Transport and Driving in Abu Dhabi
With plans for major expansion in place, getting around in Abu Dhabi is set to get easier. The government has put a lot of effort into improving buses in the emirate and a metro service is expected to launch in 2020.
In the meantime, most expats in Abu Dhabi drive themselves or take a taxi. Efforts are being made to ease congestion, but there is often heavy traffic during morning and evening rush hours.
A bicycle-sharing scheme was launched at the end of 2014 but mainly seems to be for leisure purposes. Given the way the city is spread out and the summer heat, Abu Dhabi isn’t known for being very pedestrian-friendly.
Driving in Abu Dhabi
Most new expats avoid driving in Abu Dhabi if they can because of the reputation local drivers have for reckless behaviour. Expats who do decide to drive usually buy a new or used car instead of renting because vehicle prices in the UAE are often quite cheap.
Expats who have residence status and want to drive in the emirate will need to get a valid UAE driver’s licence. Those with a licence from a list of countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia and South Africa, can apply to replace their foreign license with a local one at a Traffic and Licensing Department. They’ll need to undergo an eye test and provide various documents, including their passport, foreign licence and legal translation of the licence.
Driving in Abu Dhabi is best done with care. The authorities have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, and the smallest level of alcohol in a person's bloodstream can result in jail time. Expats who have committed road offences will also be unable to leave the UAE before they have paid their traffic fines.
Even though expats are likely to see other drivers ignore red lights and speed limits, there are cameras at many intersections and fines are high. Unfortunately, despite having excellent road infrastructure, car accidents are among the leading causes of deaths in the UAE.
Public transport in Abu Dhabi
Buses in Abu Dhabi are the most economical form of transport. The Abu Dhabi Department of Transport operates local routes on Abu Dhabi Island as well as various regional and intercity services.
Abu Dhabi's buses are modern, fully equipped and operate 24 hours a day. Most local city buses and some regional buses are wheelchair friendly. It is also worth noting that the front seats of buses are reserved for women.
A new automated card system called Hafilat was introduced in 2015, with vending machines installed at the main stations in Abu Dhabi. Under the new system, the reloadable cards have largely replaced cash and the Orja card as means of paying for bus rides.
Expats who aren’t keen to buy or rent a car in Abu Dhabi and don't want to brave the emirate’s roads alone often get around by taxi. Taxis can be flagged on the street or ordered ahead by telephone.
Most taxis in Abu Dhabi are silver and are easily spotted. Taxis are usually metered and are relatively affordable.