There are some good public transport options across the UAE but most people travel by car, whether that’s driving themselves or using the generally excellent and inexpensive taxi service.
When you arrive in the UAE, the extensive, expanding network of roads can be intimidating, but once you find your bearings things become easier. Signposting is generally good once you understand the system. Blue or green signs indicate the roads, exits or locations out of the city, and brown signs show heritage sites, places of interest and hospitals.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai's road networks are excellent, and most roads have at least three lanes. The new signage system relies more heavily on street names and compass directions, compared to the older system which featured local area names. If the signage gets confusing, remember that Abu Dhabi is south of Dubai and Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah are all north.
Abu Dhabi island is linked to the mainland by three bridges; each holds one of the three main roads into and out of the city. Al Maqtaa, Al Mussafah and Sheikh Zayed Bridges all lie at one end of the island, while following any sign for the corniche will lead you to the other end of the island. Road signs for the Sheikh Khalifa highway will direct you to the giant ringroad that joins Abu Dhabi's stretch of corniche with the E11 road north to Dubai or south toward Ruwais.
In Dubai, the main thoroughfare through the city is Sheikh Zayed Road, which runs from Sharjah, parallel to the sea, all the way to Abu Dhabi. Three bypass roads have been constructed inland towards the desert to ease the city’s congestion problems. All run parallel to the coast and Sheikh Zayed Road. The creek divides Bur Dubai (to the south) and Deira (to the north), and has five main crossing points: Shindagha Tunnel, Maktoum Bridge, Garhoud Bridge, Business Bay Bridge and the Floating Bridge. Within the city, the roads in older parts of town, such as Bur Dubai and Deira, are smaller and more congested, while the road networks in newer developments such as Downtown Dubai tend to accommodate greater traffic flow.
Salik is an automated toll system for Dubai’s roads; there are no road tolls in the other emirates. Dubai currently has six Salik gates: Al Garhoud toll gate at Garhoud Bridge, Al Barsha toll gate on Sheikh Zayed Road after Mall of the Emirates, Al Safa toll gate at Safa Park on Sheikh Zayed Road (between interchanges one and two), Al Maktoum toll gate on Maktoum Bridge, Mamzar toll gate on Al Ittihad Road and Airport Tunnel toll gate near Dubai Airport Tunnel.
How to pay
The Maktoum Bridge crossing is free between 10pm and 6am Saturday to Thursday, and 10pm and 9am on Fridays, when the Floating Bridge is closed. There are no booths, and no need to stop as you drive through. Instead, drivers stick a tag to their windscreen, which is read by radio frequency as they pass.
Drivers must initially buy a ‘welcome pack’ costing Dhs.100: Dhs.50 for the tag and Dhs.50 credit. It costs Dhs.4 each time you pass a toll gate but if you travel between the Al Barsha toll gate and the Al Safa toll gate during one trip (and in the space of an hour) you will only be charged once. If your Salik card is out of credit you will be fined Dhs.50 for each gate you pass through, regardless of whether your vehicle is registered in Dubai or another emirate.