How to Get from Dubai Airport to the City Centre

How to get from Dubai Airport to city centre

After a long flight to the Persian Gulf, it’s good to know that your journey from Dubai Airport to the city centre will be just a short 25-minute hop.

Like the city it serves, Dubai International Airport (DXB) is an ultra-modern landmark with three cutting-edge terminals that handle over 90 million passenger movements from around the world every year.

Just 15 km from Dubai Downtown (30 km from Dubai Marina), the airport spreads across the district of Al Garhoud and provides a fast-track gateway to the heart of this stunning city. 

The following are the best options to get you from Dubai Airport to the city centre as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Read this guide about the best places to stay in Dubai

Getting from Dubai Airport to the city centre

1. Metro (subway), getting to the city centre quickly and easily 

Clean, comfortable and punctual. The Dubai International Airport Metro System is the transport of choice for the majority of budget travellers wanting to get from Dubai Airport to the city centre as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Metro stations can be found at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 of the airport and are clearly signed in English. If you land at Terminal 2, you can catch the shuttle from there to Terminal 3 (or 1) to board the Metro.

Around Dubai, there are just two metro lines, the Red Line and the Green Line, so commuting is relatively straightforward.

The Red Line runs from both terminals at the airport, and depending on your destination, you may be able to complete your journey without changing routes.

If your journey requires a change to the Green Line, you can do that at one of the interchange stations, such as Burjuman or Union.

One word of caution. Besides the Silver and Gold carriages (similar to the UK’s standard and 1st class), Dubai Metro also operates women and children-only carriages, specifically for women travelling alone.

On the Metro, each approaching station is displayed on the information screen and announced in English on the Tannoy system.

Operating times are:

  • Monday through Thursday, 05:00am to Midnight
  •  Friday, 05:00am to 01:00am
  •  Saturday, 05:00am to midnight
  •  Sunday, 08:00am to midnight

Frequency is every 5 to 7 minutes, with average journey times from Dubai Airport to Downtown of around 27 minutes and to Dubai Marina of around 50 minutes.

Fares can be paid using cash (AED), debit or credit card, or your Nol Card, which can be purchased at the stations, ticket offices or automated vendors.

Metro fares from the airport to some of the most popular areas in Dubai, such as Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai or Business Bay, are 6 AED, while travelling to Dubai Marina will cost 8.50 AED.

Similar to the airlines, baggage restrictions apply, with one case and one carry-on bag per person. Children under five can also travel free on the Metro.

If you intend to explore Dubai by bus, train or Metro, consider downloading the RTA Journey Planner for that little extra piece of mind.

2. Taxi, fast, comfortable, and good prices

Wherever you are in the world, the ubiquitous Airport Taxi has to be a favourite mode of transport to continue the journey to your chosen hotel, and Dubai is no exception.

All taxis and taxi companies in Dubai are regulated by the government and operated by the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai. All are painted a cream colour. 

Different roof colours signify different taxi companies, and cabs with pink roofs and trim are driven by lady drivers, specifically for single females or groups of women travellers.

All cabs are on meters.

Each terminal at the airport has its dedicated taxi rank outside arrivals (just follow the signs), and each has a taxi rank manager to help ensure you have a taxi suited to your needs.

For instance, a larger taxi if you have extra luggage, a people carrier if you’re part of a larger party, or a pink roof cab if you prefer a lady driver.

Taxi fares from Dubai Airport to the city centre and surrounding areas start from a base cost of 25 AED plus 1.75 AED per kilometre. Note the meter keeps ticking in traffic hold-ups, and any road tolls are added to the final fare.

From the airport to Downtown Dubai expect to pay around 80 AED (€20) and the same to Burj Khalifa. If you’re heading to Dubai Marina, the fair will be about 140 AED (€35.50) and to Jumeirah Beach Residence around 160 (€40) AED.

Cabs are available at the airport and around Dubai City 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

3. Careem or Uber, bypass the taxi queues

On even the most well-managed taxi ranks, queues can build up. Especially when several large passenger aircraft arrive at Dubai International Airport within minutes of each other.

If you don’t want to risk standing waiting for a cab to turn up, consider booking an Uber or a Careem.

If you’ve downloaded the Uber or the Careem app to your phone, you can book your ride from Dubai Airport to the city centre online,  making your airport transfer one less thing to worry about.

As Uber isn’t allowed to wait at taxi ranks, they will give you the location of their driver, which might mean making your way to the departure level if the airport is particularly busy.

Uber’s fare will be most of the time more expensive to a taxi fare for the same distance. Uber are also available 24/7.

More details can be found here: Uber and Careem

4. Private transfer, premium service

Whether you’re flying into Dubai Airport for a tightly scheduled business meeting or just want to bypass the crowds and get a flying start to your hotel after a long, stressful flight, private transfer options are becoming increasingly popular with both business and leisure travellers.

Booked from home, you can choose from a standard saloon to get you and the family from Dubai Airport to the city centre as quickly, smoothly and conveniently as possible. 

You can choose a large saloon if you have additional baggage, or a luxurious limousine with a chauffeur if you want to do it in style.

A little Google search will bring up numerous private transfer companies you can choose from.

Once your details have been entered, an assigned driver will contact you with information on where he will meet you (usually the arrivals hall). All drivers speak good English and have an excellent knowledge of Dubai and its suburbs.

Most private hire companies monitor incoming flights to ensure they are on time, and your driver, with your name on a board, will be waiting for you to walk through arrivals.

For a standard saloon for two people from Dubai Airport to the city centre, you can expect to pay a minimum of 75 AED (€19), with costs increasing depending on vehicle size, type and destination. 

Journey time to Downtown Dubai is about 15/25 minutes, and most companies operate 24/7.

More info: Private transfers – Dubai Airport

5. Bus, don´t use them, use the metro

I said it is just a short 25-minute hop from Dubai Airport to the city centre, but that doesn’t include public buses.

Even visiting one of the most affluent cities in the world, there are those who like to travel the globe as cheaply as possible – and why not?

If this is you, I have included using the public bus transport system, to get you where you want to be as cheaply as possible.

Broadly, prepare yourself for a certain amount of hassle. There is no direct route from the airport to the Dubai Mall area or Dubai Marina. On all the others you will need to change at least once. On the plus side, children under five travel free.

On a good day, journey times average around 70 to 80 minutes and substantially longer during peak travel times, as well as being very crowded. 

The Dubai Metro is a much more cost-effective and efficient way of traveling to the city. That is why I don’t recommend buses to go from Dubai Airport to the city centre

But if you are interested, you can check the combinations of lines needed to get to your destination here:

6. Hire car, Dubai is a city made to be enjoyed with a car

Writing about short city breaks around Europe, rarely will you find me advocating the use of a hire car. However, in a city like Dubai hiring a car can even increase your visitor experience.

Compared to most of the greatest cities in the world, Dubai is still in its infancy, with a road infrastructure built to embrace large modern vehicles. 

Most sprawling city malls in Dubai have free parking for up to three hours and free parking on Fridays, Saturdays and public holidays. Also, many of the city’s 700-plus hotels and apartment complexes offer free overnight parking for guests.

That said, if you intend to explore out-of-town places such as the desert sand dunes (be sure to choose a 4×4), Dibba on the coast, Jebel Al Jais, the oasis of Al Ain, or Abu Dhabi, the Emirate’s capital city, a hire car is the way to go.

Dubai International Airport has over a dozen car hire companies, including big international names like Hertz, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Europcar, located variously in the arrivals concourse of all three terminals.

As always, pre-booking your rental car to get from Dubai Airport to the city centre online ensures you can take advantage of the best up-to-the-minute deals and that your chosen vehicle will be waiting for you when you land.

Finally, should you decide to spend time exploring Dubai City using trams and taxis, and then some time visiting farther afield by hire car, your hotel can organise it for you when required and have the vehicle delivered to the hotel.

Check best prices here.

Leave a comment