The newly-arrived expat’s first experience of transport in Dubai is likely to be a car ride. It may be an airport pick-up by a colleague or friend, or a taxi ride from Dubai International Airport to your hotel or other accommodation, depending on your circumstances.
The ride from the airport to your destination will be one of the more expensive rides you will take in Dubai, as all rides from Dubai airport attract a flag-fall charge of AED 20-25, if you opt for one of the bigger, mini-van sized vehicles. To put this into a dollars and cents (or pounds and pence) perspective: a ride from the airport to the neighbouring Emirate of Sharjah, about 25kms, and depending on traffic conditions, 30-35 minutes, costs about AED 90, or $US25.00 / £16.00. So, taxis are cheap, clean, new and usually very reliable. A ride from anywhere other than the airport attracts just an AED 10 flag fall, the taxis are metered, so you pay just what the meter says you pay.
Dubai is rightly proud of its mostly above ground Metro commuter light rail system. Inaugurated in September 2009, it is quite an astounding work in progress. Everything said about Dubai taxis applies to the Metro and more: cheap, safe, clean, ultra-reliable and extremely user friendly.
Dubai has a fleet of thoroughly modern, clean, safe and air-conditioned buses; this is essential, because in summer, the temperature around midday can soar close to 50° Celsius! Dubai has been working hard to make using the public buses an attractive and practical alternative to using cars. To this end, bus shelters are also air-conditioned and more cross-motorway aerial pedestrian crossings are appearing. As well as these improvements, Dubai’s Regional Transport Authority (RTA) is constantly working to co-ordinate bus routes with Metro stations to provide a seamless and efficient public transport network.
If you intend to use the Metro and the buses, one of the easiest and most convenient ways to pay for the services is by purchasing NOL cards. These are a single e-card, about the size of a standard credit card, which can be preloaded with any sum between AED 14-500 and then used to pay for your trips quickly and efficiently. You can buy the right NOL card for your purpose – there are 4 different kinds – at the ticket office of any Metro Station. Typically, a Silver NOL card costs 20 dirhams and it includes 14 dirhams worth of travel immediately available. That is enough for between 4 and 7 standard trips, depending on how far along the line you wish to travel. When your card will no longer pay for further trips, just take it to the ticket office and add any sum between AED 10-500 for further travel. You can read more about the different types of NOL cards and what they can be used for here.
Dubai is clean and safe: very safe for exploring. Just make sure you choose a time of day or year when the temperature is conducive to walking.
Walking is pleasant and refreshing during the two winter months of December and January. It’s also perfectly feasible one to two months either side of these two, but your individual tolerances for heat and humidity will determine just how many months of the year you can walk comfortably outside. Probably, nobody walks for pleasure or for long periods in the high summer months of July, August and most of September, when daytime temperatures are in the mid-40s Celsius, and night-time mid-30s, with high humidity.
To make walking as pleasant, safe and practical as possible, Dubai has generously-sized footpaths and an increasing number of pedestrian over-bridges, to allow safe crossing of multi-lane inner-city highways. There are also plenty of traffic-light controlled pedestrian crossings, especially in areas near shopping malls and other places of high pedestrian traffic.
Timeout’s top recommended Walking, running and cycling routes.
Finally, when you’ve had enough walking, you’re never far from a bus stop (air-conditioned, and non-smoking) or a Metro station, so just hand out your NOL card and head back to your accommodation in comfort.