Getting From Dubai to Abu Dhabi; The Easiest Ways in 2024

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 elsewhere in the UAE?

We explain exactly how you get around in the UAE here!

How to get from Dubai to Abu Dhabi - all modes of transport explained | Family Travel in the Middle East

How Far is Dubai from Abu Dhabi

The distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is approximately 160 kilometres, but it depends on where you are taking your measurements from!

Both cities sprawl without a definitive city centre or end.  From the outer areas of both cities, the journey from Dubai to Abu Dhabi is about 1 hour, or using public transport it can 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 this more below!). The only option currently is by road, which still leaves you quite a few options:

We explain how each of these works below.

Dubai Metro transport in the UAE
The Dubai Metro only takes you as far west as Jebel Ali; You’d need to complete your journey by road.

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) to Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station, approx. 120 minutes
  • Ibn Battuta Mall (Route 101) to Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station approx. 90 minutes and Route 102 to Mussafah Shabiya Bus Station, approx. 1 hour 55 minutes.

All routes on the Intercity service cost 25 AED one way. 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. Abu Dhabi uses Hafilat bus cards).

Abu Dhabi to Dubai Bus

The Intercity Bus 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.

Intercity bus at the Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station in Al Wadha
This is the distinctive livery you’ll see on the Dubai to Abu Dhabi intercity buses run by Dubai RTA

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 30 AED

Connecting to Zayed International Airport AUH

From Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station to the new Abu Dhabi international airport, AUH:

  • Take bus 2A from outside the station to Terminal A, leaves every 40 minutes 4 AED
  • 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, and the most direct is Route 32, which costs 2 AED per person.

Related Reading: Our full guide on how to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque 

If you are 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 Airline buses 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!!!

Flying Emirates

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!)

You can see the Emirates shuttle schedule here.

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.

Flying Etihad

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 that 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.

Abu Dhabi City Skyline
The beautiful Abu Dhabi Corniche

FREE Airline buses from Abu Dhabi to Dubai

So let’s switch it around, if you’re starting in Abu Dhabi but must depart from Dubai.

Flying Emirates

If you are flying with Emirates, you can 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.

Flying Etihad

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 and 25 minutes, but for arrivals, you will likely be booked on a service at least 1 hour after your landing time. For 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.

Burj al Arab Dubai | Family Travel in the Middle East

Paid Airport Transfers Dubai to AUH

A new paid transport option has emerged by way of the AUH Express bus service. Passengers flying out of AUH no longer need to take a local bus into Al Wadha before connecting to an intercity bus to the airport.

Instead, passengers can now buy a bus ticket from Ibn Battuta Bus Station to the new Zayed International Airport for 35 AED (or book it online in advance) and board the comfortable air-conditioned AUH express coach.

The AUH express goes directly to AUH from Ibn Battuta Station in Dubai and only takes a little over 1 hour.

Coming the other direction, you can get an AUH Express ticket from inside Zayed International Airport or pre-purchase here and take the coach service to Ibn Battuta. From there, passengers can purchase a Nol and continue their journey onward using the Metro.

Just be mindful, that many flights land in the middle of the night in AUH; the AUH Express is running overnight, but the Metro may be closed at this time of night, you may need to complete your journey by taxi.

Taxies and hired drivers between Dubai and Abu Dhabi

The most straightforward way to transit between the two cities is to 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 – 350 AED.

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.

Driving in the UAE

Join a Tour Group Between Dubai and Abu Dhabi

If you would like to see the highlights of each city on a day trip, there are plenty of options for travelling in both directions.  Always check out reviews and see how long the tour will last. 

As a family, be aware that quoted prices will be per seat on the bus or minivan; if you have a larger group, a private tour group could work out more economical.

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 in the UAE

If you are a confident driver, self-driving is the easiest way to get around in the UAE, 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. 

We recommend to compare prices before booking.

Things to be mindful of when hiring a car in the UAE

  • The UAE drives on the right, with the steering wheel on the left.
  • Almost all cars have automatic transmissions.
  • The traffic goes FAST! It 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 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 140 km/hr. Dubai signposts this as 120 km/hr but includes a 20km/hr “buffer” before you’re fined. In Abu Dhabi, the posted limit is now the actual limit – i.e. max 140 km/hr on the freeway.
  • There are tolls in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai; Your rental company will have the car appropriately registered but will on-charge any toll fees to you as the driver.
  • Heading further into the desert? Read this guide if you are new to desert driving conditions in the extreme heat.

UAE Trains – Etihad Rail and the Hyperloop

Could you imagine an ultra-fast shuttle service could cut the transit time between the two cities to a mere 15 minutes? A Hyperloop service between Dubai and Abu Dhabi has long been touted but has admittedly grown quiet in the last few years.

The more imminent reality is that a standard high-speed train service will commence between Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the near future. Etihad Rail will eventually connect all of the Emirates with freight and passenger services, as well as connect to neighbouring countries Oman and Saudi Arabia.

There’s no date given at this stage for the launch of the passenger service between Dubai and Abu Dhabi but it will certainly be a welcome transportation link between the two cities helping to cut down traffic and time.

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:

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How to get between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A complete guide to all the different sorts of transport you can take | Family Travel in the Middle East

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Please note this article has been updated post-COVID. There are no longer any border restrictions on crossing between the Dubai and Abu Dhabi emirates. This page contains affiliate links which may earn us a small commission at no extra cost to you if a booking is made. You can read our full terms of use and disclosure policy here.

Family Travel Middle East
Family Travel Middle East

The Family Travel in the Middle East team of travel writers are all parents based in the Middle East, sharing first hand experiences and reviews from across the region to help you plan your next family adventure.

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