Once you are settled and familiar with getting around inside Dubai, you may wish to explore the other Emirates and indeed, neighboring countries that lie within 2-3 hours from Dubai, or more depending on your chosen mode of travel.
You probably arrived in Dubai via Dubai International Airport, one of the busiest, biggest and most traveler-friendly hubs not just in the Middle East, but also in the whole world. If you want to see neighboring countries or destinations a little further afield, like most of the major cities of Europe or Asia, then you will undoubtedly continue to use Dubai International as your point of departure and arrival. If you choose Dubai’s national carrier, Emirates, then Terminal 3, which deals with Emirates Airlines’ flights exclusively, will quickly become very familiar. By choosing to fly with other major carriers, then you will learn the layout of Terminal 1 equally quickly. Familiarize yourself with the two main Terminals, 1 and 3. With Dubai Airport’s Terminal 2 you can connect to new and rapidly growing air-links to many regional and international destinations.
The first is Emirates’ own recently inaugurated budget wing, FlyDubai. FlyDubai’s business model will be pretty familiar to users of budget airlines anywhere in the world; however, budget doesn’t mean that safety, reliability, quality of aircraft and crew training are compromised. It’s simply a case of paying a low price for a seat to your destination and anything extra you require, such as checked-in luggage, food, drinks on board or more desirable seats add to the overall final price you pay. FlyDubai operates out of Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 2, located on the opposite side of the main runway complex from Terminals 1 and 3.
Turkish Air’s low-cost subsidiary, Pegasus Air, also offers very cheap connections from Dubai to most European destinations via its hub at Istanbul’s Sabiha airport.
While on the subject of low-cost airlines, also consider Sharjah’s Air Arabia, which was in fact the first airline in the UAE to offer this kind of cut-price service to flyers, while not compromising on the standards of safety and reliability. Air Arabia operate from Sharjah International Airport, just a 30 minute car or taxi ride from most Dubai locations, although this would take longer if your accommodation is in the Dubai Marina area.
Dubai or Sharjah airports also offer a variety of airlines capable of getting you quickly and inexpensively to other destinations in the GCC, India, Iran, Lebanon and Jordan to name a few options. Sri Lanka and the Maldives are within easy reach for a special beach experience.
In order to drive within the UAE, you require a valid driving license. New arrivals or tourists should have an International Driver’s License, obtained in your own country prior to leaving, although in the short term, a valid license from a number of countries will satisfy the rental companies. This website offers good advice and information on car hire.
It also specifically lists the countries whose licenses are acceptable for the purpose of car hire. Also, take special note of the paragraph on Dubai and legal alcohol limits: there are none. Dubai and all the Emirates of the UAE have a zero tolerance policy on driving after alcohol consumption. Don’t be tempted to think that you’re OK to drive after one or two drinks: if you’re involved in an accident and you’re found to have consumed alcohol, you’re automatically to blame for the accident and you’ll be on a criminal charge as well. Take a taxi.
For the expat who plans to live and work in Dubai, after you have been granted your residence visa (typically, this can take 4-6 weeks from when you arrive), you should also expect to obtain a Dubai Driving License. In fact, your International Driving License technically is invalid for the UAE as soon as you have residency, so you should begin taking steps to get your Dubai License as soon as practicable after gaining residency.
Again, for some nationalities, this is an easier process than for others: Dubai licenses can be granted on the basis of an eye-test, possession of a valid license from your home country and AED 360. Others will have to take a driving test first, which isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds. This link lists the lucky nationalities who are eligible for the fast-track lane to a UAE driving license.
For those of you who fall outside the list of approved countries, or if you have never held a driving license before, then you have to attend a course at an approved driving school, take a written test, then pass the practical driving test as well as meeting the eyesight requirement and paying the final fee. All in all, it’s a bit more expensive and takes longer, but there are no short cuts.
Apart from the other six Emirates, which, along with Dubai, comprise the United Arab Emirates, what destinations are readily available by road travel? The neighboring Sultanate of Oman is the most obvious choice while the rest of the UAE’s land borders are shared with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For most North American and European passport holders, Oman is easy to get into; Saudi Arabia less so. A trip into the Sultanate of Oman does not require pre-arranged visas – just a valid passport at any of the UAE border crossing points, about 30 minutes of your time and a fee of 20 Omani Rials will do it for most people; however, it pays to check which countries Oman has a reciprocal passport agreement with. The following link lists the countries for which the above information applies.
If you are on a visit visa and entering Oman by road from the UAE, it is extremely unlikely that you will be required to present air tickets to show that you do intend to leave as well as your passport, but it’s probably as well to err on the safe side and have them with you anyway.
Entering Saudi Arabia from one of the UAE’s land borders requires a number of visits to the Saudi Consulate in Dubai to obtain paper visas before you begin your journey. Even then, there are a large number of restrictions you need to be aware of.
The OAG travel guide website makes these above points clear:
The expectation is that having obtained your visa(s) in advance, you will be arriving by air, not road. Most road tourists are granted transit visas, which allow you 72 hours inside the country and you are required to leave again, usually via Saudi’s border with Jordan, within those 72 hours. You can also expect a very thorough examination of your vehicle and personal belongings to ensure you are not carrying forbidden items at the border posts.
One of the reasons that Dubai is such a great destination for expats is the opportunity to travel the world. It is perfectly placed for ventures to all points of the compass and has the carriers to take you there.