Getting around the UAE – Dubai and beyond transport advice for tourists
Many visitors to Dubai are excited to see beyond the big smoke and learn more about the rest of the country the United Arab Emirates – and we wholeheartedly agree!
But how exactly do you get beyond the city of Dubai? And what is there to experience in the 7 Emirates of the UAE? We cover what to see and do in the 7 Emirates of the UAE over here, but read on if you would like to know more about the HOW of getting around the United Arab Emirates.
Let’s take a look at all the different transport options.
Transport around the United Arab Emirates
The country runs a fairly comprehensive network of intercity buses. These are good quality, air-conditioned services with comfortable
There’s a detailed guide here on the Abu Dhabi to Dubai intercity bus and current operating schedules (in light of COVID domestic border closures).
For other regional centres:
- Dubai to Ajman – serviced by Intercity bus route E400.
- Dubai to Al Ain – serviced by Intercity bus route E201 (NB Abu Dhabi Emirate you will need Green Alhosn to board).
- Dubai to Fujairah – serviced by Intercity bus route E700.
- Dubai to Hatta – serviced by Dubai bus route E16 – see a more detailed guide here.
- Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah – serviced by Intercity bus route E601, or staying at one of the resort hotels, use the RAK Shuttle.
- Dubai to Sharjah – serviced by multiple bus routes including the E301, E303, E303A, E304, E306, E307, E307A, E311. You’ll find a detailed guide on Dubai to Sharjah buses here.
- Dubai to Umm Al Quwain – serviced by Intercity bus route E601 (shared with Ras Al Khaimah service).
Most buses depart from either Al Ghubaiba Bus Station in Deira or Union Square Bus Station. You can use the RTA planning tool Wohjati to plan your exact journey by bus.
Airline Coach Service
In addition to the government-run coach services, there are also luxury coach services operated by both Emirates and Etihad to get their respective passengers between DXB and AUH respectively.
The Emirates services have been substantially cut back since the start of COVID, however, Etihad is back to running a comprehensive service.
You can find out more about how the free airport coach services work here.
Private Car – self-driving in the UAE
There’s no denying, is a heavily car-centric country. The locals love their cars and with cheap fuel, it’s easy to see why there are so many gas-guzzling 4WD.
As a tourist, if you want to get beyond the city and see a lot more of the country’s off the beaten path attractions, absolutely having your own vehicle is the easiest way.
There are plentiful hire car options available from both the airport and many pick up locations around the city.
Key facts to know driving in the UAE
- Drive on the right-hand side of the road (steering wheel is on the left)
- Most cars have an automatic transmission
- Fuel costs around AED 2.30 – to 2.70 a litre
- Speed limits are marked in kilometres/hr – and they are high!
- In all emirates except Abu Dhabi, there is a 20km/hr “buffer” on the speed limit before you’re fined
- Speed cameras are everywhere, go too fast, you will be fined!
- Be mindful with Dubai there are tolls called “Salik” on major roads that run 24-hours a day. In Abu Dhabi there are DARB toll gates in peak driving times only. These charges will be passed on by your rental car company.
- Fog can be prevalent particularly in the winter months overnight and early morning driving
- Drivers licenses from your own country are required, plus an International Driver’s Permit if you are not from a designated list of countries.
- You can learn more about self-driving in Dubai & the UAE, and which drivers licenses are transferable over here.
Will I need a 4WD? For the most part no. Unless you plan on doing some series exploring deep into the desert you’ll be fine with a 2WD. If you are heading off-road it’s highly recommended to go with local tour operators who know the dunes well.
Hiring a Driver or Joining a Tour Group
If you are not a confident driver, we strongly recommend you jump in with an organised tour group or driver.
The roads in the UAE are of good quality, and driving conditions are normally good; it’s the driving habits of many others that are not! Traffic moves fast and the roads can be unforgiving if you make a mistake or miss an exit. Besides, it’s your holiday, right?
Group tours are the obvious first choice as they are much cheaper, but your itinerary is quite fixed. They make perfect sense though if you are new to the country and are only interested in seeing the major tourist highlights.
With a private driver, you can sit back and enjoy the ride, and have some control over the itinerary. We cover this in much more detail in our guide to the best day trips from Dubai.
Top Tip: Some good sources to look for driving services in the UAE with reputable providers include Get Your Guide and Viator. these are third party booking tools but come with a money-back guarantee if you need to cancel up to 24 hours beforehand.
Cycling in the UAE
Although cycling is an increasingly popular sport in the country with a number of purpose-built tracks available to enthusiasts, cycling on the roads and highways is not encouraged and in many instances quite dangerous.
With the searing daytime heat for much of the year, we do not recommend you attempt cycling around the UAE unless you are a highly experienced road rider.
Rail Connections in the UAE
At present, Dubai is the only Emirate to have any rail systems with its Metro network and Dubai Marina tram. There is no metro from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, nor any other parts of the country.
You can complete much of your journey within Dubai on the Metro but then would need to connect to a bus at the large intercity bus stations – Ibn Battuta if you are heading to Abu Dhabi, or Al Ghurbabia if you are heading to the Northern Emirates.
Etihad Rail, covering over 1200 kilometres across the UAE, has finally got Stage 2 approval but don’t expect to see this for some years to come. When complete, it will see 11 cities in the UAE connected by high-speed rail.
Water transport in the UAE
There is a comprehensive ferry network within Dubai, however, this does not extend to most of the Emirates.
- You can get a water ferry from Dubai to Sharjah Aquarium (suspended during COVID)
The only other way by water between the major ports of the UAE is by Gulf cruise ships.
Air transport in the UAE
There are no commercial services run between the Emirates, however, there are some private charter tours that can take you between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, this not only gets you from point A to B but a spectacular journey along the way as you take in the views along the UAE’s Gulf Coast.
NB these services look to all be suspended since COVID, likely due to the inability to enforce border rules if you’re arriving by plane. Stay tuned, we’ll update when scenic plane services are returned!
We hope this guide to UAE transport helps you set your sites beyond just Dubai and explore the 7 Emirates of the UAE with confidence.
Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Dubai, a handy guide on what to pack, and top tips for first-timers on the do’s and don’ts, laws, and customs to be aware of.
- Check out this incredible list of 150+ places you should visit when you’re in Dubai.
- Pick up a Dubai Pass from iVenture or a Go City Dubai Pass to save up to 50% on top Dubai attractions.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!!!
- Discover the best areas to stay in Dubai, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
Take me back to the Dubai Essential Planning information page
Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE and transit passengers self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our recommendation links.Dubai Travel Planner