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Getting around in Dubai

Published: 26 Jul 2017

So far I’ve talked about moving and getting a visa and finding things to do, having covered all that it thought I’d talk about getting around.

Dubai is a big city and you can certainly clock up the miles travelling from one end to the other. Prior to moving here I travelled back and forth to Dubai, so had an inkling of what I was in for but it has to be said that the traffic is an experience!

Let’s start with taxis - Dubai is swimming in them so you’ll never be stranded. There are various types:
You have the ‘yellow’ taxis, you can hail them from anywhere and are really reasonably priced. One word of warning, make sure you have an idea of where you’re going, as some drivers haven’t been in the country too long and may not know where you want to go. The good thing about these taxis is it’s a standard fare so no surprises on the cost.

The next type of taxi you’ll find is the black and white taxis, these are pre-booked taxis so you’ll need the number to book. They cost a little more but at least you know they’ll be there when you need them.

And finally you have Uber and Careem. Careem is similar to Uber and works in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, whereas Uber only works in Dubai. Both options work exceptionally well and the good thing is the driver has your journey mapped out so will know where you need to go. The downside is the charges are not standard and you’ll get hit during rush hour and anytime when there is high demand.

Next you have the Dubai metro - this is a great option if you need to travel along the main thoroughfare (Sheikh Zayed road. It’s cheap - AED6 per trip and you have 2 classes, gold and silver (you pay more for gold). The stations are clean and spacious and most importantly, AIR-CONDITIONED! The down side to the metro is it only has 2 lines and if your destination is not close to the metro stop you’ll end up having to catch a taxi for the rest of your journey.

There is also a significant bus network within Dubai with various buses you can choose from. Unfortunately I haven’t used a bus out here, so can’t offer much on the subject however, from what I’ve been told, they are really good and very reasonably priced.

Finally you can drive, either hiring or buying a car.

I started with a hire car and for anyone who had the pleasure of talking to me during this time will know I hired a tiny car, which soon became known as the ‘half car’! I hired this direct from the airport and bit the bullet and decided to brave the Dubai traffic.

The traffic is crazy with no lane etiquette, no consideration for safe distances between cars and a general free for all. Dubai has a huge road network - the majority is one-way, which is great because you just have to follow the flow of traffic. Bad news is if you miss your exit you have to travel miles to get back to where you want to be. Some of the junctions can be tricky to navigate as you have to get across a few lanes of traffic to get to where you need to be.

Having driven the ‘half car’ for a few months, getting my residency sorted and once I had my Emirates ID, I decided to buy a slightly bigger car.

I bought a second hand car which is pretty straight forward. This is what I went through. I found a car I liked on Dubizzle (Gumtree equivalent), viewed the car, negotiated the price and we agreed to meet at the Dubai Customer Service centre to complete the paperwork. You need to make sure you have insurance. There are kiosks at the centre so you can buy it right there, but you need your emirates ID, and both you and the car owner need to be present. The car is checked for any outstanding fines, which the current owner will need to pay before you change ownership, as well as any accident damage or other mechanical issues with the car.

Once you’ve got a clean bill you print the insurance documents and take that with car papers to the counter and they process the change of ownership. You’ll have to pay for the change of ownership which comes with a completely new number plate – this is produced at the centre and fit right there! I only handed over the money once all of this was completed.

The only other thing you will need is to get a Salik account. Salik is the name of the toll system. It’s all digital and picks up your number plate. It costs AED4 each time you go through a toll and you can top up online.

My final words of caution are keep calm, don’t let the traffic get to you! The driving can be crazy and you’ll see things you never thought possible, but it’s a great experience!

Next month I’ll talk about surviving Ramadan and the summer

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