Getting around in Dubai
Dubai has come a long way from the days of hoping on to the back of a camel in the sweltering heat, since then we've had Abras to take commuters and visitors across the Dubai Creek, a huge influx of taxis, air conditioned buses and more recently a modernised metro system aswell as hiring your own car. Getting around Dubai is easy because the emirate is not huge and complicated. If you are visiting a particular shop or restaurant though, its best to get a landmark as many addresses may not use building numbers. Choosing the right mode of transport whilst your on holiday depends on many factors. How long are you visiting for? What time of year is it i.e warm season or cool? How many passengers are you travelling with? Do you like to walk and sightsee? As you know, the weather in Dubai can get pretty uncomfortable in the warmer months (May - September) therefore if you want to use public transport such as the metro or bus, we advise doing a bit of homework beforehand and checking out if your destination is within close reach of the station or stop. Most malls may have a station right inside the mall (Mall of the Emirates) but some places may require a walk and if its hot, you may not enjoy it. However, taxis are always on the prowl so you can always hop into one from outside a station stop and its always nice to experience the new metro system, we encourage to use the train atleast once during your stay in Dubai - just for the pleasure of it! Its a well organised system and the ride is so smooth, all overground, so you get to see beautiful landmarks in air conditioning! Ofcourse, if you are travelling with the elderly or small children, you may want to consider hiring a car if you feel comfortable driving in Dubai, which is renowned for a few wreckless drivers! The one major niggle is the parking, especially if you are planning on visiting independent shops or places that dont have their own car park - which can be many! The best all rounder mode of transport will probably be the taxi, and its sheer convenience will beat any other form of travel hands down, but whichever form of transport you choose, be sure to always carry water and hats if you plan to be out waiting in the sun for long. Below we list Dubai's various transport methods and fares if applicable:
This is a form of transport which should be done atleast once on your trip to Dubai, not only to get you from one side of the creek to the other, but for the beautiful view of the city. The Abra was used as the main mode of crossing the creek back in the day using traditional oars, but today they have a motorised engine fitted. If its warm, go after sunset, when all the buildings are lit up and Dubai by night is bustling. The Abra has several pick up points along the Bur Dubai and Deira side and each Abra is capable of housing about 20 passesngers. The cost of the ride is 1 AED per person and it will take about 3 minutes to get to the other side. We'll guarantee you love it so much you'll go on it again!
Buses are a great form of transport and the government of Dubai have invested heavily in their new fleet to encourage local citizens aswell as tourists to use them instead of cars to ease the ever growing Dubai congestion. But no matter how sleek they look and feel, not all have taken to them purely because taxis are so readily available and ofcourse the privacy of your own taxi and no waiting at stops is worth the extra dirhams. Many who use the buses are on lower incomes but that shouldn't put you off especially if you and your destination are located near a stop. There are various different bus routes available which can be viewed online and there are several options of a ticket tier system which can be used on either buses and metro or both. The ticket is called a Nol card and can be topped up with credit as and when needed. There are four different Nol cards, the Red Nol being the most basic but can only be used on either metro or bus and ideal for casual users or short trips. Refer to the Dubai Metro website for more info on tickets and the Roads and Transport Authority website for bus route info (below).
Finally, the high paced, modernised emirate of Dubai has its own metro train system which is driver less, sleek and efficient. Opened with one line in 2009, Dubai's metro has proved very popular even though it's network is not completely finished and operational, it began running with the RED line which has about 28 stations and still growing. Among the stations on the RED line are the Airport terminals, Deira City Centre, World Trade Centre, Emirates Towers, Burj Khalifa, Mall of the Emirates, Internet City, Jebel Ali amongst many others. September 2011 saw the metro system open the GREEN line which currently has about 20 stations and will take passengers from Al Qusais, and across the Creek and into Karama, with stations like Palm Deira, Khaleed bin Waleed and Healthcare City amongst many others. Some of the stations are interchangeable to the other line and future plans will bring about a further two more lines, the BLUE and PURPLE which hope to be completed within the next few years. The Metro is super efficient with trains running every 90 seconds and comfortable AC throughout. As mentioned above, tickets for Metro are available on a tier based system dependent on how often you would use public transport. For the tourist and casual users, the Red Nol card is the best option and for frequent users, choose from either Blue, Silver or Gold. For more info please refer to website below.
The most popular mode of transport has to be the Dubai Taxis. Its convenient, there are ample of taxi stands and even if you want to hail one from the streets you won't be waiting too long. There are certain times of the day when getting a taxi may take longer then usual. Obviously the work/school rush hour so between 7-9am and the return from work 5-7pm. Also bear in mind that tourist magnet areas such as Dubai Mall, Atlantis waterparks etc will incur a long wait at the queues near closing time so you might want to leave early if you have small kids in tow. Taxi drivers know most destinations, but they may not know all and if they are new to the game, they may be a little nervous. Better to have a close landmark ready and ofcourse the phone number of the shop/restaurant etc handy. There are six main official taxi companies in Dubai all operating on a meter basis. Dubai Transport (red roof top), National Taxi (yellow roof top), Arabia Taxi (green roof top), Cars Taxi(blue roof top), Metro Taxi (orange roof top) and Ladies Taxi (pink roof top). All of these companies charge the same rates so you can get into any, we only say be wary of the private hotel taxis that you see parked outside the major hotels. Obviously, they are convenient, but they won't operate by meter. When you get in, you'll agree a price for the destination, obviously this is all verbal and the rate may change with his mood upon arrival so it is very hit and miss. Our advice is if you can walk a few minutes out of your hotel and get on the main road, hail a coloured roof taxi. The Ladies Taxis, driven by women and with a pastel pink roof is ideal for women uncomfortable riding with a male driver. They are not readily available to hail, so you need to keep their number handy and book in advance. Note, they only allow females and if travelling with families we have been told that they wont accept fathers, just women with children.
With regard to fares, the official taxi companies all have the same rate rule; 1.6 AED per kilometre for a regular car and 1.7 AED for larger people carriers. It is the standing fare (what the meter begins with) that varies a little. If you require a taxi from the airport, the standing fare is 25 AED, if you require an official taxi from your hotel (if one isn't available) or any other landmark, you can call the call centre and book one, but this will incur a standing fare of 6 AED. If you just pick one up from the street or outside a mall, the standing fare is 3 AED. At night from about 10pm, the standing fare will increase to 3.50 AED. Taxis are generally not too badly priced especially if you are travelling in a group of 3 or 4 persons as the metro would then work out the same or more expensive. There is a minimum fare of 10 AED and note that the official taxis are exempt from the Salik toll charge at 4 AED.
Examples of trip costs are below, these are correct as at 2010 and are for the official taxis. Private taxis will be higher:
- Dubai to Abu Dhabi: 250 - 300 AED
- Downtown Dubai to Dubai Marina: 50 AED
- Emirates Towers to Dubai Airport: 30 AED
- Emirates Towers to Jumeirah Beach/Madinat Jumeirah: 40 AED
- Dubai Mall to the Atlantis Hotel: 50 AED
- Media City to Dubai Airport: 75 AED
- Media City to Sharjah Airport: 250 AED
- Dubai Airport to Dubai city: 50 AED
- Dubai Airport to Abu Dhabi Airport: 250-300 AED
Hiring a Car
If you like the liberty of your own car whilst on holiday then hiring one is generally an easy affair, just make sure you can handle driving in Dubai as its renowned for having some of the craziest drivers. Parking is pretty easy if your visiting a hotel, shopping mall or place of interest which has a huge car park and valet parking is plentiful and mostly free so take advantage of it. Its just a bit of hardwork if you want to visit the small shops in Bur Dubai or Gold Souk area, on street parking is available but you may have to search for a while, on street parking is not free but not expensive either, normally about 2 AED per hour but makesure you keep topped up as the fines are huge! Most of the large well known car hire companies are available throughout UAE (see numbers below) and you can opt for the car to be picked up from the airport or delivered to your hotel or town. Dont get the hotel conceirge to arrange your car hire - then can do it, but for a price! Approximate prices to hire a car in UAE start at Dhs 200 per day for an entry level vehicle and can go up to Dhs 1000 per day if you want to bling it up on your trip. Although we recommend hiring a mid range, safe car purely because of the somewhat crazy driving. Another point to note is alcohol. The general rule here is drink absolutely nothing if you are the driver. Having any amount of alcohol in your blood while driving is against the law – and while you won’t necessarily get stopped, if you do have an accident, you will automatically be the one at blame and be spending time in jail for sure. If there is a death as a result of your driving, you may even be forced to pay blood money to the relatives of the victim. To hire a car you will need a photocopy of your passport and entry visa, credit card, and valid driving license from you home country (if you are a resident of the UAE, you will need to obtain a uae driving license)
We don't like to say it. but for information purposes, if you are involved in an accident in the UAE, remain in the exact place of the accident and call 999. On arrival and assessment of the accident , the police will give you some forms to complete which will then have to be given to the car hire company. You must comply with all regulations or face a fine.
On the plus side, petrol is incredibly cheap in the UAE and sometimes hiring a car can be more economical then taxi hoping all the time, especially if you are visiting for a good few days and with family. You will get your tank filled up by the service attendent but makesure you also carry cash as some places may not accept card.
Fast UAE + 971 4 338 7171 http://www.fastuae.com
Avis +971 4 224 5219 http://www.avisuae.ae/
Dollar +971 4 347 5800 http://www.dollaruae.com
Thrifty +971 4 347 9001 http://www.thriftyuae.com/
Hertz +971 4 224 5222 http://www.hertz.ae
Budget +971 4 282 2727 http://www.budget-uae.com
Useful websites and phone numbers:
Dubai Transport: +971 4 208 0808 (also use this number to prebook taxis and pick up from any location)
Ladies Taxi: +971 4 208 0808
Metro Taxi: +971 4 267 3222
National Taxi: +971 4 339 0002
Arabia Taxi: +971 4 285 5111
Cars Taxi: +971 4 269 2900