The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Abu Dhabi on Transit and Stopover

Middle Eastern countries, particularly The United Arab Emirates, have become one of the most sought-after destinations for tourism. Many people have started to choose Middle Eastern Airlines as a transit destination because of the facilities and complimentary aspects offered. If you are traveling via Etihad Airways, you will be transiting via Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. To make your transit trip worth it, and enjoy it without spending a lot, read our thorough guide which explains all the aspects of enjoying Abu Dhabi while transiting.

About Abu Dhabi

Skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi
About Abu Dhabi

Before we move on, let’s get an overview of Abu Dhabi!

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and is the second most populous city of UAE after Dubai. Being the capital of the country, Abu Dhabi has more than 1 trillion USD of national assets under the wealth fund management program over here. Abu Dhabi has a population of 1.54 million which is The government of UAE is operated from Abu Dhabi and the President of the country also resides here.

Over the years, Abu Dhabi has emerged as a popular tourism destination due to the iconic buildings and structures built here. Popular places to visit here include Yas Mall, Dalma Mall, Ferrari World, Yas Island, and much more. Since UAE is an Islamic country, there isn’t much clubbing or drinking over here and the government has focused on providing better entertainment opportunities to the citizens. The nightlife, food, and overall aesthetics of Abu Dhabi make it one of the best destinations to transit.

Transit / Stopover via Abu Dhabi

Transiting via Abu Dhabi is one of the best ways to enjoy a short experience in a vibing country. However, there are certain important aspects and protocols to follow if you want to make it an unforgettable experience! Let’s begin with booking your flight

How Long Do You Plan on Staying?

Passport and a ticket
Passport and a ticket

The foremost aspect to consider when transiting via Abu Dhabi is how long you prefer to stay in the country before heading to the next destination. There are two types of transit visas offered by the UAE

  • 48-Hour Transit Visa Single Entry
  • 96-Hour Transit Visa Single Entry

If you are looking for the complete experience of Abu Dhabi, the 96-hour transit visa is the right choice. On the other hand, if you are planning for a short stay before you head to your next destination, the 48-hour visa is the right option. We have talked in detail about both categories of transit visa in the latter section of this guide.

Book Your Flight Via Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways Airplane

Once you have decided on how long you plan on staying in Abu Dhabi on transit, you should go for booking your flight via Etihad Airways. Etihad Airways is the flag carrier airline of UAE which is operated from Abu Dhabi. Every flight of Etihad Airways first goes to Abu Dhabi before proceeding to the final destination.

The main reasons why we recommend booking from Etihad Airways are the exceptional discounts and perks that are offered to people transiting via Etihad. This is due to the collaboration between Etihad Airways and the Government of UAE which is aiming to increase tourism in Abu Dhabi.

IMPORTANT: Before moving on, keep in mind that the transit program offered by Etihad is only applicable when the total fare of your ticket is AED 500 ($136) for a one-way flight or AED 750 ($204) for the return flight.

There are two ways to book your flight via Etihad Airways in order to transit in Abu Dhabi.

  • Book a flight from directly your primary destination to your final destination with a minimum transit stay of more than 8 hours in Abu Dhabi. The flight will go from your primary destination to Abu Dhabi and then to the final destination in a single-booked flight trip with the same reference number / PNR No. (Passenger Name Record Number). In this case, you get a transit time of between 8 and 21 hours as Etihad offers you several choices of choosing a flight. Since you are booking flights in one go, you don’t have much flexibility. However, it is a cheaper option as you are booking in one go. It is recommended for people choosing the 48-hour transit visa.
  • Book a flight from your primary destination to Abu Dhabi and then book another flight from Abu Dhabi to your final destination. The flight will go from your primary destination to Abu Dhabi and then a different flight trip booked on a different reference number / PNR No. (Passenger Name Record Number). will take you from Abu Dhabi to the final destination. This is also known as a Multi-City Flight. In this case, you can choose a flight from your primary destination to Abu Dhabi and then book the next flight 3 days later as well. Since you are booking flights independently, you have much flexibility in when you plan to come and go. However, this is a pricier option since you are booking flights independently. It is recommended for people choosing the 96-hour transit visa.

Our team personally booked flights from London Heathrow (LHR) to Singapore Changi (SIN) for the same dates to see the difference in terms of pricing and flexibility. The following table explains the idea even better.

Transiting via Abu Dhabi | Price Comparison (Same PNR vs Different PNR)

Flight BookingBooked FromBooked ToMaximum Layover in Abu DhabiPriceTotal Price
Booking directly from Primary Destination to Final Destination*London Heathrow AirportSingapore Changi Airport21 Hours 25 Mins£693 ($854)£693 ($854)**
Booking Independently from Primary Destination to Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi to Final DestinationLondon Heathrow AirportAbu Dhabi International Airport4 Days£496 ($612)£897 ($1100)**
Abu Dhabi International AirportSingapore Changi Airport £401 ($495)

* Flight will be directed to Abu Dhabi before leaving for Final Destination
** Prices are for economy class

From the table, we evaluated that there is a significant difference of $246 when you book 2 flights independently vs when you book 2 flights directly via Etihad. Therefore, if you have a tight budget and plan on having a short transit in Abu Dhabi, you can opt for the first option and vice versa.

Editor’s Pick: Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Airways: The Ultimate Comparison

Key Takeaway

Booking a flight on the same PNR No. directly will cost you cheaper as compared to flights booked independently with different PNR No. However, the same PNR No. will generally offer you a shorter time span in Abu Dhabi as compared to different PNR No or a Multi-City Flight.

Perks of Booking via Etihad Airways

You can come to Abu Dhabi from several airlines but we recommend traveling via Etihad Airways for the following reasons.

  • With the “Transit Connect” program offered by Etihad Airways, travelers are allowed to stay for 1 night for FREE in a few of the 3-star hotels in Abu Dhabi.
  • With the “Stopover on Us” program offered by Etihad Airways, travelers are allowed to stay 2 nights for FREE in many of the 3-star and 4-star hotels in Abu Dhabi.
  • With the “Best of Abu Dhabi” program offered by Etihad Airways, travelers can get up to 40% off on selected 4-star and 5-star hotels in Abu Dhabi along with a 24-hour check-in facility, buffet breakfast, and choice of room selection.
  • Travelers coming to Abu Dhabi via Etihad Airways can also visit other Emirates of UAE including Dubai on a special bus service operated. For travelers of Etihad, the coach service is completely free.
  • With your Etihad ticket, you can get up to 20% off on selected restaurants, up to 30% off on selected theme parks in Dubai, up to 35% off on selected private beaches, and up to 20% off on selected spa centers.

Booking Your Hotel

Two women looking at hotel deals
Booking Your Hotel

The next step is to book your hotel. Prior to getting a visa, you must book your hotel as Section 5 of the visa application requires you to fulfill the details of your stay in Abu Dhabi.
If you are traveling with Etihad, you are in luck because there are several free options as well as discounts.

Staying for 24 Hours

If you are just coming for a duration of 8-24 hours within Abu Dhabi, you are eligible for the Transit Connect program. In this program, you receive complimentary accommodation from Etihad Airways.

The two hotels offered in this program are Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport Hotel and Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Capital Centre Hotel. If you prefer to stay close to the airport, choose the first one. On the other hand, if you prefer to stay close to the downtown area, go to the Capital Centre branch.

An important thing to keep in mind is that there are no complimentary breakfasts offered in this package. Besides, you have to follow the check-in time of 12 pm. However, when our team reached Abu Dhabi at 6 am, we managed to negotiate with the management and check in at around 7 am at the hotel.

Staying for 24-48 Hours

If you plan on staying for up to 2 days in Abu Dhabi, you are eligible for Etihad’s “Stopover on us” program. This program will offer you accommodation in selected 3-star and 4-star hotels for up to two nights completely free.

These hotels include Ramada by Wyndham Abu Dhabi Downtown, Traders Hotel at Qaryat Al Beri, TRYP by Wyndham Abu Dhabi, Centro Al Manhal, and both branches of Premier Inn Abu Dhabi. Our recommendation is Ramada by Wyndham Abu Dhabi Downtown.

Extras in this program include 24-hour check-in and complimentary in-room Wi-Fi.

Staying for 48-96 Hours

In case you have plans for a stopover for 4 days, the “Best of Abu Dhabi” program is offered by Etihad Airways where you get a 40% discount on selected 4-star and 5-star hotels. These hotels include

  • Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel
  • Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi – a concept by Hyatt
  • Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi
  • Fairmont Bab al Bahr
  • Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl
  • InterContinental Abu Dhabi
  • Novotel Abu Dhabi Al Bustan
  • Park Rotana Hotel
  • Royal M Hotel & Resort
  • Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri
  • Traders Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri

We recommend staying at Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl or Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel. They have the finest amenities, top-of-the-line rooms, and exceptional accommodations for the guests.

You can choose a room of your choice and receive a buffet breakfast too. There is a 24-hour check-in facility and in-room Wi-Fi service as well. If you are looking for a top-notch experience in Abu Dhabi on a budget, this program is the one to go for.

IMPORTANT: We recommend booking your hotel 10 days in advance, especially if you are on the transit connect program as there are only 2 hotels offered in the program. The main reason for this is that sometimes, the hotels can be booked by others and you won’t be able to find a room close to your flight. This happened with one of our team members who was occupied and couldn’t book their hotel room on time. Therefore, be informed and try to book 10 days in advance for a secure reservation.

Suggested Reading: Airlines That Provide the Best Meals: Hype Up Your Taste Buds at 30,000 Feet

Type of Visa Offered for Transit / Stopover Passengers in Abu Dhabi

After completing your hotel booking, the next step is to obtain a visa for transit or stopover in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi offers three types of on-arrival visas for passengers coming from 69 countries including the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia (Check the table below for a complete list).

List of Countries Offered On-Arrival Visa to Abu Dhabi

BarbadosHong Kong (SAR of China)NetherlandsSolomon
BelgiumHungaryNew ZealandSouth Korea
BruneiIrelandPeople’s Republic of ChinaSweden
CanadaJapanPolandThe Vatican
ChileKazakhstanRepublic of MauritiusUkraine
Costa RicaLatviaRepublic of El SalvadorUnited Kingdom
CroatiaLiechtensteinPortugalUnited States of America
Czech RepublicLuxembourgRussian 
DenmarkMalaysiaSaint Vincent and the Grenadines 
EstoniaMaldivesSan Marino 

Passengers can opt for two types of visas. Even those passengers whose country’s name is not on the list can apply for the following visa categories. Also, check out our guide to most powerful passports in the world.

The following categories of visas are suitable for people transiting via Abu Dhabi to a third destination. The 48-Hour Transit Visa is ideal for short stays and the other Transit Visa is suitable for people planning for a 3-4 day stopover.

48-Hour Transit Visa (8-48 Hours)

If you are planning a short stay in Abu Dhabi, this is the visa you should go for. The stay in Abu Dhabi must be over 8 hours to qualify for this visa. The best part about applying for this visa is that it is free. It is recommended to apply 3-4 days in advance before your trip for this visa.

As our team applied for this category of passport, we got it within 2 hours without any hurdles. We also submitted some extra documents such as British Residence Permit to validate our authenticity. The visa application form took hardly 8 minutes to fill out. The primary benefit of this visa is that we got a free one-night stay at Premier Inn Hotel in Abu Dhabi. We have talked about this in detail in the next sections.

Transit Visa (8-96 Hours)

The second category of visa is for someone who wants to fully explore Abu Dhabi. It offers a maximum stay in Abu Dhabi of 4 days or 96 hours. The key difference between this visa and the 48-hour transit visa is the fee. The Transit Visa of Abu Dhabi offering a 96-hour stay can be obtained for a visa fee of AED 150 ($40). Apply for this visa at least 4 days before your trip so you get it on time.

It took longer for this visa as compared to the 48-hour transit visa. However, we still got it within 12 hours of application.

Conditions for Obtaining Transit Visa and 48-Hour Transit Visa

According to Abu Dhabi Resident’s Office and Etihad Airways, one must fulfill the following conditions to successfully obtain the visa.

  • You should have a confirmed return ticket from a third destination, 6-month validity on your passport, a completed visa application form, and a 6x6cm photograph.
  • Minors should be traveling with their parents and have a valid passport as well as a birth certificate picture.
    Dependents such as elders, spouses, and other relatives should have valid proof of relationship status such as a marriage certificate and passport.

Pro-tip — The visa application form has a section for additional documents. Utilize it and add all the additional documents such as a visa from the third destination where you are planning to go. This helps in the validation of your application and reduces the time for visa processing.

Places to Visit in Abu Dhabi During Stopover

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Now that you have your flight ticket, hotel booking, and visa with you, get ready for Abu Dhabi. We consider the following places a must-visit on your next stop in Abu Dhabi.

  • Yas Island
  • Yas Mall
  • Ferrari World
  • Dalma Mall
  • Emirates Palace
  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
  • Warner Bros Abu Dhabi
  • Emirates Heritage Village
  • Yas Waterworld
  • Qasr al Watn
  • Marina Eye

You can also go to Dubai for a short tour. In case you have plans for a longer tour, follow our guide on Dubai’s recreation tour.

What to Bring From Abu Dhabi Transit?

Arabic perfume attar
Arabic perfume/attar

When transiting via Abu Dhabi, we recommend buying some local items that are not usually available.

  • One top recommendation is an Arabic Perfume called “Attar”. It is a non-alcoholic perfume easily available in several parts of the UAE. The fragrance is extremely strong and lasts for days on clothes, even after washing.
  • Chocolates in Abu Dhabi are quite a famous item many travelers pack when coming from Abu Dhabi. Our recommendations would be Safari Chocolate, Al Nassma Chocolate, Blu Chocolate, Brix Desserts, Co Chocolat, and Coco Jalila. Dates are also quite popular all over the UAE. Ajwa Dates are our recommendation.
  • We also found several vendors for rugs and mats in Abu Dhabi. The small rugs can be quite intriguing for some buyers as they have a design in accordance with the local Arab culture. They are great decoration pieces.
  • Don’t miss out on the coffee of Abu Dhabi. It is one of the best ones you will ever taste. Local coffee brands of Abu Dhabi include Shaheen Coffee, Emirati Coffee Co, LOCAL Coffee, and Al Ameed Gourmet Coffee. If you are tired of your regular coffee, these options are surely going to please your taste buds. Coffee cutlery such as pots, mugs, and Moka Pots are also items you can get from Abu Dhabi.

Let’s Get to Abu Dhabi!

Based on all that we have mentioned above, we think that Abu Dhabi is a great destination for transiting. Being the capital of UAE, it is a place that you would really find appealing with its vibing culture, lights, and adventure. Our team had a great time in Abu Dhabi and we sure hope that you do too!

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Abu Dhabi on Transit and Stopover - FAQs

What are some items you should get from Abu Dhabi on transit?

“Attar”, Chocolates, dates, cutlery items, coffee, rugs, and mats are some items you should get from Abu Dhabi in transit.

What are the types of visas you can get for transit in Abu Dhabi?

There are two types of visas primarily. One of them is a 48-hour transit visa while the other is a 96-hour transit visa. The shorter duration is free and the other one costs AED 150 per person.

What are the perks of transiting to Abu Dhabi via Etihad Airways?

Travelers can get up to 2 nights for free whereas they are also offered several discounts on selected resorts, clubs, restaurants, and beaches in UAE.

Zalah Khan
Zalah is LLB Graduate from the University of Westminster and joined the hopdes team in June 2022. She has been a linguistics expert and interpreter for a few years at Pearl Linguistics in London dealing with people mostly from the middle-east side. She loves the thrills and adventures embedded deeply into her genes owing to her biracial Pashtun and Persian heritage. She speaks Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Pashtu and English. Whilst she is afraid of heights but her adrenaline pushes her to take the 60-foot leap of faith body slide everytime she is at the Aqua Venture Water Park in Dubai. She recently went onto the Jebel Jais Flight at speeds of up to 150km/h (93mph) along a 2.8km (1.7-mile) cable weighing more than six tonnes. She was last seen at the Museum Of Illusions at the Dubai Creek.

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