How to get around in Dubai public transport

Camel monument outside Dubai Camel Hospital

Dubai public transport is very convenient if you are travelling with family, friends or going solo and includes ladies only options as well as family friendly or VIP services.

White and blue collar expatriate workers from over 200 countries come to enjoy a higher standard of living and improve the lives of their families back home. While many are able to utilise bank financing to purchase vehicles the majority rely on Dubai public transport to get to work or enjoy leisure activities on their days off.

If you are expecting camels on the neighborhood streets and freeways you will be disappointed. It has been a long time since the inhabitants of Dubai travailed the desert landscape on camels and horses. In the past fifteen years Dubai public transport infrastructure has been developed to ensure that nearly every neighbourhood in the city is serviced and allows it’s residents to move around in a cost effective manner.

To facilitate the use of Dubai public transport the Roads and Transportation Authority introduced a NOL Smartcard for commuters to use on all Dubai public transport modes in operation. This includes Dubai Metro and tram, busses and water busses but excludes metered taxis. The NOL cards may be purchased from ticket offices, ticket vending machines, RTA customer services centers and authorised sales agents (Redha Al-Ansari Exchange, Carrefour, Spinneys and Waitrose) and topped up with additional credit when necessary.

The RTA Smart Taxi apps have been replaced by the S’Hail app that allows users to plan a journey using different transport options and routes. This service accepts cash or credit / debit card payments but NOL cards are not accepted as payment.

Read more: The Best Time to visit Dubai (a resident’s guide)

Dubai Airport taxi

This is a good option if your hotel does not provide a free Dubai Airport transfer. I always use Dubai Airport taxis when I arrive back in Dubai from vacation abroad or visits to family in South Africa.

  • There are Pink Taxis with lady drivers and I usually take one of these from the airport arrivals taxi stand. This is suitable for solo female travelers visiting Dubai for the first time or groups of ladies travelling together.
  • Licensed metered taxis operated by the Dubai Taxi Corporation and it’s franchisees are available at all the terminals of Dubai International and Al Maktoum International Airports.
  • Many metered taxis now accept debit / credit card payments in addition to cash, and it is advisable to ask if you are not carrying cash.
  • Limousine taxis are luxury vehicles with uniformed well groomed professional drivers and are available from the airports as well as all locations in the emirate. Rates include metered rates, zone based or time based rates.
  • Airport taxis are specifically for visitors arriving at the Dubai airports and will deliver passengers to any location within Dubai or another emirate. The starting rate is AED 25 / US$ 6.80, plus additional fare per km depending on the type of vehicle used.

Dubai public transport – Metered Taxis

Dubai public transport - Metered Taxis

Dubai metered taxis operate all around Dubai 7 days week including on religious festivals and public holidays. I have my own vehicle but do occasionally use taxis when I think that it will be difficult to find parking at my destination.

  • Dubai taxis have special services for People of Determination (disabled passengers), ladies and families.
  • Dubai Taxi operates 7 seater vehicles for larger families travelling together.
  • All Dubai taxis are metered taxis and they have strict rules of operation. The Dubai Taxi far calculator starting rate is AED 8 plus additional fare per km depending on the type of vehicle used. The starting rate increases to AED 9 plus after 10pm and there are higher rates during peak hours and weekends. This service is available all hours through the Dubai Taxi dispatch center.
  • There are pickup locations for taxis in Dubai at most malls and hotels in the city and commuters may hail them on the street or make a Dubai taxi booking via the Dubai Taxi dispatch center RTA taxi number on 04-2080808.
  • RTA taxi booking will soon be made available via the Hala app, a recently announced new e-hailing service joint venture between RTA and Careem to enable bookings via the Careem app for all Dubai Taxi services. Dubai taxi fare booked through the Hala app will start at AED 8 during the day, AED 9 at night increase to AED 12 start during peak hours for app bookings.
  • Dubai Taxi also offers taxi rental with professional drivers at competitive rates with 24 hour advance booking.

Dubai public transport – Dubai Metro

View of JLT Dubai Metro station from Marina Plaza

The Dubai Metro consists of two lines, a Green Line and a Red Line. Within a few years the metro has become one of the most popular means of transport for local residents because Dubai Metro fares are so much cheaper than metered taxis and it services all the major areas. For those areas not covered by metro services, commuters are able to catch a bus from a feeder metro station to their chosen destination.

  • If you are planning to use public transport during your stay you should check whether your accommodation is near a Dubai metro line station.
  • The metro lines do not operate for 24 hours and have different opening and closing times.
  • Dubai International airport has multiple stops on the Red Line of the Dubai Metro system and commuters may use a NOL card for payment.
  • Al Maktoum International airport does not currently have a direct metro connection and travelers can get on the network at the Ibn Batutta Mall metro station.
  • Visitors are encouraged to observe the rules of conduct on the metro trains to avoid fines.
  • You should obtain an updated metro map at the metro station to ensure that you can follow the correct route.
  • Please note the Dubai metro timings on Friday as they start much later than during the working week.

Dubai metro timings – Red Line Metro stations

  • Saturday to Wednesday – 5 am – 12 am (midnight)
  • Thursday – 5 am – 1 am (The next day)
  • Friday – 10 am – 1 am (The next day)

Dubai metro timings – Green Line Metro stations

  • Saturday to Wednesday – 5:30 am – 12 am (midnight)
  • Thursday – 5:30 am – 1 am (The next day)
  • Friday – 10 am – 1 am (The next day)

Read more: Where to stay in Dubai for all budgets

Dubai public transport – Busses

The Dubai bus services network inside the emirate covers many internal routes and services many metro stations and urban areas. There are also inter-emirate services operating between Dubai and other emirates.

  • Many bus stops in Dubai are air-conditioned and there is no reason to break a sweat while waiting for a bus.
  • To ride on Dubai busses commuters have to tap their NOL Smartcard on entry and exiting the bus and must have a minimum balance of AED 7.50 when using the bus.
  • There are public busses from all terminals at Dubai International Airport to all areas in the city.
  • There are public busses on route F55 from Al Maktoum International Airport to Ibn Battutal Mall and on F55 A from Satwa station to the airport.
  • There are bus routes to all neighborhoods originating from the main bus stations at Al Ghubaiba and the Gold Souk from 5 am to 12 midnight.
  • There are also sub stations at Al Satwa, Al Qusais, Al Quoz Industrial with services from 5 am to 11 pm and Jebel Ali from 6 am to 10:10 pm.
  • Metro feeder stations are operational at Al Rashidiya, Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai Mall, Abu Hail and Etisalat from 5:15 am to 1:10 am the next day.

Dubai public transport – Dubai Tram

Currently the Dubai Tram services the Dubai Marina, JBR and areas along King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud Street (formerly Al Sufouh Road). It links to the Palm Jumeirah Monorail at the Palm Jumeirah Tram station.

  • The tram also links to the Red Line of the Dubai Metro system at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Damac Metro stations.
  • NOL Smartcards can be purchased at ticket vending machines at the tram stations.
  • To ride the Dubai tram, commuters must have a NOL Smartcard with the minimum balance to pay for a tram ride.
  • There are separate coach cabins for women and children and special cabins for disabled commuters.

Dubai Marine Services

Dubai Marine Services

Old Dubai was settled around the Dubai Creek and the waterways of the city still provide many transportation routes. This includes the Dubai Abra used between the Deira and Bur Dubai sides of the creek.

  • To utilise the Dubai Marine Services commuters may use NOL Smartcards or BOS Viva tickets purchased at the station of boarding. Please check the requirement before boarding.
  • The Dubai marine services include the Dubai Water bus (air conditioned abras), Dubai Abra, Dubai Water taxi and the Dubai Ferry.
  • Water bus Dubai is air conditioned and accommodates a maximum of 23 passengers, including disabled passengers. There is a toilet on board as well as a small viewing deck. To utilise the Water busses commuters must purchase Bos Viva tickets before boarding. A Dubai Marina water bus All Day Pass costs AED 25 for unlimited trips in one day along the Dubai Marina route and is valid for one day from the date of purchase.
  • There are air conditioned abras (20 passengers), petrol heritage abras (20 passengers)  and electrical traditional abras (9 passengers) all serving different routes along the Dubai Creek for AED 2 per trip.
  • The Dubai water taxi services are private, air conditioned luxury services that operate to 43 stations along the Dubai Creek, Dubai Water Canal and the Dubai coastline. It seats a maximum of 9 passengers and is suitable for disabled passengers. Trips must be booked at least 30 minutes in advance to ensure availability and commuters must arrive at the boarding area 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled trip time.
  • There are air conditioned Dubai Ferry services on five different routes that include historical and touristic sites between old Dubai and Dubai Marina and carries a maximum of 100 passengers.

E-hailing services

Uber and Careem are also licensed to operate in the city and their rates are very similar to Dubai Taxis although they do not have taxi markings and are usually luxury vehicles.

  • A recent initiative encourages locals to sign up with these services to utilise their vehicles and create another avenue for income generation.
  • The Uber and Careem services can be booked and paid for online or via their apps. The cost is calculated and quoted before the trip commences and there are no meters involved.

Getting around Dubai on public transport is a breeze as long as you know your options and the quickest mode of transport to get to your destination. Options like the Dubai metro, Dubai busses and the Dubai marine services are useful if you want to experience Dubai like a resident and not rely only on metered taxis to see the city.

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  • Reply
    September 17, 2019 at 3:47 am

    I am really amazed at all the options. I think my kids would just love to spend the day using all the different types of transportation offered! And I love that you mention they have specific family and female accommodations.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2019 at 4:57 am

    They seem to have a great public transportation! Seems like it is pretty easy to get around. Thanks for sharing I love guides like this – they help me prepare for my trips!

  • Reply
    September 14, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    I really want to visit Dubai someday. Great tips!

  • Reply
    September 12, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    Such a great article, and the photos are amazing. I hope to visit Dubai one day.

  • Reply
    September 12, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    Aaah! I have also written a similar post about Dubai. It is so convenient to travel in Dubai using public transport. Also, I was in Dubai on the inauguration day of the Tram. Oh, I loved it!

  • Reply
    Jasmine M
    September 12, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    I would love to visit Dubai one day. I will definitely be bookmarking this blog post and keeping it in mind for when I do travel there. It is a lot of help. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Annemarie LeBlanc
    September 12, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Very informative post on how to go around Dubai using public transport. I have not been there yet, but if I do, I would want to try the Dubai metro. I think that would be a good way to get around.

  • Reply
    September 12, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Such a great and very detailed post. This could be a big help in planning a trip to Dubai alone.

  • Reply
    Catherine Santiago Jose
    September 12, 2019 at 11:22 am

    I have never been to Dubai but it sounds like that they have an amazing system when it comes to transportation. Thanks for sharing these guidelines will definitely reminded by these once we visit this place.

  • Reply
    Heather Barber McMechan
    September 12, 2019 at 7:47 am

    I’ve always heard Dubai has such a lovely setup. We’re always looking to book our next trip.

  • Reply
    September 12, 2019 at 6:52 am

    The system in Dubai sounds very efficient! That’s a really unique feature to have accommodations especially for women. I tend to do a lot of solo travel, so that’s great to know.

  • Reply
    Celebrate Woman Today
    September 12, 2019 at 6:30 am

    I’ve never been to Dubai. It has been such a detailed and informative read! I love that we can learn about cultures where we will never be able to visit. Thank you, Razena.

  • Reply
    September 12, 2019 at 4:01 am

    I would love to take a pink taxi. That is so cool to know that a woman will be driving. I would feel safer because women are usually more careful drivers than men.

  • Reply
    Emily Fata
    September 11, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    Oh my goodness, this place looks beautiful! Although I’ve never been to Dubai before myself, I would love to make my way over in the near future. Thanks for sharing all of this! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kristi @ Way Beyond The Norm
    September 11, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    I don’t have a trip planned to Dubai anytime soon, but this is a great resource for anyone looking to visit!

  • Reply
    Dalene Ekirapa
    September 11, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Ha-ha! ‘If you’re expecting camels in the streets of Dubai, better start getting disappointed’- found that so funny. Anyway, Dubai’s mode of transport is really well developed. I love the idea of the smart card, that must really make transportation easier, right?

  • Reply
    September 11, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve been to Dubai twice but never stayed long enough to explore public transport. Though it would have been a sight to see camels and horses 😉

  • Reply
    September 11, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    I like the idea of the pink taxis, I didn’t know they existed when I visited Dubai, a few years ago. I moved around the city with the metro and the buses. I wished back then for the metro to reach more places, as I found it the most convenient way to travel around.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      September 11, 2019 at 3:08 pm

      I’ve never felt unsafe in the regular male driver taxis but love that we have the option for female drivers, especially when travelling solo. The metro currently serves the high traffic areas and there are feeder busses from many of the metro stations to areas not served by the metro. The is a metro expansion underway that should be ready for expo 2020 👍

  • Reply
    September 11, 2019 at 3:58 am

    As a solo traveller I love the idea of ladies only transportation and airport taxis. Such a great idea and would definitely give a feeling of safety. Very interesting and good to know!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      September 11, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      I wish some of my other favorite destinations would implement something similar for female travelers.

  • Reply
    September 11, 2019 at 2:26 am

    Wow Dubai is sooo beautiful. It’s a city of the future, everything look modern and rich. I wish to be able to visit Dubai in the future.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      September 11, 2019 at 3:11 pm

      For the first few years that I lived here I would breathe a visible sigh of relief whenever I returned because it pleased my soul so much to be back in this beautiful city.

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