Car Rental Dubai
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Why rent a car in Dubai?
Millions of travelers from all over the world visit Dubai every year making it one of the most visited cities in the world. Tourists flock to the city for its beaches, shopping opportunities, opulent resorts, fine dining, and incredible real estate developments.
Dubai is a sprawling metropolis stretching down the Persian Gulf coast. Renting a car is the best, and likely cheapest, way to get around the city. Of course, traveling outside the city and to the other Emirates is certainly only reasonably possible with your own car.
Dubai has a reputation for intense traffic. In fact, it is not recommended for beginner drivers to attempt to drive in the city. Experienced drivers should not fret, however. The government in Dubai has, in recent years, made a strong effort to reduce auto accidents. If driving in a defensive manner and doing your best to avoid rush hour, the benefits of having a rental car will far outweigh the inconvenience caused by Dubai drivers.
You must be 21 years old to rent a car in Dubai. Citizens of Canada and the United States, along with many European countries, are allowed to drive with their passport and a valid from their country. Citizens of other countries, particularly those whose licenses are not in Latin script, are required to have an International Driving Permit
Top ways to enter Dubai
Most travelers arrive in Dubai via its main international airport, Dubai International Airport, the third-busiest airport in the world and also the busiest by international passengers. It is located around 15 kilometers northwest of Downtown Dubai. Major rental providers have desks in at least one of the terminals.Other providers provide shuttle services from, or delivery to, the airport. It is worth noting that Terminal 2 is not connected to the other terminals and requires a lengthy taxi ride between them.
Those flying on low-cost airlines, specifically flydubai and Wizz Air, are likely to land at Dubai World Central - Al Maktoum International Airport. This is airport, located around 50 kilometers from Downtown Dubai, is slated to become the busiest airport in the world. Dubai World Central has rental car providers at the airport, some located in the terminal and some located outside of the terminal.
Another option for arriving in Dubai is the Sharjah International Airport in the neighboring Sharjah Emmerite. This airport has been growing in recent years due to Dubai International nearing its limits of handling more passengers. The airport, which is much smaller and has less amenities, has flights primarily from South Asia and the Middle East. Rental cars are available both in the terminal and via delivery and meet and greet. The drive to Dubai from the airport takes about 30 minutes.
Of course, travelers may also arrive via Abu Dhabi International Airport (whose primary carrier is Etihad Airways). This airport is not that far away from Dubai, particularly the southeastern end of the city, being on a little over 100 kilometers from the Palm Jumeirah. Again, rental cars are available both in the terminal and otherwise.
Finally, some travelers may arrive in Dubai on a cruise ship. Cruise ships dock at the Dubai Cruise Terminal in Port Rashid. Though car rentals are not available at the terminal itself, it is possible to have a rental car delivered or pick one up at a rental car provider’s office in the city.
Useful city facts
Dubai is located in the middle of a dessert. Therefore, it is no surprise that the climate is hot and dry in terms of precipitation. Though it might not rain much (and snow ever), Dubai experiences year-round high humidity. Average daily highs top 40°C in July and August. If you are visiting in summer, be sure to be prepared, watch for signs of heat stroke, and consume plenty of water (the water in Dubai is generally safe to drink, though many prefer bottled water for the taste).
Wittners in Dubai are more pleasant. While it might rain some, there is still plenty of sunshine to go with more moderate temperatures. The average daily high in January is 24°C and the average low 14°C. However, it is likely to feel even warmer than that due to the high humidity. This makes winter the high tourist season. Of course, if you travel to Dubai for the beaches, spring is the best season for you.
Dubai, being an officially Muslim country, has restrictions on the selling and consumption of alcohol. Alcohol can only be served in certain clubs and restaurants which are, almost exclusively, attached to hotels. The legal drinking age (for non-Muslims) is 21. You are unlikely to be able to purchase alcohol anywhere other than these clubs and restaurants or the duty-free shops in the airport. While there are shops that do sell alcohol to non-Muslims, an alcohol license is required to make a purchase. These licenses are difficult to obtain and it is doubtful anyone other than expat residents would go through the trouble of acquiring one. Penalties for drunk driving in Dubai are stiff and the acceptable limit zero. Do not drink (any, nada, zilch) and drive in Dubai.
The same is somewhat true of pork. You can, as a non-muslim, purchase pork in some grocery stores. Tourists can find pork in some restaurants too, though these are usually in or attached to 5-star hotels serving foreigners.
Top destinations and activities
- Shopping - Dubai is renowned as a destination for shoppers. With many malls, foremost the Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates, shoppers can literally shop till they drop. Though the city used to be known for its discount shopping, it is perhaps now better known for its luxury shopping. Another type of shopping is also popular, that which can be found at the souks. Souks are traditional Arab markets. The Spice Souk and Gold Souk are the most famous. Of course, if you want both worlds at once, then you should head to the Souk Madinat Jumeirah
- Beaches - Dubai is also famous for its beaches. Most of the beaches are private, being part of high-end resorts. Visitors not staying at these resorts are usually able to pay for access to these beaches. There are some free beaches, however. Jumeirah Open Beach is one such example with showers, changing cabins, and the ability to purchase snacks and drinks. It is located between Dubai Marine Beach Resort and the Four Seasons. The only cost is that of parking, whether on the street or in a garage. Al Sufouh Beach is also worth a visit, located between near the Palm Jumeirah. Access is via an unpaved road with parking available on the sand. There are no facilities at this beach, though.
- Camel Races - Located south of the city of Dubai on the road to Al Ain, Al Marmoom Heritage Village, the camel races are one attraction that is only reasonably reached with a rental car. At racing grounds there is free parking and free entrance. The races are said to take place on Fridays and Saturdays during the cooler months. The website is not updated, unfortunately. It is best to call or send a message on social media ahead of time to confirm the schedule. If, however, you are not able to go when a race will be happening, or if you end up there and no race is actually going to take place that day, fret not! You can visit the stables and probably see the camels in training. The people at the racing grounds are incredibly friendly and your experience could perhaps be better than that of seeing the races.
- Burj Khalifa - The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa is undoubtedly one of the main tourist attractions in Dubai. At the Top, the tours of the observation floors of the skyscraper, actually offers multiple options for visiting. The basic package includes visiting floors 124 and 125, an outdoor terrace and a 360-degree observation deck, respectively. Also available is visiting the 148th floor with the world’s highest observation and outdoor terrace at 555 meters. Finally, the most luxurious package available includes visiting the lounge on floors 152-154 for tea or drinks. For all different packages, it is advisable to book in advance as tickets often sell out.
- Water Parks - A great way to escape the scorching temperatures in Dubai is to spend a day at one of its water parks. Choose from Wild Wadi, Aquaventure, Atlantis, Laguna waterparks. Legoland also has a separate water park. All of the mentioned parks have multiple water slides and various other ways to cool off for the day.
Traffic and parking tips
Travelers visiting Dubai will find a wide availability of parking. Most hotels offer free parking. Free parking is also available at metro stations (for users of the metro), at most malls (as long as you don’t stay over a certain amount of time), and at most attractions (provided you purchase a ticket).
Different parking zones exist in Dubai with different pricing structures. Parking in commercial zones is slightly cheaper if using a lot instead of on-street parking. The prices are the same in non-commercial areas for on-street and lots. Downtown Dubai is a seperate zone with separate pricing. The most convenient ways to pay for parking for a tourist are with coins at a parking machine or a prepaid card available in grocery stores for 30 AED or 100 AED amounts. Passes valid for a certain period of time are available, too, but start at 3 months. On Fridays, parking is free.
Once again, it should be noted that there is zero tolerance for drunk driving in Dubai. The legal blood alcohol content is 0. Penalties are stiff, including high fines, jail time, and deportation. Do not, under any circumstances, drink and then proceed to drive in Dubai.
Dubai has a metro system, including one line that extends more than 50 kilometers. Though drivers would normally ignore the metro, it may in fact be useful, even with a rental car, in Dubai. If traveling during peak times and to destinations that are near metro stations, it may be preferable to park at a station (for free) and take the metro avoiding significant time spent in traffic.
Dubai is the only Emirate to have roads with tolls. Unlike in other countries, these tolls are not for entire roads or sections of roads, but are gates for specific congested areas. Some of the gates are on one side of a bridge, while others are in the middle of a highway. Of particular note is the Airport Tunnel Gate, which will be passed by those traveling from the airport to the areas on the other side of it.
The gate system is called Salik. As in many other places in the world, the Salik works without toll booths. A prepaid card is used with tolls automatically deducted from it. Rental car providers are required to provide this card with their cars. Of course, all rental providers charge an administrative fee for this on a per-toll basis (ask your provider for their specific policy). Tolls (without the administrative fee) are 4 AED each time you pass a toll gate. Most of the gates are, in fact, avoidable if you so choose. Check your planned route in advance to find the best way around them if you prefer.
Ideas for a day-trip
- Hatta Water Dam - Located near the town of Hatta and the Hatta border crossing, it takes about an hour and a half to drive to the dam from Dubai (of course, this depends on where in Dubai you are driving from). The dam is a scenic spot perfect for a picnic. The lake made by it is a great place for using kayaks or pedal boats which can be rented at the dam.
- Sharjah - Located next to Dubai, Sharjah is the capital of the Emirate of the same name which actually has coasts on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The city is a great escape from Dubai, with its architecture being a welcome change from skyscrapers. More beaches can be found in the more relaxed, essentially dry (as in, no alcohol is sold), Emirate.
- Abu Dhabi - The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the second-most populous city in the UAE. Travel time between the capital and Dubai varies depending on where in Dubai one is traveling from but is generally about an hour and a half. The city hosts the grandest mosque in the country, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. While Dubai is a great starting point for travelers to the region, those seeking more authentic experiences should head to Abu Dhabi, where the culture is much more traditional.
- Al Ain - Abu Dhabi is not just the capital city, but also the largest of the Emirates. Almost equidistant between Dubai as it is from the city of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain is on the border with Oman. The city is an oasis in the middle of the desert and often dubbed the Garden City. A visit to the oasis and the second highest mountain nearby is certainly a great way to get out of the large city for a day.
- Falaj Al Mualla - It takes only an hour to drive to this oasis town from Dubai. The town’s fort and watchtowers make for the perfect day trip destination. The fort has been recently renovated and now houses the Falaj Al Mualla museum. If time allows, driving further to the Hajar Mountains for the scenic views or hiking would certainly be worth making the circle.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular class of rental car in Dubai is the full-size, of which the Volkswagen Passat is an excellent example. The mini and economy classes are also popular. These include cars like the Chevrolet Spark and Aveo.
Note: Most car rental suppliers located in Dubai allow cross-border travel to Oman. This generally comes with a fee, either one-time or daily. It also often necessitates that you purchase additional insurance for travel in Oman. Permission must be sought after and granted by the provider in advance (preferably when picking up the car). No rental car provider in Dubai will permit you to take a car to Saudi Arabia. Of course, given the difficulty of obtaining a visa for Saudi Arabia, it is unlikely that this would be an issue for drivers from Western countries.
- Oman - Depending on your nationality, it may be possible to enter Oman with your UAE entry visa. Otherwise, you may be able to obtain an e-visa for entry to Oman. Please check with the Royal Oman Police for specifics. The main border crossing with Oman is Hatta. Oman is a country filled to the brim with natural beauty. From the pristine coast to the rugged mountains and desert, there is something for everyone in the country. The villages and cities also keep an old Benuidin spirit about them. Oman is the perfect place to visit to leave the glitz and glamor of Dubai for a more traditional Arab culture.
- Empty Quarter - The largest contiguous sand desert in the world, the Empty Quarter is a vast area spanning the UAE, Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. The borders between these countries lie somewhere in the desert, though they aren’t demarcated or even known exactly. The northern edge of the desert lies in the UAE and can be reached by from the Liwa Oasis, which is about 350 kilometers from Dubai via a modern four-lane road. Of course, the most tempting thing to do in the desert is to drive in it. Do not take your rental car in the desert unless it is a 4WD SUV and you have permission from the rental provider. Even then, you absolutely should not venture into the Empty Quarter without a caravan of other vehicles and significant desert driving experience. The best way to experience the Empty Quarter, once there, is to join an excursion with a tour provider.
Top 14 Locations near Dubai
Dubai, Al Maktoum Int. Airport Car Rentals from $26.35 per day
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Dubai, Delivery Service Car Rentals from $194.32 per day
Dubai, Hotel Le Meridian Car Rentals from $194.32 per day
Dubai Marina Downtown Car Rentals from $24.15 per day
Dubai Business Bay Car Rentals from $24.15 per day
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Dubai Silicon Oasis Car Rentals from $32.56 per day
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