Abu Dhabi is impressive, but unfortunately it seems to have virtually no interest in visits from “budget” travelers. There are no hostels or cheap hotels at all, though value in the 3-star and 4-star hotels is actually quite good. If you really want to see the place on a shoestring budget you are probably best off visiting by bus from Dubai, which at least has some budget facilities.
With a reputation as one of the richest cities on earth, you might expect everything here to cost a fortune, but it really doesn’t. Most of the residents are foreign workers who often make quite low salaries, so there are plenty of cheap Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern restaurants if you look around a bit. Almost every hotel has a restaurant and usually a bar (or two) and these tend to be more expensive than the chain restaurants and fast food places in the mall food courts.
There’s a long sandy beach as well as many shopping malls to keep visitors busy, but the must-see attraction is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, which is free to visit for non-Muslims except Friday and Saturdays. There are free tours that are very worthwhile as well, but only at set times.
Just as in Dubai, alcohol is restricted only to hotel bars (and airport duty free shops). Even a glass of beer is expensive, and wine and spirits cost more, of course.