Dubai Bus - Front view

How to Use the Dubai Bus System

All you need to know to ride a bus in Dubai

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Dubai Bus is one of the most convenient ways to get around the city. It’s an efficient transportation system that’s been designed to meet the needs of the city’s residents and visitors alike. Dubai bus is considered one of the main types of public transport in the city and is widely used along with the metro. It is good to know that the Dubai metro does not cover several areas, so buses are a great way to supplement it. In this article, I will provide an overview of the Dubai bus system, including how to use it, the different types of NOL cards to pay for your rides, the Dubai bus timetable, fares, fines, and more.

Introduction to the Dubai bus system

The Dubai bus system is part of the Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA) network of public transport. Public Transport Agency (PTA) operates almost 120 routes in Dubai serviced by 1,500 buses, including intercity buses to Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Hatta. The bus network covers most of the city, and eight out of ten buses arrive right on time.

It’s a reliable and convenient way to get around the city, with a network of buses covering the city’s most popular destinations. The Dubai bus system is easy to use and a great way to explore the city.

Dubai Bus - Bus at the stop

Where to check the Dubai bus timetable

There are several ways to check Dubai bus timings:

  • You can start planning your bus journey in Dubai with one of the official RTA (or Roads and Transport Authority) apps. RTA is a government organisation that among other things manages public transport infrastructure in the city. I recommend downloading one of their apps, such as RTA Dubai or S’hail.
  • If you prefer to check the bus schedule without downloading the app, head to the RTA website. Just like in the app, you will be able to plan your journey between a desired departure and arrival point. On top of that, there are handy timetables per bus line and departure bus stop.
  • To find bus timings for your journey in Dubai, you can also go to Google. Type your route to see the live schedule with many options.
  • Finally, the bus timetable can also be found at every bus stop in Dubai.

Dubai Bus - Bus stop interior

How much is a bus ticket in Dubai

To get started, you’ll need to purchase a NOL card. Once you have your NOL card, you can board the bus and pay for your fare. The fare is based on the distance you travel and a couple of other criteria, so make sure you know your destination before you board the bus. Dubai is divided into 7 transport zones and offers several types of NOL transportation cards. Your fare will depend on the following main factors:

  • how many zones you cross along the way
  • which type of NOL card for public transport in Dubai you use
  • which seat class you choose (not valid for buses)
  • whether your NOL card allows transfers or counts every ride as a single trip

It may sound complicated, but don’t worry! Keep reading, and I will help you to understand how this system works step by step.

Dubai public transport zones

Let’s start with exploring public transport zones in Dubai. As I mentioned above, there are 7 in total, and this convenient map will help you to quickly calculate how many zones you will need to cross. For example, if you would like to travel from Dubai Marina to Deira, your route will cover 3 zones.

Dubai Bus - Dubai public transport zones

What are the main types of NOL transportation card in Dubai

Now it’s time to introduce you to the Dubai NOL card, which is required to use the city’s public transport system. There are four main types: NOL Red Ticket, NOL Silver Card, NOL Blue Card and NOL Gold Card. They have different prices and vary in terms of the benefits they offer. Let’s have a closer look!

Dubai Bus - NOL card types

What is the Dubai NOL Red ticket

Unlike the rest, this is a disposable paper ticket, which counts every journey by a specific mode of public transport as a single trip. Every time you change to a different mode, it will be counted as another ride. This ticket is valid for 90 days or 10 rides and can be used for the metro, bus and tram. You can choose an option to travel in a silver (standard) class or a gold (first) class if more comfort is your thing. The first-class fare when you travel with a red ticket is exactly double of a standard class one. Please keep in mind that there is no class division on a bus.

The NOL Red ticket costs AED 2 and can be recharged for a maximum of 10 trips or 5 daily passes. What is a daily pass? Good question! You can load your NOL Red ticket with a pass for unlimited rides for a day. It costs AED 20 to travel in silver-class carriages or AED 40 in gold-class carriages. If you plan to travel only by bus, the silver (standard) class option will suffice, as there is no class differentiation in Dubai buses.

  • NOL Red ticket price: AED 2
  • NOL Red ticket validity: 90 days or 10 rides
  • NOL Red ticket top-up limit: 10 rides or 5 daily passes

What is the Dubai NOL Silver card

It is probably one of the most common transportation cards in Dubai. A regular NOL Silver card allows you to pay for your metro, bus, tram, water taxi, abra, ferry and taxi rides. In addition, you can also use it to pay for the RTA parking. Travelling by metro or tram with this card, you will need to board a silver-class coach (often referred to as a standard or 2nd class).

The NOL Silver card costs AED 25, but it will be already preloaded with an AED 19 balance, so you can immediately begin your journey. The card is valid for 5 years, and you can top it up for a maximum of AED 1,000 (anonymous card) or AED 5,000 (registered card).

  • NOL Silver card price: AED 25 (including AED 19 balance ready to use)
  • NOL Silver card validity: 5 years
  • NOL Silver card top-up limit: AED 1,000 (anonymous) or AED 5,000 (registered)

What is the Dubai NOL Gold card

It is very similar to the Dubai NOL Silver card, but the main difference is that you will be able to take seats in the upgraded gold-class carriages (very similar to the first class). The card cost and validity are also the same, however you will pay more per ride, which is not surprising because you will be travelling first class.

  • NOL Gold card price: AED 25 (including AED 19 balance ready to use)
  • NOL Gold card validity: 5 years
  • NOL Gold card top-up limit: AED 1,000 (anonymous) or AED 5,000 (registered)

What is the Dubai NOL Blue card

It is a personal card with a photo which is excellent for daily public transport users. One of the benefits is that your balance can be restored if you accidentally lose the card. The Dubai NOL Blue card costs AED 70 with preloaded AED 20 credit immediately available for your trips. The card is valid for 5 years, and you can top it up for a maximum of AED 5,000.

  • NOL Blue card price: AED 70 (including AED 20 balance ready to use)
  • NOL Blue card validity: 5 years
  • NOL Blue card top-up limit: AED 5,000

Which Dubai NOL card allows transfers

All types of a NOL card except the NOL Red ticket allow transfers. Please note that you need to transfer from one mode of transport to another within 30 minutes. Travelling time within one or more zones should not exceed 180 minutes, with a maximum of 3 transfers allowed.

How much does it cost to ride a Dubai bus

Now that you are familiar with the public transport zones and Dubai NOL card types, it’s time to reveal the fares. Check out the table below to see the prices for public transport in Dubai.

Dubai Bus - NOL card fares

Supplement NOL card products

If you already know within how many zones you will be regularly travelling, you can also consider adding to your silver or gold card supplementary NOL products, which allow unlimited rides during 7, 30, 90 or 365 days. Please do keep in mind that on an anonymous NOL card you can upload only a 7-day product; for all the rest you would need to have a registered NOL card.

Check out this handy table to know more about the prices.

Dubai Bus - NOL card fares for ulimited rides

Which is the best Dubai NOL card for tourists

Thinking of which Dubai NOL card to choose as a tourist? A lot depends on your plans and how often you would like to use public transport in Dubai. In any case, the NOL Red ticket and the NOL Silver card are the best options.

The NOL Red ticket is ideal if you plan to travel just occasionally without many transfers to other modes of transport. This ticket costs just AED 2, and you can top it up for 10 rides. The disadvantage is that the cost per ride will be slightly higher than with the silver card.

The NOL Silver card is perfect if you are regularly going to explore Dubai by public transport. Even though the card price is higher (AED 25), most of that amount (AED 19) is available to pay for your trips. The cost per ride will be cheaper than with the red ticket, and you will not have to pay extra every time you transfer.

If you are also interested in getting a SIM card for Dubai, I recommend buying a great combo deal which includes a 2GB SIM card + NOL Silver card or 4GB SIM card + NOL Silver card. It is considerably cheaper than buying these two products separately. You can conveniently pick up your purchase at the Kit My Trip shop right after you exit the Arrival Hall at Terminals 1 or 3 of the Dubai Airport.

Check out the prices and book a SIM card + NOL Silver card combo deal for Dubai

How to use buses in Dubai

Buses in Dubai are very comfortable and safe, they are equipped with air conditioning, an air purification system and displays showing the route. You can use your NOL smart card to pay for a bus ride. Just tap the validator to check in when you enter the bus and do not forget to check out when you leave the vehicle.

Please make sure you have at least AED 7.50 on your balance before using the card. This reserved amount is needed in case you forget to check out.

The front part of buses in Dubai is allocated to female passengers, so take your seat accordingly. When you approach your destination stop, press the signal button to alert the bus driver.

Dubai Bus - Inside the bus

Can I buy a ticket on a Dubai bus

Unfortunately, bus drivers in Dubai are not allowed to sell tickets. So make sure you buy or load your Dubai NOL card at any ticketing machine in advance. You can do it at any metro station or tram stop. There are also cash desks available at the metro stations. Moreover, certain bus stops are equipped with ticketing machines, but not all of them.

Would you like to go to Dubai prepared? I recommend this great offer which includes a SIM card and a NOL Silver card. It is cheaper than buying the products separately.

Check out the prices and book a SIM card + NOL Silver card combo deal for Dubai

What are the bus fines in Dubai

When travelling by bus and other public transport in Dubai, please be aware of certain policies. Penalties apply for non-compliance with these rules. For example, if you refuse to pay for your ride or present a NOL card, you will have to pay AED 200. The same policy applies if you travel with an expired or fake NOL card. Bringing alcohol to the bus, smoking inside the bus or the bus stop will result in the same fine amount.

For littering or spitting, you can be charged AED 100. Being polite and following the rules is a great way to avoid any trouble.

Dubai Bus - Typical bus stop in Dubai

What are the main Dubai bus stations

Besides regular bus stops in Dubai there are also several bus stations that are used as big transportation hubs and often are linked to metro stations. The main Dubai bus stations are Al Ghubaiba, Al Satwa, Hatta, Mall of the Emirates, Al Quasis, Al Rashidiya, Gold Souk, Al Sibkha, Ibn Battuta and Abu Hail.

You can change at these bus stations or take a bus to other popular destinations outside Dubai, including Abu Dhabi, Hatta and Sharjah. Before you go, I recommend checking these helpful maps of Dubai bus stations. You can find information there, such as their location in the city and bus bay numbers for the destinations you would like to go to.

Are there any buses between Sharjah and Dubai

Sharjah is cheaper than Dubai in many respects, including accommodation and food, that is why many tourists on a budget prefer to stay there and then visit Dubai to see its world-famous attractions.

If you are one of them, the cheapest way to get from Sharjah to Dubai is by bus. The city centres are separated by about 27 km, but please note that buses from Sharjah do not go directly to Downtown Dubai. You will need to transfer to the metro. You can get to Downtown Dubai using the red metro line, transfer to the red line from the green line is possible at the Union and BurJuman metro stations.

Which bus line should you take from Sharjah to Dubai or back? Here are the main bus routes between Sharjah and Dubai:

  • E303: Al Jubail bus station in Sharjah to Union metro station in Dubai
  • E306: Al Jubail bus station in Sharjah to Al Ghubaiba bus station in Dubai
  • E307: Al Jubail bus station in Sharjah to Deira City Center bus station in Dubai
  • E307A: Al Jubail bus station in Sharjah to Abu Hail metro station in Dubai

Bus routes E306 and E307 run every 20 minutes. The price of a bus ticket from Sharjah to Dubai ranges from AED 10 to 15 (one way). Use your NOL transportation card to pay for the trip.

You can check the bus schedule in the route planner on the official RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) website or in the app. Needless to say, all timetables are also available at the bus stations.

How to get from Dubai to Abu Dhabi by bus

If you would like to visit the UAE capital by bus, it is possible via the Dubai — Abu Dhabi Highway. Below are the main bus routes between the two cities.

  • E100: Al Ghubaiba bus station in Dubai to Abu Dhabi Central bus station
  • E101: Ibn Battuta bus station in Dubai to Abu Dhabi Central bus station

Both bus services operate every 20 minutes, and the journey will take from 1,5 to 2 hours one-way, depending on the departure point. Use your NOL transportation card to pay for the trip.

You can check the bus schedule in the route planner on the official RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) website or in the app. As mentioned above, all timetables are also available at the bus stations.

Are you looking for a quick and cheap way to get from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Dubai or the other way around? I recommend booking the official express bus shuttle between Abu Dhabi Airport and Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai. Buses depart from Terminals 1, 2 and 3 every 60 minutes, and will bring you to your destination in 1,5 hours.

Book the official express bus shuttle between Abu Dhabi Airport and Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai here

Tips for using the Dubai bus system

In conclusion, here are some tips for using the Dubai bus system:

  • Make sure you have the right NOL card for your journey.
  • Do not forget it should be topped up with credit before you board the bus.
  • Check the timetable before you travel to make sure you catch the right bus.
  • To pay for your ride, tap the validator to check in when you board and check out when you get off.
  • Keep your NOL card safe, as you may need to show it to a ticket inspector.
  • The front part of buses in Dubai is allocated to female passengers, so take your seat accordingly.

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