Are There Interesting Things to Do at Abu Dhabi Airport or Should You Leave the Airport on a Layover?
Abu Dhabi International Airport – AUH – the gateway to the capital of the United Arab Emirates or a stepping stone on a longer journey, sees around 150,000 flights a year coming and going from its runways and more than 20 million people passing through its three terminal buildings.
Note that the new Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal A opened on on 1 November 2023; all flights transitioned from the old Terminal 1-3 that we describe in this article to the new airport from 1 to 14 November 2023. From February 2024, the airport became known as Zayed International Airport. We are in the process of creating a brand new guide now that this one has been superceded.
- Arrivals into Abu Dhabi Airport – Airlines and Terminals at AUH
- Your Onward Journey From Abu Dhabi International Airport
- Stay in AUH Airport or Go Sightseeing on a Long Layover in AUH?
- Opening of Midfield Terminal Complex in Abu Dhabi
- More FAQs on Abu Dhabi International Airport AUH
Arrivals into Abu Dhabi Airport – Airlines and Terminals at AUH
Abu Dhabi Airport is home to the UAE’s national airline, Etihad Airways. Etihad operates out of Terminal 3, making up most of the airport’s arrivals and departures.
Interconnected, Terminal 1 is used for arrivals and departures from many other airlines, including:
- Air India
- Qatar Airways
- Egypt Air
- Pakistan International Airways
- Wizz Air
- Turkish Airlines
- Air Arabia
- Gulf Air
- Air Blue
- Royal Jordanian
- Kuwait Airways
- Saudi Arabian Airlines
- Middle East Airlines
- Sri Lankan Airlines
Occasionally, budget airline flights will arrive in Terminal 2, which is separate from the main airport – over a kilometre away by foot. The new Midfields airport terminal (now renamed Terminal A) is due to open later in 2023, which will significantly increase capacity. We’ve heard rumours about what will be inside and can’t wait to try it out (you’ll get glimpses in the new Mission Impossible movie!)
Arrival at the Terminal Building in AUH
Due to capacity restraints at the current AUH airport, not all arrivals will be connected to the terminal building by air bridge.
Arrivals that do not link into the air bridges will be transferred to the terminal building by airport bus. Once inside the terminal, baby strollers are available for people travelling with small children. Electric buggies are also available for people with mobility problems.
Signs and airport staff help to separate transfer passengers from those leaving the airport and collecting baggage.
Passport control is usually quite speedy, and largely now e-gates. Be careful to follow the instructions given by the passport control officer, and answer any questions honestly.
Once through passport control, you will be required to scan any hand luggage you may have before moving on to collect your main luggage from the baggage hall. Porters can help with your luggage for a small fee (21 AED, payable in cash only).
Lifts and stairs can take you from the baggage reclaim area to the arrivals hall. Passengers wishing to use the Etihad Airways arrivals lounge can find this by the lifts.
In the arrivals hall, you will find a small cafe, newsagent, toilets, and cash machines.
Your Onward Journey From Abu Dhabi International Airport
Multiple onward connections exist from AUH to Abu Dhabi city and neighbouring Dubai.
AUH to Abu Dhabi Transport options
The major forms of transport that operate from Abu Dhabi Airport include:
Taxis – note there are two types, the black Mercedes Airport Taxis and the standard silver taxi. All taxis in Abu Dhabi are regulated by TransAD, and you’ll have no problem with them correctly using the meter. An AED 20 flagfall applies for airport pick-ups, then you’re charged AED 1.82 per kilometre.
Occasionally there will be taxi touts in the arrivals hall. Ignore these and go directly to the taxi line, located to the left of the arrivals hall (as you enter from the airport building).
Public Bus – Bus services A1 and A2 will take you into the city – Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station in Al Wadha. They operate 24 hours a day and are scheduled to depart every 30 minutes. The bus departs from the lower curbside outside terminals 1 and 3. Travel time into the city is roughly 30 minutes.
If you’re heading to more remote parts of the emirate, there are the following bus services available:
- Service 490 – Al Ain Bus station
- Service 211 – Mussafah/Dalma Mall
- Service 240 – Al Wathba Worker City
- Service X81 – Ruwais ADNOC Bus Station
Abu Dhabi Airport to Dubai
A large number of passengers arriving at AUH travel onward to Dubai. There are various ways to get to Dubai, including taxis and the Dubai shuttle bus, known as the AUH Express.
- The Abu Dhabi Airport Express departs every hour and costs 35 AED. Tickets must be purchased inside the airport from the bus ticket counter. Note that the bus will only take you as far as Ibn Battuta Bus Station, where you must change buses, use the metro or get a taxi to your final destination in Dubai.
- WizzAir passengers may use the coach complimentary to complete their journey to Dubai, showing only their boarding pass (No longer valid)
- Etihad also offers free coach transfers for its passengers between Abu Dhabi Airport, Dubai, and Al Ain. For more details, click here.
- A luxury chauffeur service is available for Etihad passengers with business class or first-class tickets.
We have a much more detailed guide to all your transport options from Abu Dhbai to Dubai over here.
Stay in AUH Airport or Go Sightseeing on a Long Layover in AUH?
Whether you choose to stay in the airport or go out and explore can depend a lot on what time of day you arrive, how long your layover is, and how many people are in your travelling party.
Here we set out what you can expect to find inside the airport terminal building and what you can do nearby, should you wish to leave the airport.
Option 1: Staying in Abu Dhabi Airport to Transit
The airport is fairly sized and contains many cafes, a few small designer shops, and larger ‘duty-free’ stores. There is a Mcdonald’s, Burger King, Costa Coffee, Boots Pharmacy, and WH Smith (located in terminal 3).
The airport offers presently only offers one premium lounge in Terminal 3 for first class and business class passengers, along side Gold Etihad Guest members. There is a separate lounge for loyalty scheme members in Terminal 1, or those happy to pay a premium for a comfortable seat, buffet-style dining, and a shower option. There are also spa facilities available for First Class travellers.
For younger travellers there is a small play area in Terminal 1 and next to Gate 53, Terminal 3. Toilets and prayer rooms are located throughout the airport. Cash machines (ATMs) can also be found within the airport, although cards are accepted at all retail outlets.
Overall, we’ll be honest; in its present state, AUH is really not the most exciting airport to be stuck in for a long layover. There are a few quiet reading nooks and points to charge your phone etc, but the entertainment and dining range is poor compared to other leading transit airports in Asia.
Option 2: Layover Activities in Abu Dhabi
Although Visit Abu Dhabi encourages you to leave the airport with anything more than a 4-hour layover, realistically, you’d want at least 5-6 hours to comfortably make it through customs on either end (longer if you have a US flight as you clear US customs this side of the border).
Many major tourist attractions don’t open until 9:00 or 10:00 AM, so think carefully if it’s worth leaving the airport terminal.
For a short and straightforward break in the sunshine, you could spend a couple of hours over at Yas Bay enjoying the many restaurants and bars or venture to the capital’s major attraction, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Visas for short stays in Abu Dhabi
Many nationalities are entitled to a free UAE visa on arrival of either 30 or 60 days.
You can apply here if you are not from one of these countries and need a tourist visa. They are often free if you are transiting for less than 48 hours.
Option 3: Hotels at Abu Dhabi Airport
There are two hotels attached to the airport, one airside and one landside.
Aerotel is the airside hotel in AUH. You’ll find it in Terminal 1 (also accessible if you land in Terminal 3). The rooms are clean, quiet, and spacious.
The Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport is situated adjacent to the airport. You’ll need to clear customs and have the right visa to stay in this hotel, which is connected to the airport via the Skypark Plaza. A stay here is relatively comfortable and affordable, though not terribly exciting; it’s a very basic modern airport hotel that serves the purpose of a decent rest between flights without needing to catch a taxi. There is a small rooftop pool and gym for a workout and refresh between flights.
Free Hotel stay for long layovers?
Unlike neighbouring Dubai, where Dubai Connect is offered by Emirates to long layover passengers as a complimentary service, no such service exists with Etihad in Abu Dhabi.
Hotels near Abu Dhabi Airport
If you are looking for more overnight options for stays 12-24 horus+, we recommend you head just 10 minutes away from the airport to Yas Island. Yas Island is home to not just the city’s Grand Prix circuit and fabulous trio of theme parks but a good cluster of hotels and entertainment districts.
It’s a great stopping point for those on a layover in Abu Dhabi to stretch the legs and grab a decent meal. Check out our complete guide here to the newly opened Yas Bay Waterfront.
Other options still within relatively easy driving distance from the airport with great facilities and dining options include:
Option 4: Thinking of breaking up your travel with a 2-day break in Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi offers every type of accommodation you can imagine, from cost-effective chain hotels like the Premier Inn, to beyond 5-star luxury hotels like the Emirates Palace.
To make the most of your short stay in Abu Dhabi, check out our article on Ultimate One Day Itineraries.
Opening of Midfield Terminal Complex in Abu Dhabi
The much-awaited Midfield Terminal, which will significantly increase Abu Dhabi airport’s passenger processing capacity, is now touted to open in November 2023 – six years after the original planned opening date.
We will update you with the new airport procedures, facilities, and vital facts you need to navigate the new airport once it opens – so far, all we have seen is major disruption to scheduled flight time in the next few months as new slots appear to be allocated.
More FAQs on Abu Dhabi International Airport AUH
Yes, you can find ATMS in the check-in areas of Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, in the Terminal 1 baggage reclaim area and in the arrivals hall as well as at the Duty Free store in Terminal 3.
All major credit cards are accepted in Abu Dhabi Airport.
Yes. You can buy alcohol in the duty-free shops. Alcohol is also served in the airport lounges. You should not exceed 4 litres of alcohol or 2 cartons of beer duty-free.
Showers are available in the premium lounges.
Yes. You will find Boots Pharmacy in the main terminal building.
If your child is flying with Etihad as an unaccompanied minor, lounge facilities are available for departures and connections. Flying with any other operator, you will need to check their policies.
Before you go… Important things to consider when planning a trip to Abu Dhabi
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Abu Dhabi, a handy guide on what to pack as well as top tips for first-timers on the dos and don’ts, laws, and customs in the UAE.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!
- Discover the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our hotel or tour recommendation links.Abu Dhabi Travel Planner