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 the near future.
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.
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.
An automated card system called Hafilat has vending machines installed at the main stations in Abu Dhabi. Under the system, the reloadable cards have largely replaced cash and the Orja card as means of paying for bus rides.
No metro network exists yet in Abu Dhabi, but the planned metro will be 131 km. It will provide optimal connectivity between Abu Dhabi island and its suburbs and the communities of Saadiyat Island, Yas Island and Al Raha Beach.
Driving in Abu Dhabi
Expats often have their own set of wheels in Abu Dhabi, and usually buy a new or used car instead of renting because vehicle prices in the UAE are rather 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 licence 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 Arabic 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.
Taxis in Abu Dhabi
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.
Ride-hailing services are also available, and expats can download their choice of Lyft, Careem or Wow, among others, as an app on their phone, which makes communication with drivers and payment much simpler.
Are you an expat living in Abu Dhabi?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Abu Dhabi. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global can tailor an international health insurance plan to perfectly fit the needs of you and your family. With 86 million customers in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
William Russell is a boutique insurance company, that values itself on its great customer service and is underwritten by Allianz. They provide health, life, and income protection insurance for expats around the world. With a global network of 40,000 hospitals and doctors, their health insurance plans are designed so that they follow you to whatever country you move to next.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.