Driving is an economical way to travel in Dubai. If you're visiting from abroad and plan to rent a car, keep in mind that an international driver's license or a temporary Dubai license is required. Some car-rental companies are able to help arrange international or temporary Dubai licenses for visitors. Driving in the U.A.E. is on the right-hand side of the road.
Most rental cars are new, automatic, and air-conditioned. Rates vary considerably, and are usually cheaper when booked in advance online. Comprehensive insurance is essential (including personal accident coverage).
Dubai's roads are excellent, if increasingly crowded, with driving on the right side of the road. Traffic signs are well marked and written in both English and Arabic. Speed limits range from 60 to 80kmph (37-50 mph) on city roads, and from 100 to 120kmph (62-75 mph) on highways. Seat belts are mandatory, as is use of hands-free devices when using a cellphone behind the wheel. Children aged 9 and under are not allowed to sit in the front seat. Anyone involved in a traffic accident must wait at the scene until the traffic police arrive to make a report. Call tel. 999 to report the accident.
There are four bridges and a tunnel linking the two sides of Dubai on each side of Dubai Creek. Traffic along Sheikh Zayed Road and the Maktoum Bridge is exceptionally heavy during rush hour. An eight-lane highway, which is Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, heads southwest toward Abu Dhabi, which takes between 90 to 120 minutes to reach depending on how fast you drive.
Although Dubai's roads are in good shape, standards of driving are erratic. Traffic accidents are a leading cause of injury and death in the U.A.E. Local drivers in particular often drive at very high speeds. Unsafe driving practices are common, particularly on inter-city highways such as Sheikh Zayed Road. On highways, unmarked speed bumps and blowing sand create additional hazards. Some visitors find it's simpler to take taxis rather than deal with renting a car and driving themselves.
Paid parking is available in most areas of Dubai. Look for the "pay and park" meters that require either AED 1 or AED 2 for the first hour, and an increasing rate for each additional hour (AED 5 for 2 hours, AED 8 for 3 hours, etc.). Parking meters generally operate Saturday to Thursday from 8am to 1pm and again from 4 to 9pm (with free parking the other hours); Fridays and public holidays are usually free all day. Valet parking is offered at most hotels, where many restaurants and bars are located. Malls typically offer free covered parking.
Petrol (gasoline) is available at stations operated by Emarat, EPPCO, and ENOC. Gas is less expensive in Dubai than in most Western countries.
Dubai taxis are safe, clearly marked, and relatively inexpensive. They're the most common form of transportation for those without cars. It's generally easy to flag one off the street, or you can order one from Dubai Taxi Corporation (tel. 04-264-1111; http://dtc.dubai.ae). The fare is AED 3 (3.50 at night) for pickup followed by AED 1.60 per kilometer, with a minimum fare of AED 10. Ordering a taxi through the dispatcher costs only AED 6 extra. Dubai has seven taxi companies offering fixed metered rates. Most taxis are air-conditioned Toyota Camrys. A fleet of taxis with pink roofs that are for women and driven by women was initiated in 2007. To book one, contact the Dubai Transport Corporation (tel. 04-264-1111; http://dtc.dubai.ae).
Over 70 bus routes service destinations across Dubai, and the main bus stations are near the Gold Souk in Deira and on Al Ghubaiba Road in Bur Dubai. Buses are air-conditioned and inexpensive, with the fares depending on distance traveled. To ride, you must buy a Nol card at the bus station before boarding. Buses generally operate from 5am until midnight. For more information regarding routes, schedules, and pricing, visit www.rta.ae.
The Dubai Metro opened its Red Line in September 2009, with a number of other lines planned for the future (including a Green Line that will extend from Al Qusais to the border with Sharjah). The Red Line runs from beyond the airport down Sheikh Zayed Road toward Jebel Ali and continues to be extended, stopping at some of the major malls along the way. Passengers must buy a Nol ticket at any of the air-conditioned station stops, with fares dependent on distance and duration of travel. Trains run Saturday to Thursday from 6am to 11pm and until midnight on Friday. Each train offers a section for women and children only.
A new monorail travels from the base of the Palm Jumeirah to the Atlantis hotel on the island's crescent. It's open from 8am to 10pm and costs AED 15 one-way and AED 25 return. Eventually the Dubai Metro is intended to link up with the monorail, but this hasn't happened yet.
By Water Taxi
Local water taxis are called abras and are both a convenient and traditional way of crossing the Dubai Creek and seeing some of the original city. There are a total of four abra stations on both sides of the Creek in Deira and Bur Dubai. The boats operate from 5am to midnight and cost just a dirham. Some of the boats also travel up and down the Dubai Creek for about AED 25 per person.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.