Transportation - Get In
Dubai's main airport is the Dubai International Airport . Its eventual replacement, Dubai World Central , is now open to passenger flights but is only serving a few flights currently. You can also enter Dubai by using Sharjah International Airport in the nearby emirate of Sharjah and Abu Dhabi International Airport in nearby Abu Dhabi.
Airlines often have price wars to glamorous destinations like Dubai and this can work to your advantage by careful planning and comparison of the various airlines serving Dubai. Emirates is Dubai's official airline carrier which connects Dubai to over 100 destinations while FlyDubai is Dubai's low-cost carrier. Etihad has shuttle services from their exclusive check in facility in Sheikh Zayed Rd or Central Business District of Dubai to and from Abu Dhabi Int'l Airport, you can also fly with Sharjah's low-cost carrier; Air Arabia which flies to over 46 destinations within the Middle East. Low fares from North America are most often found on Qatar Airways.
Dubai International Airport is the largest hub in the Middle East and the home base of Dubai's flag carrier Emirates and its low-cost wing flydubai. In fact, it has grown at such a furious pace that the present terminals are bursting at the seams, especially during the peak hours around midnight. Frequent visitors from countries granted automatic visa on entry may wish to purchase an e-gate card to speed up immigration formalities and save passport pages. The e-gate card office is situated in the upstairs food court area of the terminal 1 departures concourse. The card will cost 200 AED. Note: If you intend to buy an e-gate card in Dubai, you must have entered UAE via Dubai airport.
Dubai World Central - Al Maktoum International Airport opened to passenger flights in October 2013 and has grand ambitions to be the largest airport in the world, capable of serving 160 million passengers a year. (For comparison, London Heathrow has around 70 million.) For time being, though, it's only served by low-cost carriers Wizz Air and Jazeera, and Emirates is not planning to shift until 2025 or so. The airport is located in Jebel Ali at the far western end of Dubai, nearly 60km from central Dubai and about 110km from Abu Dhabi. A train line is planned, but for time being the transport options are taxi, which will cost over 100 Dhs to most points in the city, and bus lines F55/F55A. F55 connects Al Maktoum airport with Ibn Batuta Metro Station during the day, while F55A runs between Al Maktoum airport and Al Satwa Bus station during the night. Buses depart every hour from the airport.
Sharjah International Airport is located in the emirate of Sharjah. It is only 30min by road from Dubai and takes an increasing number of international flights as Dubai airport struggles to keep up with demand. The principal carrier here is Air Arabia, a low-cost carrier serving the Middle East and South Asia. The airport is fairly basic but is being expanded. A taxi ride to Dubai will typically cost AED50. A bus service by Air Arabia also runs from the Airport to the Rashidiya Metro Station in Dubai. Rashidiya metro station is located close to the Dubai International Airport.
Dubai's only international road border is with Oman at Al Wajajah. Expatriate residents of Oman will require an official permit to exit Oman by road. Visitors do not require the permit. There is an OMR3 charge per vehicle to exit Oman and, if returning, retain the charge receipt as it will be required to re-enter. Ensure that insurance is valid for the UAE (preferably before commencing the journey). Temporary UAE insurance can be purchased at the border for a premium price.
There are also road borders between the neighbouring Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Oman at the Al Burami Oasis which divides the sister cites of Al Ain and Al Burami, Oman.
Dubai is a very car-oriented city and most visitors will choose to take taxis instead of the public transportation system. You can easily find them at the taxi queue or you just simple wave at one on the road, but this could be just difficult during rush hours. Also some of them even refuse short rides in jammed areas.
Signage is terrible in Dubai, and taxis often get lost. The best thing to do is navigate from well-known landmarks, such as hotels. GPS devices are often outdated. Street and road names can be very confusing, because the different transliterations from Arabic, you will notice that the slight variance in the spelling is very important.
You can find a lot of Rent-A-Cars that will give you a vehicle with very cheap rates and only an International Driving Permit, if you don’t have an UAE one. Some agencies also offer a car hire service with drivers, an option much more comfortable for visitors, specially if the driver speaks English and knows the way around the city better that most taxi drivers.
Some of the best car rental companies are: Careem Car Services, that offers an easy booking system with a real-time tracking app and, if you need it, you can hire a car with child sit. DotTransfers also offers additional services like an executive transportation and limousine service with fair rates and good booking assistance. Ahdab International Luxury Transport is a highly experienced team of professionals but their rates tend to be quite expensive.
The Government of Dubai operates a network of buses linking Dubai city with the capitals of the other six emirates of the UAE. The buses run under the name Emirates Express and operate from various bus terminals in Dubai.
- To/from Abu Dhabi: Buses operate every 40 minutes from 06.20 from both Dubai's Al Ghubaibah bus station and Abu Dhabi's main bus station. The two-hour journey cost AED25.
- To/from Sharjah: Frequent buses run between Dubai and Sharjah. There are several different routes and buses depart from various bus stations in Dubai including Al Karama, Gold Souq, Baniyas Square, Jebel Ali and Al Ittihad Square. Fares are at AED7 as of December 2010.
- To/from Al Ain: Buses operate every hour from both Dubai's Al Ghubaibah bus station. The two-hour journey costs AED15.
- To/from Fujairah: The bus to Fujairah leaves from the Rashidiya Metro station and takes about 3 to 4 hours.
For timetables see the website .
Dubai is a trading hub for dhows from around the Indian Ocean. Travellers wanting to arrive in the city this way will probably need to make their own arrangements with the captain of the vessel. Most of the dhows sail to Iran; some also head to Yemen and Somalia. Emulating Michael Palin and heading to India on a dhow is difficult-to-impossible.
Dubai has an international cruise terminal at Port Rashid. During wintertime Costa Cruises has bases at least two of its cruise ships (Costa Luminosa, Cost Fortuna) at Dubai.
Valfajr Shipping Company runs a boat service that leaves Bandar Lengeh and Bandar Abbas in Iran supposedly every second day and docks in Port Rashid in Dubai, returning the following day. Crossing the Persian Gulf takes roughly 6 hours. A two-way first class ticket costs USD145 (IRR1,450,000) as of February 2010 and two-way economy class tickets cost USD122 (IRR1,220,000). The ticket includes lunch (Iranian style).
Transportation - Get Around
Dubai's public transport system is probably the best in the Middle East, especially after the launch of the metro, but it's still a very car-oriented city and most visitors end up taking taxis quite often. The Wojhati journey planner can suggest the best way to travel.
A day pass valid for unlimited rides on the metro, tram and buses costs Dh22, while theNol Silver stored-value card costs Dh20 (including AED14 worth of balance) and gives a 10% discount on both metro and bus fares. Both are available at metro stations and major bus stations. The Silver card is useful for public transport users who stay in Dubai for more than a day. Check out at the end of your trip (this includes buses).
|Red ticket||Dh 2||Rechargeable ticket; suitable for tourists, valid for 90 days; however should only be used in one type of transport ticket (e.g one zone ticket cannot be reloaded with two zone ticket or day pass even after used up), can store up to 10 journeys.|
|Silver card||Dh 20 (Dh 14 value)||Rechargeable ticket, valid for 5 years. Recommended if staying for more than a year.|
|Gold card||Dh 20 (Dh 14 value)||Rechargeable ticket, can be used in Gold Class.|
|Blue card||Dh 70||Personalized card, with online services like transaction history and online recharge.|
Dubai's 52km long Red Line, opened in September 2009, is the second metro in the Arab world after Cairo. While the line does not serve the old city centre, it's handy for zipping along Dubai's long coastline and includes stops at the airport, Burj Khalifa and the Mall of the Emirates. The Green Line, which burrows through the city core, opened in September 2011. You can transfer between the two lines at Union Square and Khalid Bin Al Waleed (BurJuman). There are also Blue and Purple lines under construction with opening dates in the next few years.
Single tickets range from AED2-8.50, or double that for use of the "Gold" first class carriage if a rechargeable smart card is used. A single non-rechargeable ticket cost starts at AED6 for a trip within one zone, AED8 for two zones, etc. Tickets can be purchased in automated machines, ticket offices or at the gate information clerk. Cash and payment cards are accepted (Visa and MasterCard). Trains run every 3–5 minutes from 05:50 to midnight every day except Thursday and Friday, when services are extended to 05:50-01:00 limited to 13:00-23:59, respectively. All stations are air-conditioned and there's a large network of feeder buses. If you plan to travel late in the evening, check station working hours as the last train may depart earlier that the official system operating hours.
A 5 km monorail system shuttles passengers across the Palm Jumeirah to the Atlantis hotel. It connects with the Dubai Tram. This is not a part of the rest of Transport, and therefore, need to buy separate ticket (15 Dirhams one-way and 25 Dirhams return).
The latest of Dubai's modern transportation system is the Dubai Tram, which opened on November 12, 2014. It provides commuters a comfortable transit service around the prime business and leisure districts of Dubai. The Dubai Tram operates for 19 hours daily running for 14.5 kilometers along Al Sufouh Road. It passes around the vibrant Dubai Marina where passengers are treated to breathtaking sights of towering skyscrapers and luxury yachts, and then travels down Jumeirah passing by the iconic Burj Al Arab.
The Dubai Tram connects with the Dubai Metro at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers and DAMAC stations, and links with the monorail of Palm Jumeirah. Outside of Europe, the Dubai Tram is the first tram system that uses the state-of-the-art ground cable system which eliminates the unsightly and dangerous overhead cables.
Dubai Public transport is a cheaper means of travelling within the several districts of Dubai. A map of the bus system can be found online, as well as detailed route maps and timetables. Public buses are clean and cheap, but unfortunately not very comprehensive and (on some routes) quite infrequent. The bus system is most useful for getting between different areas of central Dubai, or between the various suburbs, rather than general transport. Taxis or a fair amount of walking will also be required if you visit Dubai without a car of your own.
You will require a Nol card or ticket for fare payment. Cards can be purchased from most bus stations, metro stations, and sometimes from the bus driver.
The main bus stations are Gold Souq Market (in Deira) and Al Ghubaiba bus station (in Bur Dubai). The flat fare is AED2, but might be higher for hour-long rides to distant suburbs. Clear route maps and timetables are placed inside a few bus stands. Ramadan timings differ. The front seats are reserved for women.
Probably the single most useful service for the casual tourist is Line 8, which starts at the Gold Souq, takes the tunnel under the Creek to Heritage Village, and then sets off down Jumeirah Rd (just behind the beach) and all its hotels and malls, up to Burj al-Arab and Wild Wadi. It terminates near the Internet City, while its 8A variant goes down a little further and also serves the Mall of the Emirates.
By Hop-on Hop-off bus
For a good, hop-on hop-off tour try Big Bus Tours. It runs two routes: the blue route through Jumeirah and the recently constructed areas, and the red route centred on the older parts of Dubai. The hub for both routes is Wafi City mall, and an AED220 ticket covers 24 hours of riding.
Taxis ply the streets of Dubai and are relatively easy to spot with their cream bodies and coloured roofs. The easiest place to find them is at the taxi queue at one of the malls or outside a hotel. Waving down a taxi on the road is possible, but can be difficult during rush hours. At peak times (7-9AM & 4-7PM workdays, and Friday evenings) demand exceeds supply, and not only are taxis hard to find, but those who deign to pick you up may demand crazy off-meter fares or refuse short rides in congested areas entirely. If you accept an off-meter quote, ensure that the driver clearly says 'Dirhams' as occasionally the word metamorphoses into 'Dollars' when you reach your destination. Also, the drivers of Dubai Taxi Corporation go through their shift change between 4-6PM daily and it can be more difficult to find taxis during this time. The standard of driving in Dubai ranges from poor to wild - taxis are some of the worst on the roads. Taxi drivers are pretty good at knowing where the main shopping malls and hotels are, however less well known places will mean the driver calling his brother-in-law to get directions, whilst he drives around in circles on your time - hence it is a good idea to have a rough idea of where you are heading or what a nearby landmark is.
Taxis are metered at 1.82 dhs/km during the day and 1.82 dhs/km at night, so no haggling is necessary. The rates of all taxi companies — Dubai Transport, National, Cars, Metro, and Arabian — are identical, so just take the first one that comes along. Street pickups attract a standing charge of 5 dhs during the day and 5.50 at night (10PM-6AM). From the airport, there is a standing charge of 25 dhs; there is a surcharge of 20 dhs for going to Sharjah. A minimum total fare of 12 dhs applies. Taxis are exempt from the Salik road toll charges.
Beware of unmarked hotel taxis and limousines though: while some of these are metered, they are not tied to the official rates, and can be much more expensive. One way to spot whether a taxi is official or not is to look for a meter: no meter, don't get in.
If you can't find one otherwise, you can attempt to call Dubai Taxi on 04-2080808 (each franchise has its own booking number but one central system), there's a surcharge of 3 dhs to book. The booking system was notorious for its unreliability but with a significantly increased taxi fleet, many taxis now deliberately wait in unofficial holding areas waiting for bookings. As a result, on a good day it can be possible to book a taxi and have it arrive within less than five minutes. If you absolutely have to get somewhere at a certain time (say, the airport or a meeting), it's still best to book a hotel taxi in advance, and get their estimate of how bad the traffic will be.
Women should travel in the back of the taxi as some drivers see it as a sexual invitation if you get in the front.
Taxi drivers are usually friendly, but may have a different ideas on hygiene.
There are a countless number of Rent-A-Cars that will provide a mode of transportation for very cheap rates and very little paperwork. An International Driving Permit is not necessarily required, but hire companies may not rent a car without one.
Some agencies will hire out cars complete with drivers. Visitors taking advantage of this option will need to make certain that their driver knows his way around as many do not.
When driving on the main roads, such as Sheikh Zayed road, the junction numbers are not in logical order. Junction 13 is just after Junction 18 and are rarely as shown on the maps. Road names can also be very confusing with slight differences in spelling (due to different transliterations from Arabic) being very important. The construction work that is taking place throughout and around Dubai can make finding your destination a challenge. Temporary road layouts change with alarming regularity and temporary signs can be misleading or non existent. As GPS maps are not up to date (and usually not anyway available to rent with hire cars), you will be very well off with a printed map (you can get an excellent one in Virgin stores, for example. There is a Virgin Megastore on the top floor of City Center).
Driving during morning and afternoon peak hours is not recommended, as traffic slows to a standstill and even a simple trip across a bridge can take up to 45 minutes. There is also a scarcity of parking spaces in many parts of the city.
With such a mixture of nationalities residing in the city, driving styles are mixed to say the least. Both dangerous and experienced driving will be witnessed or experienced frequently, and bear in mind that Dubai has one of the highest per capita road death rates in the world. There is zero tolerance for alcohol and driving with stiff penalties meted out including jail and deportation.
See Salik for information about tolls on certain routes in Dubai. If you rent a car, usually a Salik tag will be provided by the car hire company and you will be charged separately (normally 5 dhs a gate) when returning the car.
An easy way of crossing Dubai Creek is by abra, a small ferry. Abra stations are located along the Creek on both the Bur Dubai and Deira sides, and the system of filling the boats is remarkably efficient. The cross-river trip costs 1 dirham, payable to the driver after the boat has left the station, and affords a very picturesque view of the city. Abras set off very regularly, and the service is available round-the-clock.
Air-conditioned water buses are a way to avoid the abra crowd and the heat. They are part of the public transport system, so a Red Nol ticket or a Nol card is required. Tickets can be purchased at the water bus station. The fare each way is 2 dirham. The water bus also features a 'tourist route' round trip – while it is convenient, it can get quite expensive (50 dhs per adult, 25 dhs per child).
The Creek is also the home of many boats offering more comfortable (and correspondingly more expensive) tours, often in boats designed to resemble dhows. Prices tend to be higher, particularly for dinner cruises with on-board entertainment.