Travelling from the UK to Abu Dhabi; What do I need to do?

by Abu Dhabi Travel Planner

Whilst much of the COVID red tape that made traveling between the UK and Abu Dhabi has now been cut there are still a number of measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in both the UK and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. 

For both the UK and Abu Dhabi, quarantine may still be necessary if you have not been vaccinated and come from a country not on the current Green List for Abu Dhabi or Red List for UK. Presently, the UK and UAE are both on each others “green list” so there’s no hotel or self quarantine required.

Assuming that you have been doubled vaccinated in the United Kingdom, these are the measures that you need to take to avoid ‘COVID-admin related stress’ during your visit to Abu Dhabi. 

NB: if you are entering Abu Dhabi from a location other than the UK this information will not apply. Please pop over to this guide, with updated Abu Dhabi entry rules since 19 September 2021 applicable to all travellers.

UK to Abu Dhabi: Before you fly…

There are a number of things that you need to do before leaving the UK in order to have a smooth trip to Abu Dhabi.

1. Register your vaccinations with the ICA

All travellers including children need to register for approval from the ICA (Federal Authority for Identity & Citizenship) before travelling. This includes registering your vaccinations to enable you to avoid quarantine and move freely during your trip to Abu Dhabi.

  1. Up to a month before you fly register your vaccinations with the ICA. Whilst there is an App for this, many people in the UK have found that the app simply doesn’t work for them so it’s advisable to use the ICA website
  2. When you enter your contact details make sure that you use a number that can receive text messages in the UAE. If you are visiting family or friends it may be advisable to use their UAE number. If you do use a UK mobile number remember to use the country code ‘+44’ (0044) at the start of your number (don’t forget to remove the first ‘0’ if your actual number).
  3. Remember to make a note of your username and password as you may need to access tour ICA account whilst traveling. 
  4. You will be emailed a QR code by the ICA which you must print and keep with your travel documents and/or save somewhere on your phone. We recommend doing both. A good idea is to make a separate file in your photos labeled ‘Travel Documents’ where you can keep your scans/screenshots of all of the documents relating to your trip. 

2. Get a PCR Test

In order to fly into Abu Dhabi on any airline it is necessary to get a UK Government approved PCR test up and ‘Fit to Fly’ certificate up to 48 hours before boarding your flight. Children under the age of 12 do not need to be tested.

3. Download the Al Hosn App

It won’t work while you’re in the UK but it’s handy to have the Al Hosn App already on your phone before you enter Abu Dhabi. You will need it, or proof of your vaccination plus a negative PCR test result to enter tourist attractions, restaurants, malls, beach clubs…Well just about everywhere really! 

You can learn more about how the Alhosn App and “Green Pass” work once you’re in Abu Dhabi over here.

UK to Abu Dhabi: On the flight…

Wear your mask on the plane. 

If you are traveling with Etihad, it is mandatory to wear your face mask at all times on the plane unless you are eating or drinking. 

UK to Abu Dhabi: Upon landing in Abu Dhabi…

1. Pass Immigration

After disembarking from the plane you should head towards to immigration desk, here you may be asked for your ICA QR code and proof of vaccination along with your passport.

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Your passport will be stamped and you should receive a unified identification number, known as a UID – although this may only be available to you via the ICA website or app.

2. Take your arrival PCR Test

After landing and clearing immigration you will be directed to the PCR testing tent. All arrivals over the age of 12 years must take a COVID-19 PCR test when they land in Abu Dhabi.

At the desk you must supply your ICA UID as well as your telephone number – this number should match the one on your ICA registration.

It is crucial that you supply your number with the correct country code (in the case of the UK ‘+44’ or ‘0044’) in order for you to receive your negative test result and sign into the Al Hosn App.

It is handy to have your full name, email address and telephone number including the country code typed or printed on a card to give to the nurse/administrator in order to make sure that no errors are made. 

Note that we have received reports since going to print that some passengers are being tested as soon as they disembark from the plane rather than once they pass immigration.

3. What do I do after taking the arrival PCR test?

After taking the test you are free to leave the airport. You should receive your test result within 24 hours via text message and should be able to sign into the Al Hosn App around the same time that you receive the message.

Note that there is sometimes a time lag between getting your result and Al Hosn being updated. You do not need to quarantine while you wait for your result but may be refused access to public places.

4. I have my negative PCR test result, what now?

If everything goes to plan you will be able to login to your Al Hosn application (using your UID and an OTP sent to your phone) and the screen will turn green. No further action needs to be taken until day 6 when you must take another PCR test.

This test can be taken at any centre offering PCR testing. Many shopping malls including Yas Mall and the Galleria have testing centres specifically for this purpose. We would recommend going to one of the bigger testing centres as they are more accustomed to dealing with tourists with ‘unusual’ paperwork.

PCR tests throughout the Emirate have a standardised fee of 50 AED (around £10) and results usually come back within 8-24 hours.

For a full list of private PCR test providers click here. Alternatively you can visit any SEHA drive through tent or clinic throughout the city.

5. What if something goes wrong with my test result?

If you don’t receive your arrival test result within 24 hours, it is advisable to go to another testing centre and pay AED 50 to do another test.

If you are in a hurry to get a negative PCR result, one option is to pay for a rapid test at the Biogenix lab in Masdar City. Here you can pay AED 350 and receive a result within 2 hours. You will need your UID and passport and will need to supply your telephone number in order to receive your result.

Again make sure that you supply the same number that is on your ICA registration and include your country code; a printed card with your name and contact details would be handy here too! Note that you do not need to make an appointment.

There are other ways of solving problems with the Al Hosn App but this is by far the simplest. If you would rather not pay for an additional test you should contact either Pure Health (the airport testing provider) on 04 447 3338 or the ICA on 600 522222 who may be able to help you.

What if my Al Hosn still doesn’t ‘go green’/work?

If you still cannot get Al Hosn to work even after a second PCR test and time consuming calls to the relevant authorities, don’t panic. You will still be able to access public places but will need to show proof of vaccination – a screenshot of your vaccination record from the NHS app with a QR code will work along with a screenshot of your ICA approval; and proof of a negative PCR test – for this you can use a text message or email showing that your latest test result was negative. Having a green Al Hosn app definitely makes life easier but if it doesn’t ‘go green’ it shouldn’t completely spoil your trip.

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What if I test positive for COVID-19 during my trip to Abu Dhabi?

If you test positive for COVID-19 in Abu Dhabi, you are considered a positive case after a second test to rule out a false negative has been carried out. This is irrespective of whether or not you have symptoms.

If you receive a positive result you should contact ISTIJABA on 800 1717 who will advise you of the correct action to take.

Note that positive cases will need to quarantine for 10 days and wear a tracking watch.

All costs for medical assistance and quarantine are at the expense of the individual and we therefore recommend purchasing appropriate travel insurance before your trip.

What do I need to do before returning to the UK?

There are a number of things that you need to do before you will be allowed to board your plane back to the UK, not least the completion and submission of your passenger locator form (which you can find here), as well as ensuring you have a valid negative PCR test result.

1. Take a PCR Test 

Do a PCR test within 48 hours of embarking on your flight if you are flying with Etihad – this is applicable to all passengers over the age of 12. This can be done at any Abu Dhabi testing centre.

If you are flying back to the UK seven or eight days after landing you may be able to time your mandatory day 6 test to coincide with your departure time.

2. Book a Day 2 (after arrival into the UK) PCR or Lateral Flow test and complete your Passenger Locator Form

Your Passenger Locator Form can be submitted any time in the 48 hours before your flight arrives in the UK. On this form you will need to supply details about where you have been staying.

Whilst Abu Dhabi is made up of a number of islands, you do not need to name these islands, for example, ‘Al Reem’ or ‘Al Muneera’, in the ‘Islands visited’ section. You will, however, need to supply details of the day 2 testing package that you have booked back in the UK. 

3. What do I do if I have a problem with my PLF?

The most frequently reported problem with the PLF is rejection of the PCR/lateral flow test kit booking reference number. If the form does not accept your booking reference number you should contact the company that you booked your test through.

If this is not possible, or you do not receive a response 24 hours before your flight is due to depart, it is advisible to book another test online using a different test provider just so that you have a code that works on the form – it might seem like a waste of money but you will not be allowed to embark on a flight to the UK unless the PLF has been completed and submitted. 

4. Try to print your documents 

Whilst it may seem more eco-friendly to have everything on your phone (and we do advise that you have everything saved as a screenshot and stored in a separate easily accessible file on your device), we do recommend printing out your PCR test result and PLF so that you have physical copies in your hand to show check-in staff at the airport.

This will make check-in easier as you won’t be scrolling through your phone trying to find documents and have a hard copy in case your phone battery ‘dies’. Most hotels will be happy to print out your travel documents, alternatively there are printing shops in a number of the malls around the city.

5. Sign up for verified to fly

You can sign up for Etihad’s verified to fly scheme. In theory you can submit your paperwork online to beat the queues at the airport.

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In practice, you may not receive your verified status until after your flight has departed or find that the ‘verified to fly’ queue at the airport is longer than the queues at the regular check-in counters. 

6. Check in online

You can check-in online as normal or choose to check-in at the airport. If you choose to check-in online you will still need to show your documents at the check-in desk unless you have received your ‘verified to fly’ status.

7. At Abu Dhabi airport

Masks should be worn at all times within Abu Dhabi International Airport unless you are eating or drinking. Social distancing should be maintained wherever possible. You will need to show your passport, proof of a negative PCR test result (received within the last 48 hours) and your UK PLF to be allowed to check-in for your flight. You may be asked to show your PLF again when you reach the gate.

Arrival in the UK

You will be asked to present your PLF along with your passport for inspection at immigration. Quarantine is not necessary for fully vaccinated passengers returning from Abu Dhabi but you do need to take a COVID test on your second day after arriving into the UK (the date of arrival is classed as day 0).

This test can either be a PCR or lateral flow test but as outlined above, this test needs to be booked before you can get on your return flight to the UK. 

Your day 2 COVID-19 test

You can choose to visit a healthcare provider or do a home COVID test. Home tests can be either lateral flow or PCR but must be booked prior to your return to the UK. All government approved test kits come with instructions on how to perform the test and receive your results.

Note that children under 5 do not need to do a day 2 test but children aged 5 and over do. If you test positive you will need to self-isolate at home for 10 days. For more details click here.

And that’s it…

We hope that this has made the prospect of travelling to Abu Dhabi less daunting and that you will have a safe and COVID-stress free trip.

Please note that COVID-19 preventative measures may be subject to change at any time. The information contained within this article is correct up to November 2021.

Bookmark this page for future reference, we will be updating it regularly should there be any changes to the procedure outlined above. With thanks to our Editorial team for sharing their first-hand experience!

Before you go… Important things to consider planning a trip to Abu Dhabi

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Before you go… Important things to consider planning a trip to Abu Dhabi

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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.

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