Driving in Dubai

While the infrastructure is superb, the general standard of driving is not. You’ll see drivers displaying all manner of dangerous driving habits and, as a result, you must take extra care when driving. Once you’re behind the wheel, it isn’t as scary as it looks, and you’ll soon learn to drive defensively and safely.

You drive on the right side of the road in Dubai, and you should overtake on the left – people often ignore this rule but if you are caught you could receive a fine. Speed limits are usually 60 to 80kph in town, while on main roads and roads to other emirates they are 100 to 120kph. The limit is clearly indicated on signs. Both fixed and movable radar traps, and Dubai Traffic Police, are there to catch the unwary violator. Be warned – you can be fined for gesticulating at another driver, and using the offensive middle finger can mean jail.
 
Finding Your Way Around
When you start driving it’s pretty much a given that you’ll need to schedule an extra 20 minutes for getting lost. Dubai is famed for its U-turns, which are used instead of allowing cars to turn across oncoming traffic. Many times you’ll see the building you are aiming for, but will have to navigate a spaghetti-like tangle of roads to get to it – or drive for some distance in the opposite direction before you can link to the road that takes you to your destination. Once you get the hang of the thinking behind the road system it gets much easier, and once you have done a journey for the first time, repeating it is simple.

Taxi drivers quite often get confused too – usually if they are new – so it’s a good idea to have some specific directions or a simple map with you if you aren’t sure how to get to your destination. When giving instructions to a taxi driver, remember that a traffic light is commonly referred to as a ‘signal’.
 
Road Signs
Signposting in Dubai is generally good once you understand the system. Blue or green signs indicate the roads, exits or locations out of the city, and brown signs show heritage sites, places of interest and hospitals. Dubai’s new signage system relies more heavily on street names and compass directions, compared to the older system which featured local area names. If the signage gets confusing, remember that Abu Dhabi is south of Dubai, Sharjah is north, the beach is to the west and the desert is to the east.

Dubai Road Network
When you arrive, the extensive, expanding network of roads can be intimidating, but once you find your bearings things become easier. The creek divides Bur Dubai (to the south) and Deira (to the north), and has five main crossing points: Shindagha Tunnel, Maktoum Bridge, Garhoud Bridge, Business Bay Bridge and the Floating Bridge. The Floating Bridge is due to be replaced by the Dubai ‘Smile’ Bridge in late 2014. 
 
The main thoroughfare through the city is Sheikh Zayed Road, which runs from Sharjah, parallel to the sea, all the way to Abu Dhabi. Three bypass roads have been constructed inland towards the desert to ease the city’s congestion problems. All run parallel to the coast and Sheikh Zayed Road. 
 
Al Khail Road (E44) is the closest bypass to the coast and runs from Sports City to Ras Al Khor, where it turns east and heads towards Hatta and Oman. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road (E311), formerly Emirates Road, is the next furthest from the coast and connects Abu Dhabi directly to Sharjah and the northern emirates. 
 
The Outer Ring Road (E611) sits outside of the E311 and runs roughly from the southern border of Dubai all the way to the Sharjah-Umm Al Quwain border, although it is still being expanded. There are also a few main east-west roads, including Umm Suqeim Road (D63), the Dubai-Al Ain Road (E66), Financial Centre Road (D71), and Muscat Street (D69). Despite all the road expansions, traffic is still a problem in Dubai, especially at the creek crossings. 
 
Within the city, the roads in older parts of town, such as Bur Dubai and Deira, are smaller and more congested, while the road networks in newer developments such as Downtown Dubai tend to accommodate greater traffic flow.

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