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 it is renowned for some occasionally bad driving, especially on the highway. Gulf Arabia has a reputation for young boys with their big toys drifting on and off road or Tafheet, as it is known. That aside, with parking conspicuous in most hotels, shopping malls and places of interest, it can be a useful alternative, if you are confident driving on the right. It’s a bit of struggle visiting the small shops in Bur Dubai or the Gold Souk area, as on street parking is sparse. When you do find it, it’s charged at around 2 AED per hour but make sure you keep topped up as the fines can be huge! Most of the large well known car hire companies are available throughout UAE and you can opt for the car to be picked up from the airport or delivered to your hotel or town. Don’t get the hotel concierge to arrange your car hire as you’ll more than likely pay double the going rate. Entry level cars start at AED 200 per day but can go past the AED 1000 daily mark if you’re getting a top of the range 4×4 which is the expat vehicle of choice here. One point of note concerns alcohol. There is zero tolerance to having any alcohol in the bloodstream, which means a minimum jail term if you crash your car and it wasn’t your fault. The other point of note is the stakes are high. 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 to be over 21 have a photocopy of your passport and entry visa, credit card, and a valid driving license from you home country (If you are in the UAE for the long term and obtain your UAE residency, you will need to obtain a UAE driving license)
For informational 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 than taxi hopping, especially if you are visiting for a good few days and with family. Petrol attendants at the gas stations mean you can stay in your air conditioned luxury but make sure you also carry cash as occasionally the smaller petrol stations may not accept credit cards, especially in the outskirts.
Here are our recommended car hire firms. Don’t be tempted with seemingly cheaper offers from local companies, who offer notoriously bad insurance cover, if the worst were to happen. Be safe!
Fast UAE 04 338 7171 fastuae.com
Avis 04 224 5219 avisuae.ae
Dollar 04 347 5800 dollaruae.com
Thrifty 04 347 9001 thriftyuae.com
Hertz 04 224 5222 hertz.ae
Budget 04 282 2727 budget-uae.com
Dubai has installed a number of road tolls across the city. The taxi drivers are exempt so don’t let them con you into paying, but if you have hired a car, you will have to pay. There are six tolling points: Al Safa, Al Barsha, Al Garhoud Bridge, Al Maktoum Bridge, AL Mamzar (Al Itthihad Road) and the Airport Tunnel (Beirut Street). Each time you pass through a Salik tolling point your vehicle is detected using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology that is built into your Salik sticker tag, embedded in your windscreen. The toll of AED 4 is deducted from your prepaid toll account – or in the case of a hire car, you will be charged when you return your vehicle. For more information see salik.gov.ae