The Dubai Metro
Dubai, in my humble opinion, has one of the most easy-to-use, clean, comfortable, and safe metro systems I’ve seen yet. Sure, it might not be open 24 hours a day, but what it lacks in after hours service, it makes up for in efficiency. It’s also inexpensive and offers breathtaking views of the city.
So to aid you in getting around town, I present to you (drum rolls please) the Super Simple Dubai Metro Guide.
The Dubai Metro has 2 lines: the Red Line and the Green Line. The Red Line runs from: Rashidiya to UAE Exchange (formerly Jebel Ali as exhibited on the map). The Green Line runs from Etisalat to Creek. The transfer stations are Union Square and Burjuman. Click on the image to enlarge.
Step 1: The first thing to getting around the metro is figuring out which station is closest to your starting point and destination point. This can easily be done by consulting my dear friend, Google Maps, or by asking your hotel concierge. Make sure you note which color line you’re on (Red or Green), and if you need to make a switch at any of the 2 transfer stations.
Step 2: Once you’ve identified which station you’re starting the journey from, and have made your way over there, you will need to purchase a metro card, also referred to here as your NOL ticket or card.
You can easily do so at the metro stations by buying one from the ticket agent at the ticket office or from the machine. My advice is to buy it directly from the ticket office to avoid any confusion. There are 5 different types of NOL cards sold which vary depending on class, frequency and personalization. They’re called the Red Ticket, Silver Card, Gold Card, Blue Card, and Personalized Gold Card.
What are the differences between the cards?
The Red Ticket is best for one-off users, enables you to make single trips and pay only for the exact trip you travel. Prices depend on the number of zones you transfer through and the cabin class selected. There are 2 cabin classes: Regular or Gold Class. So assume you’re only going to use the metro once, want to go to the Dubai Mall Metro Station and prefer Gold Class, you’d tell the vendor ‘I’d like a one-way Red Ticket Gold Class to the Dubai Mall Metro Station’. Should you decide to ride the metro again, you can afterwards use that same ticket again for another trip (up to 10 trips) by simply topping it up at the station again. However, you will only be able to use it for stations within the Dubai Mall Metro zone in this example. If you buy a 1 zone ticket and then travel across 2 zones, you may get penalized. Also, you can only use the Red Ticket for 1 type of transportation across the city, either the bus or metro or the tram.
The Silver Card and Gold Card are best for frequent users who are likely to use the metro as their main method of transportation across the city. The difference between the 2 cards is the cabin you’ll be able to access: Regular or Gold Class. Guests who buy this card should tell the vendor ‘I’d like to buy a Silver or Gold Class card and top it up with ‘X’ amount’. You’ll be able to use it across as many zones as need be as long as your card has funds on it. If your trip cost exceeds the existing balance on your card, you can top up your card at any of the info desks who can add the amount for you before you exit, or if it's a small amount, you can try tapping it anyway on the card reader and may get a negative balance which you'll later have to top up again to be able to use the card for a future trip. You can also use the Silver and Gold Cards across all RTA transport options including the bus, metro, and tram.
The Blue and Personalized Gold Cards are for UAE residents who want personalized cards and have to apply for those in advance.
To learn about the ticket and cards in more detail, visit the NOL website directly here.
Step 3: So now that you know which ticket or card is best suited for you, waltz over to the ticket office, and inform the ticket agent of your requirements The agent will then calculate the fare, which is payable via cash or credit card. Once you’ve made the payment, you will receive your ticket/card, which you will now use to enter the metro gate by tapping it on the card reader.
Step 4: Once you enter at this point, put your card back in your bag or wallet, as you will need it later when checking out of your destination stop. From here, you will either go right or left depending on the direction you’re headed and head towards your metro.
Now, as you’re waiting for your metro to arrive, make sure you are standing in front of the correct entry point, as there are different classes (Gold Section exclusive to Gold Card holders only, and a women only section). When it does arrive and you manage to enter, make sure you keep an eye on the TVs hosted on the poles or listen to the announcements made regarding the station names, so you know when to get off.
Step 5: Once you’ve arrived at your destination, exit the metro and make your way to the station exit gate. This is when you’ll need to bring out your NOL card again and tap it on the card reader so that your fare gets deducted. Now stow it safely again back in your bag or wallet for your next trip, and enjoy wandering in the city!
A few other metro facts:
The metro operating hours are from 6AM to 12AM from Saturday to Wednesday, 6AM to 1AM on Thursday, and 10AM to 1AM on Friday. Hours may change during public holidays. To confirm the operating hours, please contact RTA at 8009090.
The metro is accessible for passengers with special needs. Lift access is available, as well as dedicated spaces for wheelchair users.
For visitors using the metro from Dubai International Airport, you can carry up to 2 suitcases which should be no larger than H58 x W81 x D30 cms. The luggage must be stowed in the dedicated areas, found in each cabin.
The metro has several rules and policies, which users must adhere to, or face various fines. Notable ones include eating and drinking, chewing gum, entering cabins reserved for others (again, Gold Class cabin is only for Gold Card holders), sleeping in any place in the public transport environment, and failing to produce your NOL card.
Please note that the Palm Jumeirah Monorail is operated by another party, and the NOL cards described above are not eligible for use on the monorail.
For alternative methods of transport, you can hail cabs from the street (all cabs here have parking meters, if one doesn’t, get out), pre-book a cab by calling +9714 208 0808, or use the local cab hire app Careem with discount code 'wanderwithcareem' to get 20% off your first 3 rides. Click here for more details.
Hi! I'm Nada. A Dubai bred expat & founder of Wander With, a tour guide company in Dubai. I want to show you just why, I and many others who live here, love this city.