German company Nextbike has teamed up with local provider Byky (www.bykystations.com or www.nextbike.net/en) 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 rent 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 (near Creek metro station) with the Dubai Festival City Abra Station from 7am to midnight every 10 to 20 minutes. The fare is Dhs2 and rides take about six minutes.
In addition, pricey, tourist-geared sightseeing abras offer short rides around Burj Lake, Madinat Jumeirah and the Atlantis The Palm.
The Dubai Ferry operates on two interlinking routes and provides a fun way for visitors to see the city from the wtaer.
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. The fare for any of these trips is Dhs50 (children Dhs25).
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.
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 http://dubai-buses.com; for trip planning, go to www.wojhati.rta.ae.
Car & Motorcycle
Driving in Dubai itself 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 rental 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 for free from Google Play and 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 rental 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 gives 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 drivers’ license and credit card. Depending on your country of origin, you may also need to produce an international drivers’ license. Some companies require that the national license 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 Parking lots in commercial zones, per hr/3hr/24hr Dhs3/8/20, enforced 8am to 10pm.
Zone C Roadside parking in non-commercial zones, per hour/3hr Dhs2/8, enforced 8am to 10pm.
Zone D Parking lots in non-commercial zones, per hr/3hr/24hr Dhs2/8/10, 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 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 onwards. Roads are also clogged on Friday afternoon, especially around shopping malls, beaches and family attractions.
Don’t Drink & Drive!
Drinking and driving are 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 52.1km from near Dubai International Airport to Jebel Ali past Dubai Marina, mostly paralleling Sheikh Zayed Rd.
Green Line Runs for 22.5km, linking the Dubai Airport Free Zone with Dubai Healthcare City.
Intersection of Red & Green Lines At Union and Khalid Bin Al Waleed (next to BurJuman shopping mall) 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 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 (fare) cards can be purchased at the station and must be swiped before exit.
Fares These vary from Dhs2 for stops within a single zone to Dhs6.50 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 cards have been swiped and will issue an on-the-spot Dhs200 fine for ticket evasion.
The elevated, driverless Palm Jumeirah Monorail (www.palm-monorail.com) connects the Palm Jumeirah with Dubai Marina. There are three stations: Palm Gateway near the bottom of the ‘trunk’, Al Ittihad Park near the Galleria Mall and Atlantis Aquaventure at the Atlantis hotel. The 5.45km trip takes about 12 minutes and costs Dhs20 (Dhs30 round 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 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, 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).
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-in 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 wojhati.rta.ae. For other information, call the 24-hour hotline (800 9090) or visit the website.
The RTA network is divided into seven zones, with fares depending on the number of zones traversed.
Travel requires the purchase of a Nol ticket or card (nol is Arabic for ‘fare’) at ticket stations or from vending machines before boarding. 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 (Dhs2, 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 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 Jumeirah Lakes Towers 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.
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 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
- To hail a cab, 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 terribly expensive.
- The best walking areas are Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai, historic Bur Dubai 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.
- One car on each metro train is set aside for women and children only.
- Stand on your right on escalators.
Dubai is known for
Staying Out Late
Barasti Dance with sand between your toes or make new friends at this spirited beachside hotspot.
360º Oldie-but-goodie resto-bar with Burj Al Arab views turns high-octane party weekend playground.
Bliss Lounge Chic beachfront lounge with perfect views of the giant Ain Dubai Ferris wheel.
White Dubai Dazzling light shows and top DJs electrify this huge rooftop party den.
A Touch of Luxury
Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club Check out the Creek with glass in hand from the deck of your private yacht.
High Tea at the Burj Reserve a top table for tea with bubbly and heady views, 200m above sea level.
Gold Souq Prices are fair, the quality superb and the purchase a glittering investment. What are you waiting for?
Dinner at At.mosphere Dust off that platinum card for a window table at the world’s highest restaurant.
Dubai Mall The world’s largest mall packs a serious retail punch along with family entertainment.
Ibn Battuta Mall This mall’s stunning decor tracks the journey of a 14th-century Arab scholar from Spain to India.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah Modern indoor souq with sumptuous look, enticing shops and plenty of appealing refuelling stops.
Mall of the Emirates A dizzying number of shops and the dazzling alpine slopes of Ski Dubai.
Art & History
Etihad Museum This new architectural marvel chronicles the founding of the United Arab Emirates in 1971.
Alserkal Avenue This cluster of warehouses has turned into a dynamic campus of galleries and creative outlets.
Dubai Museum Dubai’s history within the confines of the Al Fahidi Fort, the city’s oldest building.
Al Fahidi Historic District Embark on a journey into Dubai’s past on a wander around this atmospheric restored historic quarter.
Gate Village Smock-and-beret types will love nosing around the exciting contemporary galleries at this posh art hub.
Shindagha Historic District Creekside quarter trains spotlight on Dubai’s cultural heritage with historic buildings and museums.
Kite Beach Kite surfing is among the activities luring sporty types to this glorious band of sand.
JBR Beach Family-geared sandy strip with fun zones and glorious views of the Ain Dubai observatory wheel.
Sunset Beach With prime views of the Burj Al Arab, this is the beach where you shouldn’t forget your camera.
Al Mamzar Beach Park This super-long, pristine and family-friendly beach comes with a pool, playgrounds and water sports.
Frying Pan Adventures Fun and educational food tours explore the polyethnic culinary labyrinth Bur Dubai and Deira.
Dubai Food Festival New trends, celebrity chefs, cooking classes and fabulous fare at month-long foodie fair.
Al Mansour Dhow dinner cruise Dhow cruises offer a romantic journey with a generous spread of Indian and Arabic food.
Food Trucks Track down these elusive gourmet mobile kitchens by following their whereabouts via social media.
Friday Brunch Unleash your inner glutton at the buffets of what has become a Dubai expat weekend ritual.
Alserkal Avenue Constantly evolving creativity village with galleries, cafes, fringe theatre, offbeat stores and funky cafes in warehouses.
BoxPark Cool street mall built from shipping containers feeds hipster cravings with concept stores and offbeat cafes.
City Walk Fashionable outdoor mall with sleek architecture, stunning digital projections, street art and high-end boutiques.
Dubai Design District Cauldron of creativity with international players, lots of public art, edgy buildings and a busy events schedule.
IMG Worlds of Adventure Thrill rides with dinos, superheroes and cartoon characters in the world’s largest indoor amusement park.
Legoland Dubai This Lego wonderland comes with rides, live entertainment, a driving school and a huge Lego shop.
Motiongate Indoor-outdoor park counts rides inspired by Ghostbusters, Shrek and The Hunger Games among its attractions.
Bollywood Parks Dubai Plunge into the action, adventure and romance of India’s huge movie industry crowned by a musical.
Thanks to Lonely Planet for information about Dubai.