A round-up of the latest rules and locations for using the DPI test centres on the border…

At the moment you still need to be able to prove you’re Covid negative to access Abu Dhabi from another emirate. There are two ways you can currently do that, with a negative result obtained with a PCR test or with a negative result from a DPI test.

What’s the difference between PCR and DPI tests?


PCR or Polymerase Chain Reaction tests primarily take the form of nasal swabs in the UAE. You can book them in advance at a number of different clinics and drive through centres in the UAE. Last week we reported on the news that the cost of these tests has dropped to just Dhs65 at SEHA centres across the UAE.

Results for PCR tests are normally posted within 24 to 48 hours. The main advantages of this sort of test over the DPI, is that it is a procedure that specifically tests for Covid-19 (DPI tests for signs of viral infection); after receiving the negative result you have 48 hours to access Abu Dhabi (it’s only a 24 hour window for a DPI test).

If you take a PCR test and are staying in Abu Dhabi for four days or longer, you will need to take a further PCR test on days four and eight of their stay. The day of arrival is counted as day one.


DPI or ‘Diffractive Phase Interferometry’ tests are performed on small blood samples taken from a pinprick on the thumb or finger. The results are almost instantaneous, sent as an SMS within around five minutes after the test.

The main advantage of these tests (other than the fact that at Dhs50, they are cheaper) is that due to the very short turn around times, they can be performed en route to Abu Dhabi at one of the testing hubs close to the Abu Dhabi border, without a booking or appointment.

If you want to book a DPI test in advance, SEHA offer that service via their app.

How do I get a DPI test?

There’s one located on each side of the Al Fayah Truck Road (E75). They’re super convenient to access from both the Sheikh Zayed Road (E11) (just keep your eyes open for the DPI Test Centre signs on the right, to take the instructed exit a few kilometres before you reach the Ghantoot checkpoint) and the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road (E311) (likewise, follow the signage on to the Al Fayah exit).

The test centres operate in a drive-through format located a few minutes drive up (or down) the E75. Once there it’s a first-come-first-served queue system, so choose off-peak times if you’re able to. You’ll pull up to one of the cabins where you can pay the Dhs50 test fee, hand over your Emirates ID for registration and undergo the finger prick blood test.

Minutes later, an SMS will be sent to your phone with the DPI test result reading: No Swab or Swab. If you receive ‘No Swab’, that confirms a negative test and you now have 24 hours to access Abu Dhabi. You can proeed to the border crossing checkpoint.

If the result directs to you to proceed with a swab, that means you have a suspected infection (although not necessarily Covid-19) and you need to go and take a PCR (nasal swab) test.

Important rules for those entering Abu Dhabi on a negative DPI test

You cannot travel to Abu Dhabi twice consecutively using a DPI as an entry method. If you used a DPI to access the emirate on your last trip, you’ll need to ensure your next border crossing is done with a negative PCR test.

Those entering on a negative DPI test, staying in Abu Dhabi for a period of three days or more will have to take a further PCR test on day three, and day seven (if staying seven days or more). The day of arrival is counted as day one.

Can I use an SMS to prove my negative test at the Abu Dhabi road border

No. As of the beginning of February, you are able to demonstrate your Covid negative status via the AL HOSN app only.

It’s available on both Android and Apple stores. You’ll also need to show your emirates ID

Can I use the DPI to enter Abu Dhabi, if I’m a tourist?

It’s complicated. We spoke to a lot of different support departments and customer care lines, and it seems like you can get the DPI test against a passport (with a valid visa), but we’d recommend getting a PCR done in advance. Rather than finding yourself in trouble at the border.

It’s also important to note if you’ve been in the UAE for a period of fewer than 10 days (after arriving from a non Green List country), you will need to quarantine for the remainder of those 10 days.

Can I use the DPI to enter Abu Dhabi, if I’ve been vaccinated?

If you’ve got the E or the Star active in your AL HOSN app (received 28 days after the second vaccine dose has been administered and a negative PCR result has been received), that’s all you need. Note that the Star/E will only be live/active for a period of seven days following each negative PCR result.

If you don’t have the star/E active, you’ll need to follow the procedures above for unvaccinated individuals.

Images: What’s On Archive