With Dubai still experiencing rapid growth despite the global economic slowdown, how do expats living in Dubai or visiting holidaymakers negotiate their way around and city and the Emirate as a whole? In this article we look at the essential information relating to travel to and from Dubai and also public transport in Dubai and infrastructure that make the city so accessible.

The first experience you are likely to have of the Emirate is the airport when you arrive.  One of the world’s largest airports, Dubai International boasts almost half a hectare of duty free shops offering everything from jewelry to electronics to designer wear.  There are also 25 food and drink outlets, including an Irish pub and a McDonalds, just in case living in Dubai felt a little foreign!  Most of the hotels located near the airport offer free transfer services, so getting to your hotel should be pretty uneventful if you’re holidaying in Dubai.

If you’re moving to live in Dubai and you’re not heading for a hotel then there are other options of getting around the city including using public transport in Dubai.

Metro in Dubai

The Dubai Metro, which is the “world’s longest” automated rail system opened in late 2009, takes away a lot of the stress and danger from traveling in Dubai.

The Dubai Metro is a driverless and completely automated metro rail network. Two lines – the Red Line and Green Line – are fully operational, and three further lines are planned to expand the system.

The Red and Green lines run underground in the city centre and on elevated viaducts outside of it. Trains include first class and women and children only sections.

The Metro is connected to the Dubai Tram system – the latest mode of public transport in Dubai.

To get round Dubai comfortably you might want to use the Monthly Pass, which allows unlimited use of the Metro and public transport buses for 30 days. It costs about £60 (Dh270) for regular commuters for all zones. Before applying for a Monthly Pass on the Metro, make sure you have an Emirates ID card.

To apply for a Monthly Pass:

1. Get a form from the counter at any Metro station and fill it up
2. Submit two ID pictures with white background
3. Pay according to your category (choose between one zone pass, two zones and all zones)
4. Card will be mailed to you in three weeks

Another option is Silver, Gold and Blue Nol cards. A Blue Nol card, for example, costs around £16 (Dh70). It is a secure personalised smart card which includes an e-Wallet. Users can top up the card up to £110 (Dh500). it is valid for use on all integrated public transport modes in Dubai.

Plans for Cutting Edge Public Transport in Dubai

As a part of Dubai plan to become the world’s smartest city Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has announced the launch of driverless buses and is going to test the new technology on dedicated lanes in the near future.

To add to this, the government signed an agreement with Tesla to buy 200 electric cars for the limousine fleet of the Dubai Taxi Corporation. The cars will be first set on ‘autopilot’, allowing a human driver control in case of emergency, however the new taxis will be equipped with all the components for full driverless mode.

Taxi in Dubai

If driverless technology is not your cup of tea, then there are plenty of good solid old-fashioned taxi cabs controlled by human drivers in Dubai.

Official taxis in Dubai are well maintained, air conditioned and metered, there are some unlicensed taxis operating but they are best avoided.  Most taxi drivers are from India or Pakistan and will have some command of English, but not necessarily of speed!

As old hands living in Dubai will tell you, gridlock exists most times of the day so try and get yourself an experienced taxi driver who will know the short cuts.  Another reason to get yourself an experienced driver is because of the system of navigation.  One of the main challenges when traveling around the city is the lack of street names, and most driving is by landmark.

The problem is that Dubai’s skyline is changing constantly and landmarks come and go, so if your driver has not been living in Dubai for long, you may be looking at an expensive taxi ride as you both get completely lost.

One way around this is to use a private car company.  Unable to pick up passengers from outside of hotels or restaurants, they operate on a mobile call in service but do offer a safer form of transportation and are becoming increasingly used by expats living in Dubai who are getting concerned for their health.

Driving in Dubai

Whilst Dubai is keen to have “the biggest”, “the longest” and “the most impressive” of everything, when it comes to driving in Dubai the emirate is not in the top of “most dangerous countries to drive”. However driving there might be a challenge.  If you are planning to live in Dubai and drive yourself – our Driving in Dubai guide will help you be prepared, sort out your driving licence and stay safe on the road.