Car Hire at Dubai
This information is correct as of June 2015.
Where to hire a car at Dubai
Known international car hire companies that operate in Dubai, United Arab Emirates are Hertz, Europcar, Alamo, Thrifty, Avis, Enterprise, Budget, and National Car Rental. With multiple destinations to visit in Dubai, car hire companies have placed their offices nearby or inside the actual airports while smaller companies that allow you to hire cars for a cheaper price are on-call and will pick you up at the airport, your hotel, or any of your desired pick-up location. If you wish to explore the rest of Dubai, make sure that you hire a comfortable 4x4 drive vehicle and that you have the rest of the documents needed to drive around. A GPS is highly recommended because even the people here still use them to get around.
What to expect when hiring a car from Dubai
Dubai is a fine city for tourists and this is a known fact for car hire companies. There are cheap car hires available when you browse online but don't expect them to be at par with the luxury and utility vehicles that the bigger companies have to offer. Also, you can expect these companies to pick you up at the Dubai International Airport where roaming around the city would be easier. Due to occasional sandstorms and the varying number of visitors that Dubai has to offer, traffic can get quite unpredictable in the streets and this is where use of GPS for traffic updates become very handy. Rush hour in the area occurs mostly in the morning (7-10AM) and in the late afternoon (4:30-7PM) when people start flocking the streets for work and home and vice versa. It is best that you stay off the road during these times and just be parked somewhere with beautiful scenery or in some place where you can eat.
There is a toll gate system in Dubai and it is known as the Salik toll system, where motorists are required to buy a pre-paid card that costs 100 AED (NZD 39.55) which you will affix to the windscreen of your cars. You are charged 4 AED (NZD 1.57) whenever you pass a tollgate and this payment will be required whenever you pass one, regardless of how many times you have gone there. Recently, the Dubai Tram has been opened to the public and it runs through the Al Sufouh Road and Jumeirah Beach Road from Mall of the Emirates at one end up to the Dubai Marina.
Getting to your destination
Driving around the city could be tedious, especially during peak hours, considering that Dubai is now one of the most visited places in the world. Make sure that you map out where you are headed or at least ask your car hire company about the best places to visit and learn everything else about the place before storming off. There are various places in Dubai you can reach with a rental car. Some of them are:
Al Ain is known best for families who wish to enjoy the sights that Dubai has to offer. Expect the roads to attract your attention because of its landscape and design filled with ochre dunes and date farms. Here, you will find a zoo that is well-visited by tourists, especially in the afternoon when the animals are livelier, and also at the evening where a bird show is taking place.
To get here, you will have to take the Al Ain Road (E66) and just drive. Once you reach Al Ain, follow the tourist destination’s signs until you see a sign for the zoo or the Jebel Hafeet (a mountain that borders Oman, reachable via a 11.7-kilometre road which rises 1.4 kilometres). No traffic is expected here and if you wish to go out, just follow the signs that lead back to Dubai.
The Empty Quarter of Liwa
It takes 2-3 hours to travel to Liwa from Dubai but it is totally worth it if you wish to see what an actual desert, untouched by civilisation and in complete isolation, really looks like. Remember to visit this place only if you have a powerful 4x4 vehicle with you along with some spare tires and tools in case something comes up.
To get here, just follow the Sheikh Zayed Road (E11) out of Dubai and past Abu Dhabi. From there, shift towards the highway interchange to the E65 in Hameem at exit 306 and it will lead into Route E90. Follow this road for about 150 kilometres of free wheel driving that will lead to the middle of the desert and the edge of the Liwa Oasis. Make sure that you watch the speed limit once you reach the main roads of the city, though.
In Abu Dhabi, you will see the huge Sheikh Zayed Mosque (which is open to tourists for viewing until it closes at 11AM) and the Ferrari World, an indoor theme park which is home to the fastest rollercoaster in the world. If you wish to eat while overlooking the race track, head to Yas Island located at the Yas Viceroy Hotel.
To reach Abu Dhabi, just head straight south on the Sheikh Zayed Road and follow the signage. From the Mosque, you can reach Yas Island by getting back on the road to Dubai and drive north for about 15 minutes until you see the Yas Island turning sign.