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Visiting Dubai? A detailed travel guide for every tourist

Shajar Khan/Dubai
Filed on February 29, 2020 | Last updated on February 29, 2020 at 11.47 am
Dubai, travel, tourist, dubai media office, dubai airport, DXB, dubai metro, dubai tram, dubai taxi, RTA, bus, tram, shopping mall

(Dubai Media Office via Twitter)

Whether you want to check out the Dubai skyline as you travel by Metro, or soak in the grandeur of the Palm Islands on the Monorail, or just take a relaxing bus ride to explore every inch of the city, here's everything you need to know.

Travelling to Dubai for the first time may be daunting to many. Figuring out how to hail a taxi or use the Metro or tram may be overwhelming, especially if visitors have not used public transport previously. For those who would like to make use of public transport services in Dubai, or would like to rent a car, this is your ultimate guide to travel and transport in Dubai.

1. Which airlines fly to Dubai?

All major airlines fly into Dubai, United Arab Emirates. There are 7,000 weekly flights which are operated by 152 airlines from over 260 destinations. The UAE's airlines offer direct connections to most cities in the world, including the continents of the Americas and Australia.

UAE-based airlines offer online and mobile check-in to most destinations. When flying with UAE-based airlines, passengers can earn loyalty points that can be redeemed for rewards and benefits including worldwide flights and local shopping offers.

2. Is it possible to drive to Dubai?

It is possible to drive into the UAE from the neighbouring countries of the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Visitors driving into the UAE require an international driving permit and valid vehicle insurance. Residents of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries can drive in the UAE with their driving license issued by the country they reside in.

Citizens of the following countries can drive with their driving licence issued by their home countries: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States. There are several entry points along the borders. Some are reserved for GCC citizens.

3. Getting to Dubai by sea

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are common stops on the routes of large cruise lines. The UAE ports provide modern facilities and fast processing of entry/exit at immigration counters in terms of visa clearance.

The ports provide easy transportation to the cities. Cruise ships as large as the Queen Mary 2 have visited the state-of-the-art Dubai Cruise Terminal at Port Rashid.

Seaports in the UAE: Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, Zayed Port; Mina Rashid, Dubai; Port Khalid, Sharjah; Ras Al Khaimah Port.

4. How to hail a taxi in Dubai?

Hailing a taxi in Dubai is simple, and due to high demand there are many taxis in Dubai. There are several official taxi ranks all over the city of Dubai. You can find the main ones outside of the main shopping centres and transport hubs. There are also designated taxi waiting areas outside most hotels, making it convenient and accessible for tourists. There are many different taxi corporations in Dubai. Various companies have different colour roofs and there is also a designated ladies taxi which has a pink roof and female drivers.

5. Are taxis regulated or deregulated in Dubai?

Taxis in Dubai are all regulated by the Dubai Taxi Corporation, and all taxi drivers and vehicles must follow strict guidelines and rules. Customers can make a complaint should their service not be up to standard.

6. Are taxis expensive in Dubai?

Taxis in Dubai don't have set rate fees for journeys around the city. Instead, they use a taximeter based on the distance that is regulated by the government. The base price for taking a Dubai taxi changes depending on your location and time of day. However, the price per kilometre is always the same.

Rate per kilometre is always Dh1.82 AED; from 6am to 10pm, the base fare is Dh8; from 10pm to 6am, the base fare is Dh9.

If you choose to have your hotel concierge call a taxi for you, the base fare of the ride will increase to Dh12, but unlike most other major cities, the price per kilometre remains Dh1.82. If you keep your taxi waiting for one hour there will be an additional charge of Dh25. Should you take a taxi from the airport, the fare starts at Dh25.

7. Can I pay a taxi fare with a credit or debit card in Dubai?

Credit and debit card payments are accepted by all taxis in the UAE. However, if you have ordered an Uber or Careem and selected the cash option, you will not be able to pay using a card.

8. Are Uber services available in Dubai?

Yes, there is an Uber service as well as Careem in Dubai. Careem is a subsidiary of Uber, but is run as a separate operation.

9. Driving rules in Dubai

The UAE has a black points system that leads to the confiscation of the license of the driver, and in some cases even the vehicle. When traffic laws are violated the person will be charged with black points. Once the person reaches 24 black points within 12 months his/her licence will be seized.

Penalties are charged as follows: On the first violation, the driving licence is seized for 3 months; on the second violation, the driving licence is seized for 6 months; on the third violation, the driving licence is seized for a year and is returned when the driver passes the driving course signed by the traffic authorities.

Ministerial Resolution No. 178 of 2017 regarding traffic control rules. The resolution covers many safety and control aspects. Some of them are:

> Mandatory seat belts for all: All passengers in a car are required to wear seat belts, including those sitting in the rear seat, failing which the driver of the vehicle will be fined Dh400 and given with four black points. Children up to four years of age must be provided with a child safety seat. Violators will be fined Dh400 and given with four black points. The front seat passenger should also be at least 145cm tall and not younger than 10 years old.

> Reckless driving: Reckless driving will result in a fine of Dh2,000, 23 black points and impounding of the vehicle for a period of 60 days. The same punishment and fine will apply to drivers who endanger the lives of others. Other violations include blocking traffic, jumping red signals, sudden swerving, and driving without a number plate.

> Traffic signals: Motorcycle riders and motorists who ignore traffic lights will be fined Dh1, 000 and incur a penalty of 12 points and their vehicles will be seized for a month.

> Distractions: Using phones while driving or any other distractions will lead to a Dh400 fine and four black points.

> Speeding: Those exceeding the speed limit by 80kmph will be fined Dh3,000 and given 23 black points, as well as have their car impounded for 60 days.

Other violations include littering, not leaving a safe distance between vehicles, overtaking on the hard shoulder, crowding around accident sites, using a quad bike on the road, jaywalking, using expired tires, driving without insurance/car registration, driving a noisy vehicle, and transporting passengers illegally.

10. What are the major driving offenses in Dubai?

> Drink and drive: Drinking and driving is prohibited in the UAE, and if caught, imprisonment and/or a fine of minimum Dh20,000 is charged. The same goes for narcotics.

> Driving licence: Driving without a licence in the UAE will result in an imprisonment of 3 months and/or fine of Dh5,000.

> Insurance: At least third-party insurance is needed while driving in the UAE.

> Use of a mobile phone while driving: Talking over mobile phones while driving in the UAE is strictly prohibited. If caught, Dh800 and four black points will be charged against the driver.

> Fines for parking under the following circumstances can be charged as:

In the ambulance parking: Dh1,000 and six black points
Blocking the movement of other vehicles: Dh500
Illegal parking: Dh500
Parking in offloading or loading areas: Dh200
Left side of the road in prohibited areas: Dh1,000
Parked without securing the car: Dh500
Parking on the pavement: Dh400

11. Where should I park my car securely in Dubai?

Local transport authorities govern public parking areas in the respective emirates. Parking fees differ in each emirate depending on the location, type, and duration of parking. Parking is free on Fridays and public holidays. People with special needs are entitled to park free of charge.

Parking fees can be paid by: Official currency coins, credit card, text message, UAE government transportation apps, prepaid/rechargeable parking card, seasonal parking card, Nol card.

Information about the parking timings, fees, and modes of payment are indicated on the payment booths in the parking areas. Violating parking rules could attract fine/s. For more information regarding parking please visit the RTA website here.

12. How strict are the Dubai traffic police?

Traffic police in Dubai are strict when it comes to abiding by the law and following road rules. Traffic fines should be paid in a timely manner.

13. How to hire a car in Dubai?

Should public transport not be of interest, hiring a car is easy with a valid UAE licence or an international driving licence. In Dubai the minimum driving age is 18. However, you are only able to rent a car if you are over 21 years old. For some supercar rental companies, you would only be able to drive their cars if you're over 25.

If you are a GCC national, or from the US, Australia, or a European country, an international driving licence is not needed as you will be allowed to drive with your current driving licence as long as you are on a valid tourist visa. For other nationalities not mentioned above, an international driving licence needs to be obtained.

14. Where to hire a car in Dubai?

Most of the major rental companies have service desks at Dubai International Airport (DXB). There are many different companies offering competitive rates. Alternatively, renting a car can be done online.

15. How much should hiring a car cost?

Daily car rental can start from as little as Dh38 a day. The price varies depending on the car model, duration of car hire, and the company.

16. What side of the road do people drive on in Dubai?

People in Dubai drive on the right and pass on the left, which is the same in Europe and the US. The cars in Dubai are a left-hand drive.

17. Are there electric cars in Dubai?

There are many electric cars in Dubai. Ten per cent of cars in Dubai will be electric cars by 2030.

18. Are cars in Dubai mostly manual or automatic?

Most cars in the UAE are automatic. However, you can find manual cars as well.

19. Are self-driving cars allowed on the roads in Dubai?

There are many vehicles that are semi-autonomous, using cruise control. However, self-driven cars are not allowed on roads in Dubai.

20. Traffic hotspots to avoid and the times to avoid them

Peak hour traffic is usually from 7am to 9am. Most people live in the north part of Dubai, which includes Deira, Bur Dubai, and Nahda. People usually travel toward the south part of Dubai, which includes Barsha, Tecom, and Marina.

It is not advisable to drive towards Dubai South around 7am to 9am, and 5pm to 7pm as it is peak traffic time. It's best to use Google Maps or the RTA app to give alternative routes to beat the traffic. Also, check the RTA website and social media handles for traffic updates.

Congested residential areas can cause traffic jams. These areas include Karama, Deira, JLT, Discovery Gardens, and International City. Luckily there aren't many tourist sites in these areas.

The UAE working week lasts from Sunday to Thursday, and Friday-Saturday are weekends. Shopping malls, tourist attractions and parks tend to be more crowded on Fridays.

21. How to choose the right transport for the time of day and weather?

If you are visiting Dubai through the months of December to March, it may be bearable to walk short distances as temperatures can reach highs of 28 degrees Celsius, while in the months of April to November temperatures rise further and it can be uncomfortable walking outdoors, with the mercury touching 45 degrees Celsius. Public transport such as taxis and the metro are a popular option for many tourists as they are convenient, affordable and all public transport systems are air-conditioned.

For more information please visit the RTA site here.

22. What is a Nol card?

The word Nol is translated as fare in Arabic. The Nol card is the electronic ticketing card that was created for all public transport in Dubai. It is a smart card that allows you to use Dubai public transport and services such as bus, metro, tram, waterbus as well as taxi, RTA parking, Dubai public parks, Etihad Museum, and 2,000+ shops around the city.

23. How to use a Nol card?

The card should be placed over a Nol card reader, whereby the reader is able to automatically validate the card and deduct the fare for the required trip. The Nol card contains a tamper-proof chip and an antenna that ensures secure and fast reliable transactions.

24. How to top-up a Nol card?

The card can be topped up at card top-up machines at Metro stations and select bus stops. The card can also be topped up online via the RTA website or the RTA app.

25. How much does a Nol card cost?

> Nol silver card - The perfect starter card
A smart card with an e-purse that can be loaded with up to Dh1,000 upon registering your card. The Nol silver card can be purchased immediately from any ticket office in all metro stations for Dh25, which includes Dh19 trip credit.

> Nol gold card - Travel in luxury and comfort
The gold card holds the same features as the silver card, but it gives you the privilege to access to the metro's gold class seats for a premium fare. The Nol gold card can be purchased immediately from any ticket office in all metro stations for Dh25, which includes Dh19 trip credit.

> Nol blue card - Personalised smart card
The Nol personal card is a personalised smart card with an e-purse that can be loaded with up to Dh5,000. A purchase can be made at any ticket office in all metro stations for only Dh70 which includes Dh20 trip credit.

> Nol Red card - The occasional traveller
Nol Red Ticket is a paper-based ticket that can be bought from any ticket vending machine at any time for only Dh2. It can be loaded with up to 10 single trips.

26. Do Nol cards expire?

Nol Silver and Gold Cards are valid for five years from the date of issue. Nol Red Ticket is valid for 90 days, or when the maximum allowed trips have been used.

27. What is the minimum balance required on a Nol card?

A minimum balance of Dh7.5 is required to pay the fare on any RTA public transport service.

28. Can I use a Nol card in Sharjah?

Yes, a Nol card is mandatory for bus trips from Dubai to Sharjah.

29. Can I recharge the Nol card electronically from my phone?

Thanks to the NFC technology, it will be possible to read and update Nol cards directly through a smartphone. Here's how it works.

30. Can I use one Nol car for the entire family?

Each person requires their own Nol card. Sharing is not allowed.

31. Traveling by bus in Dubai

The Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) provides public bus services with a large fleet of 1,518 buses. RTA operates an extended bus network of 119 internal lines, including 35 lines linking to metro stations, 12 intercity lines to transport passengers to other emirates, 62 internal lines, and 8 fast lines. The network covers 82 per cent of the urban areas in Dubai and transports about 369,248 passengers per day.

32. Can I pay cash on a Dubai bus?

Cash payments are not allowed on the bus. A Nol card is mandatory.

33. What are the bus routes?

For more information regarding bus routes please visit this link.

34. The Dubai Tram

Customers of all ages are eligible to use the tram. The service has no required documents. However, there are Nol card fees if the customer is purchasing the card for the first time.

35. Which areas does the tram cover?

The tram is located in Al Sufouh, Dubai. It runs for 14.5km along Al Sufouh Road from Dubai Marina to the Palm Jumeirah and Al Sufouh. The tram connects with the Jumeirah Lakes Towers and DAMAC Properties stations of the Dubai Metro's Red Line, and two more stations are expected to connect with the tram in the future. The Dubai Tram is also connected with the monorail of the Palm Jumeirah at the entrance of the Palm from Sufouh Road.

36. How to pay for the tram services?

Payments are made using the Nol card.

37. Monorail

The frequency of the trains tends to vary from time to time. Currently, they are running every 11 minutes starting from 9am until 10pm.

38. How do I buy tickets for the monorail?

The Palm Monorail operates its own ticketing system and is not integrated with any other public transport system in Dubai. You can buy single and return tickets to any of the stations, depending on where you wish to travel.

39. How much is a ticket for the Monorail?

Tickets purchased are only valid for travel on the same day. There are no discounts for group travel at present. Tickets to ride the Palm Jumeirah Monorail cost Dh20. A return ticket costs Dh30. Children under 90cm ride free.

Listed as the 4th most visited city in the world, Dubai is a popular tourist destination and home to over 200 nationalities. Whether you are a tourist or living in Dubai, getting around Dubai is easy.


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