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Transport & Driving

The Many Ways of Traveling by Public Transportation in the UAE

If you don’t want to drive in the UAE, public transportation is the perfect option to travel around. But how exactly does the public transportation system work? And which modes of transportation are there in the Emirates? You can find all the information you need in our guide!

The Number One in the UAE

Taxis are the most important mode of transportation and are available almost all over the UAE, for a relatively cheap price compared to other major cities. The UAE has a well-organized system, and in Dubai the taxis are regulated by the government. Most of the taxis have a fare meter, which calculates the amount you’ll have to pay for your journey. The fare per kilometer is fixed at around 1.60 AED per minute. The fixed starting fare is about 3 or 4 AED; if you take a taxi from the airport it’s 20 AED. You can find several taxi stands throughout the cities, around various stations, and outside the airports. These stands make it easy to find a taxi, but you can also just stop one on the street.

Dubai has the only toll road system in the whole UAE — Salik. You can find more information about Salik in our article about driving in the UAE. If you pass a toll gate with the taxi you’re in, an additional 4 AED will be added to the final amount you’ll have to pay.

Buses in the Emirates and between the Emirates

Taxis aren’t the only important modes of transportation in the UAE. Buses are also very important for the public transportation network. Except for in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, they are even the only mode of public transportation in the Emirates. The biggest bus networks are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi; Dubai has 112 routes and Abu Dhabi has 75. The bus networks in the other emirates mainly consist of buses connecting the emirates with each other. You can use the Nol, Hafilat, and Sayer cards (see below) to pay for the buses in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, respectively.

Don’t Lose Track in Dubai — Metros and Trams

Dubai is the leader of the UAE when it comes to public transportation. It’s the only city that has a tram and metro network.

The Dubai Tram is the newest mode of transportation in Dubai. The service started operating in November 2014 and immediately became a big success. At the moment, the track is 10.6 km long and serves eleven stations with two lines. Another 4 km is planned to be added to the network, together with eight more stations. From Saturday to Thursday the trams operate from 06:30 to 01:38, on Friday they start at 09:00.

The Dubai Metro has been around a little longer, since 2009. The network also has two lines — a red line and a green line — covering 70 km and 49 stations. The red line stops at stations between Rashidiya (close to Dubai International Airport) and UAE Exchange, while the green line runs from Etisalat Metro Station to Dubai Healthcare Center.

You can switch between the tram and metro at DAMAC Metro Station and Jumeirah Lakes Towers Metro Station. These stations are both on the red metro line.

Something that can help you plan your journey in Dubai is RTA — Wojhati. This doesn’t only work for the metro and tram, but also for the buses. You can also install the app on your smartphone.

Getting Rid of the Hassle: Paying Made Easy

Paying for public transportation always seems to be a hassle. There are some things that can make the process easier for you in the UAE. In Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah you can purchase a special card which you can use to pay for public transportation.

Dubai — The Nol Card

If you’re traveling in Dubai, you can use the Nol Card. There are four different types of this card: red for tourists and visitors, silver for frequent travelers, gold to get access to the gold class in trams and metro trains, and lastly blue for frequent travelers who want their credit secured. Purchasing this card is easy: decide which type of card fits you the best and meets your needs and purchase it at a ticket office, vending machine, a RTA Customer Service Center, from a sales agent, or online.

Abu Dhabi — The Hafilat Smart Card

Abu Dhabi has another card: the Hafilat Smart Card. This card is used for the bus network. Again, there are several types of cards you can choose from, but there are three options that are used the most: a temporary card, an anonymous card, and a personalized card. You can get the card at various ticket sales offices, ticket vending machines, swift reloader machines, and the intercity driver consoles for the intercity buses.

Sharjah — The Sayer Card

Lastly, you can get a Sayer Card in Sharjah. There’s only one type of this card, but it has the same principle as Abu Dhabi’s Hafilat Smart Card. You can use it to pay for your bus trip fare by simply inserting the card into the card reader. The card is available at selected bus terminals and by asking the bus driver.

Abras and Ferries: Special Modes of Transportation

But taxis, buses, metros, and trams aren’t the only modes of transportation in the UAE. You can also travel over water, using abras or ferries.

The Dubai abras are small motorized water taxis that take you over the Dubai Creek. There are two routes: route one goes from Deira Old Souk Abra Station to Bur Dubai Abra Station and route two goes from Sabkha Abra Station back to the starting station. A trip takes about five to seven minutes and costs 1 AED. Route one operates from 05:00 to midnight; route two is available 24 hours a day.

The Abu Dhabi ferry service doesn’t only offer services to pedestrians, but also to cars. There’s only one route, from Marsa Jabel Al Dhanna to Delma Island. The ferry service operates three times a day, except on Fridays — then it’s only twice. Passengers twelve years of age or older pay 20 AED; children under twelve don’t have to pay anything. When taking your car on the ferry, you should make sure to bring a valid ID, the vehicle registration card, and a fee of 100 AED.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

InterNations Expat Magazine