German company Nextbike has teamed up with local provider Byky (www.bykystations.com) to provide a bike-sharing service in the Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai and on Palm Jumeirah. First register online and then when you're ready to hire a bike, call the hotline and type in the bike's ID number to obtain the code needed to open the combination lock. Bikes must be returned to another station. Prices are staggered, with one hour costing Dhs20 and 24 hours Dhs80. The website has full details.
Abras are motorised traditional wooden boats linking Bur Dubai and Deira across the Creek on two routes:
Abras leave when full (around 20 passengers), which rarely takes more than a few minutes. The fare is Dhs1, and you pay the driver en route. Chartering your own abra costs Dhs120 per hour.
Air-conditioned abras also link Al Jaddaf Marine Station with the Dubai Festival City Abra Station from 7am to midnight every 10 minutes, while petrol-operated abras operate from the new Al Seef Marine Station to Al Ghubaiba Marine Station between 7am and 10pm Saturday to Thursday and 10am to midnight Friday; the fare for both is Dhs2 and both rides take less than 10 minutes.
In addition, pricey, tourist-geared sightseeing abras offer short rides around Burj Lake (Dhs65), Al Mamzar (Dhs60) and Global Village (Dhs50).
The Dubai Ferry (www.dubai-ferry.com) operates on various routes and provides a fun way for visitors to see the city from the water.
Dubai Marina to Al Ghubaiba (Bur Dubai) Route These 90-minute mini-cruises depart at 11am, 1pm and 6.30pm from the Dubai Marina Ferry Station and the Al Ghubaiba Ferry Station. The route passes by Madinat Jumeirah, the Burj Al Arab and Port Rashid. Other options from either station include an afternoon-tea trip at 3pm and a sunset cruise at 5pm. Note that the ferries may cancel if they do not have sufficient passengers.
Dubai Canal Route Links Al Jaddaf Marine Station (near Creek metro station) with Dubai Canal station at 10am, noon and 5.30pm and at noon, 2pm and 7.30pm in the other direction. Stops include Dubai Design District, Al Wajeha, Marasi and Sheikh Zayed Rd. Fares depend on number of stations travelled; the entire one-way route is Dhs50.
Both routes connect at the Dubai Canal station. The fare from here to either Al Ghubaiba or Dubai Marina is Dhs25.
Dubai Mall to Dubai Marina Route A good service for shoppers, this route takes one hour and 20 minutes and connects two of the city's malls. It leaves from Dubai Marina at 3.15pm and 4.30pm and returns at 4.45pm and 6pm daily. Tickets cost Dhs68.25, and passengers are taken direct to Dubai Mall from nearby Al Wajeha Al Maeyah station by complimentary shuttle.
Fares and schedules change frequently; check www.dubai-ferry.com for the latest information.
Air-conditioned water buses link four stops around the Dubai Marina every 15 to 20 minutes from 10am to 11pm Saturday to Thursday and from noon to midnight on Friday. Fares range from Dhs3 to Dhs5 per stop or Dhs25 for a day pass. Nol Cards are valid.
The RTA operates local buses on more than 120 routes primarily serving the needs of low-income commuters. Buses are clean, comfortable, air-conditioned and cheap, but they’re slow. The first few rows of seats are generally reserved for women and children. Fares range from Dhs3 to Dhs8.50, and Nol Cards must be used.
For information, check www.dubai-buses.com; for trip planning, go to www.wojhati.rta.ae.
Car & Motorcycle
Driving in Dubai is not for nervous nellies given that local behind-the-wheel styles are rather quixotic, and negotiating seven- or eight-lane highways can be quite scary at first. Distances can be deceiving. Heavy traffic, detours and eternal red lights can quickly turn that 5km trip into an hour's journey.
However, well-maintained multilane highways, plentiful petrol stations and cheap petrol make car hire a worthwhile option for day trips from Dubai.
For navigating, Google Maps works reasonably well. A local alternative is the RTA Smart Drive app, downloadable free from Google Play and the Apple app store.
There are seven automated toll gates (Salik; www.salik.gov.ae/en), each costing Dhs4, set up along Dubai's highways, including two along Sheikh Zayed Rd: Al Barsha near the Mall of the Emirates and Al Safa near Burj Khalifa. All hire cars are equipped with sensors that record each time you pass a toll point. The cost is added to your final bill.
There are scores of car-rental agencies in Dubai, from major global companies to no-name local businesses. The former may charge more but give peace of mind with full insurance and 24/7 roadside assistance. You'll find the gamut at the airport and throughout the city. Most major hotels have desks in the lobby.
To hire a car, you must be over the age of 21 (25 for some fancier models) and have a valid driving licence and credit card. Depending on your country of origin, you may also need to produce an international driving licence. Some companies require that the national licence has been held for at least one year.
Daily rates start at about Dhs200 for a small manual car, including comprehensive insurance and unlimited mileage. Expect surcharges for airport rentals, additional drivers, one-way hire and drivers under 25 years of age. Most companies have child safety seats for a fee, but these must be reserved. It's usually more economical to prebook your car from home with an online car rental brokers such as Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com) or Holiday Autos (www.holidayautos.com).
You will be offered a choice of insurance plans. Opt for the most comprehensive type, as minor prangs are common here. Make sure you have the car rental company's number for roadside assistance.
Standard parking zones are indicated by two-tone curb markings (black and turquoise).
Dubai's parking system is divided into zones.
Zone A Roadside parking in commercial areas, Dhs4 per hour, enforced 8am and 10pm.
Zone B Car parks in commercial zones, Dhs3/8/20 per hour/three hours/24 hours, enforced 8am to 10pm.
Zone C Roadside parking in non-commercial zones, Dhs2/8 per hour/three hours, enforced 8am to 10pm.
Zone D Car parks in non-commercial zones, Dhs2/8/10 per hour/three hours/24 hours, enforced 8am to 10pm.
Tickets are purchased from an orange machine and displayed on your dashboard. They take coins, prepaid cards sold at supermarkets in denominations of Dhs30 or Dhs100 and the Nol Card (prepaid public transport pass; see www.nol.ae).
The fine for not buying a ticket is Dhs150; for overstaying it's Dhs100.
Driving is on the right.
The speed limit is 40km/h to 60km/h on city streets, 70km/h to 90km/h on major city roads and 100km/h to 120km/h on dual-lane highways.
Seatbelts are compulsory, and it is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
There’s a zero-tolerance policy on drinking and driving (0% is the blood alcohol limit).
Never make an offensive hand gesture to another driver; it could end in deportation or a prison sentence.
Tailgating, although common, is illegal and can result in a fine.
Don’t cross yellow lines.
If you're involved in a traffic accident, it’s a case of being guilty until proven innocent, which means you may be held by the police until an investigation determines whose fault the accident was.
Traffic congestion in Dubai can be a nightmare at peak hours, ie between 7am and 9am, 1pm and 2pm and most of the evening from 5pm onward. Roads are also clogged on Friday afternoon, especially around shopping malls, beaches and family attractions.
Don't Drink & Drive!
Drinking and driving is never a good idea, but in the UAE you’d be outright crazy to do so. Let’s make it absolutely clear: if you’ve had as much as one sip, you’ve had too much. The UAE has a zero-tolerance policy on drink-driving (ie the blood alcohol limit is 0%), and if your vehicle is stopped and you’re found to have been driving under the influence of alcohol (or a narcotic substance), you’ll be facing a stiff fine (minimum Dhs20,000), jail time and deportation.
Dubai’s metro (www.dubaimetro.eu) opened in 2010 and has proved a popular service.
Red Line Runs for 52km from near Dubai International Airport to Jebel Ali past Dubai Marina, mostly paralleling Sheikh Zayed Rd.
Green Line Runs for 22km, linking the Dubai Airport Free Zone with Dubai Healthcare City and Dubai Creek.
Intersection of Red & Green Lines At Union and BurJuman stations.
Onward Journey At each station, cabs and feeder buses stand by to take you to your final destination.
Frequency Red Line trains run roughly every 10 minutes from 5am to midnight Saturday to Wednesday, to 1am Thursday, and from 10am to 1am on Fridays. Green Line trains start slightly later at 5.30am from Saturday to Thursday.
Cars Each train consists of four standard cars and one car that’s divided into a women-only section and a ‘Gold Class’ section, where a double fare buys carpets and leather seats. Women may of course travel in any of the other cars as well.
Tickets Nol cards can be purchased at the station and must be swiped before exit.
Fares These vary from Dhs3 for stops within a single zone to Dhs7.50 for stops within five zones.
Routes All metro stations stock leaflets, in English, clearly mapping the zones.
Penalties If you exit a station with insufficient credit, you will have to pay the equivalent of a day pass (Dhs14). Inspectors regularly check that cards have been swiped and will issue an on-the-spot Dhs200 fine for ticket evasion. Men should also be careful not to inadvertently step into the women-only section, for which there is a Dhs100 on-the-spot fine. Note that eating, drinking or chewing gum is not allowed on the metro and may also incur fines.
The elevated, driverless Palm Jumeirah Monorail (www.palm-monorail.com) connects the Palm Jumeirah with Dubai Marina. There are three stations: Palm Gateway Station near the bottom of the 'trunk', Al Ittihad Park near the Galleria Mall and Atlantis Aquaventure at the Atlantis hotel. Two additional stations, The Pointe and Nakheel Mall, were expected to be up and running by the end of 2019 at the time of research. The 5.5km trip takes about 12 minutes and costs Dhs20 (Dhs30 return trip); cash only. Trains run every 15 minutes from 9am to 10pm. The monorail links to the Dubai Tram at Palm Gateway.
Dubai is a taxi-centric city, and you're likely to find yourself in need of a cab at some point. Government-licensed vehicles are cream-coloured and operated by Dubai Taxi Corporation. They are metered, air-conditioned, relatively inexpensive and the fastest and most comfortable way to get around, except during rush-hour traffic. Taxis can be hailed in the street, picked up at taxi ranks or booked by phone. You'll also see private taxis with different-coloured roofs (eg Arabia Taxi has a green roof). These are licensed and fine to use.
Dubai's public transport authority RTA has introduced a free Smart Taxi App from which you can book the nearest taxi based on your location. It's available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Flagfall for street taxis is Dhs8 between 6am and 10pm and Dhs9 between 10pm and 6am.
The starting fare for prebooked taxis is Dhs8, which increases to Dhs12 during peak times: 7am to 10am and 4pm to 10pm Saturday to Wednesday and 4pm to midnight Thursdays and Fridays.
The per kilometre fare is Dhs1.82.
The minimum fare per ride is Dhs12.
Trips originating at the airports have a flagfall of Dhs25 and a per kilometre charge of Dhs1.96.
Salik toll of Dhs4 per gate is automatically added to the fare.
Tip about Dhs5 or Dhs10 or round the fare up to the nearest note. Carry small bills because drivers may not be able to make change otherwise.
Drivers accept credit cards.
Reaching your Destination
Most taxi drivers are expats from South Asia but speak at least some English. However, destinations are generally not given via a street address but by mentioning the nearest landmark (eg a hotel, mall, roundabout or major building). If you’re going to a private residence, phone your host and ask them to give the driver directions.
Drivers new to the streets of Dubai may have trouble finding their way around. If they don't use a navigational system, Google Maps, RTA Smart Drive or some other web-based mapping app, use the one on your mobile to help them find your destination.
Women & Taxis
It’s generally fine for women to ride alone in a taxi, even at night, although you should not sit in the front as this might be misunderstood. Although drivers rarely get touchy or physically aggressive, some may try to hit on you, especially if you're young, attractive and/or not conservatively dressed. Use common sense and your experience to deal with the situation. If you prefer, book a pink-roofed cab with a woman driver – a so-called Ladies Taxi.
Uber & Careem
As in other metropolises, taxis are facing stiff competition from mobile ride-hailing apps such as Uber (www.uber.com) and Dubai-based Careem (www.careem.com), founded here in 2012 and now operating throughout the Middle East. Cost-wise, there's very little difference, but Uber and Careem tend to have much nicer cars that often come with free water, phone chargers and more clued-up drivers.
Tickets & Passes
Dubai’s local public transport is operated by the Roads & Transport Authority (www.rta.ae) and consists of the metro, buses, water buses and trams. For trip planning visit www.wojhati.rta.ae. For other information, call the 24-hour hotline (800 9090) or visit the website.
You can also download the local road and transport authority (RTA) app S'hail, which provides all local transport options on one platform, plus taxi bookings and real-time traffic conditions.
Before hopping aboard local transport, purchase a rechargeable pass (Nol Card; nol is Arabic for 'fare') from ticket offices or vending machines. The RTA network is divided into seven zones, with fares depending on the number of zones traversed. Cards must be tapped onto the card reader upon entering and exiting at which point the correct fare will be deducted.
Two types of tickets are relevant to visitors:
Nol Red Ticket (Dhs3, plus credit for at least one trip) Must be pre-loaded with the correct fare each time you travel; can be recharged up to 10 times; may only be used on a single mode of transport at a time. Fares: Dhs4 for one zone, Dhs6 for two zones, Dhs8.50 for three or more zones, Dhs20 for the day pass.
Nol Silver Card (Dhs25, including Dhs19 credit) With pre-loaded credit, this works on the pay-as you-go principle with fares deducted. Get this card if you're going to make more than 10 trips. Fares are Dhs3 for one zone, Dhs5 for two zones and Dhs7.50 for three or more zones.
For full details, see www.nol.ae.
Dubai does not have a train network.
The Dubai Tram (www.alsufouhtram.com) makes 11 stops in and around the Dubai Marina area, including near the Marina Mall, The Beach at JBR and The Walk at JBR. It also connects with the Damac and DMCC metro stations and with the Palm Jumeirah Monorail at Palm Jumeirah station.
Trams run roughly every eight minutes from 6am to 1am Saturday to Thursday and from 9am to 1am on Friday. The entire loop takes 40 minutes. The fare depends on how many zones you travel through, starting with Dhs4 for one zone. Nol Cards must be used.
A second phase of the Dubai Tram has been announced, which will extend the track by 4km and link the tram network with the Mall of the Emirates. The estimated completion year is 2020.
Negotiating Dubai by foot, even combined with public transport, is highly challenging because of the lack of pavements, traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. It is not unheard of here to be forced to take a taxi, merely to reach the other side of the road.
Beware of summer heat!
Nol Card Name of the ticket or pass required for travel on the metro, tram, local bus and water bus. Must be purchased before boarding and topped up with credit.
RTA Road & Transport Authority, the entity that manages public transport in Dubai. Has a website at www.rta.ae.
Wojhati Go to www.wojhati.rta.ae for this handy online journey planner for travel on the metro, tram, buses and boats.
Nextbike Bike-sharing operation with local provider Byky available in Downtown, the Dubai Marina and on the Palm Jumeirah with prior online registration.
Dubai Metro Red Line Stops at or near major sights along Sheikh Zayed Rd and in Bur Dubai and Deira.
Dubai Tram Slow but handy for getting around the Dubai Marina.
How to Hail a Taxi
- Look for a stationary or approaching cab with the yellow light on (red means it's occupied).
- As the car is approaching, stand in a prominent place on the side of the road and stick out your arm. The driver should pull over when they see you.
- Buy a Nol Card before using the metro, local bus, tram or water bus.
- If you're in Dubai on a short layover, buy the rechargeable Nol Red Ticket. Longer stays might warrant getting the Nol Silver Pass.
- For shorter distances, taxis are the fastest way of getting around and not too expensive.
- The best walking areas are Dubai Marina, City Walk, historic Bur Dubai (including Al Seef and Al Fahidi) and Deira.
When to Travel
- Traffic practically grinds to a halt and metro trains are packed during rush hour, which runs roughly from 7am to 10am and 4.30pm to 8pm or later.
- Roads are also clogged on Friday afternoons and on Saturday, especially near shopping malls, beaches and family attractions.
- At night, traveling by taxi is the fastest and most convenient way to get around town.
- The abra crossing of the Dubai Creek is at its most atmospheric after dark.
- On the Dubai Metro, have your Nol Card ready before you go through the gate so as not to hold up people.
- The list of 'verboten' things on public transport is long – you can be fined for chewing gum, drinking water or even taking a nap.
- Two cars on each metro train are set aside for women and children only.
- Stand to the right on escalators.