Getting Around in Dubai
Our experts are constantly exploring new places to broaden our horizons. In our adventures, we’ve discovered all of the best ways to reach top attractions across Dubai, and we’re happy to share these insights with you! So, without further ado, here’s your ultimate guide to getting around in Dubai.
Setting the scene
For a long time, Dubai was a city built for cars. The expansive road network enabled most residents to roam around in their own set of wheels. These days, however, it’s not just tourists boarding water taxis or scooting around town on an e-bike. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has turned the public transport system into a well-oiled machine that boasts ease, efficiency and sustainability. Integrated app’s like Sohail and RTA Smart only add to the user experience and most public transport areas are easily accessible and wheelchair-friendly. To pay, all you need is a single unified NOL card.
Taking a taxi or Careem
As a visitor, taxis are arguably the most convenient way to get around in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). You can easily hail one on the street or order your ride via a ride-hailing app. Fares are clearly displayed and most forms of payment are accepted.
Careem is the widely-used ride-hailing app for calling a car in the UAE and surrounding regions. It was acquired by Uber and follows the same model, but both operate independently. Although Careem may at times be slightly more expensive than hailing a regular taxi, it provides nicer vehicles, a loyalty point reward system, and often times even amenities like water and phone chargers.
Pro tip: Peak times and traffic hotspots can be a concern. During those times, trains maybe a better option, especially for short-distance travels. Look out for: Private cars with drivers offering rides. These vehicles are not registered with the RTA and not advisable for use.
Making the most of the Metro and Trams
The Metro and connected Tram service are budget-friendly and some of the fastest ways of getting around Dubai. The Dubai Metro is different from most cities in that a large part of the track is elevated above the ground. This means passengers are provided with panoramic views along their journey, as much of the railway runs parallel to the famous Sheikh Zayed Road - home of many iconic Dubai landmarks. Features on board include free Wi-Fi, dedicated cabins for women, security, luggage areas and easy accessibility for people of determination. Another great feature of the Dubai Metro is the ‘Park & Ride’ option. Passengers can park for free at any of these three stations - CenterPoint, Jebel Ali and Etisalat.
Many residents find taking the Metro a convenient and cost-effective way to get around the city, hence it can get crowded at times during peak times. If you don’t mind paying a little extra, you can opt for a Gold Class NOL card, which provides access to the first cabin, featuring wide leather seats and drop-down laptop tables.
Pro tip: Certain Metro Stations like ‘Burj Khalifa - Dubai Mall’ have a long walk from the trains to the actual destination. It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for feeder buses.
Connecting with the Dubai Metro at two stations, the Tram service is equally well equipped, but covers a smaller area around Dubai Marina, JLT and Media City. As any local would tell you, getting on the tram is the best way to avoid traffic and parking challenges. Trams run roughly every eight minutes, and are conveniently priced at just AED 4 (free, when linked with a Metro trip).
Fun fact: The Dubai Tram is the first tramway project outside Europe powered by a ground-based electric supply system along the track. No messy overhead cables ruining this picturesque city image!
For useful information on the Metro and Tram routes and stations, kindly visit RTA’s webpage and download the latest map of the Dubai Rail Network.
When it comes to Dubai railways, we’ve saved the best for last. Serving as the crème de la crème of trains, let us introduce the Palm Monorail. This ‘one-railed wonder’ elevates you to a whole new level of scenic views, as it runs down the trunk of the iconic Palm Jumeirah Island concluding at the world famous Atlantis, The Palm hotel. Tickets start at just AED 10 and you can plan where you want to hop off. Exciting stops en route include The View, Club Vista Mare, The Pointe and more!
Pro tip: On your way back, take a breather at the quaint Al Ittihad Park or enjoy a sunset stop at the beautiful Palm West Beach.
Sitting pretty on a bus
Public buses in Dubai are clean, comfortable and affordable. While they are generally not as efficient as a taxi due to multiple stops and set routes, they can be a great addition to a well-planned route. If you have a bus stop (air-conditioned, by the way) right outside your hotel and are planning to use the nearby Metro, catch one of the free feeder (F) buses to the Metro station.
Our experts love to expand their horizons beyond Dubai, so other emirates and surrounding regions are always on the radar. If you are looking to make a city-break from Dubai and are not keen taking a flight, you can consider the Mwasalat bus service to Muscat, capital of neighbouring Oman.
If you’re looking to keep your explorations within the UAE, you can take a two-hour bus ride to Abu Dhabi. Departures are every 20 minutes from Ibn Batuta Mall (bus E101) and Al Ghubaiba bus station (bus E100). Please ensure your NOL card is topped up to pay the AED 25 bus fare.
We cannot conclude this bus section without mentioning the iconic hop on, hop off City Sightseeing Bus tour. This is undoubtedly one of the best ways to explore Dubai at your own pace. We recommend going for the latest combo offers, complete with fabulous boat cruises and waterpark visits.
Taking on the waterways
The large waterfront areas surrounding the inner city coupled with the geographic layout of Dubai, provide favourable conditions for various forms of water transport. The RTA launched several crafts of different sizes to cater to this need. This has now resulted in an efficient system combining sightseeing and simply getting around the city. All options can also be chartered for tourists and group trips.
The next stop will take you to the man-made Palm Jumeirah Island – home of the breath-taking Atlantis hotel.
These 100-seater crafts are the largest of the lot. They operate on fixed routes across Dubai and soon to the neighbouring Sharjah as well. Travel in style and comfort with restrooms and entertainment screens. Tickets can be bought from RTA’s webpage.
Water Taxi (On demand)
Rush hour will never be the same! You can call (8009090) for these 10-seater water pods that will pick you up and drop you off at any of the 44 strategically placed stations. They come complete with reclining seats and personalised LCD screens. Don’t forget to smile and wave as you pass traffic queues on the streets.
The Dubai Water Bus operates between four scenic stations in Dubai Marina at 15-minute intervals. These 20-seater crafts come with the usual comforts and the fleet is also being upgraded to the ultra-quiet air-conditioned abra. Starting from just AED 3, these water buses can be used for joy rides down the Marina during sunset hour when the beautiful skyline is at its glory.
Obviously, we can’t forget the original boat that started crossings up and down the Creek. The word abra comes from the Arabic verb ‘abara’ which means ‘to cross’ and it’s only fair that these small wooden boats maintain their position as a symbol of the city’s history and heritage. Sizes and designs of these boats have changed over the years and there’s now even an eco-friendly electric option roaming the waterways of Dubai. However, it’s the AED 1 simple crossing that is guaranteed to take you back to simpler times when Dubai was little more than a trading post.
Bicycles & E-scooters
Earlier this year, the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed approved the Dubai Bicycle-Friendly City Strategy 2025, which includes an investment valued at Dh 400m.
Keeping with the vision to promote a healthy lifestyle, community happiness and reducing the carbon footprint, the initiative includes cycle paths, bridges for cyclists and pedestrians, and increased bike sharing and hire stations.
This initiative also means that tourists and residents alike now have easier ways of getting around, especially to and from Metro Stations and between communities. Bike-sharing allows for easy and affordable access to pedal-assisted bikes.
Our experts are big fans of Careem BIKE which is the first large-scale bike sharing initiative in the region. It was launched in partnership with the RTA and is incredibly easy to use. There are already 78 solar-powered stations across the UAE with a lot more coming soon.
However, on a hot day, when pedalling counts as strenuous exercise and you prefer the path of least resistance, you can always opt for the smaller two-wheeled wonder, the e-scooter.
In the UAE, electric scooters are provided by Tier, Lime, Arnab and Skurrt. They all are similar in terms of operation - simply unlock with the corresponding app and hop on. Tier and Lime seem to have a larger coverage of bikes available, whereas Arnab and Skurrt offer attractive pricing and discount codes which can be redeemed upon signup.
The authorities in the UAE have recently put regulations in place to streamline the use of e-scooters. Click here for useful information about e-scooter suitable areas in the UAE, stations, riding permits etc. Do remember to park your e-scooter only in a designated area.
Now that you’re stocked up on navigational information, it’s time to get your Dubai discoveries started. Book your adventures and get on the road!
For more information or help with planning your next Dubai escapade, get in touch with our experts!