How to get around in Dubai

by Dubai Travel Planner

Dubai is a city that has grown substantially in a very short space of time, and with it, the size of its transport network.

Whilst at times it can be a little overwhelming, there’s a huge range of choice when it comes to transport in Duabi, and you should definitely mix up a few different transport options as part of your Dubai experience.

You name it, Dubai has probably got it! The Hyperloop to Abu Dhabi might still be a distant dream, but there are plenty of alternative transport methods with varying convenience and cost. We will look here at

  • Public Transport in Dubai
    • Taxi
    • Metro
    • Buses
    • Tram
    • Monorail
  • Dubai water-based transport
    • Abras
    • Water Taxis
    • Canal ferry
    • Cruises
  • Private transport options
    • Ride share apps
    • Tours and drivers
    • Hiring a car

Public transport in Dubai

Note: the RTA (Roads and Traffic Authority) manages the overall public transport network in Dubai, but there are many different private providers. A “Nol” (Arabic for fare) card is required for many forms of transport. We explain this in detail below.

Dubai taxi

The easiest way to travel in Dubai is by taxi. They don’t cost too much and they are in fairly plentiful supply at Dubai hotels, malls and attractions. The disadvantage of taking a taxi in Dubai is that it may take you longer than other forms of transport if you get stuck in Dubai’s gruelling traffic jams.

You can advance call a Dubai taxi on 04 2080808 or hail one from the street, as well as picking up from a taxi rank. (From January 2020, this will change to an online app ordering system via Careem)

A yellow light means the taxi is free and a red light means it is booked or occupied. The minimum Dubai taxi fare is 12 AED.

There are also ride-hailing services such as Uber and Careem.  They will cost you more but may be quicker and more convenient if you are calling for a pickup or have a larger group.

Dubai Metro

The Dubai metro is by far one of the fastest and most convenient ways to get across town (assuming your destination is near a metro stop). These driver-less trains run every few minutes across the network, which consists of seven zones. Note though that queues for tickets can be lengthy, and the stations themselves a little cumbersome to get to.

Before your first ride, you will need to buy a Nol Card. You can pre-load it with an amount if you want to avoid queuing every time or just pay per ride.

  • Short-term visitors should purchase the Nol Red Ticket (2 AED + fare), whilst longer-term visitors and residents should purchase the NOL Silver Pass (25 AED – includes 19 AED in fares; best for 10 trips+).
  • Fares on Nol Red are 4 AED to 8.50 AED depending on Zones travelled, or 20AED for a day pass. On Nol Silver, fares are from 3AED to 7.50 AED.
  • There’s also a Nol Gold option (first class travel) which is the best option if you hate crowds!
  • Everyone aged 5 and up must have their own NOL card.
  • There is one carriage on each train set aside for women and children only.

Note in peak times it can be VERY busy. We advise against travelling with small children in these times as they can easily get lost in the crowd.

Dubai Buses

Dubai also has an extensive bus system that operates on the Nol card. The Dubai bus service is used more by locals than visitors but might come in handy for some of those harder to reach areas of town. You can use the RTA’s app Wojhati to work out your best routes around town.

Tip: Using your Nol card on a tram to complete your metro journey costs you no extra, but will you will pay for a standalone tram journey.

Dubai Tram

Currently, tram coverage is not extensive and is only really useful around the Dubai Marina area running from Al Souf to JBR. The Dubai tram is good for the novelty, but not one of the most useful parts of Dubai’s transport system.

Palm Jumeirah Monorail

The monorail connects the mainland to the Palm from Palm Jumeirah station and has 3 stops. Currently, the monorail is still operating its own fare system and payment is only in cash. At the time of writing a single trip per person is 20 AED or return 30 AED (which makes a taxi from the station to the end of the Palm significantly cheaper if travelling in a group).


Dubai Water-based Transport

Abras

Water taxi

A water bus operates within the Dubai Marina complex with 4 stops. It is a pleasant journey but not necessarily the fastest way to get around, though kids will no doubt love the experience! Tickets must be purchased for all passengers aged 5 and up and are between 3AED to 11AED depending how many stops you make.

If you are looking to cross the Dubai Creek from Bur Dubai to Deira or vice versa, you have a couple of options: to take a water taxi or sightseeing waterbus, or a traditional abra. At only 1AED per person per crossing, abras are an absolute steal and a lot of fun for the kids! You may also be able to rent one for sightseeing – expect to pay around 100 AED.

Canal ferry

The latest addition to Dubai’s water transportation network is the Dubai Canal. You can take the Dubai Ferry from the Business Bay area to the Dubai Marina – currently operating 3 times a day at 10am, 12pm and 5.30pm.

GETTING FROM DUBAI AIRPORT TO THE CITY

It is very straightforward to get a taxi from Dubai Aiport to any destination in the city. The taxi fare from Dubai Airport to the city is highly variable depending which part of town you are heading to. Dubai Airport to JBR area or hotels on the Palm, for example, might cost 100AED.

Alternatively, your hotel may offer a transfer service, which may be economical if you have more than 4 passengers and a lot of luggage that won’t fit in a standard taxi (a lot of taxis are fitted with LPG tanks, so have limited luggage space).

For Families: Use of Car Seats in Dubai

A standard taxi leaving from Dubai International Airport is permitted to borrow car seats from the airport, which they later return. These come at no extra charge to you, but you may need to insist on asking for them. Careem also offers a family service that includes one car seat and larger vehicles to fit all your gear.

If you are planning on travelling extensively around town, you may need to bring your own car seats. You can see our full list of recommended kiddy gear to bring with you in our packing list for Dubai.

GETTING FROM DUBAI TO ABU DHABI

Looking to head to Abu Dhabi? Currently, the only public transport system between the two cities is Intercity Buses which you catch from IBN Battuta Mall or Al Ghubaiba Bus Station in Bur Dubai to the Abu Dhabi bus station (next to Al Whadha mall). It costs 25AED each way.

These services run fairly regularly throughout the day, but just be mindful that you need to catch a further bus or taxi to connect at either end.

With a family group, you may be better off getting dropped directly at your destination with a taxi or hiring a private driver who can come with you for the day. Expect to pay approximately 300AED ($85USD) for a standard taxi from Dubai airport to Abu Dhabi, or 400AED+ ($108USD+) for a people mover.

You can see a detailed guide on how to transit between Dubai and Abu Dhabi here

If you are flying with Emirates, they offer a complimentary transfer service to Abu Dhabi Corniche where you can then catch an onward connection. This only applies to passengers flying on Emirates presenting a valid ticket for that day. If you are connecting directly to an Etihad flight they offer a similar service.

You can read more about free airport transit buses here

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