Dubai City Information Site

Renting a Car in Dubai

Avoid All Pitfalls and Disappointments

Hi Sunil here to talk about renting a car in Dubai.

A lot can go wrong when you are away from your home and are renting a car, especially in a new place you don’t know much about.

I hope you find this discussion informative and valuable in preparing you before renting a car in Dubai.

Although Dubai has many transportation options, there is no predominant public transportation option.

As Dubai City has evolved, it has become like the United States where it’s hard to get around without your own car.

There is no reliable public transport system.

But all that might change after 2009 when the Dubai Metro is complete. The metro is supposed to be the world’s largest subway system. A lot of progress had been made when I was there in early 2008. It was quite a site to see. (2012 Update: It is now complete and has transformed the transportation landscape of Dubai)

You may find it more convenient renting a car in Dubai like many others do. The road infrastructure is very good (the freeways and main roads at least) and renting a car in Dubai isn’t very expensive.

The only thing to worry about is the crazy speed racers on the freeway. It is best to let them do what they are doing and stay out of their way in your own lane. But I definitely recommend renting a car in Dubai to make the most out of your holiday.

If you rent a car in Dubai, you will be able to leave the city and explore other areas like Jebel Ali and the village of Hatta. This is how you get to see the true scenic areas of Dubai.

Dubai City is overdeveloped (heck there are artificial islands on water) and there is not much to see in terms of desert nature within The City. If you want to experience the desert environment, the sand dunes, desert landscapes and mountains you will have to take a hike towards the outskirts of Dubai.

If you go to the village of Hatta you can visit the Old Portuguese fort from Dubai’s early days. The fort was built to resist opposition forces from nearby neighborhoods. In fact upgrade your rental to an SUV and ride on the sand while you are in the area.

Check Your Car Thoroughly When Renting a Car in Dubai

I recommend arranging your rental car in Dubai before getting there. With the Internet and phone so predominantly used today you can do this within minutes from anywhere you are.

Make sure you ask about supplemental rental insurance. Because you will be driving in another country, your original insurance policy might not carry over to your rental car.

Before you pull out of the rental parking lot, make sure you read the rental contract in details. You should also check the function of the car lights, mirrors, etc and ensure they are all working. Make sure the wipers and the washing fluid is working. You will need this if and when it sand storms.

Most importantly make sure your rental car is insured. When you finalize your rental agreement, ask for supplemental insurance that covers the rental car. If you are using a credit card to book your rental, ask your credit card company if they automatically cover rental cars. Many cards do that now as an added service.

If your car is not covered, it is worth paying a bit extra for the added peace of mind. I recommend getting supplemental insurance for your rental car. And if you are not given the car you were promised, ask for a similar one or better. Rental companies are obligated to do this for you.

Finally, check the gasoline gauge. Confirm with your contract to see what you are paying for and in what condition and fuel level you must return the car. Drive away only once you are comfortable knowing everything you have to know about your rental.

Road Rage & Road Rules

There is no concept of road etiquette in Dubai. Well there is but no one really cares to follow them. Some do but most don’t. So be careful. If you are going to move away from the city to experience “real Dubai”, be on the look out for camels crossing the roads. You don’t want to hit these beasts. Trust me it will be your loss.

If you are driving in the city, pay attention to the signal lights and roundabouts where it can get quite congested especially during rush hour. Dubai driving is quite fierce and people speed a lot on the freeways.

Dubai has one of the deadliest freeway systems in the world. You will see a lot of road rage around you. It is best to stay in your lane and let the racers pass you by.

Because road accidents are already such a big problem, drunk driving in Dubai is strongly discouraged through severe penalties. You can face heavy fine amounts and even get kicked out of the country. And if you misbehave badly, they will never let you reenter in the future.

Road Names & Signs

Dubai is really just now building its road infrastructure. Many side streets and roads are still made of sand. They don’t have street names either. Only the major freeways and roads have names.

And even those can be confusing because of translations and misspellings. There are roads that sound alike so be particularly careful when asking for directions. It is easy to mishear something because of similar pronunciations.

Dubai is also the world’s largest ongoing construction project, so you will find workers and equipments everywhere. You will find many road blocks and detours. The only thing is that you may not find the signs for the detour which makes it extremely difficult to navigate, especially if you are new in town.

Dubai Rush Hour

The Dubai rush hour is one of the worst I have seen in the world. The area is just too small for the current 2 million or so residents. This number will only increase over time and I can’t imagine how traffic flow will be in the future if Dubai keeps booming the way it has been.

Morning and afternoon peak hours cause a ton of traffic jams and even accidents. A 5 mile commute can take you more than an hour at times. This absolutely frustrates me! You have another battle to fight once you reach your destination – parking!

Just like in Boston or New York City, finding parking can cause you a lot of time and pain. The best option is to find the closest parking garage and pay to park even if it costs you your arm. There is no other way as street parking is very scarce. Bigger shops and malls have their own parking however so there is some good news.

Hopefully you are a bit more comfortable renting a car in Dubai now that you have read this discussion. As always, let us know about your experiences and if you have any questions for us.

A quick stroll through Dubai. Keep in mind it is an odd hour to avoid the rush

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