Aerial view of skyscrapers in Dubai

Exploring Abu Dhabi on a Budget – Here’s How

Save, don’t splurge, in the capital.

Fit for Royalty

This hotel needs no introduction – anyone who has spent some time in the UAE is sure to have heard of Emirates Palace. Featuring over a hundred domes, chandeliers, and meticulous architectural craftsmanship, it is an ode to an ornate past and a symbol of Arab hospitality. While booking a room and dining at the hotel is likely to leave a dent in your wallet, the actual hotel is open to visitors free of charge, so get your phone and start clicking!

Cost: Free

Est Corniche Road, 02 690 9000, Emirates Palace

Family Matters

Take a walk in the green gardens of Umm Al Emarat Park after a long week of work for some budget R&R. The park boasts several gardens, a promenade, and even a shade house for when it’s too hot – all for AED 10! Aside from being a great space to de-stress, the park frequently hosts al fresco markets, has dedicated children’s gardens, and houses an animal barn and petting zoo with animals such as camels, ponies, and emu birds, making it perfect for the whole family.

Cost: AED 10

15th Street, Mushrif Area, 02 666 9559, Umm Al Emarat Park

Cheap Eats

You can find some of the UAE’s oldest cafeterias in the city’s capital, so enjoy a late night AED 7 shawarma and an AED 4 juice named after a landmark of Abu Dhabi. Immerse yourself in local culture and rub shoulders with a melting pot of different nationalities as you all enjoy some cheap eats. 

Cost: Starting at AED 4 

Cafeterias are located around Abu Dhabi, check out Google reviews to see local favourites

All That Jazz

Whether you’re a huge fan of jazz or couldn’t name a single jazz song, Jazz & Fizz Bar is the place to be from 8pm to midnight on Wednesdays. Ladies get three free drinks and 50 percent off food while listening to the best live jazz that Abu Dhabi has to offer. 

Cost: 3 free drinks and 50 percent off food

Jazz & Fizz Bar, Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, Capital Plaza, 02 813 7777

You Grow, Girl

Living in the UAE, you sometimes crave lush greenery, right? And thanks to Al Ain Oasis, you can get your forest fix – all without leaving Abu Dhabi. Al Ain Oasis offers shaded pathways with a thick canopy of over 147,000 date palms and other trees.

Cost: Free entry 

Al Ain Oasis, Central District, near Al Ain Palace Museum, 03 711 8251

Shape Up

Gym memberships can be pricey and doing a couple of spin classes a week can really add up! So why not take care of your body and your bank account with Vogue Fitness? It’s offering a three-day free membership for all new sign-ups. The best part: it has a ladies-only gym at Yas Marina! Sign up here for a three-day free trial.

Cost: 3 days free 

Vogue Fitness, Yas Marina, Khalifa City & Al Raha, vfuae.com 

Back to Nature

A wetland reserve might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the UAE, but the Al Wathba reserve is here to prove you wrong. This biodiversity hotspot is home to several species of birds, plants, and aquatic life, with the most popular being the iconic pink flamingos.  Spanning five kilometres with walking trails, bird-watching hides, a visitors centre – and most importantly – a thriving ecosystem, it is a unique green jewel in Abu Dhabi.

Cost: Free 

E30 Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Truck Road

Art for Art’s Sake 

Get in with the local art scene at Manarat al Saadiyat, the go-to space in Abu Dhabi for all things cultural and creative! Make sure to check out their various (free) exhibitions showcasing innovative art projects and local diversity, and the MAS space, where you can relax and do everything from hone your skating skills to read that book you’ve been meaning to get around to. Plus, if you’re willing to fork out a little more, there are a plethora of workshops and other enriching programmes that are organised year round.

Cost: Free

Al Saadiyat Island, 02 6575 800, manaratalsaadiyat.ae

Dreamy Desertscapes

Wonder where all the celebrities take those majestic desert shots when they visit Abu Dhabi? The Empty Quarter is the perfect backdrop for any photo op. With its shimmering sands at sunset, this mesmerising landscape is the perfect place to bring your out-of-town visitors and for any Instaworthy photoshoot.

Cost: Free

The Empty Quarter, Rub’ al Khali desert,

Cup of Karak

Best Tea Café isn’t called Best Tea Café for nothing! It’s famed for having the best karak in town, so visit this Abu Dhabi institution to find out why everyone raves about its karak.

Cost: Drinks starting from AED 3 

Best Tea Café, near Sahara Hotel Apartments, Defense Road, Al Nahyan, 02 641 8515


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Travel Wardrobe

Your Essential Travel Wardrobe Is Here

All the essentials for a stylish trip, with or without the kids.

Travelling can be a stressful time, so why not make it as enjoyable as possible? As we enter the travel season, I’m here to help you make your airplane rides chic and comfortable. With some of my favourite pieces from local and international brands, you’ll be ready for any destination in style.

When dressing to fly there is such a range of styles, from just out of bed to fully suited and booted — I like to go somewhere in between, rocking a super comfortable yet stylish vibe. A look I love for flights is wearing a silky slip dress with chunky boots and knitwear layered over the top; this look is fashionable and comfortable, perfect for long hauls.

Cool and Comfortable Chic

Another look I love for travelling are ankle grazer trousers and a comfortable top. My absolute go-to is my draped back sweater; this is one of all-time favourite pieces. With organic cotton and uber-soft jersey, it ticks all the boxes for stylish travel with ultimate comfort.

The third favourite combo is the tone-on-tone sweatpant outfit — you can chose a cropped sweater or an oversized and roll up the sleeves to give it some shape. Additionally, to style it into true-cool chic lounge style, layer it with a biker jacket or oversized blazer. The on-trend black cap of the moment will also compliment any colour combo.

I love that casual wear has had a huge influx over Covid as so many brands have now stepped up a gear in their style offering while simultaneously making oversized jersey a completely acceptable day-time look. 

Black knit and Cream Silk skirt Pinterest
Black knit and cream silk skirt @pinterest
Deborah Henning Draped back Sweater
Deborah Henning Draped Back Sweater
Sweatpant combo with leather biker jacket @pinterest
Sweatpant combo with leather biker jacket @pinterest

When shopping recently, I can across this three-piece set from Massimo Dutti and I was absolutely sold! This look comprised of three pieces of knitwear, which can be worn separately with other looks too and I have never felt so comfortable! It was like wearing pyjamas but looking flight chic. This is how it looks on the left online and how it was on me.

Then I decided to take it up a gear; you could style it with a bold white blazer and a leather bag for all your flight essentials. This will definitely be my next airport lounge look! 

Casual Knitwear 3 piece, Massimo Dutti
Casual,Knitwear three piece, Massimo Dutti
Deborah wears Massimo Dutti Knitwear
Deborah wears Massimo Dutti knitwear
Styled with white blazer & leather bag
Sweatpant combo with leather biker jacket

Bags To Go

Bags can be the bane of your life when travelling unless you get ones that really suit your needs. Pre-kid, I would love checking in all my bags and only carry a small bag with my passport and documents in; this way there’s less opportunity for me to lose things or leave them behind.

A great all rounder is this travel sleeve from Olivia & Co — big enough to hold your phone, documents, tickets and passport and discreet enough to feel stress-free in the airport. Now that I have a two-year-old in tow, I need places for snacks, books, toys, wipes, and just about anything else I can think of to stop him banging on the pilot’s door at 32,000 feet (this actually happened). So, I use the Suveno Diaper Bag which is a backpack shape and holds everything you need, including three bottles.

Oliva & Co Family Travel Wallet
Oliva & Co Family Travel Wallet
Suveno Diaper Bag
Suveno Diaper Bag
Pac Safe Backpack
Pac Safe Backpack

There are so many travel bag options out there for parents. I definitely researched too much when trying to find a good one; this has done the job and fared quite well considering how much it’s been used.

For the adult backpack, I use the CamSafe backpack from PacSafe — these are high quality anti-theft bags that use anti-slash fabric, have tons of lockable pockets, key and wallet attachment areas, as well as block your cards from being skimmed. You can also lock it to the table at a bar or restaurant, which may sound excessive but you can never be too sure in a new city.

These are not the most fashion savvy looking bags but they are quite minimal and understated, so I let it pass considering the benefits they offer. In addition, I have put an Apple Air Tag into the bottom of the bag, so in case it does get stolen, we can track where it is. 

Practical Essentials

If, for some reason, the backpack isn’t enough for our in-flight packing needs, I absolutely cannot take a hold-all and trudge it around the airport; my back aches, my shoulder aches, they have one big space and no compartments. Trying to find my laptop at security in between eye masks, shades, neck pillows, and healthy snacks is literally the worst! So instead, I opt for a four-wheeler roll-along hand luggage-size case.

This way, I save my back and shoulders and can easily locate things when opened at security. I really like the latest Clifton collection from Antler. They come in a cute colour palette and have a hard case which is a must for me.

When it comes to accessories, I keep a few essential items to make my trip more enjoyable; The basics I take are flight socks for good circulation, a hydrating face mask to stay nourished, some nutritious snacks and a water bottle. 

Clifton Cabin with Pocket
Clifton Cabin with Pocket
WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones
WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones
The Light Long Knitted Cardigan
The Light Long Knitted Cardigan

There’s a good reason why those headphones come free on your flight: they’re annoying, noisy, and terrible quality. Noise-cancelling headphones can help you drown out any background noise on the plane and have been one of my best purchases over the years. I use Sony ones but I hear good things about Bose too. 

Travel packs are something that have been mentioned to me, but I haven’t tried yet. For my next trip, I’ll be purchasing some to help the packing organisation and separating kids things from mamas to help with sanity when we’re moving around a lot.

Lastly, my must have for the plane a giant lovely cosy knit — I’ve got about 10 styles as I actually LOVE knitwear, even in Dubai! I have bought from COS and All Saints mostly, but recently I found this gem from Mikutas which I adore. I am always cold on the plane and usually we’re landing somewhere colder than Dubai, so these are also fab for the airport and ride to the hotel. 

Whether you’re going on a business trip or a pleasure cruise, looking and feeling your best while traveling can help you make random connections with strangers — which I love doing on planes. Also, being organised with the above items helps reduces the stress, especially when travelling with little ones.

May your next trip be stylish and stress-free! 

Deborah Henning launched her own namesake label in 2014 after working with up and coming brands in the Middle East as well as Alexander McQueen in London, much loved Australian brand Sass & Bide, and British brand Ghost. Follow her on Instagram and check out her website.


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