Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Getting around

To get around in Abu Dhabi you have a few choices: walk, take the bus, rent a car or hail a taxi. Let me take you through these options so you know what to expect from each of them…

Walk
I personally love to get around on foot. One of the things I loved most about my time in Boston, USA, was the fact that I could walk everywhere. I rarely took the T (subway) or any other means of transportation – except for when it was freezing and I couldn’t really face the cold wind blowing or the snow falling outside.
In the UAE, walking is not that simple and Abu Dhabi is not really the best city to walk around. There is a lot of construction going on, not much sightseeing to do (except in very specific areas of the city) and many crossroads for you to get by, meaning you can’t really relax and enjoy because you have to pay close attention when crossing the streets (remember: drivers here are mad).
In addition, it is hot and humid most of the time and all you really want to do is be inside, enjoying the benefits of one of the best inventions of humanity: the air conditioner!

Take the bus
If you were in Europe or the US I’d probably suggest you try the subway.

Unfortunately, we can’t really rely on that since we don’t have a subway in Abu Dhabi. With that in mind, I’d say you should turn to the most affordable option in the city: the bus.

Problem is the bus system is fairly new around here and it won’t really take you to all places you need to or want to go.
Check-out the website below for more information on the bus transport service in Abu Dhabi. It will give you access to comprehensive maps with all bus routes and their timings.

Rent a car
If you have some extra money to spend, I guess a car will probably be your best option.
Just bear in mind that although a car will give you freedom to come and go as you please and you won’t spend a fortune with gas (thankfully, that is very cheap here), you might find it hard to actually find a parking space in Abu Dhabi – and if you find one, you will probably need to pay for it through a system called MAWAQIF (www.mawaqif.ae). So keep coins in your pocket!
Before heading out to one of the many car rentals in Abu Dhabi (yes, you will find them all here – Hertz, Budget, Avis, etc.) please remember to check what documents you will need. In most cases, you will be asked for an International Driver’s License.
Note: If you are coming over to visit friends or family members and are planning on using their car, think again. I was told you can’t drive a privately owned car here unless you have a local driver’s license. If you get caught, you and the person who lent you the car might face a heavy fine and even some jail time.

Hail a taxi
This is the most interesting option of them all – a real experience through which you will see, feel, hear and smell things you haven’t ever imagined before!
The first challenge you will have is to actually get a cab. Depending on the time of day (rush hour or prayer time), it is actually hard to find one. So, be prepared to wait.
Then, you will have to find a way to get through to the driver. Most of them speak very poor English, so you might want to try other forms of communication like drawing or mimicking! Jokes aside, do ensure you write down the name of the place you want to go and also a few landmarks to help guide the driver (remember: as mentioned in one of my previous posts, there are no real addresses here in the UAE).
Once you are on your way, enjoy the ride: see the car speedometer go up to 140km/h – or more – in a matter of seconds, feel the hot wind in your face (yes, although it is 50 degrees Celsius outside the driver will sometimes have the windows open until you actually ask him to close them and turn on the AC), hear the loud music (usually Arabic or Indian) blasting out of the speakers, smell the nice scent of sweat with a hint of curry and a touch of smoke odor left behind from a previous passenger or the driver himself. Excited?
Well, all I can say is that the situation is improving. It has actually changed a lot since I first moved here almost four years ago. New cars are replacing  older models, drivers are receiving more training and a series of surveys are helping shape up the customer service.
Now you have the option to call (600 535353) and book a regular taxi in advance, for an extra charge of only AED 5. It is still cheaper to do this, than to call one of the posh taxi companies (Al Ghazal Taxi or National Taxi, for example).
You can even choose to travel in a women-only taxi. That’s right! The silver and pink taxis, with floral designs on the doors, bold neon signs with ‘Ladies Taxi’ on top and a woman driver at the wheel are available for women who are uncomfortable with a male driver or simply feel safer to be driven around by a woman. For more info:

Whatever your choice is, I am sure you will enjoy exploring Abu Dhabi!

2 comments:

  1. Acho que a melhor opção é te contratar como guia e motorista!!! =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Opa! Podemos conversar! Faço um tour personalizado! bjs

    ReplyDelete