Want to visit several cities in the UAE but not sure how to get around?
The two most popular cities for visitors are Dubai and Abu Dhabi – but is it possible to visit both in one trip to the UAE? Is it easy to get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai? What if you fly into one city and out of the other, or want a car rental to road trip the UAE?
We explain exactly how you get around in the UAE here!
Please note this article was originally written Pre-COVID. The rules on transportation between Dubai and Abu Dhabi are changing regularly. As of late February 2022, you are no longer stopped at the Abu Dhabi/Dubai border for COVID vaccine status or testing, but you will still need a “Green Pass” on your Al Hosn app to enter any public spaces in Abu Dhabi, which is NOT a requirement in Dubai and the Northern Emirates – learn more here.
How Far is Dubai from Abu Dhabi
The distance between Dubai & Abu Dhabi is approximately 160kms, but it really depends on where you are taking your measurement from! Both cities sprawl without a definitive city centre or end. From the outer areas of both cities, the journey is about 1 hour or using public transport, your journey could take up to 3 hours.
How to get from Dubai to Abu Dhabi (and vice versa!)
There is no direct commercial flight connection between the two cities and no train line at present (though we’ll discuss the proposed Hyperloop below!). The only option currently is by road, which still leaves you quite a few options:
We explain how each of these works below.
Public Transport: Intercity Bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi
The Intercity Bus is the cheapest way to connect between the two cities. It leaves Dubai from two locations:
- Al Ghubaiba Bus Station in Bur Dubai (Route 100) approx. 2.1 hours
- Ibn Battuta Mall (Route 101) approx. 1.5 hours
Both routes run directly to Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station and cost 25AED. You can pay cash at the counter or use your Dubai NOL card, which also works on Dubai buses and the Metro (but NOT on Abu Dhabi public transport).
Route 102 has also been introduced, which runs from Ibn Battuta Mall to Mussafah Shabiya Bus Station in Abu Dhabi. It runs once per hour and also costs 25AED.
Abu Dhabi to Dubai Bus
The Intercity also runs in reverse from Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station (next to Al Wadha Mall) back to Al Ghubaiba or Ibn Battuta Mall, and Mussafah Shabiya to Ibn Battuta.
Connecting to Dubai International Airport DXB
From Al Ghubaiba Bus Station, you can connect to DXB by:
- Taking bus 33 or 42 to Terminal 1
- Taking bus 31 to Terminal 2
- Take the Metro green line to Burjuman, switch to the red line for Terminal 3
- Catching a short taxi – approx 30AED
Connecting to Abu Dhabi International Airport AUH
From Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station to AUH:
- Take a bus 1A from outside the station to Terminal 1&3, leaves every 40 minutes 4AED
- Take a taxi – approx 30 minutes and cost 50AED
Looking to visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi from Dubai?
It is possible to catch public transport though not all that straightforward if you are travelling with kids. You would need to catch the Intercity bus as described above, then a local bus to the Grand Mosque; there are several routes, the most direct is the 32, which costs 2 AED.
Related Reading: Our full guide on how to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If you were planning to visit, say the Louvre or Emirates Palace on an Abu Dhabi day trip from Dubai, note none of these popular Abu Dhabi sites are anywhere near each other! It is easy enough to navigate your way around town by taxi, but the costs will add up.
It makes hiring a car from Dubai, a private driver or joining a tour start to make sense if you’re travelling in a group and want to make multiple stops.
FREE bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi
Both the major airlines in the UAE – Etihad and Emirates – offer FREE services connecting the two cities. However, the bus stations are not in the most convenient of locations; it’s not an airport-to-airport transfer!
Be aware of this if you have flights from DXB (Emirates) and AUH (Etihad); careful planning is needed, and pay attention to the airport codes we’re about to share!!!
If you’re flying Emirates but ultimately want to end in Abu Dhabi, your ticket can be issued to include the free transit bus through to your destination. The Emirates bus stop in Abu Dhabi is at their Khalidiya office on the Corniche (NB, this is nowhere near AUH airport!)
When you book your airline ticket, book the final location as ZVJ (not DXB) to guarantee your seat on the free bus. You must transfer immediately from DXB after your flight lands – no Dubai sightseeing on the way!
If you have an onward connection to AUH, the taxi back to the airport is about 80 AED extra. We’re not aware of any baggage service at the bus stop (it is really just a car park). If you want to do Abu Dhabi sightseeing before your next flight, your bags will need to come with you or return to AUH first to store your bags.
You can organise a baggage transfer with Emirates to AUH for 200 AED, but by this point, you may as well have paid for a metered taxi door-to-door.
If you have an Etihad flight but you are leaving from Dubai, you can start your journey at the Etihad Travel Mall (Downtown Dubai). The code you need to book your flight is XNB (instead of AUH).
Note for Business or First Class passengers on either airline, a complimentary private chauffeur is provided, just remember to confirm your booking at least 48 hours in advance to use this service.
FREE bus from Abu Dhabi to Dubai
So let’s switch it around; if you’re starting in Abu Dhabi but need to depart from Dubai
If you are flying with Emirates, you catch the complimentary bus service from outside their Khalidiya office to Dubai International Airport (DXB).
You can only catch the bus on the day of travel – book your departure from ZVJ.
If you have arrived at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) with Etihad economy and want to connect straight to Dubai, you can arrange a seat on the Etihad Coach, departing from AUH and taking you to the Etihad Travel Mall (Downtown Dubai) – use airport code XNB when booking.
If you have an onward flight from DXB, expect a taxi from Etihad Travel Mall to DXB to cost 40 AED.
The journey in either direction from Dubai to Abu Dhabi takes about 1 hour 25 minutes, but for arrivals, you will likely be booked on a service at least 1 hour after your landing time. Departures they will suggest catching the service listed at least 4 hours before your departure.
If you are flying with any other airline, sadly, these complimentary bus services are not available to you.
Taxies and hired drivers between Dubai and Abu Dhabi
The most straightforward way to transit between the two cities is to simply hail a metered taxi. They should take you door to door, but sometimes taxis will insist on pulling over at the first petrol station over the border to swap passengers to the taxi service for that Emirate. (It is not clear if there is a law that requires this or simply the taxi doesn’t want to be that far out of his zone; A Dubai taxi cannot pick up a new fare in Abu Dhabi and vice versa.)
From DXB to downtown Abu Dhabi, expect a fair between 275 – 350AED.
If you hire a private driver the same trip is likely to cost you 350-500AED, depending on the size of the vehicle booked. The advantage is you can pre-book your exact time, and you may be able to add extras like car seats to your orders.
- See AUH to Dubai City private transfer options Get Your Guide
- Abu Dhabi to Dubai private driver services Viator
- Private driver transfer from Dubai to Yas attractions
- Shared driver options between top UAE attractions
Join a Tour Group
If you would like to see the highlights of each city on a day trip, there are plenty of options travelling in both directions. Always check out reviews and see how long the tour will last. And as a family, be aware quoted prices will be per seat on the bus or minivan
Abu Dhabi Day Trips from Dubai
Dubai Day Trips from Abu Dhabi
NB: If you are day-tripping from Dubai to Abu Dhabi for the Yas theme parks, don’t forget they offer a FREE shuttle service from numerous Dubai locations – learn more about this service over here.
Self-Drive – Hire a car
If you are a confident driver, self-driving is the easiest way to get around, offering you the most flexibility travelling between the two cities.
Most visitors self-driving will need to hire a car. Even if you have friends living in the UAE, you need to have a UAE driver’s license to be covered by the vehicle’s insurance. We recommend it is easier and safer for visitors to hire where overseas licenses are accepted on a tourist visa.
Things to be mindful of hiring a car in the UAE
- The UAE drives on the right, with the steering wheel on the left.
- Almost all cars are automatic transmissions.
- The traffic goes FAST! And can be a little hectic with 6-lane freeways to one-way systems.
- Car seats are required by law up to 4 years old (albeit enforcement of this law is not prevalent). Better safe than sorry BYO car seats, or you can hire from the car rental company.
- Hiring a car one-way between the two cities is likely to incur you an extra one-way hire fee.
- The speed limit signs differ between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Once you’re on the freeway, you can travel at 140kms/hr. Dubai signposts this as 120kms but includes a 20km/hr “buffer” before you’re fined. In Abu Dhabi, the posted limit is now the actual limit – ie max 140km on the freeway.
- Read this guide if you are new to desert driving conditions in the extreme heat.
This ultra-fast shuttle service could cut the transit time between the two cities to a mere 15 minutes, but is it a reality?
Our latest sources suggest that yes! indeed this could be the future transport option; I mean, why have a standard train service when you can have a Hyperloop, right? Watch this space for when we hear more about this new ultra-express transit service.
In the meantime, the Etihad rail project to connect the Emirates is progressing, and we do expect an intercity train service to start running between the Emirates in the not-too-distant future.
How to get from Dubai to other cities in the UAE
A private hire car is the easiest way to get beyond the big cities and see the other Emirates as it allows you the flexibility to travel door to door. If you are not a confident driver, however, or you prefer someone else to take the driving while you’re on holiday, then it’s perfectly understandable.
You may also want to check out our other guides on how to get around the Emirates by road:
- How to get between Dubai and Ras al Khaimah, the northern Emirates route
- Road tripping from Dubai to the east coast of Fujairah
- How to get from Dubai to Sharjah
- How to get from Dubai or Abu Dhabi to the Oasis City of Al Ain
- How to road trip from Dubai to the Musandam Peninsular, Oman
- Road tripping from Dubai & crossing the Oman border to Muscat
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