If you are planning to travel around the UAE and decide, for one reason or another, to take public transport, the thing to remember is to pack as light as possible.
Preparing recently for a UAE trip by public transport, I took only a small backpack. An extra pair of trousers and shirt would suffice.
Also included were a swimming trunks, toiletries, a novel, my MP3 player and a Lonely Planet guidebook.
My main mission on this trip was to travel from my home in Abu Dhabi to the east coast to scout for options for future snorkelling trips.
I planned to head for Fujairah and spend a night or two there, keeping the option of going to other regions open.
I started from the Abu Dhabi bus station at 7am and soon found out that the best public transport route to Fujairah is through Sharjah.
Abu Dhabi has a large shared-taxi stand and it didn't take me long to get on the road in a taxi-van with nine other passengers.
Regardless of whether you're in a bus, taxi or a limo, the Abu Dhabi-Dubai route can be horrendously clogged with traffic.
But on this particular morning, the traffic was not too bad and I arrived in Sharjah within a couple of hours.
The Sharjah bus station is actually not a bad place to hang out for a while.
Elderly men in dishdashes get together to drink tea and play dominoes, and there are several markets nearby.
After about a half-hour wait, the bus for Fujairah pulled in and I was on my way.
This ride, which takes about 90 minutes, passes by pleasant mountain scenery as you head southwest through the towns of Al Dhaid and Masafi.
I didn't have much luck finding a hotel that fit my budget in Fujairah, so, instead, took a taxi headed south and checked in at the Breeze Motel in Khor Kalba, near Oman's border.
There aren't many stores and restaurants in this small town but you can find places within walking distance that sell sandwiches and fresh fruit juice.
Khor Kalba is a pleasant, quiet place to stay at, with a beautiful walkway along the water body where you can spot many species of birds.
Getting a taxi to Fujairah from there could be problematic, but then hitchhiking was a reliable backup.
I later discovered that there are inexpensive chalets where you can stay, located inside Fujairah's large park — the Ain Al Madhab Gardens.
My room at the Breeze Motel was comfortable and reasonably priced at Dh200 a night, so I decided to stay a couple of extra days to explore Fujairah and then Khor Fakkan in the north.
Fujairah has some good places to eat and you can find a restaurant and swimming pool at the Ain Al Madhab Gardens.
After exploring Fujairah, I taxied to Khor Fakkan, a quiet little town with a large, unsightly port and a beautiful beach complete with showers, changing rooms and cafés.
For those who enjoy snorkelling, one can pay money to hire a boat. A better deal for the budget traveller is to head north, towards Dibba, to the Sandy Beach Hotel.
Here you can pay a one-day fee which includes using the hotel's beach, pool and showers. From the coastline, it's an easy swim out for snorkelling around Snoopy Island.
Several days of travel and still not ready to return home, I checked out of the Breeze Motel the following morning and hired a taxi to take me to Ras Al Khaimah.
My driver, an impatient Pakistani, pumped up on coffee, got me to my destination — through the mountain terrain — in about 90 minutes.
I checked into one of the city's cheaper hotels, the Al Nakheel, and still had almost a full day to explore the place.
Ras Al Khaimah's corniche reminds me of what Abu Dhabi was like years ago — an unassuming walkway along a sandy beach, with unobstructed views of the sea.
Although I'd already been to Al Ain many times, I decided to travel through that way to explore cheap hotel options on the Omani side, in Buraimi.
However, once at Al Ain's bus station, I found out from taxi drivers that you can no longer travel back and forth the border easily.
One driver suggested I stay at the Al Khayal, a hotel not far from Al Ain's bus station.
The Al Khayal is one of those “hotel apartments'' kind of place, and although my room could have done with some cleaning before I checked in, the place is a budget traveller's bargain in a town of five-star luxury resorts.
I spent one night in Al Ain, wandering along the city streets, visiting the large date palm oasis not far from my hotel and checking out the town's newly renovated park.
I was now ready to move on to the final stop on my UAE travel tour — Liwa.
I reached the Liwa Rest House by mid-afternoon. Although the Lonely Planet guidebooks say the rooms here are “musty'', I didn't find them musty in the least bit.
In fact, I thought this old hotel was clean, quiet and restful. And what better way to wrap up travel in the emirates than solitary evening walks on the desert dunes of Liwa?
Thus ended my eight-day whirlwind tour of the UAE. I had been to all seven emirates, spent under Dh300 a day, and was left with a renewed appreciation for this country ... and for travelling the world by public transport.
Costs and contacts ... Information
- Breeze Motel, Khor Kalba, telephone: 09 277 8877, Dh200 a day.
- Chalets, Fujairah's Ain Al Madhab park: Dh150.
- Al-Nakheel Hotel, Ras Al Khaimah, telephone: 07 228 2822, Dh160 a day.
- Casa Blanca Hotel, Ras Al Khaimah, telephone: 07 227 7516, Dh275
- Al Khayal Hotel, Al Ain, telephone: 03 766 5777, Dh250.
- Liwa Rest House, Liwa Oasis, telephone: 02 882 2075, Dh165.
- Sandy Beach Hotel's fee for day use of pool and beach: Dh75.
- Khor Kalba snack restaurant, two falafel sandwiches and one fresh orange juice: Dh7.
— Qani Belul is a UAE-based freelance writer