This article includes links to our travel partners at Tripadvisor, where you can read traveller reviews, book tours and plan your visit to Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) is located about 30 kilometres southeast of Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. Reaching the city centre by taxi or bus in about 30 minutes is relatively easy. From one-of-a-kind cultural landmarks, such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, to adventurous escapades, such as the Ferrari World theme park and desert safaris, don’t miss the chance to explore Abu Dhabi during your long layover into a mini-vacation.
Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) was built in the 1980s and serves 102 destinations worldwide. It is home to Etihad Airways, the UAE national airline that offers its travellers special facilities in this airport. Located a bit far from the city center, travellers on a layover of fewer than 4 hours are advised to stay within Abu Dhabi Airport. The best option while staying on a layover at Abu Dhabi Airport is to rest and relax, preferably in one of the airport lounges (located in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 only for Etihad Airways passengers), as the public areas are reported to be quite noisy. You can also pamper yourself in one of the airport’s spas: TOSA wellness spa, available to all passengers and located in Terminal 1, and Six Senses Spa, for Etihad Premium passengers in Terminals 1 and 3. For more information about the airport, check out our Abu Dhabi Airport Guide.
Abu Dhabi Sightseeing Attractions
Below are a few of the top things to do in Abu Dhabi:
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
It is undoubtedly the most iconic monument of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates. The Sheikh Grand Mosque is a masterpiece of modern Islamic architecture and one of the world’s largest mosques. Inaugurated in 2007, it was inspired by Persian, Indian, Mughal, and Ottoman architecture and is now famous for its large white and golden marble walls and 82 domes. Non-Muslim visitors are welcome to visit the mosque, but consider the clothing recommendations first.
- Time Required: Visitors usually spend between 1 1/2 and 2 hours visiting the Grand Mosque, so it is wise to consider at least 3 hours for your visit there, including transportation. The entrance is free, and the mosque is open from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM. every day, except on Fridays when it opens from 4:30 PM only.
- How to Get There: Reaching the Sheikh Zayed Mosque from Abu Dhabi Airport by car and taxi is easy and usually takes 15 to 20 minutes. A few buses also serve the Grand Mosque, but you must make a connection.
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting the Sheikh Grand Mosque, book a tour or read traveller reviews.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Art lovers on a layover to Abu Dhabi must take advantage of their chance to visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The museum offers a rich, permanent collection of unique pieces borrowed from the Louvre and other French museums. The most visited museum in the Arab world provides art pieces from Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, and many others. On top of that, it also has been beautifully designed by the Pritzker Prize–winning architect Jean Nouvel.
- Time Required: Consider at least 3 hours to visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi on a layover. The entrance ticket is 63 AED.
- How to Get There: Located on Saadiyat Island, the museum is 36 kilometres from Abu Dhabi Airport, so the best way to get there is to get a taxi.
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi, to book a tour or read traveller reviews.
Ferrari World Theme Park
The Ferrari-branded theme park of Abu Dhabi is an exceptional amusement park with nearly 40 record-breaking attractions. As everything is done with excessiveness, you’ll find the world’s fastest roller coaster and the highest loop ride. Located on Yas Island, you can also combine your excursion of the Ferrari World with other attractions if you have a very long layover. On Yas Island, you’ll find an F1 race circuit, a waterpark, a golf course, a zoo, a mall, and white sand beaches.
- Time Required: Consider 6 to 8 hours to visit the Ferrari World Theme Park. The entrance fee is 380 AED. To see other attractions of Yas Island, your layover should be long enough to spend a night in Abu Dhabi, and you’ll find several hotels on the island.
- How to Get There: By car, the Ferrari World theme park is 15 minutes away from the airport.
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting the Ferrari World, book a tour or read traveller reviews.
Desert Safari in Al Khatim
While on a layover in the Middle East, what’s better to experience than an excursion in the desert? If your layover is long enough, book a day tour in the Al Khatim desert, Abu Dhabi’s nearest desert. Al Khatim has the typical desert landscape pictured in any traveller’s mind: golden dunes as far as the eye can see. Aside from the classical 4×4 off-road driving, desert excursions often include camel riding, sand boarding and other fun activities.
- Time Required: Desert safaris usually last at least 6 hours, from pick-up to drop-off. The prices start from 250 AED per person.
- How to Get There: Al Khatim is located two hours from Abu Dhabi. The company that operates the desert safari usually organizes transportation from the airport or another pick-up point in Abu Dhabi.
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about desert excursions, book a tour or read traveller reviews.
Etihad Stopover Packages
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, offers stopover packages to its passengers with layovers between 24 to 48 hours and 48 to 96 hours. These packages are great opportunities to get discounted hotel prices for your layover. You can check the conditions and availabilities on the Etihad Airways website.
Abu Dhabi International Airport is located 38 kilometres away from downtown Abu Dhabi. However, reaching the city is often hassle-free thanks to an efficient road network. Public transportation options are limited, often making taxis the easiest way to get the most out of your layover in Abu Dhabi.
Public transit options include:
- Bus: Several public bus lines (A1, 490, 211, 240, and X81) run between Abu Dhabi Airport (all three terminals) and the city center every 40 minutes, 24 hours daily. It takes about 45 minutes to reach Abu Dhabi downtown for about 4 AED.
- Airport Express 24/7: Travellers wishing to reach Dubai Airport from Abu Dhabi Airport can ride the express bus shuttle that links the two airports. The shuttle departs from Terminals 1 and 2, outside the Arrival Hall, running every hour and costing 35 AED.
Private transit options include:
- Taxi: Taxis are located outside the Arrival Hall for each terminal and available H24. It costs between 70 and 90 AED to reach the city center and takes about 25 minutes. Luxury taxis and a limousine service operated by Mechri are also available.
- Etihad Chauffeur service: Passengers travelling with Etihad Airways can book a premium airport transfer. It must be booked in advance and is free for first- and business-class passengers. More information on Etihad Airways Website.
- Car Rentals: At Abu Dhabi Airport, you can rent all types of cars, from economy to luxury. All car rental counters are located in Skypark Plaza, opposite Terminal 3, and open H24.
Before You Go: Layover Tips
Now that you are motivated and excited about your mini layover vacation, check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.
- Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost, and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
- When is your next flight’s check-in time? Double-check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
- What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for extended security wait times, so be sure to research in advance and factor that into your overall time budget.
- What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, confirm whether your luggage will be checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Check out our Abu Dhabi Airport Guide for information on luggage storage.
Other Useful Resources
Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly: