Dubai public transportation guide: Essential tips for travel

Article author
11 Dec 2023
11 Dec 2023
In this article

In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of the Dubai transportation system. We'll explore the concept of transport zones, examine the variety of cards acceptable for fare payment, and provide information on penalties. Continue reading – the content promises to be engaging.

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Understanding Dubai's transportation system

Dubai operates on a 7-zone transport division to determine the cost of local journeys. The rule is straightforward: the more zones traversed, the higher the fare. When transitioning between different modes of transportation along a single route, a generous 30-minute window is granted, treating it as a one trip.

Dubai boasts a diverse array of transportation options. Beyond conventional subways and buses, the city features trams, monorails, and river trams. Taxis are also prevalent, with both private and state-owned companies contributing to the transportation network.

Dubai transport zones

Payment procedures

Dubai employs a unified travel ticket known as the Nol Card. Functioning akin to Russian Troika, users purchase the card, load funds onto it, and utilize it for any public transport mode. These cards are obtainable at metro stations, bus stops, and specialized vending machines. It's crucial to note that securing a Nol Card in advance is essential, as cash payments for travel are not accepted.

While Russian local Troika cards remain uniform, the Nol Card offers four distinct varieties. Understanding the disparities between them is vital.

Types of Nol Card


Similar to Moscow's United, the Red card serves as a temporary ticket, allowing a maximum of 10 trips within a 90-day validity period. However, it comes with a limitation – the red card is exclusively valid for one type of transport: bus, subway, or tram. Its use does not extend to other vehicles.

The cost of one ticket depends on the quantity of transport zones that you are going to cross:


  • 4 dirhams – within 1 zone; 
  • 6 dirhams – within 2 consecutive zones; 
  • 8.5 dirhams – more than 2 zones; 
  • 20 dirhams – unlimited for the day.

Suited for tourists and rare public transport users.


Designed for routine travel, the Silver card boasts a 5-year validity period. Purchasable and reloadable both in person and through the Internet via the RTA Dubai application, this pass is universally applicable across all modes of transport, even extending to parking payments.

The price of a Silver card in 2023 is 25 dirhams, with 6 dirhams covering the card's cost, and the remaining 19 dirhams being automatically added to your balance. It is possible to recharge the card up to a maximum of 1,000 dirhams.


  • 3 dirhams – within 1 zone; 
  • 5 dirhams – within 2 consecutive zones;
  • 7.5 dirhams – more than 2 zones.


An upgraded iteration of the Silver card caters to those seeking a more comfortable journey. The sole distinction lies in the Nol Gold Card granting access to Gold Class subway cars, maintaining a 5-year validity period.

In 2023, the price of a gold card is 25 dirhams, with 19 dirhams directly added to your balance. Similar to the Silver card, there are no distinctions. The fare for Gold Class carriages is higher:


  • 6 dirhams – within 1 zone;
  • 10 dirhams – within 2 consecutive zones; 
  • 15 dirhams – more than two zones.

It's noteworthy that bus fares mirror Silver fares. Buses lack a distinct higher comfort class, resulting in no additional charge.


Catering to vulnerable populations such as students, pensioners, and individuals with disabilities, the Blue card extends its benefits to both citizens and expats. Acquiring a blue card requires submitting relevant documents and a payment of 70 dirhams, with 20 dirhams being credited to the owner's account.

Students and pensioners receive a 50% discount on travel and people with disabilities enjoy free public transport usage.

Dubai metro  

The Dubai Metro is compact yet highly advanced in terms of technology. All trains operate automatically, featuring expansive panoramic windows in lieu of traditional driver cabins. The strategic placement of these windows is deliberate, offering passengers breathtaking views of the cityscape as most routes traverse above ground, with only a few exceptions being underground sections.

The train configuration includes 3 distinct types of wagons. The first accommodates all passengers, while the second designates special carriages for women and children, identified by prominent pink signage. The third type mirrors the luxurious Gold Class level, featuring spacious leather seats and additional amenities, exclusively accessible to Nol Card Gold holders.

Currently, the Dubai Metro comprises two lines: the Red Line and the Green Line. The Red Line spans the coastline, encompassing key areas such as Dubai Marina and Downtown. Meanwhile, the Green Line is situated in the historic district of old Dubai, offering convenient access to various heritage sites like the Dubai Museum and traditional markets.

Trains operate at 10-minute intervals, though metro hours fluctuate based on the day of the week. The Red Line operates from 05:00 to 00:00 from Saturday to Wednesday, extending until 01:00 on Thursdays, and opening from 10:00 to 00:00 on Fridays.

The Green Line's operating hours are from 05:30 to 00:00 from Saturday to Wednesday, with an extension until 01:00 on Thursdays and operation from 10:00 to 00:00 on Fridays. This schedule variation aligns with the significance of Friday in Islam, denoting a special day dedicated to prayer and communion with God.

Dubai metro plan

Dubai buses

The city boasts a robust bus fleet exceeding 1,500 vehicles navigating through 119 routes. With an extensive network covering nearly 90% of the city, buses efficiently connect various parts. The emphasis, however, is not just on reaching destinations but ensuring a comfortable journey, with all buses and stops equipped with air conditioners to counter the effects of the hot desert climate.

An essential protocol involves signaling the approaching bus, as failure to do so may result in it bypassing the stop. Boarding occurs through the front door, and exiting requires prior notification to the driver, facilitated by dedicated buttons within the salons.

Daytime bus operations span from 05:00 to 00:00. Complementing these, special night services operate between 23:00 and 06:00, exemplified by the N55 route linking Al Maktoum Airport and Al Ghubaiba Bus Station.

During Ramadan, adjustments are made to the bus schedule, and these alterations can be tracked on the official RTA website. Additionally, each bus stop features an information stand offering crucial details about schedules and routes.

For enhanced city navigation, the RTA's route planner proves invaluable. Its user-friendly algorithm involves specifying the departure and arrival points, with the system autonomously devising the swiftest route, encompassing buses, metro, trams, and water transport – a system like Yandex Metro, but more intricate.

Dubai also features electric buses

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Other public transport options


Dubai hosts a solitary tram line comprising 11 stops, traversing key tourist-centric areas such as Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residence, and Al Sufouh. Offering comfort to passengers, all tram carriages, accommodating up to 400 individuals, are equipped with air conditioning and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Similar to the subway system, tram cars are categorized into three types: general, designated for women and children, and the luxurious Gold Class – each embracing full automation, providing an almost cinematic experience.

Operational from 06:00 to 01:00, Saturday to Thursday, and from 09:00 to 01:00 on Fridays, the tram maintains a 5-7 minute interval between movements. Notably designed with tourists in mind, the trams operate at a leisurely pace, allowing passengers to savor the scenic beauty of their surroundings at ease.


The monorail establishes a link between the artificial Palm Jumeirah island and the mainland. Commencing its journey from the Palm Gateway station in Dubai Media City, the trains culminate their route at the crescent's center, adjacent to the expansive Atlantis hotel, The Palm. En route, a midway stop in the island's commercial precinct features restaurants, boutiques, and the Nakheel Mall.

Operating from 09:00 to 21:45, the monorail maintains a 15-minute interval, completing the journey from the initial station to the final destination in a swift 10 minutes.

It's crucial to note that, being a private company, the monorail doesn't accept Nol Card payments.

Water taxi  

Encompassing the Persian Gulf, Dubai Canal, and over 40 stops, the local water taxi network provides a picturesque route. Beyond the visual appeal, this mode of transport proves time-efficient, particularly considering Dubai's frequent traffic congestion – a challenge water transport admirably circumvents.

Futuristic boat designs, complete with streamlined hulls, air conditioning, and TVs, characterize many water taxis, each accommodating up to 10 passengers. Operational hours extend from 10:00 to 22:00.

Given its affiliation with the familiar RTA, payment for water taxi rides can be conveniently made using a Nol Card.

Dubai water taxi

Fines in public transport

We collected common fines and their corresponding penalties for inattentive foreigners:

  • Eating food, beverages, chewing gum, or smoking – 100 dirhams fine.
  • Purchasing a ticket in one car, but having a seat in another – 100 dirhams fine. 
  • Using transport while under the influence of alcohol and/or carrying alcohol – 100 dirhams fine.
  • Ignoring paying the fare – 200 dirhams fine. 
  • Unnecessary use of emergency equipment – 2,000 dirhams fine.


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