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 your doubts, read on!

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

10 min read

How to get around Dubai

Dubai | © Enrico Strocchi

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

With a guided 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 easiest and most comfortable way to explore the city if you are visiting for the first time and don't have much time is with a guided tour of Dubai, showing you the main sights to see in Dubai in a single day.

These types of tours are designed for visitors to get to know the city in a relaxed way in the company of a local guide who will explain in detail everything they are seeing.

Why choose a guided tour of Dubai?

You will not have to worry about planning the logistics of travel, i.e., finding the routes to the various tourist attractions, finding out the best means of transport to go, finding out about itineraries and connections or getting tickets, among other things. Everything has been taken care of down to the last detail so that you can move around Dubai without worrying about anything but enjoying yourself!

What will you see on these guided tours in Dubai?

This type of tours usually last a full day (about 8 hours approximately) 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 guided tours are:

  • Al Bastakiya: it is one of the oldest in the city and shows the splendor of past times in its buildings and in the Souk of Bur Dubai.
  • Dubai Creek: a very pleasant place to stroll. It can be crossed from one side to the other in abras, traditional dubai boats.
  • Deira: it is the old part of the city. In a tour of the Deira neighborhood you can visit places like the Gold and Spice Souk, Al Mamzar Beach Park or Heritage House.
  • Jumeirah: is the favorite residential area of foreigners and the most popular beach area of the city.

Book a guided tour in Dubai

On the Dubai metro, the fastest way

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

Crosses the city from north to south, starting at Dubai International Airport and ending at Jebel Ali, while passing through important stations such as the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and Ibn Battuta Mall.

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

However, when you land at Dubai International Airport after a long flight, you may prefer to book a transfer from Dubai airport that will get you to your hotel quickly and without waiting. If you're too tired to take public transportation, this is one of the best Dubai travel tips 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 sights in both neighborhoods.

Is it possible to transfer between the two lines?

Yes, if at any time you need to change direction, you can transfer between the two lines at Bur Juman and Union Square stations.

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 the single ticket or the Nol Card transport card at 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 are the opening hours of the Dubai Metro?

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

  • Saturday to 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 by metro, 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 it is 7 minutes.

What do you need to know about the Dubai Metro?

  • You are not allowed to drink or eat on board. Anyone who does so could be fined by the guards who watch over the safety of the passengers.
  • Each subway is divided into 3 compartments: first class (Nol Card Gold holders), women and other passengers.
  • The stations are air-conditioned and have free Wi-Fi connection for passengers. In addition, there is full mobile coverage.
  • You can take two pieces of luggage with you: one suitcase and one carry-on bag.

Book a transfer from Dubai airport

On Dubai buses, 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 connecting neighborhoods to metro lines (identified by the letter F and the line number).

How much does a bus ticket cost?

The price of a trip can be around 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 should you 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 the tourist bus in Dubai

In the cabs in Dubai, for more comfort

Dubai cabs| ©Fabio Achilli
Dubai cabs| ©Fabio Achilli

Another good way to get around Dubai is by cab. Compared to cab services 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, being the most used by travelers for its safety. In this case, the roof is red and the fares are cheap.

How to use cabs in Dubai?

There are more than 50 cab ranks throughout Dubai, especially around shopping malls, hotels, the airport or metro stations. If there are no vehicles available at a cab rank, you can call the cab rank's phone number to have a taxi pick you up (it takes 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 doing it by 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 meter 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.

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

What do you need to know about Dubai cabs?

  • There are cabs exclusively for women driven by female cab drivers. They are known as "Pink cab" and cost 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, remember to mention a nearby tourist attraction so that they have a reference.
  • Not all Dubai Taxi Corporation cabs have a dataphone. On the other hand, the vehicles of apps such as Uber and Careem do accept card payments.

Book a guided tour in Dubai

On Dubai's boats to enjoy the scenic views

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 cost 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 stunning 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. The ticket costs around €3.60 and you can check the schedules on the official Dubai Transport website.

3. Dubai Marina Cruises

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

A fun way to explore the place is to take a boat cruise around the Dubai Marina for about 60 to 90 minutes, 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 Dubai Marina Cruise in the afternoon and then stay there for dinner and a nice stroll around the area, as the atmosphere is very lively at sunset and the cityscape looks beautiful when illuminated with colored lights.

Book a Dubai Marina Cruise

By tourist bus, to make the most of your stay

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

In a city like Dubai where the 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 tourist buses with free stops allow you to design the itinerary around Dubai to your liking and tour the city at your own pace, getting 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 time of use 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 place on the tourist bus

We compare the options for getting 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 fare 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 ferries
  • Schedule: Every day
  • Frequency: High
  • Lines: Different lines
  • Tourist bus
  • Price: From 56€.
  • Schedule: Every day
  • Frequency: High
  • Lines: Different buses