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Layover in Abu Dhabi – Is It Safe?
I admit I was nervous about transferring overnight in Abu Dhabi when I flew Etihad Airways to the Seychelles from Toronto. A lot of questions were crowding my head:
- Is Abu Dhabi safe for a woman travelling solo?
- Do I have to cover up?
- Is the Abu Dhabi Airport a mass of confusion?
- Is an overnight layover in Abu Dhabi Airport safe?
Note: This post was originally written in 2014 and updated in 2021.
I can hear your groans now! It was my fear of the unknown! Please understand, my only experience with Abu Dhabi up until then had been Sex and the City 2. Cut me some slack.
The only reason I’m confessing my travel fears is because if I was nervous about flying into the Abu Dhabi Airport at night, some other solo traveller was bound to share my fears – so I thought I would share my experience of transiting through Abu Dhabi and address any Abu Dhabi travel concerns.
So here are some Q & A’s about flying Etihad Airways with an overnight layover in the Abu Dhabi Airport.
Who Are Etihad Airways?
Etihad Airways is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. They’re based in Abu Dhabi, so if you’re on a long haul international flight on Etihad you will very likely end up connecting through the Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Does Etihad Have a Good Reputation?
Yes. Etihad has won some 170 awards, including World’s Leading Airline, Business Class of the Year, and World’s Best First Class – so as premium airlines go, I was pretty keen to fly them.
Where is Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi is a well off country in the Middle East. It’s the capital of the United Arab Emirates – the UAE.
If you planning on visiting here for longer than a layover, you can check out this Abu Dhabi Travel Planner.
What should I know about Abu Dhabi International Airport?
Relax. The airport is bright, clean, modern, with lots of light and colour. There are a million people milling around of all stripes and types, but not in a crowdy scary way, in a this-is-a-popular-airport way.
English is widely spoken and you won’t stand out as a foreigner. I spent the first while bundled up with a long cashmere scarf over my T-shirt, then eventually gave up on the scarf.
Fun fact: Foreigners and expats account for 80% of the UAE’s population. Who knew?
If there are any criticisms about the Abu Dhabi Airport, it’s that it’s too cold at night. This comes from travellers who have opted for the famous ‘night in a chair’ style of layover, and found the air conditioning too high for quality dozing.
If spending the night in an airport chair isn’t your ideal scenario, keep reading this ‘Overnight layover in Abu Dhabi Airport’ article for information on where to get a more comfortable sleep.
Where to Sleep at the Abu Dhabi Airport: Should I get an Airport Hotel?
Because my transit stopover in Abu Dhabi was a long one, and I was going to be there overnight with an early morning flight out, I was extremely concerned about where I was going to close my eyes.
I hate, repeat HATE, going without sleep. And I didn’t want to be waking up like a nervous cat every few minutes. If you’re the same, there are several good options for a sleep-worthy overnight layover in Abu Dhabi.
Overnight Layover in Abu Dhabi Airport: Option 1
The easiest option for a layover is the Airport Hotel in Terminal 1, because you don’t need to go through immigration. The downside: it can be very expensive – at least it was when I looked into it.
Overnight Layover in Abu Dhabi Airport: Option 2
The second sleeping option, besides a chair, is – wait for it – GoSleep sleep pods!
Located in Terminal 3 just past gate 35, sleep pods are a self-contained single-bed sized mini chamber, good if you want to snooze for a few hours. I was tempted, just for the novelty factor, but the Premier Inn Abu Dhabi was too handy (and cheap).
Sleep pods are located Terminal 3, Upper Level, After Passport Control.
Overnight Layover in Abu Dhabi Airport: Option 3 – My Pick
Also fairly easy and affordable is the Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport. This is where I stayed. Twice. Both on the way there and on the way back.
You do need to go through Immigration but it’s a minor (hurrah!) hassle and the hotel is connected to both Terminals 1 and 3 by the Skypark retail corridor.
Why I chose it: The Premier Inn Abu Dhabi is budget friendly and there is even a rooftop pool.
Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Review
Is the Premier Inn good? It’s fine, if not luxurious, and the service friendly. When I checked in I asked the desk clerk what time I needed to leave in the morning to get through immigration to catch my flight,. He suggested an unhealthy early hour. (I may have grimaced.)
When I then went into the hotel restaurant for a late night buffet, the clerk came in to find me and amended the time after talking to his colleagues.
Yay! Fifteen extra minutes to sleep! I thought the desk clerk had gone a step beyond in that case, so kudos to Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Airport.
How Long Does It Take to Go Through Immigration at the Airport?
It took me maybe 40 minutes to get through Immigration en route to my hotel because there was a fair lineup, though only about 20 minutes coming back in the next morning.
When it comes to airports, however, err on the side of caution and give yourself plenty of time.
Do I Need a Visa to Get into Abu Dhabi?
You likely do not need get a visa beforehand, depending on what country you’re from. Canadians don’t, nor do Australians or Americans. But don’t take my word for it, please check beforehand.
Doing a Stopover in Abu Dhabi
My biggest regret was not doing a stopover Abu Dhabi. I’d never been to this part of the world, never even ridden a camel, and if I’d had more time I would have loved to explore the desert. (And ahem, the shopping malls.)
The only reason stay a few days was because I couldn’t fit it into my hectic travel schedule.
I also wanted to experience some modern Abu Dhabi luxury, such as staying in a glass hotel (the Hyatt Capital Gate) that tilts more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
I wanted to see Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. And the Emirates Palace – a 5-star hotel with 114 domes and 1002 chandeliers!
An Easy Way to Plan Your Stopover
If you have an overnight layover in Abu Dhabi anyway, why not extend your trip? Check out Hala Abu Dhabi, the destination management division of Etihad Airways for packages and deals at Stopover in Abu Dhabi – prices can be surprisingly affordable.
Read more: If you’re curious about flying on Etihad, read my review of Flying Business Class on Etihad.
Thanks a lot for sharing that! I’ve have been traveling a lot already and also by myself but was kind of really not sure about my overnight connection! thanks a lot :)
I hope he has a safe and marvellous trip, Jackie. I found the Abu Dhabi airport to be very modern.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share this post. I was so happy when it popped up this morning when I searched for the safety of Abu Dhabi airports. My son is traveling alone for the first time to meet a cousin in Australia for his 21st birthday present. I am nervous and trying to research all I can on the low down. I appreciate the insight.
I should clarify, though I stated indirectly: I also did not leave the airport, and the behavior I described was inside the consumer/shopping general areas of the terminals.
Thanks for the wonderful comment, Kelly. The airport at Abu Dhabi was a pleasant surprise. I hope your daughter and her friend have a wonderful trip to India.
Kelly A Otwell
Thank you so much for this post! My 19 year old daughter is traveling with a friend (who is also a girl) through Abu Dhabi to India and I have been worrying about safety, whether or not they need to cover their head, their clothes. You name it, I can worry about it with this trip. But your post really has gone a long way to set my mind at ease. Now onto read your review of Etihad, which is the same airline that they are on. Happy Travels on your next adventure! Kelly Otwell
I’ve tried to list a few options, Rikus. I stayed at the Premier Inn. Hope that helps and have a great trip.
We have a 9 hour lay over in Abu Dhabi,arriving at 00h30 after midnight.What is your suggestion regarding sleeping options.I am a South African Citizen.
Thank you, Jessica! I’m glad you’re able to travel with what is obviously a busy home life. You’re setting a great example.
I am so glad to have stumbled on this great blog! I’m a mother of 6….leaving them all at home with dad to head to Dehli. All…by…myself… to meet a few people for work. I feel so much better seeing that you traveled alone and have such glowing reviews. It was definitely something we solo gals need to hear!
Yes, if I go through Abu Dhabi again, I’ll definitely arrange a stopover, Shaby. Thanks for commenting.
I flew Etihad to India this month with my daughter. I was sad that we only had a 4 hour layover. Like you, I was wishing that we had time to explore this intriguing country.
I’m so glad to hear it, Deborah!
Flew into Abu Dhabi from Heathrow with Etihad today, the flight was delayed by 1 hr so I missed the connecting flight to Tanzania. Very clear information was given about my flight being rebooked for the next day, along with premier Inn curticy room booking and all buffet meals included for the 24 hr. Whilst not ideal as a solo female I was very glad this was all sorted very easily for me. The premier inn and food are great. Cases stay with Etihad so Hassel free. Only wish I had an emergency swimming costume in my flight bag… Note to self!!
Thanks so much, John. I love hearing about other people getting inspired to travel.
John M. Riley
Carol – Thank you for presenting your experience with Etihad and your stopover in Abu Dhabi. I am hoping to go to India later this year, and I really want to fly Etihad, and to do stopovers in Abu Dahbi (both ways). This just makes me want to do it that much more.
Hi Adeoye, I’m sorry – it’s different for every country so you’ll have to check with your consulate or embassy.
We are coming from Abuja Nigeria. And we have 8hrs layover before the next flight to Chicago. Do we need to transit visa for the airport hotel during the layover. My girls are 9 and 6 years.
I’m not quite sure what your question is … if you’re asking if you should book a hotel room, I guess the answer depends on how long your layover is and how old your daughters are.
Hi, im a male traveling with my 2 daughters to USA thru abu Dhabi. How do i cope with my daughters considering the fact that theyll need to shower and sleep.
Oh, Lacey, I’m so glad I could help. Have a great trip and let us know how it turns out.
Thank you so much for the info! I’m a female traveling alone to Thailand with a 9 hr layover in Abu Dhabi. To be honest I was very apprehensive about about this layover, but you comments help ease some of my concerns. I’m actually looking forward to seeing it next month.
Looks like this is another worst airlines! I have 18 hours of layover in my upcoming tip!
I had the worst experience ever with Etihad and I travel internationally quiet a bit.
In the way back to the US, originally I had a short layover in Abu Dhabi. Their flight got delayed and I missed the connecting flight, so I had to spend 18 hours in Abu Dhabi for the next connecting flight (to a different city!)
They REFUSED to give me hotel or visa, even though it was their fault. When I asked for hotel they said we don’t give hotels to guests, which they must in connections over 8 hours. I asked for visa, they said the same thing. I asked for airport hotel and they said it is fully booked. I demanded to talk to their manager and after talking with them for about 45 minutes, the manager gave me a “Sleeping Pod” in airport, stating this is the best he can do!
When I shared my frustration and compared them with other airlines, he showed a gesture that he doesn’t care. When I mentioned him that I will never fly with Etihad ever again, he did the same thing too!
Be warned. If you have layover, you are on your own there!!!!
I ate at the hotel and the buffet dinner was included in my stay, but if it hadn’t been I would have put it on credit card. As a Canadian, I didn’t need a visa, but you will have to check with your own country about that. Have a wonderful trip.
Have just come across your page and it was interesting to read about Abu Dhabi airport and Premier Inn. We are travelling from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi and have a over night stay, then on home to England.
Two questions do we need a visa because of the overnight stay and as we will have to eat, how would you recommend for us pay for any food whilst there.
Thanks in advance
Many women at the Abu Dhabi airport were wearing regular Western clothing, Jen. I was. I’d use common sense and not wear anything low cut. Hope that helps. Have a great trip.
Carol – you didn’t fully answer the need to cover up as a woman, just that you gave up on the scarf. So, should I not worry? I have a layover coming up there in 2 days. Thanks!
You probably don’t, Deepak – but check with your airline.
I believe I had to get my bags and take them through. It didn’t take too long. Hope that helps.
it was so reassuring to read your article. I am also staying a Pthrat the Premier hotel before continuing on in the morning for a 9 30 flight
to Europe. Can I check my baggage through Abu Dhabi and use only hand luggage for the stopover or do I need to pick up bags before immigration?
Many thanks Janine
I have a layover of 9hrs in AUH. Do I need a transit visa if I do not plan to leave the terminal ? Please respond.
Can you be more specific, Mwansa?
please note this was published a year ago. things have changed now. it’s bad as hell, check recent reviews on different websites or just google reviews.
Glad to hear it, REA. Hope it helps.
I stumbled upon your site because I’m on the fence in booking a flight with Etihad and having to do a long layover to Bangkok Thailand. Those exact questions and worries were running through my head especially as a female flying solo.
Your comment made my day, Yangdi. Have a great trip.
Thanks so for writing .it really felt great. I was worried n scared to travel through this place with kids n after I read I felt much better thank you
Happy to help out with your Abu Dhabi questions. Have a good trip.
Thank you so much for writing this. I have an upcoming trip with my daughters and it is $900 cheaper if we transfer in Abu Dahbi and I have may of the same questions that you had. This article put some of my fears at ease.
Not a chance for a first night free with these guys.
I just flew with Eithad from Narita to Rome with a 23h forced stopover (they said I had a choice for an earlier flight.. not true) in Abu Dhabi. Sent a reservation request to the Airport hotel (including a copy of my passport and reservation details) a week prior departure as adviced on Etihad website and several online forums and got 23 hours of wandering around with no accommodation provided, nor even a reservation. Minimum room rate at your expense is of 113 euro. In the end, they blamed their fault (wrong information provided and lack of support) on me though, first saying that I needed to sent an enquiry to them directly (and not to the hotel) when in Abu Dhabi, to then subsequently say (in a formal email sent to reply to my formal letter of complaint) that I wasn’t in fact entitled to any voucher. You do the math. Next time I will fly with Qatar.
So my advice here is.. Don’t do it! Avoid Etihad. They will give you big fake smiles and a kick in the butt.
Here is a copy of the email received from their complaint department.
“” Our ref: 277960
28 October, 2014
Dear Professor **************************,
Thank you for your correspondence.
As a customer focused airline, we value our guests feedback and perspectives so, we appreciate the time you have taken to let us know about your experience.
Having read your correspondence, I can understand how unsettling the events you have described must have been for you whilst travelling with us from Narita to Rome via Abu Dhabi.
I have noted the comments outlined in your email and I would like to take this opportunity to advise about the hotel stopover policy with our airline. There are certain requirements that have to be met. One being that the reservation made must book the first available connection to your destination, this must always be promoted. In such a situation even if there is no availability on the first available connection, hotel accommodation will not be permitted on subsequent connections.
Upon checking your reservation under reference H***** booked through your preferred travel agency, I understand that you have booked your itinerary on EY 871 on 17 October from Narita with an arrival in Abu Dhabi at 0510 hours the next day 18 October with a connection onto Rome on EY 83 at 0240hrs on 19 October. However, I would like to advise you that there is an earlier connecting flight from Abu Dhabi to Rome, EY 7065 operated by our code share partner Alitalia which departs at 09:00 hrs from Abu Dhabi, the same day. Unfortunately this is why you are not entitled to a hotel room as your booked flight EY083 was not the first available connection. A room could have been arranged for you if available, but this would have been at your own expense.
I can imagine how disappointed and frustrated you were once you were informed at the transfer desk at Abu Dhabi International Airport. At this point, I can but express my empathy with you for the undoubted disappointment you must have felt and I would like to apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused you.
Further to your comments about the information you found on our website pertaining to a promotion of free voucher or free night for guests travelling until 30 November, may I request if you can provide us a screen shot or the link so we can review this with the concerned department.
Professor ***********, we are not insensitive to your concerns and we appreciate you taking the time and trouble to write to us. Our guest’s comments are one of our best guidelines in evaluating and improving our service and product range. It is our policy to follow-up on all guests’ comments and incorporate them into the operational and service reviews.
I hope that your experience has not marred your opinion of Etihad Airways, and that you will give us another opportunity to demonstrate our service commitment by choosing to fly with Etihad Airways again in the future.
Etihad Airways Centre (plot 43)-2nd Floor
Muneera Development Area
Al Raha East – Shati Al Raha
Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
The National Airline of the United Arab Emirates “”
I never would have imagined that you could find any hotel anywhere with a rooftop pool for under $50 so kudos to you for finding The Premier Inn Abu Dhabi. I might be going to Bhutan via Abu Dhabi so that package sounds like the way to go.
Hi Carol: I visited friends in Dubai and took Etihad Airlines to get to the UAE. I loved it! Was fortunate enough to travel biz class and the service was remarkable. Never spent much time in the airport (it was under construction in parts when I was there in 2008) but I LOVED Abu Dhabi! Visiting the Grand Mosque and staying at the incredible Shangri-La Hotel were the highlights of my visit, as well as seeing the prototype for the new Cultural City. Would love to go back and visit when that is completed.