Dubai – arriving, leaving and getting around

Essential advice for travelling to Dubai and getting around while you are here

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By  ITP.net staff writer Published  September 21, 2008

Getting to Dubai and getting around during the busy convention season can be a challenge - here we present our guide to make your travel as easy as possible.

Guide produced with the kind assistance of timeoutdubai.com.

ARRIVING

By air

Dubai International Airport (DIA)
Switchboard 04 224 5555
Flight information 04 216 6666
www.dubaiairport.com

Almost all major airlines arrive at Terminal 1. Airport facilities include internet and banking services, shops, restaurants, business services, bars, a hotel and duty free shopping. The smaller Terminal 2 caters largely for charter flights, cargo and commercial airlines from Iran and the CIS (former Soviet Republics such as Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Ukraine and Georgia) countries. There is also a plush VIP terminal known as Al Majlis.

DIA is in Garhoud, about five kilometres (three miles) south-east of the city centre. If you're staying at one of the big international hotels, you'll get a complimentary shuttle bus or limousine transfer to and from the airport.

Because Terminal One is currently undergoing a major expansion programme, it is consequently very crowded, often with long queues for passport control and chaotic queues for taxis. Organizing a welcome service, such as Marhaba will speed you through the airport for around $25 per head, and they can also arrange onwards transport.

Otherwise, taxis are the most convenient and practical form of transport. There is a AED 20 surcharge on pick-up from the terminal (instead of the usual AED 3). This means that the journey from the airport to the city centre costs around AED 30, while the return journey is AED 13 or so. Getting from the airport to Dubai World Trade Centre can take anywhere between twenty to forty minutes.

There are bus links to and from both terminals every 20 or 30 minutes for around AED 3, although timings are somewhat erratic and routes can be lengthy. Route 401 goes from the airport to Al Sabkah bus station and the 402 goes to Al Ghubaiba, running through the centre of the city. From Deira station, located opposite the Al Ghurair Centre on Al Rigga Road, the numbers 4, 11 and 48 will take you straight to Terminal 1, as will the 33 and 44 from Bur Dubai. Fortunately, all buses are air conditioned. Call 227 3840/800 9090 or visit www.rta.ae for more details.

All airlines operating regular flights into DIA are listed on the airport website; some of the most popular are listed below. Note that some airlines ask you to reconfirm your flight 72 hours before departure, and that cheaper tickets will often incur a penalty fee for alteration or cancellation.

Air France Information 04 602 5400 www.airfrance.ae.

British Airways Reservations & ticket sales 04 307 5777/8000 441 3322 www.britishairways.com.

Emirates 04 214 4444 www.emirates.com.

Etihad Airways 02 250 58000 www.etihadairways.com.

Gulf Air 271 3111/3222 www.gulfairco.com.

KLM 04 319 3777 www.klm.com.

Lufthansa 04 343 2121 www.lufthansa.com.

Qatar Airways 04 229 2229/04 221 4210 www.qatarairways.com.

Marhaba Services 04 224 5780 or 04 216 2630 www.marhabaservices.com.

By road

The UAE is bordered to the north and east by Oman, and to the south and west by Saudi Arabia. Road access to Dubai is via the Abu Dhabi emirate to the south, Sharjah to the north, and Oman to the east.

There is no charge for driving between emirates, but travel to or from Oman or Saudi Arabia requires your passport, driving licence, insurance and visa. Crossing the Oman border costs AED 30 per person for those with UAE residency and AED 60 for those on a visit visa. Before you travel, it is worth checking www.omanaccess.com/explore_oman/visa1.asp, for the latest visa requirements.


Your car is likely to be searched: carrying alcohol is prohibited. All the highways linking Dubai to the other emirates and Oman are in good condition. Ensure your vehicle and the air conditioning are in good working order, as it is inevitably hot at most times of the year, and the drive through the Hajar Mountains to Muscat, the capital of Oman, takes approximately five hours. Check with Immigration (398 0000) before you leave for any important changes in travel policy.

Traffic enquiries RTA (800 9090 www.dubaipolice.gov.ae)

By sea

There are boats to Dubai from Iraq and Iran; journey time is more than two days, and costs around AED 580 return. For schedules and details you should contact the Dubai Ports Authority (881 5555 www.dpa.co.ae). Alternatively, if you're travelling north, you can call Rashid Port (345 1545), which operates sea routes to Port Bandar Abbas and Port Bandar Lankah in Iran, and Port Umm Qasr in Iraq.

GETTING AROUND

Thanks to its modern highway system, most of Dubai is fairly easy to get around. However, in many places the existing infrastructure has struggled to cope with the growth of the city, most notably the Garhoud and Maktoum bridges spanning the Creek and the Shindagha tunnel underneath it.

During rush hours (7-9am, 1-2pm, 5-8pm Sun-Thur), serious tailbacks can develop. A third bridge, Business Bay, opened in March 2007, and a fourth, a temporary floating bridge opened in July 2007. One more bridge is under construction, which, it is hoped, will help to ease congestion.

Taxis

The easiest way to get around is by taxi. Official taxis are well-maintained, air-conditioned and metered. Fares are AED 1.6 per kilometre (0.3 miles) with a AED 3- AED 3.50 cover charge depending on the time of day. The two biggest companies are Dubai Transport Company (208 0808) and National Taxis (339 0002). Unofficial taxis are best avoided, as they tend to be older cars with poor air con and they may rip you off. If it's the only option available, be sure to agree on a price before entering the car.

Buses

The public bus system is rarely used by visitors, owing to the convenience of taxis. The service is extremely cheap but busses are crowded, routes can be convoluted and timings erratic.

Vehicle hire

Most major car hire companies have offices at Dubai airport (fifteen companies have 24-hour outlets there) and five star hotels. Before renting a car, check the small print, especially clauses relating to insurance cover in the event of an accident, as this can vary considerably from company to company.

Drivers must be aged over 21 to hire a small car, or 25 for a medium (two-litre) or larger 4x4 vehicle. You'll need your national driving licence (an International Driving Permit is best, although it isn't legally required). You'll also need your passport and one of the major credit cards. Prices range from AED 77 per day for a small manual car, to AED 1,000 for something like a Lexus LS430. Motorbikes are not available for hire in Dubai.

Autolease 04 224 4900.

Avis 04 224 5219.

Budget 04 224 5192.

Cars 04 224 5524.

Diamond Lease 04 220 0325.

Europe 04 224 5240.

Fast Rent A Car 04 224 5040.

Hertz 04 224 5222.

Patriot 04 224 4244.

Thrifty 04 224 5404.

United Car Rentals 04 224 4666.

Fuel stations

There are 24-hour petrol stations on all major highways. Most petrol stations also have convenience stores selling snacks and drinks.

Parking

Many areas in the city centre have introduced paid parking in a bid to reduce congestion. Prices are reasonable (AED 1 or AED 2 for a one-hour stay, depending on location), but this hasn't made it easier to secure a parking space. Paid parking areas are operational at peak times (generally from 8am to noon and 4pm to 9pm), and it's free to park there outside of these hours and on Fridays or public holidays. If you park illegally or go over your time limit, the penalty charge is AED 100-AED150. Generally your car hire company will pay the fines for you and charge them back to you at the end of your lease.

Most hotels have extensive parking facilities for visitors, including valet services.

DWTC has several parking facilities, both free and paid for. The paid-for multi-storey parking (AED 5 per hour) tends to fill up very quickly during exhibitions, as a lot of the space is reserved for ‘VIPs’ and the trade centre’s own personnel.
The free parking is not shaded, and may be a considerable distance from DWTC, although shuttle buses are sometimes available to take you to the centre.

Salik

In 2007, Dubai introduced a road toll system, called Salik. The system works on the basis of an AED 4 toll every time you pass through certain Salik gates – currently at Garhoud Bridge, Maktoum Bridge, Mall of the Emirates and Safa Park.

If you have hired a car, make sure it has an orange Salik tag, which will automatically register as you pass the barrier. The hire company will then charge you for your toll use – some may charge yet another premium for this.

If you are in a taxi, the driver will press a button on the meter to add the toll to the fare. You can request that the driver takes a route to avoid Salik, although some may be reluctant to do that as alternative routers are choked by other people trying to avoid the toll.

Note if you pass through the Safa Park and Mall of the Emirates gates in the same journey, you only pay one fee of AED 4 rather than AED 8. You still get charged an additional AED 4 to then cross either of the toll bridges.

If you are bringing your own vehicle to Dubai, then be aware that you cannot pay at the toll gate, but must buy a tag (AED 100) and install it your car first. Tags are available at most service stations. Alternate routes that do not pass through Salik gates are signposted, or simply follow the queues of traffic.

800 72545 www.salik.ae.

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