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 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.
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 (which you've downloaded first, of course, to avoid roaming fees).
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.
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-in drivers.