Most tourists visiting the UAE on all-in package tours will base themselves at one or more hotels in the UAE, using the ubiquitous and inexpensive taxis for sightseeing and shopping, and local tour companies for more extended trips. The Metro in Dubai is also an excellent way of getting around that city. However, it is worth remembering that cars and four-wheel drives are readily available for hire, the road network is excellent and there are intriguing places to visit far from the cosmopolitan cities.
Most of the large car hire firms are represented at airports and hotels. Some local firms also operate car hire services. The services of the larger reputable firms can be very useful in case of emergency, but the smaller local firms also give good deals.
If you are a UAE resident, you must have a valid UAE driving licence to hire a car. Non-residents will be issued with a UAE temporary driving permit by car hire companies on presentation of a valid national or international driving licence (the latter is required in Abu Dhabi), two photographs and a passport. A temporary driving permit from any emirate allows you to drive throughout the UAE.
There is an extensive high quality road network throughout the Emirates and unleaded petrol is relatively cheap. Driving is on the right. Traffic regulations are strictly enforced. Under no circumstances can you drink and drive. Even a small amount of alcohol will put you over the legal limit.
Call traffic police on 999 and/or ambulance on 998. Wait for the police to arrive as it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident without police permission. And by law no vehicle can be accepted for repair without an accident report from the traffic police. The police will document all details and give each party, presuming another vehicle has been involved, a copy of the accident report.
As in most major cities, parking in the city centres is restricted but it is generally possible to find parking in bays or in multi-storey car parks. All the new shopping malls have extensive multi-storey parking lots.
Most local tour companies organize off-road trips probably the best way to explore if you are not familiar with off-road driving in desert conditions. Some tour operators also run courses in desert driving, a must if you are a novice.
If you intend to explore independently off the beaten track, it is advisable to travel with at least one other vehicle and a GPS and/ or mobile phone is essential.
UAE Off-Road Explorer has satellite maps, GPS waypoints, safety hints etc., which could enusre that your trip a safe one.
Distances from Abu Dhabi
|Al Ain||160 km|
|Khor Fakkan||310 km|
|Ras al-Khaimah||256 km|
|Umm al-Qaiwain||206 km|
Taxis are readily available, offer an efficient, relatively inexpensive service and are a very good way to get around. They can be flagged down on the street, pre-booked by telephone or picked up outside your hotel. Taxi drivers are usually familiar with the main souqs, shopping centres, hotels and major landmarks. Most are metered in the major cities.
In Dubai, the Metro has revolutionised access to the city and environs, from Rashadiya, beyond the airport, to Jebel Ali. There are two intersecting routes, the Green and Red lines. Streamlined air-conditioned stations are dotted along the routes with covered, air-conditioned access bridges spanning Sheikh Zayed Road, the main artery to the city centre. Driverless trains are highly efficient, have a section exclusively for women and children at the front and tickets are cheap. The Road Transport Authority’s rechargeable Nol farecards and single fare tickets can be used on the metro, buses and water taxis. There is a network of feeder buses in operation.
For more information on the metro and other forms of public transport in Dubai visit the RTA website.
Although most visitors travel by taxi or with a tour operator, buses are a good alternative, as they are air-conditioned, clean and efficient. Routes and bus numbers are posted in both Arabic and English. Buses also run between the emirates. Passes, timetables and bus maps are available from the main bus stations or online.
In Dubai, take an abra ride across the Creek. Abras are small diesel-powered wooden boats that chug relentlessly from shore to shore, carrying commuters as well as tourists to their destinations along the bustling wharf. Seagulls whirl overhead and wooden dhows laden with goods steam to port. This is the very soul of the city. Abras depart when full, which does not take long. You can also hire a private abra for a cruise along the creek.
Dubai RTA's futuristic-looking air-conditioned water taxis ply up and down the Creek and larger ferries offer scenic cruises between the Creek and Dubai Marina.