Getting About (or how to acquire seven different maps for free but still need a taxi)

So you arrive in Dubai and discover your hotel is close to the brand spanking new Metro system – brilliant! Well not quite, but more of that later. First challenge was finding out about fares, locations and times – a quick web search throws up  This has lots of facts about the new system and a great up to date map showing which stations are open but nothing practical like fares and timetables. A bit more searching uncovered the Roads and Transports Authority – bingo everything you need to know about the different levels of travel card Silver, Gold and Red and a journey planner too.

If you’ve travelled in London then Silver is familiar, like the Oyster card you top it up, get slightly reduced fares and it works on the buses as well as the Metro. Gold simply gives you access to better Metro seating for slightly higher cost. Red is recommended for tourists but having read the small print it only works on the Metro and has full price fares so Silver would be my card of choice, especially if you intend to visit Dubai more than once as its valid for 5 years.

Not all the stations are open including the nearest one to the Radisson Internet City. This is Nakheel, named for one of the major property developers in Dubai, responsible for the Palm Islands (Nakheel means palm) and the Dubai World projects amongst other. Asking at hotel reception (and acquiring an alternative “better” map to the one they gave me yesterday in the process) I was told it was possible to walk to Dubai Marina station  but not to Dubai Internet City. Later on my way back I discovered why; the road disappears into an underpass leaving anyone on foot stranded! I set off for the former, the distinctive armadillo shape of the elevated stations is not too difficult to spot even in the forest of tower blocks is it? Except I found myself the wrong side of a wrought iron fence to Nakheel. Taxi! Ten dirhams later I was at an open metro station. The silver card costs twenty dirhams (about £3.40)  and gives you an initial 14 dirhams credit for travel, after that anything you top up will be credited for travel. Just a few dirhams will take you anywhere within a zone.

The driverless train was clean (no food or drink are allowed, fine about £20) and very new. Until it reached the Emirates Mall station there were few passengers. By the time we reached central Dubai 15 or 20 minutes later it was standing room only. A man in a white dishdahsa checked my ticket by placing it on a handheld which beeped briefly and he handed it back with a smile.

Somewhere the train dived underground presumably heading down to tunnel under the creek. And when I emerged into the sunshine at street level I was right by the Burjuman shopping mall. Lunch called and my latest discovery “Dome” was beckoning just inside. Homemade veggie lasagne with salad, french bread & a Sprite cost 33.50 dirhams (under six pounds). My goal was the Bastakia, a historical distrct of Dubai, but which direction? The Metro’s own map showed detailed streets up to 400 m or so around the station with little dots marking points in interest like leisure facilities, major buildings etc but no identifying names for these. My maps didn’t have the Metro on it but did show the district. After asking both the shopping centre information and the tourist info desks (maps 3 – 5) the answer from both was unanimous; “Get a taxi”. Outside no taxi’s in sight but the Big Bus Tour Co gave me their map (no. 6)!.

By now it was hot and the souk probably shut until nightfall so I changed plans, retracing my steps a bit to hunt down Waitrose in the Dubai Mall instead. Here the Metro station was predictably, some distance from the Mall so I spent another ten dirhams on a taxi fare. I later discovered this is the minumum charge. 

Starting to head back to my hotel a couple of hours later clutching my bottle of pink grapefruit hi-juice squash like an addict (I haven’t  had any since July), I discovered  (acquiring map 7 in the process) the number 13 bus. This can be boarded unerneath the mall and circumnavigates the whole complex giving wonderful views of the Burj Khalifa as it tours the surrounding building sites, ending up at the Metro station. And I paid the fare using my new silver card! Another few stops on the Metro and a minimum fare taxi ride brought me to the hotel door, this last leg was the bit where I found it’s impossible to be a pedestrian in Dubai, forced by an multi-lane underpass to hail a taxi for a two minute ride.

I have definitely cracked travelling here. Its not on foot but I will need some time to work out which of the maps of the city I picked up along the way I should use when I get off the train!