When we arrived in Dubai we were struck by how modern the transportation system was but after two months in Southeast Asia we could have used these tips for riding the Dubai Metro. Asia had been hot and sticky and we really wanted to go someplace dry. After learning that Emirates offers flights to Dubai on a daily basis we headed there on a direct flight from Bangkok.

As the plane approached Dubai we saw the skyline popping out of the desert like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. Shiny modern ziggurats soar skyward, the largest of which, the 163-story Burj Khalifa, is the tallest building in the world.

Dubai looks like something out of Flash Gordon from the air and continues with this futuristic feel on the ground. When we boarded the Dubai Metro we were a bit taken aback that there was no driver in the front car. The entire system is fully automated and driverless. After we got used to that fact, we realized the Metro is a great way to get around Dubai and offer these tips for riding the Dubai Metro

tips for riding the dubai metro

The futuristic Dubai Metro stations are easy to spot.

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Here are 10 tips for riding the Dubai Metro:

1) There are two lines: Green and Red, with more on the way. The two existing lines cross each other and then run parallel so be sure to check a Metro map before starting your journey to see which one you need.

dubai metro map

dubai metro ticket machine nol2) The system is cashless. Purchase a “nol” card at a vending machine or at the ticket booth and put a designated amount on it. Then you swipe it over a card reader before entering the boarding area. Note that only Visa and MasterCard are accepted for payment. One-way fares range from AED 1.8 to 5.8. (About 50 cents to 1.60 in U.S. dollars.)

3) Don’t be alarmed that there is no driver or any other human on board running the trains. The system is completely automated which is a bit startling at first but you get used to it.

4) Because there is no driver, the view from the front car is not obscured by a driver’s cabin. The train operates mostly above-ground, so the front window offers the best views of the ever-changing skyline whizzing by. Train geeks will want to ride in the front car. But be careful because . . .

Dubai metro riding in front (640x458)

5) Each train has a car reserved for women, which may be the front car for that train so check the signs. I learned this one the hard way one day when I wondered why my fellow passengers (all female I later realized) were all staring at me. Eventually one approached and pointed to the “Women and Children Only” sign. Oops. Women are not limited to this car though and may ride in any car.

6) Don’t get confused by the Metro station names. Most stations on the Metro are named after the nearest important building, which in Dubai tend to be malls and bank headquarters that often start sounding alike. Pay attention to your stop.

dubai metro signage

7) There are separate cars for First Class but the ride is so short they are not worth paying for. The regular cars are cleaner and more comfortable than any subway we’ve ridden on before.

8) If you plan on cycling around Dubai, be aware that bicycles are not permitted on the trains.

9) Because Friday is a Day of Prayer in the United Arab Emirates, the Metro does not start service until 2 PM.

Dubai metro fish sign (300x292)10) Last but not least, do not carry fish on the Dubai Metro. That seems like an odd one but there were signs at the Metro entrance warning against carrying fish on board. That’s not something we’ve seen before.

For more information visit: Dubai Metro.

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28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

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As a building geek I had to stop in Dubai to see the Burj Khalifa, at 163 floors it is by far the tallest building in the world; about 1 1/2 times as tall as the Empire State Building in New York. It boasts many superlatives, including the world’s highest observation deck on the 125th floor. It is not cheap to take a ride to the top.

Tickets are around $35 USD for a dated and timed ticket, which are booked at least a week in advance, or $81 USD if you just show up and want to go right away. I went with the timed ticket but as we’ll see, there are disadvantages to that strategy. (If you wish to go even higher to level 148 the prices go up to $136, which even I could figure out was almost $1 per floor.)

Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world Dubai

When the desert sun of Dubai hits the shiny surface of the Burj Khalifa it can be blinding.

Burj Khalifa tallest building in the world Dubai

The building is up but development never stops in Dubai. The area around the base is still an active construction site. 

KVLY TV mast North dakota tallest structure in the world

The Burj Khalifa is also the tallest structure in the world, breaking the record of the KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota, which I once drove 5 hours out of my way to see and snap the photo above. Note to self: There may be a reason Larissa encourages me to go solo on my road trips. 

Burj khalifa tallest building in the world Dubai view of lake

Of course there’s a man-made lake in the middle of a desert.

Burj Khalifa Dubai view interchange

Dubai boasts an extensive road network. Unfortunately it’s being built so quickly the signmakers can’t keep up and navigation can be a challenge. The normally unflappable Larissa dropped more f-bombs in 10 minutes than in her entire life as she tried to get us out of one particularly intricate clover leaf.

Burj Khalifa Dubai view desert

The city is creeping quickly onto the desert. Actually, the city is the desert.

Michael Rocky Dubai

Naturally Little Rocky wanted to run up the stairs, but I insisted we take the elevator. 

Dubai building with emir on side

It’s good to be king, or in this case emir.

Burj Khalifa Dubai western local tourist

Tourists from different societies reveal contrasting dress codes.

Burj Khalifa Dubai woman praying

A devotee makes sure she doesn’t miss the call to prayer.

Burj Khalifa souvenir buildings

Remember to pick up a souvenir building in the gift shop . . .

 gold vending machine

. . . or a gold bar from the vending machine in the lobby; only in Dubai.

 Dubai sandstorm

The downside of a timed ticket was that I had to select when I would go a week in advance. About 15 minutes after I got to the top a sandstorm blew in, pretty much obscuring my $34 view.

Burj Khalifa night in clouds

Back on the ground the view was pretty cool at night. The nightly water show is just visible at the base.

Visiting the Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world

Official website: Visit the Burj Khalifa 

Time to allow: Since tickets are timed you don’t have to get there early but allow at least an hour. The downside of a timed ticket is that the weather may not be cooperating when you go, as I found out when a sandstorm kicked up during my visit.

Who should go? Fans of tall buildings.

Cost: Prices range from around $35 USD to $136 USD depending on time of day and how high in the building you go. (Level 125 or level 148.)

Is it worth it? Due to the high price of the ticket we debated this one and decided only one of us would go. The decision was made easier when only one ticket was available. It’s not fair that after buying a ticket if you want to use the built-in binocular viewing stands it costs an extra $3 USD for only 2 1/2 minutes of use.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

We’ve come across some unusual signs in our journey. Some funny signs caution people about not doing things that would seem to be self-evident. Like the sign posted above. It’s in the bathrooms at the Adelaide Airport in Australia. Not that we’ve ever been tempted to drink from the toilet, public or otherwise, it’s nice to know they care enough to give us another reason not to. Here are a few more funny warning signs:

Sign Bangkok taxi no humping (515x402)

These no-nos were posted on a taxi in Bangkok. We understand no animals, we didn’t realize the other one was such a major problem.

Dubai metro fish warning sign

Apparently people carrying fish is a real issue on the Dubai metro.

funny signs

I guess in the land of the hopping kangaroo, Aussie drivers need to be reminded that not everything bounces.

Spit Junction Sydney

An actual Metro stop in Sydney, it can’t be good for property values.

Sarah Palin passport

There was something about the face in this photo shop in Australia that looked familiar but we just couldn’t place it.

A clean toilet seat costs about 60 cents at this Kuala Lumpur Mall. If you’re not so particular you can go down the hall for free.

Squat toilet sign

Okay, in Asia there are Western style toilets and there are squatters. This sign in Cambodia warns against combining the two concepts.

durian warning sign

Durians, also known as stinky fruit, are banned from most hotels in Asia. Their stench is noted for its quite remarkable lingering effect.

What unusual signs have you seen in your travels?