way into the city.

While we were speaking with the information desk about public transportation we met a German girl looking to go to the same places. Our time was limited so we decided to split an Uber 3 ways and make our way into the city.

I'll be honest, I (Josh) was pleasantly surprised with how nice and clean this city is. Especially after coming directly from India which, to say the least, is quite the opposite. Our Abu Dhabi Day Trip Guide goes over the best free things to see and how to get around. If you decide to stay a bit longer we also have a few lodging recommendations.

5 Free Things to do in Abu Dhabi

There are plenty of free things to do in Abu Dhabi despite it being a relatively expensive city. Since we spent about $60 USD between storing our luggage at the airport and an Uber ride into the city, we were determined to do the rest of the city for $0 USD.

1. Check out Qasr Al Hosn

I hadn’t heard of this place before we came to Abu Dhabi. In fact, I actually saw a poster of it in the airport that sparked my curiosity. It turns out that Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest stone building in the city of Abu Dhabi. Originally referred to as the 'Old Fort', it was built in 1761 in order to defend the only fresh water well in the city[1].

If you want to go inside to see the Old Fort and museum, you’ll need to pay. However, there is no entrance fee to walk through the main gate to get a quick peak inside. We decided to have a quick look and admire it from afar. So if you’re all good with that then this historic place is another one of the free things to see in Abu Dhabi.

Day Trip to Abu Dhabi: Qasr Al Hosn
Free things to do in Abu Dhabi: Qasr Al Hosn
Free things to do in Abu Dhabi: Qasr Al Hosn

2. Discover the House of Artisans

Right next door to the Qasr Al Hosn is the Artisan Museum which also turned out to be free! As we made our way inside, we felt like our hunt to find the best free things to do in Abu Dhabi was going well. The museum isn’t very large, but it features a few exhibits exemplifying the creativity and craftsmanship of the Emirati people using locally sourced resources.

Though the museum wasn’t terribly exciting, it had free AirCon and amazing bathrooms that we were happy to take advantage of. After escaping the sun for a bit before making our way to the Marina Mall.

Free things to do in Abu Dhabi: House of Artisans
House of Artisans - 600 4x5

3. Walk along the Corniche

Another one of the best free things to do in Abu Dhabi is walk along the pristine waterfront of Corniche Rd. There are miles of walkways, beaches, boardwalks, and food stalls all open to the public. Not to mention there are some beautiful parks and buildings to admire along the way!

Free things to do in Abu Dhabi: Walk along the Waterfront
Corniche - 600 4x5
Free things to do in Abu Dhabi: Walk along the Waterfront

4. Window Shopping at Marina Mall

If you’re taking a day trip to Abu Dhabi, you might have heard of this mall. It’s located in along the Corniche, an 8km stretch of road lined with beaches, parks, and cafés. Marina Mall is one of the largest shopping malls and features a colorful musical water fountain. Our new German friend wanted to go here so we obliged, however, it wouldn't be my first choice. I would recommend chilling out on Corniche beach for a bit instead.

Marina Mall 1 - 600 4x5
Day Trip to Abu Dhabi: Marina Mall

5. Grand Mosque at Night

We saved the best for last - the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is really a sight to see. We saw the Taj Mahal a few days prior and actually thought the Grand Mosque is a little cooler. Not to mention there's no entrance fee, thus making it one of the great free things to see in Abu Dhabi.

On our way into the city, we noticed it from the highway since it's absolutely huge building. Our Uber driver highly recommended we check it out at night since the entire complex is lit with blue lights.

Required Clothing:

  • Men: Must wear pants covering the ankles and shirts covering the shoulders.
    • Pants are provided free of charge if you didn’t bring any.
  • Women: Must have their hair, legs, and arms covered.
    • A burqa/hooded dress is provided free of charge if you didn’t wear the right clothing.
Grand Mosque 2 - 600 4x5
Day Trip to Abu Dhabi: Grand Mosque

How to get around Abu Dhabi

If you're doing a day trip to Abu Dhabi, it's likely that you're either coming from the Central Bus Station or Abu Dhabi International Airport. Either way, these places are not really walking distance away from most of the free things to see in Abu Dhabi.

So you're probably wondering how to get around Abu Dhabi. Getting an Uber or taxi is probably the easiest option. However, the cheaper option is to take public transportation. Buses typically run from 5:30AM-12:00AM Midnight however some lines run 24/7 so there's no need to worry about getting stranded.

Uber

Cost:

~3.7 AED ($1 USD) per minute

Taxi

Cost:

~4.8 AED ($1.30 USD) per minute

Public Bus

Cost:

Single Trip = AED 2 ($0.50 USD)*

Photo Courtesy: https://www.dot.abudhabi.ae

*Note: Cash is not accepted on the public buses in Abu Dhabi. Instead, 'Bus Smart Cards' are available from ticket machines at bus stops and stations. You will present this card at the card reader machines getting on/off the bus.[2]

We ended up not taking the buses in Abu Dhabi because we were told it would take at least an hour to get from the airport to the Corniche. However, the city is pretty well covered by bus routes incase you have extra time and want to save some $$. Below is the map of the buses servicing to/from the Airport. More information including time tables can be found on the Department of Transportation website.

Where to stay in Abu Dhabi

If you're wondering where to stay in Abu Dhabi, you'll have to book either an Airbnb or a hotel. Unfortunately the only hostels we could find on HostelWorld are in Dubai. With that being said, the prices are comparable between the hotel rooms we found on Booking.com and private Airbnb rooms.

If you don't have an account with either Booking.com or Airbnb then you can use our links provided in this section to get a discount with your first booking!

Private Room: $47+ USD

Amenities: Free Wifi, Breakfast, Restaurant, Free Parking, Room Service

Photo Courtesy: Booking.com
Photo Courtesy: Booking.com

Private Rooms: $42+ USD

Amenities: Free Wifi, Breakfast, Room Service, Restaurant, Tea/Coffee Maker in Room, Bar

Photo Courtesy: Booking.com

Private Rooms: $38.21+ USD

Amenities: Free Wifi, Breakfast, Airport Shuttle, Room Service, Restaurant

Photo Courtesy: Booking.com

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