Distances in the UAE are relatively short, and with the Dubai Metro you can reach several stations just in Dubai and the surrounding area. The peak hours for the Dubai Metro are in the morning and evening. The Dubai Metro offers three classes: silver class, which is used daily by workers, women’s class, which is reserved for women and children, and gold class. If you are a frequent rider, you can get monthly passes for each class. The Metro also connects with public buses as soon as you get off at a station. You can also plan your route online at www.rta.ae. Travelling by metro has its own advantages as it is relatively cheap, fast and you can see most of Dubai along the way. The roads are generally in excellent condition, though signage is poor in some emirates.
With public transport
Public transport in the cities remains rudimentary. Dubai is building an extensive monorail and train system, but the other emirates offer very little public transport. Abu Dhabi has an urban bus network that costs dh2 per trip inside the city and dh4 per tirip outside the city and is fairly reliable, but can be congested for male passengers. Intercity buses are fast, comfortable and relatively frequent.
Taxis are widely available in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. They are relatively cheap in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. A ride to anywhere in Abu Dhabi city costs around US$2, as they are only charged according to the distance travelled. After 10pm, a night surcharge of US$3 may apply, depending on the driver.
The United Arab Emirates has a modern road network. To rent a car or drive in the UAE, you will need an international driving licence, which is simply a translation of your standard driving licence, available from a local motoring organisation. If you are a resident of the UAE, you will need to obtain a local driving licence. This is a simple process that can be done in 20 minutes, but only if you belong to a certain list of (mainly Western) countries. If you are from an Asian country, you currently have to take 40 courses at a local driving school and pass a fairly difficult driving test. But this is changing, and could soon apply to all nationalities.
Car rentals are slightly cheaper than in the United States. A flat rate per day is charged for renting a car, depending on the size of the car. Petrol is cheap by American and European standards. The road system is based on British or European standards, with many roundabouts and heavily channelled traffic. But signs are easy to understand and clear and consistent in most places. Drivers in the UAE, especially in urban areas, tend to be very aggressive and often use tactics that range from stupid to disastrous. This may be due to traffic, which can be extremely congested in urban areas, or other factors.
People in the UAE drive extremely fast and sometimes completely recklessly: overtaking on the right is the rule, speed limits are ignored by many, even by heavy vehicles. Changing the last line seems to be a popular sport. The United Arab Emirates has the third highest road fatality rate in the world (just behind Saudi Arabia and Oman).
Be especially careful if you see an off-road vehicle with tinted windows at night: Black windows will cause the driver not to see you and change lanes. Theoretically forbidden, tinted windows are common among young Arabs and are generally associated with poor driving skills and fast driving.
There are now some good city maps, especially for Dubai (the Explorer book series). Note that construction is still ongoing and the road network sometimes changes rapidly, so the maps only cover a “point in time”. Sharjah remains poorly mapped. A website [www] has provided the first decent online maps of the UAE. Google Earth provides solid satellite imagery but with a satisfactory level of detail, mainly for general reference purposes. The lack of good maps or signage makes the use of a compass or GPS sometimes useful when going off the highway.
Desert safaris or “wadi bashing” are good attractions around Dubai, but you should be very careful when choosing a rental vehicle; it should be a four-wheel drive vehicle. Also, desert safaris are usually planned in advance with tour operators and you can save money on the amount.