Dubai is a city on the go, especially during morning and evening rush hour, when traffic is at a standstill and you’re beginning to wonder if hiring a driver would really be that extravagant. Dubai is also a city where it’s hard to get out and exercise spontaneously—really, an air-conditioned gym is necessary about 9 months of the year.
Both of these challenges can be met with one simple piece of plastic—your Nol card.
If you live along the Sheikh Zayed Road corridor, in Discovery Gardens, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Al Barsha, or near a big mall, chances are that public transit is well within your reach. The RTA’s excellent, clean, safe buses, trams, and Metro system are fast and reliable, and you can even ride a waterbus or ferry!
Dubai’s nearly-new Metro is a modern, fully automated rail system with red and green lines. Trains are equipped with wifi, and stations have convenience stores and snack bars, and are fully accessible for the disabled. (Next time you’re in a station, notice the clever floor textures to guide the visually impaired.)
The Red Line runs 29 stops from Rashidiya Station to UAE Exchange Station and offers free multistory vehicle parking at Rashidiya and Nahkeel Harbour & Tower, and free outdoor parking at or near most other stations. The Green Line runs 18 stations from Etisalat, where there’s park-and-ride, past the oldest and busiest souks along the Creek, and through Dubai Healthcare City and Jaddaf. Both lines meet at two interchange stations: Union and Bur Juman.
The new tram service connects Jumeirah Lake Towers to the Marina to Jumeirah Beach Residence. Bus lines feed through most of the central neighborhoods and connect to metro stations.
Most metro stations involve a brisk walk to the trains and then from the train to your destination—fortunately, you’ll be walking in climate-controlled comfort. If you’re really tired, you can stand on the travelator and enjoy the crowd rushing around you. If you want the exercise, try the 900-meter corridor from Burj Khalifa station to Dubai Mall—there’s gelato at the mall end, and you’ll have earned it.
The easiest way to skip from bus to boat to tram and beyond is with a Nol card. Buy your card and load value at any station (and many Spinney’s, though they’re often out of stock), simply scan your card to ride. Riding the transit system is charged by zone, and a regular Silver card costs half of a Gold Class seat. (Welcome to Dubai, even our metro has first class—and it’s worth it to get a comfy seat and a tray table for your laptop to make that commute pay!) Seniors and students get 50% off with the Nol blue card and disabled persons travel free. You can even pay for parking at city meters with your Nol card.
The Metro can zip you to the airport without sitting in traffic, paying for parking, or hiring a taxi—exit the car, down the escalator, and you’re practically at the check-in counter.
Malls connecting directly to stations include Ibn Battuta, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall, and City Centre Deira. You can also do a short walk to Al Ghurair Centre, the gold souk, and the pathway along the Creek. A quick taxi takes you from Rashidiya station to City Centre Mirdif or Festival City, though it’s probably best not to lug your flat-pack bonanza from IKEA home on the metro.
If you’re feeling the adventure, try leaving the car at home and stretching your legs while enjoying the fascinating parade of multinational residents, and birds-eye views of neighborhoods along the way. Get up, get out and get your Nol card!