Getting around Dubai without a car

Just thought of dropping by quickly to share this with you.  We provide this list to our visitors.  By the way, my cousin just left and is now back in Manila.  In two days, I will have 7 visitors coming to this place we now call home.  Come to think of it, we’re going to be pretty busy this year. Our guest room was occupied in Feb, March and this month, April.  We’ll have visitors every month until November, taking a break in July to September, when we’re scheduled to go on holiday out-of-the-country.  Tourism is booming in Dubai!  My neighbor joked that I should open a bed-and-breakfast. Lol!

There are several options you can use to go around the city.  On foot is not something I would recommend for now, as temperatures have gone up.

Here’s a list on PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN DUBAI.

Public Transport in Dubai is operated by the Road Traffic Association (RTA) and consists of the Metro, Buses and Marine Transport.

All of these are operated by a Nol Card system, which can be purchased and topped up at any of the stations except for travel in the abras and the taxis which are cash only.

BUSES

This large and advanced bus network covering the city includes air-conditioned buses that have separate areas for women.  You’ll notice that many of the covered bus stops are air-conditioned 🙂

ac bus stop Photo: air-conditioned bus stop

I did take Lil T on the bus last year in November and ever since then he (more like “we”) would sing “Wheels on the Bus” as least five times a day! I haven’t taken him on the bus since but that remains to be his favorite song.

THE METRO

Presently operating 2 lines–Green Line and Red Line and operated by the use of Nol Cards either as:

Silver – general travel pre-paid

Gold – first class carriage

Red – Standard trip adult

Blue – Student and senior citizen (pre-registered)

These cards can hold up to AED500 and are valid for 5 years! Taking the metro is sometimes faster and more convenient than driving to certain places.  I find it worth it to invest on the Gold Card so I can get into First Class cabins, which is the metro’s version of an airplane’s business class section.

For bus timetables and routes please check: http://www.rta.ae.  You might also want to visit the Dubai Mall Metro Link.

ABRAS

An abra is a traditional wooden boat and the oldest means of transport in Dubai. They are boarded at the stations on the banks of the Creek and the major routes between the Shindagha/Al Ghubaiba on the Bur Dubai side, and the water station at Al Sabkha on the Deira side. The Abras depart every few minutes, and the fare of 1 Dirham and is paid to the ferry driver. abra abra2

WATER BUS

This is Abra experience to the next level.  The Waterbus has more comfortable seats, is equipped with LCD screens and other features to add luxury and comfort to commuters on the Creek.

TAXI

Dubai Taxi Corporation operates a fleet of over 3500 taxis in the city and are recognizable by their bright red roofs. They also have specific airport taxis which have Dubai International Airport logo on the cars. These airport taxis are allowed to connect to other Emirates in the Country. The taxis with pink roofs are specific to ladies and families of all nationalities and also have lady drivers.

Dubai Taxis franchises the operation of some taxis to other companies. The taxis are the same light sandy beige color but have different colored roofs as follows.

Green Al Arabia Taxi tel +971-4-2855566

tollfree 800-272242 http://www.arabiataxi.ae also http://www.arabiataxi.com

White City Taxi

Blue Cars Taxi tel +971-4-2693344

toll-free 800-227789 http://www.carstaxi.ae

Red Dubai Taxi tel +971-4-2080808

Orange Metro Taxi tel +971-4-2673222

Yellow National Taxi tel +971-4-3390002

Pink Ladies Taxi +971-4-2080808 have female drivers for females of families only.  They will not take unaccompanied men.

There are other taxi companies operating in Dubai and other Emirates that are not under the Dubai Taxis franchise, but they are far less common.

Some of them are:

Al Humaidi Luxury Transport, Jebel Ali, tel +971-4-8872996

Al Marmoom Tourist Taxi, Dubai, +971-4-3476656

Delta Taxi, Sharjah, tel +971-6-5598598

Emirates Taxi, Dubai, tel +971-4-3394455

Gulf Taxi, Dubai, tel +971-4-2236666

For more information please check: http://www.rta.ae

When taking a cab, it is important to know where you are going, and not just the name of the street.  You cant just say “bring me to so and so restaurant on Sheikh Zayed Road,”–as the road happens to be over 500km.  I know it can be hard especially if you’re only here a few days, but there is chance you’ll come across a taxi driver as new in the city as you are.  Worse, he cant even speak English! Some of the drivers will even argue that your address doesn’t exist! Plus some roads are confusing like the Burj Khalifa St. and the Burj Khalifa Blvd which are just perpendicular to each other!  Show him a photo or mention a landmark. Or better yet, if you’re going to the house of a Dubai resident, have the resident give you directions.

If you are still considering to rent a car, be sure to read The Most Important Advice. Actually, car rental or public transport, please read that article I wrote a few months back.  It could save you from getting deported.

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Dubai Mall Metro Link

The Dubai Mall Metro Link opened just in time for New Year.  The 820-meter air-conditioned walkway conveniently links the Burj Khalifa metro station and the Dubai Mall.  The walkway is lined with food and beverage and souvenir shops and provides pleasant scenery of Downtown Dubai.  It reminds me of an airport actually, until I look out the window.

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Enjoy your journey!

Primary School applications..Who knew it would cause stress?

While I thought finding a school involved friendly school tours and all the welcome pleasantries from the faculty, that is not what I am having, at least not right now.

If you are a parent and moving to Dubai, are already in Dubai, or currently pregnant in Dubai, I suggest you look into schools asap.  I started researching on schools way before my son turned one.  Imagine still in nappies and drooling!  But yeah the competition for the best schools here are so stiff that some parents register as soon as they have the baby (like days old!)  What was I thinking when my baby was a few days old? Breastfeeding techniques, how to change diapers more efficiently, how to get more sleep… Oh wait, I didn’t register him in nursery! What kind of mom am I?!

The most outstanding schools in the city are swamped with applications all year round.  It has been nerve-wracking for me to know that two of the schools I am eyeing are already full! For the next 2 years!  Since it’s the beginning of another year and one registrar advised me last year to call in 2013, I picked up the phone again.  Sadly, there are still no available slots for the best school in Dubai. But I will keep trying.  Dubai is a transient city and I am hopeful they will have room.

I did get him into 2 of the top schools, waitlisted by the way so no guarantee.  As I type this now I feel a tiny part of me is amused.  My goodness! He’ll only be 3 when he enters school.. and it’s just nursery!  But you see that’s one of the pressures of being an expat mom.  I want to give my son the best possible education, because I know we can.   I don’t want him to settle on a mediocre institution because that would make me feel like he got cheated.  And it’s just easier to stay in one school than to keep transferring to better ones later on.

So my tip: Just had a baby? Find a school.  It is imperative this be your top priority.   Good luck!

The Most Important Advice

Being new, the question I ask my acquaintances is what is the best advice you can give me on living in Dubai.

Some told me that the hardest here would be saying “no” to all the sales!  And it’s true.  The deals seem to never end! You have the Dubai Summer Sale, Dubai Shopping Festival, the Ramadan Sale, GITEX Sale, etc. If you wish, you could really avoid paying the full price.  Temptations are everywhere.  No wonder some people have gone bankrupt!

Another told us to buy our car during Ramadan, wherein car companies throw in a little extra here and there.  This one we did.  We arrived late June and purchased a car in August.

But more than once, people have given me advice on the road.

The roads are here simply the best.  Where else can you commonly find 4, 5, or 6 lanes? Clean and regularly maintained at that.  The rules are in place.  You have fines left and right which can range anywhere from AED 200 to AED 2000!  And the cars.. woohooo.. all the vehicles that you can ever dream of are here (whistle).  I mean the Dubai police car is a BMW 5 series! And most recently, the Dubai Police has added a Lamborghini Aventador to its fleet.  It is here in Dubai that you can actually drive your dream car without worry of the road.  The road. But not of your fellow drivers.  The top causes of road accidents here are speeding, drinking and driving, and beating the red light.  (For more info on the roads of Dubai, please visit “Ways of the Road”)

The one advice repeatedly given to us is to never ever make hand gestures while driving.  With only 8% of the Dubai population comprising Emirati and 92% expats and migrant workers, you have people from different parts of the world!  This is the true melting pot with residents coming from nearly 200 countries. When you’re giving a thumbs-up expressing satisfaction, people in the Middle East think you want to put your chubby little finger up their ass!  But even that could be wrong.  The Arab world is so diversified; it may be true for one group but false in another.  To be in the safe side, my thumb will now never stand alone.

The story goes that a foreigner was driving on the road and was recklessly cut by a local guy.  The Brit showed his dismay at what could have been an accident.  He was communicating at the height of his passion, complete with facial gestures and hand movements.  There was an instant when he might have used one of his fingers (it was so fast he couldn’t really remember), and it could have seemed like he was pointing or it could have been interpreted as a rude middle-finger gesture.  But to be rude was never the intention.

The matter was brought to the police.  There was no accident, mind you. No collision; no dent; no scratch on both their cars, of the other vehicles on the road, on government property, or on pedestrians.  There was no mishap whatsoever.  But to the police they went.

To make the long story short, the local made such a strong complaint on how the Brit was so offensive, etc. etc.  The poor Brit got d-e-p-o-r-t-e-d.  Flown back to his home country.  The existence of expatriation, career advancement, and tax-free living put to a stop with just one hand signal read wrong.

Keep calm and stay worry-free.  NO hand gestures while driving, peeps.

Ways of the Road

Driving Theory Test–Nailed it.  I got 2 mistakes out of 35 questions on traffic signals, managing risk, rules and responsibilities, and road user safety.  I’ve been driving for more than 10 years now, I actually expected to have zero mistakes.  Or maybe I’m just being competitive.  Hubby got the same number of wrong answers.

I hail from the Philippines, a country excluded from the list of those authorized to exchange their current driving license to a UAE one.  Thus the test and more lessons.

I don’t mind.  Dubai has one of the world’s most dangerous roads.. and I’m going to drive here??  Somebody has got to teach me how!  And I’d pay them for it.

According to The National, “A 200-car crash in foggy conditions in March 2008 on the motorway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai killed four and hurt more than 350 others. Poor visibility and reckless driving were blamed for the crashes. ”

You read that right.  Two hundred cars crashed into one another.  I haven’t even seen something like that in the movie.  I have seen worse photos wherein some of the cars caught fire but I chose not to post them.

This photo is from a multiple-car pile-up accident on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway on the 2nd of April, 2011. The huge crash involved 127 cars on the road heading into Dubai.

According to Gulf New, this was due to speeding motorists with inadequate distance between cars in foggy low-visibility conditions.

Then you have crazy stuntmen.. carelessly posing danger to others and to themselves.

The top causes of road accidents here are speeding, drinking and driving, and beating the red light.  Stories of reckless drivers tearing up Sheik Zayed Road in their Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche cars are not uncommon.

That’s the thing about flashy cars.  It says stable despite your speed that you almost can’t feel you’re going too fast. I rode and drove in a Ferrari once, swearing never ever to buy one, besides it being extremely excessive for me.

I’m sorry to post horrific photos but this is just a reminder to drive safely, whatever part of the world you may be.

Since my driving classes and after seeing photo after photo of countless accidents on the road (they really scare you in driving school), I’ve started wearing my seatbelt even if I’m at the back.  I’ve also refused to give in to Lil T’s seated-in-the-car-seat whining.  Everyone buckles up or no one leaves.

I hope you apply this to your family too.

In safety and peace.

So You’re Moving to Dubai, I recommend..

Ahlan Wa Sahlan

Translation: “May you arrive as part of the family, and tread an easy path (as you enter).”

I remember when I just arrived here about 3 months ago, I was filled with huge excitement passing the glittering sky scrapers, the vast malls, and the sandy shores that is Dubai.

We were just waiting to relish the unknown.

But you see, it’s not all about touring.  You will have to rent a house, move your furniture, take your kid to the doctor and well, do your duties for this thing called “Life”.

Below are some of my recommendations of people, companies, and places that have helped me along the way.  They aren’t many but just keep coming back as I’ll be adding more.

Doctors

Dermatologist

Dr. Roula Amer at the American Doctor’s Hospital. I found her very charming and friendly.  It was like meeting an old friend.

Pediatrician

I tried Dr. Khan at Cooper Health Clinic as many found him good.  But honestly he seemed like just another doctor to me so now I just bring Tyler to the American Doctor’s Hospital.

Movers/Truckers/Shippers

Mossel +9715.556.302.60

I haven’t met Mossel but he’s usually the one on the other end of the line.  He usually just sends his brother, Shah.

Shah is very courteous and mild mannered.  His is the personality you will appreciate amidst all the clutter and chaos that goes with moving.  His frequent companion, his cousin, is just quiet.  I really don’t like loud men around the house.  Shah and his relatives are pleasant, strong, and hardworking.

They have transported our belongings (they were few then), moved furniture, installed mirrors, and well did handyman things here and there.  I must advise you to always supervise.  They are ordinary workers in need of direction.  These guys aren’t professional packers so please don’t trust them with delicate, exquisite, or expensive items or if you’re moving your whole house!

Cleaning Companies

Maid For You 042208095

I usually ask for Genelyn Japitan for ironing.

AED 30/hr for cleaning and babysitting

AED 40/hr for ironing

Jenny (Freelance cleaner) 0558872817. I have 3 neighbors who avail of her services. She’s very discreet, loves kids, and is hardworking.  I am very satisfied with her cleaning, not very much ironing though.

Drinking Water

I considered Nestle and Masafi because they are pure, safe, and of low sodium content.  They are also the more popular ones on expat forums.  I called them both with the goal of trying them at the same time.  Nestle was quicker to answer and prompt in delivery.  The latter responded about one week after my order that I just cancelled.

Ever since, I have been happy with Nestle.  They come by once a week—Monday in our area.  We just leave our empty bottles, along with vouchers, outside the door and before the day ends they are replaced with new ones.  During the days we forget, the delivery man makes an effort to knock at our door and ask if we need new bottles.

http://www.nestle-family.com/pure-life/english/

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Where To Shop Click here

Where To Buy Groceries

Waitrose

Where: The Dubai Mall

Why I go:

  • I buy Lil T’s organic yoghurt here
  • Lots of cheese, organic produce

I noticed that people who shop here leave with just few plastic bags.  Their products are said to be pricier.  Convenient for “emergencies” but not for bulk buying.

Spinneys

Where:  I am often here as there’s a branch that’s just 10 minutes (by foot) away from where I live.

There are a lot of Spinneys in Dubai –Oud Metha, Mirdif, Dubai Marina, Rashidiya, Deira, etc

Why I go:

  • For Bolthouse Juice
  • Freshly Baked Bread
  • Some branches, like mine, sell pork

Carrefour

Where: Deira, Bur Dubai, Mirdif

Why I go:

For bulk buying.

There are also gadget kiosks inside

Hypermart

Where: Festival City across Ikea

Why I go:

For bulk buying

Convenient after a trip to either Ikea or Ace Hardware

Union Coop

Where: Jumeirah, Rashidiya, Deira, etc

Why I go:

For bulk buying

Carrefour Express

Where: Oasis, Jumeirah Lake Towers,

Why I go:

Just like a 7-11.  It operates round-the-clock thus very convenient. Smaller than Carrefour means it’s easier to navigate. I can go in and out in just a few minutes.

I’ve heard the products are more expensive than just the ordinary Carrefour.

Where To Buy Furniture, etc?

There are so many home stores here in Dubai. Too many, it’s overwhelming!

You’ll find the basics at Ikea.

Our couches are from Pan Emirates and IDesign.

Our mattresses and pillows are from Homes R Us.

We purchased home accessories at Home Centre.

Marina Exotic Home Interiors has a lot of gorgeous stuff! But it’s pricier than the rest.

You also might want to visit Q Home Décor and Options

Who delivers food in my area?

Food Delivery

http://www.24h.ae/

Where to live?

Serviced Apartment vs Regular Apartment

My examples:

Jumeirah Living WTCR

Old Town Apartments

We seriously considered Murjan 4 in Dubai Marina.  The view was just amazing—full sea view! But Old Town’s location is very convenient for us.

Apartment vs Villa (house)

Before closing in on Old Town, we also considered Arabian Ranches, The Springs, and Meadows.

We chose an apartment, as we did not want to bother ourselves with maintaining a garden, a pool, and a bigger home especially in our first year here in Dubai.

We’ve never lived in a villa.  So I’ll just share what I’ve heard:

  • Villas are more prone to have cockroaches than apartments
  • An Umm Suquiem acquaintance told us he pays AED 3500 for water and electricity.. monthly!!  And that’s not because there are 50 of them at home.  It’s because the infrastructure in place is so old and awful that they end up paying much much more than they consume.  He’s so pissed he’s moving to an apartment
  • On the otherhand, Falcon City Villa residents told us they pay only about AED 150-300/month for DEWA.
  • In addition to the maid’s room, some villas offer a driver’s room (which you can use as storage).

I still consider myself “new”.  I’ve been here on a holiday (the real kind, not more than 2 weeks) twice before but this is the first time we’ll really be staying here. Living here.

I’ve compiled this list to help anybody who is new or moving to Dubai.  This list is a product of my experience, some research and a few referrals.  Please take note that these people (and places) have minor flaws, you know I cannot come up with a list of perfect people.  You can give them a try until you find the right ones for you.  Who knows you might even come up with better recommendations.  If you do, please share them with me too.

Where To Shop

For those new or travelling to Dubai, here’s a quick feature on the popular ones in the emirate.

The Dubai Mall

This is THE mall. The biggest one you’ll ever find.  Ever. In the whole wide world.  This houses popular tourist attractions such as the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, The Waterfall, and the Dubai Fountains.

This mall has an organic market that I often go to every 3rd Saturday of the month.  Why? Because it’s 20% off!

 

English: Dubai Mall December 29, 2009.
Dubai Mall  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mall of the Emirates

The Mall of Emirates, located in the Al Barsha district of Dubai.  A friend noticed that most of Dubai’s flashy car owners end up in this mall’s carpark. Our theory? It’s because this has the most number of upscale shops.

MOE also has the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East. Snow in the desert? Believe it! I have seen it but I haven’t tried it. When I do, I’ll tell you all about it 🙂

This is a photo of the Mall of the Emirates, l...

Mall of the Emirates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deira City Center

Another large mall.  This one’s in Deira.  I like shopping here and at The Mall of the Emirates.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe because it’s more crowded, the pace is quicker, the staff friendlier, or maybe because it seems less tourist-y compared to The Dubai Mall

This is a photo of Deira City Centre in Deira,...

Deira City Centre in Deira. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burjuman Mall

Not crowded at all.  In fact, no one’s here!  You’ll find several high end shops but I guess what sets this apart is the dining area at the third floor.  I enjoyed having dinner close to the water fountains.  The wooden paneling of the 3rd floor restaurants makes you forget momentarily that you’re in a mall.  And with little noise, few distractions, (and well, people), my hubby and I felt very much relaxed.  It was a good moment to just talk and share each other’s company.

Mercato Mall

Just a small mall with a few shops.  Not worth the trip if you’re just visiting Dubai.  If you live in Jumeirah then this will be pretty convenient.  I was brought here by a friend because she knows I mostly appreciate anything that reminds me of the Renaissance.

Mercato Shopping Mall, Dubai

Mercato Shopping Mall, Dubai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dubai Outlet Mall

Located on the Dubai-Al Ain Road, Dubailand.  Houses labels such as Prada, Gap, Massimo Dutti, Mango.  This cannot compare to the Outlet Malls in the US. The styles are mostly outdated.  The prices not that low.  I did find a few BCBG dresses and Adidas gym clothes that were cheap compared to those in mall but if you are just here for a few days, I wouldn’t recommend driving out that far for just a few finds.  If you are fortunate to come here in January or during the Dubai Shopping Festival, brace yourself for the best deals in all the major malls, a trip to the Outlet Mall would be unnecessary.

The whole Dubai is a shopping mecca!  There’s so much more!  Whether you’re looking for cheap or high end, busy or quiet, a place for a date or for the family, there’s always one just a few minutes away.