Driving is by far the best way to see the UAE, allowing you to get off the major highways and onto the more interesting back roads and giving you the freedom to stop as you please. Major roads in the UAE are excellent; multilane highways link the cities and have lighting along their entire length.
If you have a breakdown call the Arabian Automobile Association (800 4900).
Car rental starts at about Dh150 for one day (including insurance) for a small manual car such as a Toyota Echo. A Mazda 6 will be around Dh270. Rates fall to about Dh107/232 per day for a week, and even more for a month. If you rent a car for more than three days you will usually be given unlimited kilometres. Don’t hesitate to negotiate with car rental agencies for discounts. In our experience, Europcar gives the best reductions. It will also drop cars off at your hotel or home.
To hire a car, you’ll need a credit card and an international driver’s licence; you may also need two passport-sized photos. In some instances rental agencies will hire cars to travellers with only a driver’s licence from their own country, but this is happening less often. There are dozens of agencies listed in the phone book; the smaller ones may offer slightly better rates but the more-established ones have bigger fleets and better emergency back up.
Well-maintained Dubai Transport minibuses or buses serve all the emirates but the only route that takes passengers on the return trip is Sharjah. The rest of the buses go back to Dubai empty. Equally well-maintained Al Ghazal buses travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and Dubai and Al-Ain, as well as within the Abu Dhabi emirate. There is now an excellent frequent inter-Emirate bus service between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This is the most comfortable way to travel.
Keep in mind that bus journeys taken during Dubai’s peak periods (from 7am to 10am, noon to 2pm and 4.30pm to 7pm approximately) can be delayed due to traffic congestion. Trips that might take half an hour outside of peak times or on a Friday could take double that time. And if there’s an accident? Triple that time and postpone that dinner reservation!
There are no internal flights in the UAE.