Rules applicable from 1 February 2021
Once an incredibly simple process to cross from Dubai into neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi, the world changed for the Emirates on 22 June 2020 when precautionary health measures saw Abu Dhabi shut off its domestic border with Dubai.
The restrictions have eased, however, a border checkpoint remains in place restricting movement into Abu Dhabi emirate.
All drivers and passengers of private vehicles over the age of 12 must present a negative COVID-19 test result in order to cross from the emirate of Dubai into the emirate of Abu Dhabi, plus undergo subsequent nasal testing if they remain in Abu Dhabi.
There is no restriction on driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.
The situation does change on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, so we recommend as well as following through our tips here you also check with the relevant Government authorities prior to travelling.
Border testing travelling from Dubai into Abu Dhabi
Here’s what you need to know before crossing from Dubai into Abu Dhabi.
The difference between a PCR and a DPI Coronavirus test
There are two different types of coronavirus testing that are currently accepted for passing the border between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
In order to cross the police checkpoint that has been set up across the highway, you will need to provide evidence (an SMS screenshot of your test result will suffice) that you are COVID-19 negative. This can be from a PCR or DPI test result.
A PCR is a Polymerase Chain Reaction test – in the UAE conducted via a nasal swab test that takes, on average 24 hours for the results to be returned, though this can vary. You should plan a PCR test at least 24 hours in advance of when you wish to cross from Dubai into Abu Dhabi.
A laser-based DPI test (Diffractive Phase Interferometry) is a pin-prick test on your finger which picks up signals of infection and allows for quicker mass-testing, the result is almost instant.
At present, you are allowed to take either of these two tests in any part of the UAE. From 1 February 2021, you have 48 hours to cross into Abu Dhabi with a negative PCR result, or 24 hours from receiving a DPI result.
You will need to present a photo ID – be it your Emirates ID card (EID) or a passport with your test result, with yout name in Arabic or English.
Rapid testing centre at Ghantoot
So what exactly should you expect crossing Dubai to Abu Dhabi?
Just over the border on the E11 Freeway that connects the two cities, you will come to the area of Ghantoot. If you are NOT already in possession of a negative test result, pull off the freeway here, it will be very clearly signposted.
There are now seperate places to go for:
- Overseas visitors/returning residents with a valid PCR result who need fitting with a tracker (more on this below) and
- UAE residents looking to undertake rapid DPI test, per conditions below
NB – These arrangements have been updated post-24 December – the Al Faya Road facility is a new drive-through testing station open 24/7, the large tent is no longer offering DPI testing.
Abu Dhabi Emergency Crisis and Disasters Committee establishes 18 drive-through DPI testing stations on Al Faya Road before Ghantoot and approves to open new lanes at the entry points between Dubai and Abu Dhabi as part of efforts to enhance the flow of entry into the emirate. pic.twitter.com/dCmyuWicch— مكتب أبوظبي الإعلامي (@admediaoffice) December 26, 2020
You will need an Emirates ID card (EID) and will need to contactless pay 50 AED per person (testing only applies to those in your vehicle aged 12 and over).
Because of the need for an EID as part of the testing process, instant DPI testing is NOT available to non-UAE residents. They may use a PCR result instead, but be mindful if you’ve come from overseas the result can be no more than 48 hours old.
New overseas arrivals into Abu Dhabi are also subject to strict self-quarantine measures, more below.
You should have the Al Hosn app installed on your phone. The two staff testing you (one entering your details and one actually doing the prick test) will ask you to confirm your mobile number. You will be instantly sent a result which indicators either “no swab” or “swab”.
“No swab”= keep driving, you’ve tested negative. Keep your phone handy as it’s only a few kilometres back on the E11 or E311 Highway until you hit the police checkpoint and will need to show this result.
“Swab” = If a follow-up swab is required, they will do this on the spot (a PCR test) in the testing tent.
We have heard varying stories on whether you are then allowed to cross the border and self-quarantine while you wait for the result. It appears some leniency being shown with families who live in Abu Dhabi and can prove their residency, otherwise expect to be turned back to Dubai until a PCR confirms whether you are actually positive or not – a PCR is far more accurate than a DPI test which may pick up other infections.
NB there are several border crossings into Abu Dhabi from Dubai by road. The only border where a DPI testing tent can be found is just off the E11.
The E11 Highway from Dubai to Abu Dhabi has now been widened at the border checkpoint with many more lanes to speed up the border crossing process; it includes automatic number plate reading.
To add one more layer of complication, if someone is borrowing your vehicle (even if it’s your spouse who ordinarily drives the vehicle), be warned the police system may assume it is you, the owner that has crossed the border. You may receive the day 4/8 warning by text or a flat out fine for not re-testing even if you yourself never crossed the border!
Testing in advance of border crossing into Abu Dhabi
If you are unable to get a rapid DPI testing appointment at the border, or you’d rather not chance being turned away if it’s busy, you should get your PCR or DPI test performed in advance, in any emirate.
The SEHA App will give users access to booking a PCR or DPI at any of the designated Government testing centres around the UAE. These may also book up well in advance of weekends and public holidays so you should plan your trip carefully.
Results from private testing labs at hospitals and clinics in the UAE can also be accepted. These may cost more than using the SEHA service (though in our experience, many of the private labs are now cheaper – eg 85 AED). Emirates shares this list of approved testing centres in Dubai.
NB just for another layer of confusion Ghantoot is NOT a SEHA screening centre. This is run by a separate entity, you can pre-book for the Ghantoot test Centre HERE.
What happens next – subsequent testing in Abu Dhabi
The rules on subsequent testing once you are in Abu Dhabi Emirate have changed numerous times. The latest iteration of the rules applies from 1 February 2020.
The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee has updated procedures to enter the emirate from within the country, effective from Monday, 1 February. The decision aims to enhance precautionary measures to contain and eliminate the spread of Covid-19. pic.twitter.com/xIVYybMPvP— مكتب أبوظبي الإعلامي (@admediaoffice) January 30, 2021
Entering Abu Dhabi on a PCR test? You will need to be re-tested by PCR if you stay in Abu Dhabi 4 consecutive days, and again on day 8 if you stay 8 consecutive days.
Enter Abu Dhabi on a DPI test? You will need to be re-tested by PCR if you stay in Abu Dhabi 3 consecutive days, and again on day 7 if you stay 7 consecutive days. You cannot use a DPI on consecutive border crossings.
If you fail to do so, you will be fined.
Subsequent testing in Abu Dhabi – exemptions
The exemption to the Day 4/8 re-testing rule is UAE residents who have completed their vaccinations and can show an E on their Al Hosn App (which requires a PCR test to have been taken in the 7 days prior). Likewise, vaccine trial participants can show a Gold Star, activated on the Al Hosn app for 7 days after having taken a PCR test.
Abu Dhabi Public Health Cenrtre later clarified the E/star only needs to be active on the day you cross the border, not the subsequent testing days.
Arriving in to Abu Dhabi from overseas
Update from 24 December 2020, amended from 1 February 2021
If you are a new arrival into Abu Dhabi from overseas (whether Resident visa holder or a tourist) these rules apply:
- Passengers must present a negative COVID test result (valid within 96 hours – 72 hours from the UK) before boarding a flight to AUH (Under 12’s and those with disabilities are exempt).
- On arriving in Abu Dhabi you will be given a further PCR test.
- Quarantine requirements will depend on the country of origin. A tiered system has been introduced:
- Visitors from “Green List” countries will be exempt from quarantine, once they get a negative COVID test result on arrival, this may take 24 hours. Testing is required again on Day 6.
- All other visitors into AUH must self-quarantine for 10 days, either in a private home, hotel or accommodation provided by the authorities. Testing is required again on Day 6 and Day 12 if staying 12+ consecutive days.
- To ensure adherence to self-quarantine rules, new arrivals into AUH from designated countries are fitted with a tracking wristband (colloquially nicknamed the “Abu Dhabi Rolex”)
If you first arrived into Dubai or any other airport in the UAE within the past 10 days, you will still need to complete the balance of your time in self-quarantine, per Abu Dhabi Crisis, Emergency and Disaster Committee guidance:
Following the successes achieved by implementing the precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 and maintaining a low rate of confirmed cases, Abu Dhabi will welcome back international tourists from 24 December 2020. pic.twitter.com/Oq7X9qH8BF— مكتب أبوظبي الإعلامي (@admediaoffice) December 22, 2020
Frequently asked questions on Dubai to Abu Dhabi Border Crossing
Any holder of an Emirates ID can now use the rapid testing booths at Ghantoot.
It is really variable on time of day and how busy they are. The average time seems to be about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
We’ve heard hugely varying reports but generally speaking, it seems the average time is 30 minutes to 1 hour, but do be prepared it could take several hours; Since 24 December they have widened the road checkpoint with more lanes and on average drivers are reporting less than a 15-minute wait.
Latest Government information as at 22 December 2020 indicates that those who’ve participated in the National Vaccination Programme (who’ve completed their 2 jabs + 28 days) and volunteers in Phase III clinical trials who have an identification mark of the letter E or ‘Gold Star’ on the Al Hosn app are exempt from the border crossing regulations.
You can only get the E or Gold Star by having a PCR test (so NOT entirely exempt from doing anything!). Your status remains valid for 7 days after receiving your negative result. If you are vaccinated and stay longer than 4/8 days in Abu Dhabi, you do not need the follow-up tests.
Children aged 12 and over (their ID will be checked) will need to present a negative COVID test result to cross the border into Abu Dhabi. Children under 16 years old at this stage cannot receive a vaccine so will need the border crossing DPI/PCR test, plus subsequent tests if they remain in Abu Dhabi.
No, there is no border control point at all crossing from Abu Dhabi emirate back into Dubai. As long as you’re not an international arrival with a tracking wristband, you are free to cross from Abu Dhabi back into Dubai at any time.
Al Ain city sits within Abu Dhabi Emirate, so the border crossing rules also apply to visiting Al Ain. There is no rapid testing centre on the E66 freeway to Al Ain, so you must have a PCR test result in advance to show at the border crossing point, or cross from the E11/Ghantoot testing centre then take a longer route to Al Ain.
The exact same rules apply to arrivals from Sharjah Airport, or any UAE port. Once you’ve completed 10 days in the country AND have a valid PCR or DPI test result you can cross into Abu Dhabi emirate without needing a tracker. If you cross before day 10, you will be fitted with a tracker and instructed when to take your follow up PCR test.
Regardless of how long you wish to stay in Abu Dhabi, you still need a valid negative test result. If you are only staying one day, no subsequent tests are needed.
If you stay in Abu Dhabi for 3/4 consecutive days (depending on DPI or PCR test result used to enter) you will need to test again, and a further test will be needed on day 7 or 8.
Dubai or Northern Emirates residents can cross the border into Abu Dhabi and stay for less than 3/4 days as long as they then return back over the border to Dubai.
It’s very important as we said at the outset to note things are changing CONSTANTLY!
As quick as the border was shut, they may decide to reopen it or change the testing validity or rules. The best channels to follow for further information include:
- wam.com/ae – Emirates News Agency
- Abu Dhabi Media Office Twitter & Instagram Accounts in Arabic & English @admediaoffice
- Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre @adphc_ae
Further reading for tourists on dealing with the Dubai to Abu Dhabi issue and visiting the UAE during Coronavirus times
Prior to the border closure, Abu Dhabi was an easy day trip from Dubai. If you meet all of the testing requirements, there is still no problem to visit Abu Dhabi, however, day trips for leisure are pretty much out of the question at present.
Most tour operators are not running and the Dubai to Abu Dhabi bus service is currently not operating.
Taxies can take passengers across the border with the right documentation, with a maximum of 3 passengers.
- Learn more about the Dubai Assured Stamp – How do you know if an establishment has implemented all the necessary public health protocols for the prevention and management of COVID-19?
- Learn more about current entry requirements for tourists to Dubai and the UAE updated rules from 1 August 2020.
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 strongly recommend you check all information provided here against current government guidelines.Dubai Travel Planner
We have removed commenting on this post as we are getting too many personal requests or frustration that the steps were followed, but border police still turned them away. We cannot advise on individual cases or your visa status. If the steps above are unclear or you have specific concerns, you need to contact Government authorities who will be better positioned to advise on the exact day-to-day situation.