Most tourists in Dubai use the subways and cabs to get around. However, the city has another means of transportation that is very rarely used but is perhaps much more convenient and economical: the bus. The bus network in Dubai is indeed very complete and will allow you to go to places that are not even served by the subway, cab or streetcar!
Want to know more? I explain everything right now: how to use the bus, where the stops are, how much a ticket costs ... In short, everything that will be useful to prepare your budget for transportation during your next stay in Dubai.
DUBAI BUS NETWORK
Although not very well developed, Dubai's public transportation system has a bus network that serves the city quite well. Most districts are served, so you can get to the city's main tourist sights without much difficulty - especially to those not served by the subway! And at very reasonable prices 😊
Note that Dubai's public transport network has 7 zones. Each zone contains subway, bus, streetcar stations ... I'll explain later why this is important to know. You can consult the whole network here.
The RAT (Roads and Transport Authority) of Dubai - the public transport agency - has a modern fleet of over 1,500 buses. Four bus models operate in the emirate:
- the Standard Bus
- the Double Decker Bus
- the Articulated Bus
- the Bus that connects to the subway.
The network covers more than 80% of Dubai's urban areas and comprises 119 lines:
- 35 lines connect subway stations,
- 12 intercity lines carry passengers to other emirates (daily from 6:20 am to 11:45 pm),
- 62 lines run internally,
- 8 express lines,
- 1 night bus line,
- a few buses that only run during certain seasons (such as the bus to Global Village or the one to Miracle Garden).
More than 360,000 passengers use the bus every day, nearly 110 million every year. In this Covid-19 period, intercity buses are suspended until further notice. Some routes are operating between Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Hatta.
If you want to see the full list of bus services, follow these links:
- The map of the Dubai bus network with route numbers, departures and destinations is here
Dubai buses are operational from 4am to 1am the next day. They run at regular intervals (every 10 minutes on average in the busiest areas and up to every 30 minutes in other areas). Beware, they are often crowded during rush hour!
HOW MUCH DOES A BUS TICKET COST IN DUBAI?
Just like with the subway and streetcar, which are operated by the same company (RTA), you will have to buy a ticket before using a bus. As cash is not accepted, you have two options:
- The "Nol Card";
- the "Nol Red Ticket".
Let me introduce you to the differences between these two cards.
THE Nol Card
The Nol Card is the only means of payment that can be used on all public transport in Dubai (subway, streetcar, bus, water bus). It is a very convenient card to fully visit Dubai with public transport.
You can use this card in any of the public transportation services located within the 7 different zones I mentioned above. With the Nol Card, it is possible to take the bus then switch to the Dubai Metro. At the end of your trip, you will be charged according to the number of zones you have crossed. All your different trips onboard several public transportation services will be charged as one trip.
Please note that trips between two different modes of transportation must be completed within 30 minutes.
This Nol Card can be either:
- a plastic smart card using contactless technology,
- a virtual card that can be purchased online via the "Nol Pay" application. You can also pay for your bus ticket by SMS for a trip not exceeding 3 hours.
Anyone can buy a Nol Card. Just take the one that will be the most suitable for your stay. You can choose between:
- the “Personal Card”;
- the “Silver Card”;
- the “Gold Card” (which allows you to use VIP wagons in the subway).
All these cards are rechargeable, and you can use them for many other services in Dubai: museums, parking meters, payment of certain purchases...
Remember to validate your card at the terminal near the door when you get on the bus, but also when you get off. Just wait for the BIP or the green light 🙂
the Nol Red Ticket
The Nol Red Ticket allows you to use one mode of transportation at a time.
You have two options: the "Nol Red Ticket Classic" or the "Nol Red Ticket Gold".
Most tourists opt for the "Red" or "Silver Nol" cards.
WHERE TO BUY MY BUS TICKET?
You can buy a Nol Card at ticket offices in subway and bus stations, at RTA information centers or online. There are even several ticket vending machines in the city.
You can also buy a Nol Red Ticket at any station.
The fare is calculated according to the distance you have traveled, or more precisely the number of zones you have crossed.
In fact, there are only 3 rates:
- You have traveled in 1 zone or traveled less than 3 km,
- You have crossed two zones,
- You have crossed three or more zones.
Here are the rates on the official RTA website (08/18/2021):
Nol Red Ticket "Classic"
Nol Red Ticket "Gold"
Price of the ticket
Rechargeable for a maximum of 10 trips or 5 daily passes
Valid for: 90 days or 10 trips
With a balance of 20 AED
Valid for: 5 years
Valid for: 5 years
Cost of a single trip within one zone
Cost of a trip through 2 connected zones
Cost if you cross more than 2 zones
The trip is free for children under 5 years old.
To see the price in dollars, I invite you to check my article on Dubai currency to do the AED/DOLLAR conversion easily 🙂
DUBAI BUS MAP ON YOUR PHONE
If you feel lost once in the city, I recommend downloading the RTA's mobile app to your phone (you can do that right now too). You'll have quick and easy access to all the services the app offers. It is available in English, Arabic, Hindi and Russian.
You can download the app on the following platforms:
You can also use the trip planner that the RTA has set up on its website.
INSTRUCTIONS TO FOLLOW ON THE BUS
- Signal to the bus driver that you want them to stop and pick you up.
- Stand clear of the bus doors until the driver opens them for you to board.
- Board through the front door and disembark through the back door.
- To get off, press the stop bells.
- Displays show information at all bus stops as well as on the buses: route, direction, next stop ....
- All buses have Braille guides for the visually impaired and dedicated areas for wheelchair users.
- There are 17 fully equipped bus stations, as well as bus stops that are air-conditioned cabins. Of course, all buses are air-conditioned.
- Cafeterias and vending machines for food and drinks are available at the main bus stops.
- There are separate compartments for women, children and families.
Be careful not to disturb other bus users. Some offenses can cost you a lot of money and ruin your vacation. Penalties can range from AED 200 (about $54 - €48) to AED 2,000 (about $544 or €483). Here are the most common ones:
- Failure to pay for your trip or failure to present your "Nol Card" upon request from staff.
- Using an expired/invalid card.
- Damaging, vandalizing or destroying bus equipment/facilities.
- Putting feet on the seats.
- Smoking, spitting, littering or otherwise disrupting the cleanliness of the bus. Eating and drinking in areas where eating is prohibited.
- Carrying dangerous objects, weapons, flammable materials, alcoholic beverages.
- Carrying animals except guide dogs for the visually impaired.
- Carrying bulky items
WATER BUSES: AN ORIGINAL MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION
The "water bus" or "water boat" is the best way to discover the Dubai Creek. They allow you to travel along the river and in the Dubai Marina (where you can find the Dubai zipline that will make you fly over the buildings of the Marina). There are also water cabs that connect the two banks of the river.
5 bus-boat lines and a dozen stops will allow you to travel around the Dubai Creek and discover the most important sites located in or near the Marina, such as:
- the terrace: "Marina Terrace”;
- the promenade: “Marina Promenade”;
- the shopping mall: "Dubai Marina Mall" ...
These boats are glass catamarans (with panoramic view), comfortable and air-conditioned. They can accommodate about 30 passengers (with special areas for wheelchair users).
They operate every day, and run every 15 minutes or so, from 6am to 11pm.
There are snack bars on board.
Here are the fares for the trips:
Dubai Marina Walk - Marina Terrace (BM1)
3 AED ($0.80)
Dubai Marina Walk - Marina Promenade (BM1)
3 AED ($0.80)
Dubai Marina Walk - Dubaï Marina Mall (BM1)
5 AED ($1.35)
Marina Promenade - Marina Terrace (BM1)
11 AED ($3)
The "Day Pass", to do all the routes you want
25 AED ($6.80)
Note that if you just want to cross the river, you can use abras, traditional boats that cost much less: only 1 AED per person.
THE HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS, OR TOURIST BUS OF DUBAI
You can also visit Dubai on a tour bus. These are double-decker buses that allow you to enjoy a panoramic view of the city either from the open roof or from the air-conditioned comfort of the first floor.
I actually have a full article on the Big Bus Dubai 🙂 These buses travel around the city following many routes/circuits. Just take your pick and prioritize the areas you absolutely want to see during your stay.
Thanks to the multiple stops, you will get close to the biggest attractions of Dubai such as the Burj Khalifa, the Burj al-Arab or the Marina. You will also have the opportunity to visit the old districts of the city, or go on Palm Island...
Along the way, you can get on and off the bus whenever and wherever you want.
These buses will give you a good idea of the difference that exists between traditional Dubai and modern Dubai - especially if you offer yourself many routes!
I recommend that you take a day tour and a night tour.
If you can, book one of the tour buses from Big Bus Tours, which is a very good company. They run around the city every day of the year, and all day long. 😊
You'll be able to conveniently and comfortably explore the entire city of Dubai, and will be treated to an audio guide in English that will give you loads of information and anecdotes about the most important sites in the emirate!