Car The UAE is exceedingly car-centric, and the cheap petrol and affordable car-hire fees mean that many travellers choose to explore this way. Be aware though, UAE driving conditions are low on courtesy and big on Grand Prix–style speed. Confident defensive driving skills are a must.
Bus Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah all have inter-city public bus services that are cheap, regular and efficient, although much slower than travelling by car. The network isn't completely comprehensive but can get you to most places.
Taxi Ubiquitous. Can be used for trips between emirates as well as short rides.
There are no domestic flight routes in the UAE.
Cycling is one of the UAE's fastest-growing sports with the Hatta Mountain Bike Trail in Hatta, the Al Wathba cycling track in Abu Dhabi and the 85km loop of the Al Qudra Cycle Course in Dubai (which offers plentiful desert scenery) being three of the best new additions to the cycle scene.
Using a bike as your sole form of transport to travel through the UAE remains unusual, however. If you're planning a cycle trip, make sure to choose your season wisely – October to March are the best months to avoid the worst of the heat. Plan to carry as much water as possible. Be prepared for plenty of long, flat monotonous stretches of road, strong crosswinds and the possibility of sandstorms. Note that drivers in the UAE aren't used to sharing the road with cyclists so keep alert, particularly on city roads, and fit lights to your bike for extra visibility.
If you don't want to bring your bike with you, there are several places that hire out good-quality road and mountain bikes.
Adventure HQ Outdoor equipment store with branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that rent and sell bikes.
Trek Bikes (www.trekbikes.ae) Has a bike-hire facility at the Al Qudra Cycle Course as well as a shop and bike service centre on Sheikh Zayed Rd in Dubai.
Wolfies Bike Shop (www.wbs.ae) The central hub for cycling in Dubai with bike servicing and rentals as well as the full gamut of bike accessories for sale. Also home to the Dubai Roadsters cycling club which runs weekly group rides open to all.
There are no public ferries between emirates. There is talk of starting a water-taxi service between Dubai and Sharjah, though as of late 2018, it wasn't yet operational.
The following companies provide travel between the major cities.
Abu Dhabi Department of Transportation (www.dot.abudhabi.ae) Service within the emirate of Abu Dhabi including to Al Ain and Mezairaa.
Ajman Bus (www.at.gov.ae) Services from Ajman to Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain.
Al Hamrah bus company Services to and from Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai (via Umm Al Quwain, Ajman and Sharjah).
Dubai Roads & Transport Authority (www.dubai-buses.com) Services to and from Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Hatta and Sharjah from several bus stations throughout Dubai.
Sharjah Roads & Transport Authority (www.st.gov.ae) Services from Sharjah to Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain; and to and from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Kalba and Khor Fakkan.
Car & Motorcycle
Having your own wheels is a great way to see the UAE, allowing you to get off the major highways and to stop as you please. Well-maintained multi-lane highways link the cities, often lit along their entire length. For off-road driving, you need a 4WD. If you have a breakdown, call the Arabian Automobile Association (http://aaaemirates.com).
To hire a car, you’ll need a passport, a credit card and a valid driving licence. International driving licences are not usually compulsory, but it's better to have one.
Daily rates start at about Dhs200 for a small manual car such as a Toyota Yaris, including comprehensive insurance and unlimited miles.
Expect surcharges for airport rentals, additional drivers, one-way hire and drivers under 25. Most companies have child and infant safety seats for a fee, but these must be reserved well in advance.
GPS devices are also available for hire for about Dhs35 per day. Although somewhat useful, their data (especially outside of Dubai) is not usually current and should not be relied upon entirely.
Local agencies may be cheaper, but the major international ones have the advantage of larger fleets and better emergency backup.
For longer rentals, pre-booked and prepaid packages, arranged in your home country, may work out cheaper than on-the-spot rentals. Check for deals with online travel agencies, travel agents or brokers such as Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com) or Holiday Autos (www.holidayautos.com).
If you plan on taking the car to Oman, bring written permission from the car-rental company in case you’re asked for it at the border. You’ll also need car insurance that's valid in Oman. Omani insurance is available at most border crossings.
Driving in the United Arab Emirates is not for the faint of heart. Although it’s not as chaotic as in other parts of the Middle East, drivers tend to cut in front of you, turn without indicating and view roundabouts as a lane-less free-for-all. Out on the freeway, driving in the lane closest to the centre of the road at speeds of less than 160km/h will invoke some serious headlight flashing from the latest-model Mercedes trying to break the Dubai–Abu Dhabi land-speed record.
So it’s no surprise that the UAE has one of the world’s highest rates of road deaths per capita. Inappropriate speed and reckless driving are the major causes, as well as pedestrians crossing against the lights or not at crossings. Thankfully public-awareness campaigns are beginning to make an impact.
Things to keep in mind:
- Headlight-flashing from the car behind you is UAE driver-speak for you're driving too slow and they want to overtake. Avoid these confrontations by driving in the far-right lane on freeways.
- Keep a cool head when faced with aggressive or dangerous driving. Being reported for obscene hand gestures or language can land you with a fine, a prison sentence or deportation.
- Be alert for camels wandering onto the road and for encroaching sand when driving outside of the cities.
- Drive on the right.
- Seat belts are compulsory for all car occupants.
- The alcohol limit is zero.
- Speed limits are between 40km/h and 80km/h in urban areas and up to 140km/h on freeways.
- If you have an accident, even a small one, you must call the police (999) and wait at the scene. If it's a minor accident, move your car to the side of the road. You cannot file an insurance claim without a police report.
Taxis are decently priced, metered, ubiquitous and within emirates like Umm Al Quwain often the only way of getting around.
Most drivers can also be hired by the hour. In that case, rates should be negotiated unless fixed fees are set in place. In Dubai, for instance, the fee for six hours is Dhs300, for 12 hours Dhs500.
Most cabs can also be engaged for long-distance travel to other emirates, in which case you should negotiate the fee at the beginning of the trip.
Few drivers are fluent English speakers, but the vast majority have a good grasp on the language. Many are more familiar with landmarks than street names. It helps if you mention parks, shopping malls or hotel names when giving directions for your desired destination. Tip about 10% for good service.
The UAE has no train network.