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Why tackle Abu Dhabi to Dubai 300km daily grind?

What makes hundreds of people do the 300km grind to work and back every day? XPRESS finds out

  • By Anjana Kumar, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 21:00 July 10, 2013
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/XPRESS
  • Smooth run: Ehab Farid says new roads have eased traffic considerably in recent times
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Abu Dhabi: Andy Docherty works for a construction company in Abu Dhabi, but lives in Dubai.

He has been doing the daily 300km ride to work and home for six years. “I wake up at 6am and hit the roads by 6.45am. The high cost of living in Abu Dhabi coupled with a lack of schools has left me with no choice.

“My family is well settled in Dubai and I don’t want to upset their routine,” says Docherty.

Docherty is not alone.

Many UAE residents do the daily 300km round trip between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (about 150km each way) for work and study.

Docherty says he’s become used to the grind. “I am pretty used to it by now. But definitely there is a lot of planning to do when your work is 150km away from home. Luckily my wife is independent and drives her own car. That relieves me of a lot of pressure.”

Egyptian expat Ehab Farid, 43, has been travelling 300km almost daily for the past eight years.

He lives in Dubai, but works in Abu Dhabi. And he’s not about to change that routine.

“My social circle is based in Dubai. Besides, rents in Abu Dhabi are higher and it doesn’t have that many schooling options for my children,” he says.

A country logistics manager with Schlumberger, Farid’s typical day starts at 7am when he sets off from his four-bedroom villa in The Lakes. Clocking a 10-hour schedule daily, he returns home by 5.30pm.

“It gets so tiring that it takes me around half an hour to find my bearing,” he says.

Paresh Shah, who lives in The Gardens, has roped in two friends to share the burden of a long journey to work in Mussafah.

“All of us have cars so we take turns driving to work. Travelling alone daily can be risky. You could fall asleep. When you have company, you are likely to talk and keep alert. When one of us gets tired, the other driver takes the wheel,” says Shah, who works for an engineering company in Mussafah.

He says living in Mussafah is not an option. “There is no life there. I can live in Abu Dhabi, but it has very few schools.”

Farid says the new roads have eased traffic considerably, but the highway is still busy compared to 2008.

“In those days I would set my car on cruise control and release it only before the Abu Dhabi exit. That is not possible now.”

Farid has a word of advice for commuters: top up the petrol tank as most gas stations on the expressway take a long time to fill up. “Since Abu Dhabi petrol stations accept credit cards, it takes almost 45 minutes to fill up at some places.”

Shah maintains a speed of 120-130km/h. “Driving is now more disciplined. After some horrific accidents in recent times, most motorists keep within speed limits,” he says.

Filipino expat Arnold Noceja, 34, works in Abu Dhabi’s Hamdan Street as a coordinator for a mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) contractor. The father of two lives with his family in Al Khail Gate in Dubai. “My day starts at 5.40am. My wife keeps my breakfast ready by then and I leave the house at 6.10am. My work starts at 8am.”

Noceja returns home everyday at 8.30pm – a good 14 hours later. “My wife Angie works in Dubai and I wanted to stay close to her workplace. My older child too is happily settled in a school in Dubai and I don’t want to upset my family’s routine.”

So how does he cope with the daily 300 km ride? “I am starting to get a back pain as I have been doing this for a year now. It is very tiring for me.”

Students find it tough

Students living in Abu Dhabi and studying in colleges in Dubai are also part of the daily grind between the emirates.

Aiken Geovic Fonseca, 20, a second year student at Middlesex University in Knowledge Village, has opted for a private bus that picks up college students in Abu Dhabi and drops them off at colleges in Knowledge Village and Academic City. For just Dh600 a month Fonseca gets a safe ride to Dubai and back. The charge for a day is around Dh50. If a student wants to take the bus for three days it is Dh300. For four days or more the charge is Dh600.

On days he misses the private bus, he takes the public bus from the main bus station in Al Murour in Abu Dhabi. The bus drops him off at the Ibn Battuta Metro station from where he either takes the Dubai Metro or a taxi to his college in Knowledge Village.

“This takes longer than the private bus. Sometimes I hitch a ride with a friend.”

His friend Carol Rodrigues, a 22-year-old second year psychology student at Middlesex University in Knowledge Village, however, drives her Lexus 460 to the Knowledge Village. She says most times she takes a friend along. “Firstly the ride is long. If you have company, your mind is occupied in a conversation. I just feel safer driving with someone around.”

“Everyday I am on the road for three hours. It drains me out. But my parents have an established business in Abu Dhabi and hence we live here. Sometimes there is a huge time gap between classes and it is then I wish I could just dash home and come back.”

Gopakumar Bhargavan, who lives in Dubai’s Al Ghusais, could not have it any better. Promoted nine months ago as chief marketing officer at UAE Exchange, he has to travel daily to his company headquarters in Abu Dhabi. But he’s not complaining — his company has given him a chauffer-driven Mercedes E300. “I leave at 7.30am and return home by 9pm. During my three-hour journey, I catch up on phone calls and pending office work.”

Bhargavan has chosen to live in Dubai where his children are well settled in college and school. “The last ten years I have been living in Dubai and my family is very comfortable here. I don’t want to live in Abu Dhabi for now.” 

Tips from travellers

1 If you feel tired immediately stop the car. Take a hot drink like coffee, an energy/snack/chocolate bar. Take a 10-minute break and then go on.

2 Travel with someone so you are not at risk of falling asleep.

3 Do regular maintenance of your car so it can do 300 km.

4 Keep tyre air pressure lower in summer.

5 Fill the tank before you hit the road.

6 Students can opt for private buses to university. Inter-city buses are handy for people commuting between 
Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

7 Maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you

8 Keep an eye on at least three cars ahead so if they brake you have time to brake as well.

Comments (16)

Are you among those who do the daily 300km grind? Do you feel its worth the trouble? Has the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway become safer? Write to us at news@xpress4me.com or sms 5101. You can also leave a comment below
  1. Added 12:31 July 11, 2013

    I too was one of those few who did the whole 300 kms for about 4 years. 2 years whilst doing my MBA at MAHE manipal at the Academic City, that was Abu Dhabi to Dubai (I would leave after work i.e. 5pm) and would drive back after college was over at about 10pm and would reach back home at 12:30 in the morning. I did this for 2 years, 4 days a week. During that time I was much younger and it all seemed too cool to go back and forth like that... I had a friend too, so we would alternately drive when either one was tired. Then I got married and my husband worked in Dubai while I worked in Abu Dhabi - it wasn't easy to land a job in Dubai, so then the routine changed from abu dhabi to Dubai to Dubai to Abu dhabi and back.. this took a whole toll on my physical and mental health. I used to leave at about 6 in the morning for abu dhabi, as my work timings were 8 to 5. After work would leave at 5 and face the Abu dhabi - Dubai traffic and reach home by 7:30 - 8 ! and I would be dead by the time I came home... this went on for 2 years, before my husband told me to make a decision. So finally I gave up my job, mainly cos of the stress - my health deteriorated and doctors advised me to stop. Hence I gave up my job and settled in Dubai. Which has considerably helped... All in all.. It surely was an experience for me... but Im jus glad I don't do it anymore.. :)

    ASHA, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 11:57 July 11, 2013

    Thank God I'm not alone! :)

    Ehsan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 11:26 July 11, 2013

    I live in JLT, and work in Khalidyah . I think it is worth driving that distance as life in Dubai is completely different, full of life, many options are avilable for rent. on the contrary, rent in AbuDhabi is really unbelievable, and there is no choices, whether to live in AD old building (which is still quite expensive) or in the Reem island which is nice but too expensive ( I cant imagine I am paying half of my salary for rent) Or you leave in Mussafah or other places where there is nothing. There is a new law which it is not fair that in order to sponsor your wife or any family members, you have to live in Abu Dhbai! it is too expensive .. please amend this law

    Omar, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 11:25 July 11, 2013

    I work in a company in Abu dhabi city and go for my MBA in academic city in Dubai during alternate weeks. I drive my own vehicle and it gets very tiring, but i had no option. Abu dhabi has very few options for higher studies and all of them are very expensive.

    Mohammed, Abudhabi, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 10:59 July 11, 2013

    My husband also works in Abu Dhabi, which is very difficult to travel on daily basis. Once tyres burst on the highway but Alhamdulillah Police helped him.

    Rumana, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 10:13 July 11, 2013

    Last year, I paid some 65k for 1BHK in Abu Dhabi city without a building parking and other facilities. It was a nightmare to find parking after 7:00pm and some days I got parking somewhere far from my apartment and had to catch cabs to reach home! Then I tried living at Khalifa City in Abu Dhabi for couple of weeks and it took me 45-60 minutes to reach home after work due to the heavy traffic at the community entrance. Now I live in Dubai Tecom in a more spacious and stylish 1BHK for 60k with allotted, hassle-free basement parking, pool and a multi-gym. It takes only an hour and 15 minutes for one way commuting. I don't feel that 250km drive a day for 5 days a week is a big hassle since I take turns with my colleagues!! Driving limits is 140 km/hr on the highway from Tecom to my office at Najda street, Abu Dhabi and it's always a smooth drive except on Thursday evening! Now I don't have to waste time to hunt parking, no more parking fines, no more Mawaqif troubles of 'resident/non-resident' post 9pm parkings, I can relax in my pool, I can workout in the gym and my car is in a shady parking lot and more peace of mind. But when I get my DEWA and gas bills, I really miss Abu Dhabi :) Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have its pros and cons...

    Zulfy, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 09:35 July 11, 2013

    I had been travelling everyday from Sharjah-Abu Dhabi for 2 years. I have no option need to sacrifice myself for my family. The most important reason for living anywhere is the safety, and peaceful environment. Many schools available in Dubai for schooling of my kids. The cost of living is very low I can save more money. I lived in Abu Dhabi for the past 3 years and our daily routine was miserable from going to work and back home you need to spend one hour looking around for parking space, everyday two hours wasted. And realized its better to drive long trip journey I can relax inside vehicle rather than you got stressful waiting and looking at empty spaces for my car.

    John, Sharjah, Philippines

  8. Added 09:20 July 11, 2013

    What is really the point of this article? It doesn't say anything new. It seems to be free publicity for some people to show off where they live, the generous terms of their employment, family wealth and status, and the fancy cars they drive. Completely pointless and serves only to massage delicate egos I'm afraid.

    Vivek, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 09:15 July 11, 2013

    I do the same but in the opposite direction, fortunately travelling the opposite direction to the main flow of traffic is much easier. It takes me just as long to get to work in Jebel Ali from Abu Dhabi as some of my colleagues take to get to work from their homes in Dubai

    Steve, Abu Dhabi, South Africa

  10. Added 09:06 July 11, 2013

    It is not worth it. It does not make sense to see people working in Dubai and living in Abu Dhabi and vice versa hitting the 300kms journey or more daily.Perhaps sponsers should insist that their empolyees reside in the same emirate they work in to eliminate fatigue and minimise the risk of fatigue related incidents.It is a win win solution.

    George Adongo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  11. View more comments

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