The Ultimate Dubai public transport guide

by Danni B

Dubai, a vibrant city known for its modern infrastructure and iconic landmarks, offers a variety of transportation options to help you explore its many attractions!

Whether you prefer public transport or private options, I’ll explore all the options below for getting around Dubai plus what I recommend as someone who first moved to Dubai in 2013 and uses many different forms of transport across Dubai frequently.

Bus

RTA Buses

Photo from RTA

They offer local buses around Dubai and cross-city buses that go to Abu Dhabi or other Emirates.

Dubai’s extensive bus network is combined with the metro using a Nol car and is the cheapest way to travel around the city. All buses are operated by RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) and are cashless.

There are cafeterias and vending machines at all MAIN bus stops, not all bus stops.

Important information:

  • All buses are air-conditioned
  • Many stops are air-conditioned (though I have found some not working)
  • Disability access
  • Separate areas for women & children
  • NOL card necessary
  • Fares start from 4 AED

Operating Hours:

  • C01 is 24 hours
  • 4 am till 1 am other routes

Check the route and times via the RTA website.

Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Bus

Explore Dubai at your own pace with a Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Bus.

These double-decker buses follow carefully designed routes for tourists without stopping at every single stop like an RTA bus. Covering all major attractions, you can disembark and re-board as you wish. It also includes an audio guide to the city.

I cover this option in more detail, such as the route they take and different Hop on Hop off Bus options in Dubai.

Important information:

  • Bottom section is air-conditioned
  • Stops are not air-conditioned
  • Disability access on most buses
  • Free audio tour
  • Includes other attractions with the ticket
  • Tickets start from 287 AED ($78 USD)

Operating Hours:

  • 9 am till 5 pm

Book a Hop on Hop off Bus 🚌

Metro

Dubai Metro

Dubai Metro is a driverless, fully automated train system that connects key locations in the city. Divided into the Red, Green and Branch lines.

It offers a quick and comfortable way to navigate through Dubai with its air-conditioned cabins.

It is the cheapest way to travel around Dubai and is combined with the extensive bus network using your NOL card. Ticket prices depend on how many zones you pass through within 180 minutes.

There can be large gaps between stops and it gets very crowded during peak hours. If you’re a woman, I highly recommend using the women’s section, especially during peak hours.

Not all of Dubai is covered by the metro.

Check the stops and times via the RTA website.

Insider tip – Be aware of the rules and you’ll see signs inside the metro and tram. Food, drink, and chewing gum are strictly prohibited and can result in a fine.

Important information:

  • All trains are air-conditioned
  • Stops & connecting tunnels are air-conditioned
  • Wheelchair access
  • Silver (Regular) & Gold (VIP) cabins available
  • Women only cabins
  • Fares start from 4 AED

Operating Hours:

  • Monday to Thursday: 5 am till Midnight
  • Friday: 5 am till 1 am
  • Saturday: 5 am till Midnight
  • Sunday: 8 am till Midnight

Palm Monorail

Connecting the mainland to the Palm Jumeirah, the monorail provides a unique and elevated perspective of this iconic island.

Stops are limited and it’s mostly for going to Atlantis or Nakheel Mall, you’ll need to use the Dubai Tram Palm Jumeirah Stop and then change over to the Palm Monorail.

It doesn’t use a Nol card, instead, you’ll need to purchase a separate ticket.

Important information:

  • All trains are air-conditioned
  • Stops are air-conditioned
  • Wheelchair access
  • Tickets start from 10 AED

Operating Hours:

  • 9 am till 10 pm

Buy your unlimited day pass Palm Monorail ticket 🚄

Dubai Tram

Photo by Denys Gromov

The Dubai Tram operates in Dubai Marina and Media City. It’s a loop around the area that connects to Dubai Metro and Palm Monorail.

You’ll need the same NOL Card as you do for the metro and bus network. Fares are also part of the same zone system.

A popular stop is JBR and it’s great for avoiding the Dubai Marina traffic during peak hours, though it is a little bit slow.

Important information:

  • All trams are air-conditioned
  • Stops are air-conditioned
  • Wheelchair access
  • Silver (Regular) & Gold (VIP) cabins available
  • Women only cabins
  • Tickets start from 4 AED

Operating Hours:

  • Monday to Saturday: 6 am till 1 am
  • Sunday: 9 am till 1 am

Taxi

RTA Taxi

Taxis are readily available throughout Dubai and offer a convenient service, you can also order an RTA taxi through the Careem app. Offering the convenience of ride-hailing apps while still giving you the cheaper RTA price.

Taxis are metered and you’ll pay based on how far and long you travel. You’ll also pay for any salik (toll) gates you pass through in the taxi.

There are also many laws to protect you, if the meter or card machine isn’t working your ride is free (though a driver may not do this unless you state the law). All drivers have metal plates with their RTA numbers on them, which means you can report them if there is an issue.

Most drivers are knowledgeable about the city’s main attractions but you can occasionally get someone new who doesn’t know their way around, even if they say “Yes boss” when you ask if they know where x is.

So using the Careem app makes it easier.

Base fare is 12 AED instead of 5 or 5.5 AED compared with hailing from the street but the convenience is worth the extra! Plus they’re more likely to stick to the most efficient route, saving money.

If they know you’re a tourist and you hail a cab, the driver may take a longer route or choose the ones with more salik to up the fair.

5 AED is the base fare in the day and 5.5 AED is the base fare at night, which is from midnight until 6 am.

The minimum fare is 20 AED which means if you don’t travel very far then you will pay 20 AED regardless but the fare starts from 5 AED.

Insider tip – From the airport and malls of Dubai, the minimum taxi fare is 25 AED plus a few other prime tourist locations. You can get the usual minimum fare if you walk outside the mall and pick a nearby point to order.

Important information:

  • All taxis are air-conditioned
  • Car seats for infants are available from Dubai airport
  • Women drivers are also available
  • Large cars for up to 7 people are also available
  • Base fares start from 5, 12 AED (Careem) or 25 AED from prime locations
  • Minimum fare is 20 AED
  • 2.09 AED per km

Operating Hours:

  • 24 hours

Private Limousine Taxi

This is an Uber or Careem, yes Uber is also available in Dubai. Bolt is not yet available.

Careem is the most popular in the region and works in the same way as Uber however you can also order RTA taxis which are cheaper than the typical Lexus limousine that turns up only with Careem.

Insider tip – Do not get into private limousines waiting from the airport, hotels, or other locations across Dubai without using an app. They usually approach you or the hotel recommends them. These are a lot more expensive than if you use Uber or Careem and are the same Lexus cars.

Important information:

  • All limousine taxis are air-conditioned
  • Cars with infant and child seats can be booked
  • Large cars for up to 6 people are also available
  • Fares start from 12 AED or 25 AED from prime locations

Operating Hours:

  • 24 hours

Marine Transport

RTA Water Taxi

If you’re looking for a unique way to travel across Dubai, the water taxis are for you.

Of course, you can only use these in certain areas of Dubai, mostly Dubai Creek, Dubai Marina, and along the sea.

They can fit up to 10 people and children under 12 cannot travel alone.

You’ll need to call, email, or use the RTA to book a water taxi. You can also pay with your NOL card.

Important information:

  • All water taxis are air-conditioned
  • Children under 12 must travel with an adult
  • Fits up to 10 people
  • Fares start from 7 AED

Operating Hours:

  • 3 pm till 11 pm

Abra

Experience the traditional mode of water transport with an Abra ride.

These small wooden boats make a small journey across Dubai Creek, providing both a scenic and cultural journey. As they are a part of Dubai’s history and culture.

There’s also a small route at Dubai Canal in Jumeirah.

You’ll also find Abras at Souq Madinat and Burj Lake at the Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa abras are for a nice experience close up to the Dubai Fountain while Souq Madinat ferries people staying in the Jumeirah hotels and offers stops around Madinat.

Be aware they can get crowded during peak times.

Important information:

  • Abras are open-air with no air-conditioning
  • Children under 12 must travel with an adult
  • Minimum of 6 passengers
  • Fares start from 2 AED

Operating Hours:

  • 7:15 am till Midnight (Route times vary)

RTA Ferry

Dubai’s ferry service connects key locations along the coast and offers breathtaking views of the skyline. It’s a scenic way to travel between Dubai’s iconic landmarks, such as the Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina.

It’s not the fastest but it is a nice experience and offers an enjoyable way to see Dubai from the water.

Important information:

  • All ferries are air-conditioned
  • Children under 12 must travel with an adult
  • A minimum of 12 people must be abroad
  • Silver (Regular) & Gold (VIP) cabins available
  • Fares start from 15 AED

Operating Hours:

  • 12 pm till 11 pm (Route times vary)

Hiring a Car in Dubai

This is my most recommended way to travel around Dubai since many hotels have very long driveways that aren’t suitable for pedestrians. A lot of restaurants are inside hotels and it’s quite unusual to arrive walking to these.

Petrol is relatively affordable in Dubai and rates for cars are also decently priced. Roads are well maintained and the large highways are well designed for cars.

I don’t find driving in Dubai that stressful but then I’m used to it plus I did drive a lot in central London before I came to Dubai. The driving style is aggressive and moving across multiple lanes for an exit can take some getting used to.

There are a lot of cameras in Dubai that catch not just speed but incorrect changing of lanes, not leaving a long enough gap, using your phone, and not wearing a seatbelt. So make sure to read up on the driving laws before you go.

Infants and children must have car seats.

Check rental car rates for Dubai 🚗

Final thoughts on transport in Dubai

My most recommended way is to hire a car, Dubai is a city designed for cars and overall it’ll make your experience easier.

Remember to plan your route and choose the mode of transportation that best suits your itinerary, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable journey through the dynamic city of Dubai.

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