dubai metro station tile floor

10 tips for riding the Dubai Metro in the UAE

by Michael

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.



Jimmy December 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm

It is kind of eerie at first with no driver but that’s how the train going around DFW airport works too so I got used to it.

Fadi December 5, 2013 at 1:46 pm

You should mention that eating and drinking (and smoking naturally) is not allowed on the metro

Michael December 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Thanks for the tip Fadi.

Jeff December 13, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Three great tips I would have never thought off…watch for the Women & Children Only car, the late start time on Friday. And of course no fish on the train!

Michael December 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Glad my mishaps could be of some help.

Noor - Desert to Jungle January 29, 2014 at 6:19 pm

You mention heading to Dubai for its dry climate so it’s worth pointing out that in the summer months (June-September) it’s very, very humid and this combined with daily temperatures well over 40C/100F makes it uncomfortable to wander around outside. But this also makes it the cheapest time to visit.

It’s not possible to explore Dubai safely by bicycle because of the way it’s laid out then you’d have to cycle on 12 lane freeways at some point. There are, however, great cycling tracks.

Finally, the metro doesn’t go to a lot of the places visitors are likely to want to see (the beach, Burj al Arab for example) so most will use a combination of metro/cheap taxis. Even if a visitor uses mostly taxis it’s worth taking the metro ride just for the view, especially the section between Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall station and Mall of the Emirates station. The views are fantastic!

Michael January 29, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Yes it’s definitely not a bike or pedestrian friendly city except in the old section.

Escape Hunter April 26, 2014 at 10:30 am

Weird “anti fish carrying” sign. I remember the Singaporean “no durians” sign.
I reckon both stink. (Fish and durians as well).

Michael April 26, 2014 at 1:07 pm

The sign must work, we didn’t see anyone carrying a fish.

Mea July 29, 2014 at 9:01 am

Be careful: chewing gum is also not allowed! The fine is 100 AED (27 USD)

Michael July 29, 2014 at 11:33 am

That sounds like how Singapore used to ban gum for the whole country.

Sonika Soni October 11, 2016 at 11:31 am

I was going through the dubai metro rules, and found it a little weird when one of the rules said that you should not eat or drink inside the metro, and it specifically mentioned water or chewing gum.. found this a little weird. 😛

Michael October 11, 2016 at 1:38 pm

It might have to do with cleanliness. For years the airport in Philadelphia didn’t sell gum because the airport manager thought it created too much garbage.

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