Public transport in Dubai

Buses, taxis, abras and more ways to get around Dubai

The Knowledge
Public transport

The public bus system is rarely used by Western expats, due to the convenience of taxis. The service is extremely cheap, but routes can be convoluted, journey times lengthy and timings erratic. Timetables, prices and route maps are available from the main bus stations of Al Ghubaiba in Bur Dubai (04 342 11130) and by the gold souk in Deira (04 227 3840). You can also call the main 24/7 information line (800 9090) or view them online at

You pay cash to catch an inter emirate bus (Dubai to Abu Dhabi for example). However, should you brave a city bus trip, you will need to get a Noll card, (much like an Oyster card). These are available at Spinneys and Carrefour supermarkets and metro stations and cost Dhs20, of which Dhs14 is fare money. You need to touch your card on an automated reader upon boarding and disembarking the bus, or you will pay the maximum fare. Journeys are cheap, starting at Dhs1.80. You can top up your Noll card with cash only (a credit card facility will be introduced) at any metro station, up to an amount of Dhs500.

Buses are clean and modern, eating, drinking and smoking are not allowed on board, and the front three rows of seats are reserved for women. The fleet is equipped with air-conditioning, electronically operated destination display systems and computerised fare equipment. There are nine bus stations, scattered around the city, more than1,860 bus stops, 1,302 wayside passenger shelters and point timetables at 500 busy bus stops. All bus stops are request stops.

Official taxis are well maintained, air conditioned and metred. Fares are Dhs1.6 per kilometre (0.3 miles), with Dhs3-3.50 cover charge depending on the time of day. Taxis don’t have to pay Salik (tolls). The biggest taxi companies are Dubai Transport (04 208 0808) and National Taxis (04 339 0002). Taxi drivers usually have a reasonable grasp of English, and it’s best to identify your destination by a particular landmark rather than the street address.

Expats rarely trust booking a taxi, but if you do, as a rule of thumb, if your cab hasn’t arrived within 15 minutes, it isn’t coming. If you’re a regular taxi user, you might find it useful to take down the phone numbers from a couple of drivers. Many will be happy to make an arrangement with you, for example, if you need a ride to and from work on a daily basis.

To hail cabs from the street, raise your arm. Vacant taxis have their yellow light on and must stop if free. However, many don’t, and if they do, will ask where you’re going before letting you in the car. Again, they’re not allowed to do this, and can be reported to the RTA (800 9090). To ensure you actually get in, you could tell them you’re heading somewhere that’s an appealing fare (long distance, limited traffic) and then ‘change your mind’ once in. Where hotels and malls have long taxi queues, you’re often better off walking for 15 minutes to a roadside spot. The other negative is that taxi drivers can be very aggressive on the roads. Don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down, and if they refuse, take down their taxi number and report them.

Water taxis
If you are by Dubai Creek, you can take an abra across for the bargain price of Dhs1. These tiny, noisy boats run from 5am to midnight, carrying about 20 people across the water from various stations along each side. They’re the quickest and most atmospheric way to enjoy the creek, and get from Bur Dubai to Deira and vice versa.

After a lengthy wait, the Dubai Metro launched in September 2009 but, rather annoyingly, many of the stations aren’t earmarked to open until February 2010. Despite this, it is a well-used and extraordinarily cheap way to get around parts of the city, with fares as low as Dhs1.80, and the most expensive standard fare less than Dhs6. You will need a Noll card (see Buses for more info). Full details of the route and stations opened are available at

Dubai International Airport is a blooming massive airport with loads of duty free. Terminal three deals with all Emirates flights; it is spacious, crowd free and well serviced by taxis. This has eased congestion at terminals one and two, which look positively tatty by comparison. Holders of a residence visa can get an e-gate swipecard at a counter at the airport. For around Dhs200, you get a card that allows you to swipe through immigration, laughing smugly at the grumpy people stood in the winding queues. Everything (fingerprinting and digital photograph) can be done in about 15 minutes.

Etihad operates from Abu Dhabi Airport with coaches picking up and dropping off on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road, and the journey counting as part of your check-in time. For wallet-friendly flights around the Middle East, try Air Arabia, which operates from Sharjah Airport.
For more information, call 04 224 5555 (switchboard) / 04 216 6666 (flight information), or visit

Auto Market

The Auto Market is a one-stop shop for all your vehicular needs. You will find a sprawling maze of all cars great and small. Pros: the dealer will sort your insurance, register the car and hold it if you are in the process of sorting your visa and driver’s licence. Cons: none of the motors have prices on them, and few tell you how many kilometres its done or its year.

Directions: Head for Hatta on Al Khail Road, passing Dubai Outlet Mall on your right. Follow signs for Ras Al Khor Industrial Estate and take the next left, signposted for the Fruit and Vegetable Market and the Auto Market. Opening times vary for dealers, but generally it’s Sat-Thu 9am-1pm, 4pm-11pm. Most are closed on Fridays.

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