Abu Dhabi - A glittering metropolis dotted with modern architecture, the UAE capital Abu Dhabi isn't afraid to challenge world records.
While it's famous for its glitz and glamour, Abu Dhabi also offers many exciting activities for the budget-conscious traveller. We've compiled 10 great things to do in Abu Dhabi that are either free or cost under R500.
1. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Situated majestically at the entrance to Abu Dhabi City Island, the Grand Mosque comprises shimmering Sivec marble imported from Macedonia that gives it its gleaming white colour. It can hold up to 41 000 people. At night, the mosque is lit up in blue to mirror the moon phases. Entrance is free, but a dress code applies so ensure you come covered up, or take advantage of the free abayas on hand.
2. The Heritage Village
Get a glimpse of the emirate's past at the Heritage Village. With it's a free entrance, it's a great place to take your family to learn about the traditional desert life, history and craftsmanship.
3. Central Souq market
Explore one of the oldest market in Abu Dhabi while shopping for traditional Arabic goodies, souvenirs and spices.
4. Fish market at Mina Port
Looking for fresh seafood? Look no further than the Mina Fish Market where every day dhows bring in their catches. The prices of the shrimp, prawns, crabs, clams, tuna, etc. are determined on the day. It's a great way to spend your morning - surrounded by traditional fishermen and the sea.
5. Rent bicycles and cycle along The Corniche
The sweeping road, The Corniche, along the beach front in Abu Dhabi has cycle lanes, parks and fountains. Hire a bike along the pedestrianised path from one of the operators. Bike hire starts at R80.
6. Cycle around the Yas Island
Yas Island is a man-made island that offers exciting activities. A perfect way to explore the island is to do a guided tour, or rent a bike and cycle around it. Water fountains, rest places and proper bicycle signage dot the island. Bike hire starts at R80.
7. F1 at the Yas Marina Circuit
Experience a little bit of the Formula One racetrack glory every Tuesday night at Yas Marina Circuit. It's open to the public, so anyone can go there for a jog or cycle.
8. Beach experience at Yas Beach
Yas Beach has taken the beach experience to the next level! Relax and enjoy the sun in the afternoon - and drink a cocktail or two - while the DJ keeps you entertained. It's free for Yas hotel clients, and for everyone else it's R200 on weekdays and R400 on weekends for a full-day pass and towel.
9. Shop non-stop at the new Yas Mall
If you love shopping for world-renowned brands, then the newly opened Yas Mall is perfect for you! Spend a day there and not get bored with their offerings of high-end brands, international restaurants and cafes (like the Cheesecake Factory) and a large supermarket. There's entertainment like Ferrari World, the movies, and Waterworld to keep the kids happy!
10. Visit Emirates Palace and see the vending machine that sells gold, or have a gold coffee...
A visit to the luxury beachfront hotel Emirates Palace is free, and it's famous for its gold and opulence. With over 1000 Swarovski chandeliers and 85 hectares of garden, the hotel will definitely allow you to taste a bit of that luxe feeling - even if you can't afford staying there. Check out the “Gold to Go” vending machine in the lobby that sells gold bars between 1, 5 to 10 gram.
And, if you can't afford a gold bar, have a gold coffee instead at “Le Café” inside Emirates Palace for about R240.
Adapted from a press release for IOL