Official taxis are well maintained, air conditioned and metered. Fares are Dhs1.6 per kilometre (0.3 miles), with Dhs3-3.50 cover charge depending on the time of day. Taxis don’t have to pay Salik (tolls). The biggest taxi companies are Dubai Transport (04 208 0808) and National Taxis (04 339 0002). Taxi drivers usually have a reasonable grasp of English, and it’s best to identify your destination by a particular landmark rather than the street address.
Expats rarely trust booking a taxi, but if you do, as a rule of thumb, if your cab hasn’t arrived within 15 minutes, it isn’t coming. If you’re a regular taxi user, you might find it useful to take down the phone numbers from a couple of drivers. Many will be happy to make an arrangement with you, for example, if you need a ride to and from work on a daily basis.
To hail cabs from the street, raise your arm. Vacant taxis have their yellow light on and must stop if free. However, many don’t, and if they do, will ask where you’re going before letting you in the car. Again, they’re not allowed to do this, and can be reported to the RTA (800 9090). To ensure you actually get in, you could tell them you’re heading somewhere that’s an appealing fare (long distance, limited traffic) and then ‘change your mind’ once in. Where hotels and malls have long taxi lines, you’re often better off walking for 15 minutes to a roadside spot. The other negative is that taxi drivers can be very aggressive on the roads. Don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down, and if they refuse, take down their taxi number and report them.
If you are by Dubai Creek, you can take an abra across for the bargain price of Dhs1. These tiny, noisy boats run from 5am to midnight, carrying about 20 people across the water from various stations along each side. They’re the quickest and most atmospheric way to enjoy the creek, and get from Bur Dubai to Deira and vice versa.