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How to get around Dubai

Is it the first time you visit Dubai and you don't know what are the transportation options in the city? In this post you can clear up your doubts. Continue reading

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

11 min read

How to get around Dubai

Dubai | © Enrico Strocchi

Dubai is one of the most popular destinations in the Middle East. In recent years it has grown from a remote city in the middle of the desert to one of the most modern and futuristic cities in the world.

It stretches for more than 40 kilometers along the coast of the Persian Gulf and to cover such large distances, the Dubai government has developed a solid transportation network that allows you to move from one place to another without having to walk long distances, since in this city that is something almost unmanageable.

If you plan to travel to the city in the coming months, do not miss this small guide on how to get around Dubai easily. You will optimize your time and you will not miss anything to do and see in Dubai. Let's get started!

1. With an organized tour of Dubai, no hassle!

Visiting Dubai Fort| ©Santiago Cordero Guerrero
Visiting Dubai Fort| ©Santiago Cordero Guerrero

Whether you are traveling to Dubai for business or pleasure, the most comfortable and easiest way to explore the city if you are visiting for the first time and don't have much time is by taking an organized tour of Dubai, showing you the main points of interest to see in Dubai in a single day.

This type of tours are designed for visitors to get to know the city in a relaxed way in the company of a local guide who explains in detail everything they are seeing while traveling in a comfortable vehicle that moves from one corner of the city to another.

Why choose an organized tour of Dubai?

If you join one of these organized tours in Dubai you will not have to worry about planning the logistics of travel, that is, finding the routes to the various tourist attractions, find out what is the best means of transport to go, find out about itineraries and connections or get tickets, among other issues. Everything has been taken care of down to the last detail so that you can move around Dubai without worrying about anything - just enjoying yourself!

What will you see on these organized tours of Dubai?

This type of tour usually lasts a full day (about 8 hours) and during the tour they show you the contrast between the old and modern side of Dubai, so you can get an overall idea of the city.

They usually include such emblematic tourist attractions as the Burj Khalifa, the Jumeirah Mosque, the Burj Al Arab, the Dubai Museum or the Al Fahidi Fort, among others. As for the neighborhoods of Dubai that usually cover these organized tours are:

  • Bur Dubai: Located south of Dubai Creek, in this area is the neighborhood of Al Bastakiya, one of the oldest in the city that shows the splendor of the past in its buildings and the Souk of Bur Dubai.
  • Dubai Creek: The estuary in Dubai separates the neighborhoods of Deira and Bur Dubai. A very pleasant place to stroll. You can cross from one side to the other in abras, a traditional dubai boats.
  • Deira: Located north of Dubai Creek, Deira is the old part of the city. On a tour of the Deira neighborhood you can visit sites such as the Gold and Spice Souk, Al Mamzar Beach Park or Heritage House.
  • Jumeirah: It is the favorite residential area of foreigners and the most popular beach area of the city.

Book an organized tour in Dubai

2. On the Dubai Metro, the fastest way to go

Waiting for the Metro| ©Fabio Achilli
Waiting for the Metro| ©Fabio Achilli

The metro is the most used transport to move around Dubai, as it quickly connects the most important places in the city. It operates in a fully automatic mode and the facility extends over 75 kilometers.

At the moment it consists of two lines (red and green) that are divided into more than 40 stations, although it is planned that in the future there will be more.

Red Line

Itcrosses the city from north to south, starting at Dubai International Airport and ending at Jebel Ali.

This line runs high along Sheikh Zayed Road (the main artery of the city) so the route runs between beautiful skyscrapers.

The red metro line is the most used by tourists because it links the most important stations such as the International Airport, the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall or the Ibn Battuta Mall.

However, when landing at Dubai International Airport after a long flight you may prefer to book a transfer from Dubai airport that will take you to your hotel quickly and without waiting. If you are too tired to take public transportation, this is one of the best tips for traveling to Dubai I can give you.

Green Line

The green line runs parallel to Dubai Creek, starting the route in Deira and ending in Bur Dubai. This metro line passes through the most popular sites of interest in both neighborhoods.

Is it possible to transfer between the two lines?

That's right, if at any time you need to change direction you can transfer between the two lines of the Dubai Metro, at Bur Juman and Union Squarestations.

How much does the metro ticket cost?

The Dubai Metro is not only modern, fast and clean but also cheap. A trip can cost about 0.80 € approximately, although the cost of the journey varies depending on the distance to the destination.

You can buy a single ticket or the Nol Card to travel in the stations of the Dubai metro network, at bus stations or in supermarkets such as Waitrose, Carrefour or Spinneys.

In case you want to recharge the Nol Card you can use the machines in the metro stations.

What is the schedule of the Dubai Metro?

It works every day of the week and the stations are usually open during these hours:

  • Saturday through Wednesday: 5 AM to 12 AM.
  • Thursday: 5 AM to 1 AM
  • Friday: 10 AM to 1 AM.

However, this may change during holidays, so when planning your day of sightseeing in the subway, I advise you to make sure which are the corresponding schedules for that day.

During rush hour, the frequency of the Dubai metro is usually 5 minutes while the rest of the time is 7 minutes.

What do you need to know about the Dubai Metro?

  • It is not allowed to drink or eat on board the metro in order to maintain the cleanliness of the convoys. Anyone who does so may be fined by the guards who watch over the safety of passengers.
  • There are three compartments in which each train of the Dubai metro is divided: the first class (holders of the Nol Card Gold), the women's compartment and the other passengers' compartment.
  • The metro stations are air-conditioned and have free Wi-Fi connection for passengers. In addition, there is full mobile coverage.
  • When traveling in the Dubai metro you can take with you two pieces of luggage: a suitcase and a carry-on bag.

Booking an organized tour in Dubai

3. By bus in Dubai, the cheapest way

Dubai Bus| ©Andrew Mansfield
Dubai Bus| ©Andrew Mansfield

An economical option for exploring Dubai is by bus. In recent years the fleet of vehicles has grown to accommodate the increasing volume of users and has been upgraded with new, comfortable cars to better suit their needs.

All bus stops in Dubai are linked to the metro network, so planning a trip combining both means of transport will be very easy. Even more so now that the bus stops have been transformed into a small air-conditioned oasis to better cope with the tremendous heat of the city.

How many bus lines are there?

Dubai's bus network has more than 100 lines, including night buses (identified by the letter N and the line number) and "feeder" buses that connect neighborhoods with metro lines (identified by the letter F and the line number).

How much does the bus ticket cost?

The price of a trip can be about 0.50 € approximately, although the cost of the trip varies depending on the distance traveled.

Since the bus drivers in Dubai do not accept cash payments, you will have to buy the Nol Card which is rechargeable and for this you can use the machines in the metro stations.

What are the bus schedules in Dubai?

They operate every day of the week and operate from 4 AM to 1 AM except for the C01 route which operates 24 hours a day. The frequency of Dubai buses is 30 minutes.

What do you need to know about Dubai buses?

It is not allowed to eat or drink at bus stops or to lie down on the seats while the bus is arriving. These attitudes are punishable in Dubai with fines of varying amounts.

Booking an organized tour in Dubai

4. In cabs in Dubai, for a better comfort

Dubai Taxis| ©Fabio Achilli
Dubai Taxis| ©Fabio Achilli

Another good way to get around Dubai are cabs. Compared to cab service in Western countries, Dubai's taxi service is quite affordable due to the low gasoline prices in the country.

There are several cab companies operating in Dubai, which you can distinguish by the color of their roof as the rest of the bodywork is always cream-colored. Many of them are private (such as Careem or Uber) while one is public (Dubai Taxi Corporation).

The Dubai government controls the latter through the RTA (the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority) and although the service is similar among all cab companies, the most used by travelers is the Dubai Taxi Corporation (with the red roof) because of the safety and cheap fares it provides.

How to use cabs in Dubai?

There are more than 50 cab ranks scattered around Dubai, especially around shopping malls, hotels, the airport or metro stations. If a cab rank does not have vehicles available, you can call the cab rank's phone number to have a taxi pick you up (they take no more than 30 minutes).

However, the RTA launched an app called RTA Smart Taxi that allows you to book a cab through your smartphone. It costs the same as over the phone but tells you the name of the driver, his position and proximity to your location as well as the estimated time of arrival at your destination.

How much does it cost?

Dubai cabs operate with a taximeter that must be turned on at the beginning of the route. The flag down costs around 2 € and the fare is about 0.50 € per kilometer. However, the easiest way to find out how much your cab ride will cost is to install the RTA S'hail app.

You only have to indicate your point of departure and destination for the app to calculate the approximate fare of the cab service and even other means of transport in Dubai such as the metro or bus.

What do you need to know about cabs in Dubai?

  • As with the metro, there are also cabs exclusively for women driven by female cab drivers. They are known as "Pink cab" and have an approximate price of about 1.45 € during the day and about 1.69 from 10 PM.
  • Many of the cab drivers are not locals, but come from other countries so it may happen that they do not know the city well enough to identify an exact address. In these cases, when giving them the name of the place you want to go to, remember to mention a nearby tourist attraction so that they have a reference. You can also get off at a known subway stop and complete the route by public transportation.
  • At the time of payment, not all cabs of Dubai Taxi Corporation currently have dataphone so it is best to carry cash to pay for the race. On the other hand, the vehicles of apps such as Uber and Careem do accept card payments.

5. On the boats in Dubai, to enjoy the views of the landscape

Boarding the Dubai Ferry| ©Dennis Sylvester Hurd
Boarding the Dubai Ferry| ©Dennis Sylvester Hurd

Another of the transports to take into account to move around Dubai are the boats. The city arose on the banks of the Creek, a natural estuary that separates the historic districts of Bur Dubai and Deira. To cross from one side to the other there are several means of water transport, from abras (traditional wooden boats) and modern ferries to cruises on the Dubai Marina.

1. Abras

They are used to cross Dubai Creek. They are priced at 0.48 euros and are paid in cash to the driver. They leave every few minutes, so the frequency is high. Riding on a traditional abra you will have a beautiful view of the Creek.

2. Dubai Ferry

Managed by the RTA, these are modern catamarans that allow you to see from the water various sights of the city as well as its impressive coastline. It consists of 6 routes but the most popular is the one from Al Ghubaiba to Dubai Marina as it shows some icons of the city such as the Atlantis, the Burj Al Arab or the Burj Khalifa. From 3.60 euros per ticket. You can check the schedules on the official website of Dubai transport.

3. Dubai marina cruises

Next to the Jumeirah Palm, south of Dubai, is located the Dubai Marina district. Built around an artificial canal with access to the sea, this place abounds with restaurants, shopping malls and luxury hotels.

A fun way to explore the area is to take a 60-90 minute boat cruise around the Dubai Marina, showing you the most iconic sites of the district such as the marina, the artificial archipelago of Palm Jumeirah or the Burj Al Arab and Atlantis The Palm hotels, among others.

I recommend you to take this cruise through the Dubai Marina in the afternoon and then stay there for dinner and a nice walk around the area, since at sunset the atmosphere is very lively and the cityscape looks beautiful when it is illuminated with colored lights.

Book a Dubai Marina Cruise

6. By tourist bus, to get the most out of your stay

Dubai sightseeing bus| ©Darren Foreman
Dubai sightseeing bus| ©Darren Foreman

In a city like Dubai where distances are so vast, a good way to get around is to ride the tourist bus as it allows you to travel comfortably seated from one point to another of the city while discovering its main tourist attractions.

Dubai sightseeing buses with free stops will allow you to design your itinerary around Dubai to your liking and tour the city at your own pace, hopping on and off whenever you want at any stop along the route. If you are spending a short stay there it is a fantastic option for exploring Dubai.

In order to use the tourist bus you have to choose a day ticket (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 days) and during that period you can ride unlimited. The usage time starts counting from the first time you redeem it.

How to buy a ticket to move around Dubai by tourist bus?

The fastest and most convenient way is to buy your ticket online and in advance. At the end of the reservation you will receive a voucher in your email that you can redeem at any stop on the route.

I want to book a seat on the tourist bus

We compare the options to move around Dubai

  • Metro
  • Price: From 0,80 €.
  • Schedule: Every day
  • Frequency: 5 minutes
  • Lines: 2 (red and green)
  • Bus
  • Price: From 0,50 €.
  • Schedule: Every day
  • Frequency: 30 minutes
  • Lines: More than 100 lines
  • Cabs
  • Price: From 2 € flag down and rate per km. from 0,50 €.
  • Schedule: Every day
  • Frequency: High
  • Lines: Several companies
  • Boats
  • Price: From 0,48 € for the ferries and from 3,60 € for the ferry boats.
  • Schedule: Every day
  • Frequency: High
  • Lines: Different lines