Dubai airport transfers





DXB is an oddity: a major international airport that is effectively downtown. Located in Garhoud, it lay in open desert when it opened in 1960: the city has grown up around it. The cheap hotels and creekside souks of Deira are only about 4km away – great for quick, low-cost transfers, not so great for the folks living in the apartment buildings ringing the runways.






DXB has three terminals – 1 and 3 are side-by-side on the southern side of the airport; 2 is separate, on the north side. Where you arrive depends on which airline you’re flying.




If you’re on Emirates or Qantas, you’ll come into Terminal 3, the world’s second-largest building in terms of floor space – sleek, gleaming, high-ceilinged and air-conditioned.




Most other major airlines use Terminal 1 – older, shabbier and (in Arrivals at least) non-a/c.




As for Terminal 2, you’ll only end up there if you’re on low-cost regional carrier FlyDubai, or if you’re coming in on smaller airlines from – how can we put this? – less mainstream destinations, such as Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia and others.




Note that there are some oddities – for example, Air India uses Terminal 1, but Air India Express uses Terminal 2.




Onward options


Whatever you choose, be prepared to sweat: Dubai’s humidity is high day and night, and dragging bags around after a tiring flight is a recipe for a rapid wilt. Even if you’re going to watch the dirhams later on, paying extra to be whisked door-to-door on arrival has considerable appeal.






The standard Dubai cab is cream-coloured with a red roof. They wait 24/7 at ranks outside all arrivals areas – safe, metered and well-regulated by the Dubai Taxi Corporation. Drivers – invariably from South Asia – rarely speak much English, but you can usually make yourself understood.




There are also pink taxis for women only, driven by women, as well as taxis adapted for people with disabilities.




From the airport the meter starts at Dh20 in a normal-sized cab, or Dh25 in a larger vehicle, such as a people-carrier.




Sample fares are very dependent on traffic conditions – reckon on around Dh40 to Bur Dubai, around Dh50 to Jumeirah, around Dh55 to Dubai Mall or around Dh70 to Mall of the Emirates.




Taxis don’t tout for business – anyone who approaches you in airport arrivals is illegal and unlicensed.




Many hotels offer their own airport pick-up service, bookable in advance. These are handy for the lack of hassle – just look for your name on a card and then follow the liveried flunkey – but they invariably cost around twice the price of a metered cab.




New arrivals are occasionally hoodwinked by limousine operators, who hang around beside the taxi ranks, trying to entice customers into their luxury Audis and BMWs. They generally offer no starting fee and fixed prices. If you don’t mind paying a premium – say, Dh100 to Bur Dubai, or Dh180-200 further afield – then live the dream and hop in.






The Dubai Metro  is a wonder: clean, smooth, fast and efficient. The stations, platforms and trains are all air-conditioned and everything is signed in English.




Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 have stations side-by-side on the Red Line. From either take a train towards Jebel Ali to head into the city – they run about every 5mins – though bear in mind you’re only allowed to carry two suitcases per person, one large, one small. If you’re laden with more, take a taxi.




Every train has special carriage at one end, half of which is ‘Gold Class’ – reserved for those who pay extra – and half for women and children only.




First metro departs the airport around 5.55am (Fridays 1.05pm; no service Fri mornings). Last metro departs Sat-Wed around 11pm, Thu & Fri around midnight. Approximate journey times are: to Bur Dubai 10mins, Dubai Mall 25mins, Mall of the Emirates 40mins, Jebel Ali 1hr.




The citywide public transport card is called Nol – there are Gold, Silver and Blue options for locals, but the best for visitors is a Red Ticket. A single journey costs Dh4.50 for one zone (from the airport to Deira), or Dh6.50 for two zones (from the airport as far west as Dubai Mall/Business Bay), or Dh8.50 beyond that. Alternatively, buy a one-day city-wide pass for Dh14.




The big drawback is that onward transport connections from metro stations aren’t great: a network of “metro feeder” buses does exist but you need a PhD in urban planning to figure it out. Still, riding the metro to somewhere near your hotel, then hailing a cab to cover the last mile or two is a skinflint’s dream.






There are some from the airport, but they system is complicated. And they rarely go where you want. On balance, why bother?


Which option is right for you?


Pre-booked private/hotel transfer


Best for: high-rollers


Pros: zero hassle, door-to-door personal service


Cons: expensive




Best for: almost everyone


Pros: minimal hassle, door-to-door, modest prices


Cons: traffic delays, occasional miscommunication with drivers




Best for: frugally minded and/or adventurous souls


Pros: inexpensive, plunges you direct into the city atmosphere


Cons: generally leaves you a walk or short cab ride from your hotel