Dubai: It takes some thinking on your feet and adept time management, but if you put your mind to it, navigating the city of Dubai does not need to rake up your transport bills. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has various transport options connecting different parts of the emirate. Depending on the route you wish to take, you have options of road transport, marine transport or the ‘driverless’ Dubai Metro.
Here are some fun ways to explore the city or go about your daily life by taking advantage of cheap public transport alternatives to a taxi.
The traditional abra - Dh1 for Deira to Bur Dubai
The cheapest – and perhaps the most ‘uniquely UAE experience’ – you have is the abra ride. Abra is the traditional wooden boat, which was a common mode of transport in the olden days. But even to this date, traditional motorised abras ferry passengers across the Dubai Creek, between Bur Dubai to Deira, two areas in the UAE that are always bustling with activity.
If you are taking the traditional motorised abra, there are two stations each on the Bur Dubai and Deira side of Dubai Creek.
Bur Dubai stations
1. Bur Dubai
2. Dubai Old Souq
1. Deira Old Souq
2. Al Sabkha
Bur Dubai Abra Station to Deira Old Souk Abra Station and vice versa
Dubai Old Souk Station to Al Sabhkha Abra Station and vice versa
Dh1 per passenger, per trip.
Air-conditioned abra – a ride for Dh2
Another route that is catered to by abras in Dubai connects the Al Jadaf area to the Al Rashidiya and Al Garhoud area, across the Dubai Creek.
Al Jaddaf Marine Station to Dubai Festival City
Dh2 per person per trip in one direction
If you are looking for a cheap and quick way of traversing the city, the Dubai Metro with its Red, Green and the newly opened Route 2020 lines provides a wide-ranging access to various parts of Dubai. The fare is calculated based on the zones that you cross on your journey.
The RTA has divided the emirate into seven zones, with passengers charged depending on the total number of zones they cross, even if they switch from one mode of transport to the other. So, you can travel on Metro and then take a bus to reach your final destination. However, you need to make this switch within a time period of 30 minutes. Having done this on time, your Metro and bus trips will be charged as a single journey and you will be charged based on the total number of zones passed in your complete trip.
Even a short trip from Al Barsha to Al Safa can cost somewhere around Dh35 using a taxi. The same route would cost you Dh5 on a personal Nol card.
As Metro stations are at a distance, to cover the ‘last-mile’ challenge, which helps a commuter cover the final part of their journey to their specific destination, the RTA provides a free feeder bus service, which covers shorter routes around Metro stations.
While the bus can take longer than the Dubai Metro, you may prefer to use it if you wish to drop off closer to your destination. Compared to 50 Metro stations, the bus route has over 2,000 bus stops, providing a much wider network.
Once again, the cost of a ticket is calculated based on the number of zones you cross. A taxi ride from the Al Qusais area to Satwa in Dubai can cost you approximately Dh50. However, the same trip would cost Dh10.
Bus on Demand
RTA also offers a service called ‘Bus on Demand’, which offers commuters with a mini bus that picks them up from their preferred location and drops them off based on their selection on the route map. The entire journey is selected from an interactive map available on the dedicated RTA app – ‘Dubai Bus on Demand’.
It is currently available only in certain areas in Dubai and the pick-up and drop-off locations have to be within the same area.
How can I use the app?
Step 1: Download the app
The app, called ‘Dubai Bus On Demand’ is available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
Step 2: Enter your details
Once you download the app, you will first be required to enter details like your first name, last name, email address and mobile number.
Once you have entered the details, you will receive a one-time password (OTP) from RTA to verify you as a user.
Step 3: Provide payment details
Next, you would need to select a method of payment, either through a credit card or nol card.
Step 4: Select your route
The app only allows users to select the areas where the service is available. (If you are not within one of these zones, the location detected will be shown as ‘out of zone’.)
Once you select your current location, you will then be asked to choose the drop-off point.
Step 5: Confirm ride
The app will then tell you how long it will take for the bus on-demand to reach you, and the duration of the ride. You will also be informed of the cost. Once you confirm the location, the app will also provide basic directions on how you can reach the closest pick up spot.
Where can I use this service?
The areas is currently being provided in the following areas in Dubai:
1. Al Barsha 1
2. Dubai Internet City
3. International City
4. The Greens
5. Dubai Silicon Oasis.
Flat fee of Dh5 per trip/passenger.
At a standard cost of Dh3, you can travel around the new developments of Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residence and Al Sufouh, using the Dubai Tram. If you need to travel further, you can also connect easily with the Dubai Metro from the Jumeirah Lake Towers and Dubai Marina stations.
While Dubai’s public transport network is complex, to simplify your journey, you can download RTA’s S’hail app, which provides all the options that you can take from the Dubai Metro, abra, bus or tram from one point to another in the emirate of Dubai.
You can also call the RTA’s call centre 800 9090 to find out the most cost-effective way to travel through the city using public transport.