Transportation Tips for Getting Around Abu Dhabi as an Expat

Electric Bicycle for Local moving in Abu Dhabi

Local moving to Abu Dhabi entails more than just settling into a new home. It involves acclimating to the city’s diverse transportation network. That is especially significant for the expats who constitute the majority of the UAE population estimated at 10.5 million.
If you are among those expats, navigating the sprawling streets, avenues, and the local transportation system is essential for seamless integration into daily life. While your move may have been a breeze with the help ofΒ movers and packers in Abu Dhabi, mastering the local transportation requires a deeper understanding.Β Β Β 

Tips to Charter Through the Abu Dhabi TransportationΒ 

Abu Dhabi boasts a well-developed transportation network, which is how people get around in Abu Dhabi.  Here are some key components of the city’s transportation infrastructure for your understanding:

Public TransportΒ 

Public buses serve as a cost-effective and reliable means of commuting across Abu Dhabi. Operated by the Department of Transport (DoT), the bus network encompasses an extensive route system connecting major landmarks, residential areas, and commercial districts. With air-conditioned coaches and designated seating for women and families, buses provide a comfortable travel experience for passengers of all demographics.


Taxis are readily available throughout Abu Dhabi, offering a convenient door-to-door service for those seeking expedient transportation. While slightly more expensive than public buses, taxis provide unmatched convenience, especially for travelers with specific time constraints or destinations not covered by public transit routes. Metered fares ensure transparency in pricing, with additional charges applicable during peak hours and late-night travel.

Ride-Hailing ServicesΒ 

The proliferation of ride-hailing applications such as Uber and Careem has revolutionized transportation. These platforms offer on-demand ride services, allowing users to book rides seamlessly through smartphone applications. With competitive pricing and the convenience of cashless transactions, ride-hailing services have emerged as a popular choice for expatriates seeking flexibility and reliability in their daily commute.

Metro and Tram (Under Development)Β 

The eagerly anticipated Abu Dhabi Metro and Tram systems, currently under development, are set to revolutionize the city’s transportation landscape by providing rapid transit options.

Embrace Sustainable Transportation Options

In line with global efforts to promote sustainability, Abu Dhabi encourages the use of eco-friendly transportation alternatives. As an expatriate, consider incorporating these options into your daily commute to reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to the city’s environmental initiatives.


The urban layout is also conducive to walking, especially in pedestrian-friendly areas such as the Corniche, and downtown districts. Embrace the city’s pleasant climate during the cooler months by exploring its vibrant streets on foot. Walking not only promotes physical well-being but also allows expatriates to immerse themselves in the city’s rich tapestry of cultures and traditions.


Abu Dhabi is steadily expanding its network of dedicated cycling paths and bike-sharing initiatives, providing expatriates with an alternative mode of transportation that promotes fitness and sustainability. Renting a bicycle from one of the city’s numerous docking stations allows expatriates to navigate urban landscapes at their own pace while enjoying panoramic views of the city’s iconic skyline.

E-Scooters and Electric Bicycles

In recent years, e-scooters and electric bicycles have gained popularity as convenient solutions for short-distance travel. Companies like eScoot and Circ provide rental services through mobile apps, allowing users to unlock and ride electric vehicles at their convenience. However, as per the latest laws, e-scooters can only be operated in specific areas, and have specified speed limits.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Commute in Abu Dhabi?

Leveraging the public bus system proves to be the most economical mode of transportation. With fares starting at AED 2 per journey and going up to AED 4, public buses offer unbeatable affordability without compromising on comfort or convenience. Additionally, purchasing a Hafilat Smart Card further reduces transportation costs, allowing passengers to avail discounted fares and enjoy hassle-free travel across the city.

How Do I Pay for a Bus in Abu Dhabi?

A straightforward process facilitated by the Hafilat Smart Card system is the answer. Passengers can acquire these cards from designated distribution centers or vending machines located at bus terminals and select retail outlets. Once obtained, the card can be loaded with credit at any of the authorized recharge points, including ticket vending machines, bus stations, and online portals.

To pay for bus fares using the Hafilat Smart Card, passengers simply tap their cards on the electronic card reader located near the entrance of the bus. The fare is automatically deducted from the card balance, eliminating the need for cash transactions and expediting the boarding process for passengers. 

Moreover, the Hafilat Smart Card offers added convenience through features such as balance inquiries and account management, empowering users to track their travel expenses effortlessly.

How Much Is the Bus Card in Abu Dhabi?

Acquiring a Hafilat Smart Card entails a nominal initial fee, typically ranging from AED 5 to AED 10, depending on the card type and eligibility criteria. This one-time expense grants users access to the entire public bus network in Abu Dhabi, along with exclusive benefits such as discounted fares and seamless transfers between different bus routes. Additionally, passengers can reload their Hafilat cards with credit as needed, ensuring continuous access to affordable transportation services throughout their stay in the city.

Essential Transportation Tips

Navigating Abu Dhabi’s diverse transportation landscape as an expatriate requires a blend of adaptability, resourcefulness, and cultural awareness. Here are some tips that might come in handy:

Familiarize Yourself with the Public Bus Routes

Abu Dhabi’s bus network spans the city, connecting major residential and commercial areas. Expatriates are advised to familiarize themselves with the bus routes and schedules to optimize their commute. The DoT provides comprehensive route maps and timetables, accessible online and at various bus stops.

Utilize Nol CardsΒ 

Nol Cards, similar to the Oyster card in London or the Metro card in New York, are electronic smart cards that facilitate cashless payments for public transport services in Abu Dhabi. Expatriates are encouraged to purchase and top up their Nol Cards to enjoy hassle-free travel on buses and future metro services.

Take Advantage of Ride-Hailing Apps

Ride-hailing apps offer expatriates a convenient and reliable transportation alternative, especially during peak hours or when traveling to areas not easily accessible by public transport. Downloading apps like Uber or Careem and linking them to a preferred payment method ensures seamless access to rides across the city.

Understand Taxi Fare Structures

When opting for taxis, expatriates should be aware of the fare structures to avoid potential misunderstandings. Metered taxis charge fares based on distance traveled, while fixed-fare taxis operate on predetermined rates for specific routes. Clarifying the fare type with the driver before commencing the journey is advisable to prevent disputes.

Plan Ahead for Metro and Tram Services

While the Abu Dhabi Metro and Tram systems are yet to be operational, expatriates can stay informed about their progress and planned routes. Once operational, these rapid transit systems will offer expatriates a convenient and efficient means of commuting within the city, reducing reliance on private vehicles and alleviating traffic congestion.

Familiarize Yourself with Cultural Norms

Understanding and respecting local customs and cultural norms is paramount when utilizing transportation services in Abu Dhabi. For instance, public displays of affection, loud conversations, and inappropriate attire may be frowned upon in certain settings. Maintaining decorum and adhering to societal norms contribute to a harmonious experience for expatriates in the city.

Respect designated seating areas for women and families on buses and metros, as cultural sensitivities may vary. Avoid consuming food or drinks during Ramadan fasting hours out of respect for Muslim traditions, and refrain from smoking in designated non-smoking areas, including bus stops and metro stations.

Stay Informed About Traffic Regulations

Abu Dhabi implements strict traffic regulations to ensure road safety and order. Expatriates should acquaint themselves with local traffic laws, including speed limits, seat belt regulations, and mobile phone usage restrictions while driving or being transported. While there is a 20 km/h speed buffer, it is wise to exercise caution. Speeding incurs hefty fines and black points, accruing annually. Adhering to these regulations not only promotes safety but also avoids potential fines or penalties.

Consider Alternative Modes of Transport

Beyond buses, taxis, and ride-hailing services, expatriates can explore alternative modes of transport to suit their preferences and needs. Bicycle-sharing schemes, walking paths, and water taxis offer unique ways to traverse Abu Dhabi’s urban landscape while promoting sustainability and physical activity.

Seek Assistance When Needed

Navigating a new city can be daunting, especially for expatriates unfamiliar with the local language or customs. Should expatriates encounter challenges or require assistance while using transportation services, seeking help from authorities, transport personnel, or fellow commuters is advisable. Abu Dhabi prioritizes the safety and well-being of its residents and visitors, ensuring support is readily available when required.

Useful Sources of Information

Effective navigation of Abu Dhabi’s transportation network hinges on thorough planning and staying informed about route changes, service disruptions, and special events that may impact travel arrangements. Expatriates can leverage various resources like the Onwani system which is a unified address system. To date, around 19,000 streets have been designated names, while 200,000 buildings have been assigned numbers under this initiative. It allows people to get to their destination faster, stay up-to-date, and make informed decisions regarding their transportation needs:

Mobile Apps

Utilize mobile applications such as “Darb” for real-time information on bus schedules, routes, and fares. These apps also offer trip planning features, allowing expatriates to chart the most efficient routes to their destinations.

Official WebsitesΒ 

Regularly check the official websites of the Integrated Transport Centre and other relevant authorities for announcements, service updates, and advisories pertaining to public transportation in Abu Dhabi. These platforms serve as reliable sources of information for expatriates seeking to navigate the city’s transportation network seamlessly.

Local Media

Stay abreast of transportation-related news and developments through local newspapers, radio stations, and online publications. These media outlets often provide valuable insights into upcoming infrastructure projects, traffic regulations, and travel advisories that may impact expatriates’ daily commutes.


Mastering transportation in Abu Dhabi is a fundamental aspect of expatriate life, enhancing mobility, convenience, and overall quality of living. By understanding the city’s transportation infrastructure, leveraging available services, and respecting local norms, you can tailor your commute to suit your preferences and budgetary constraints. 

Head over to the ServiceMarket website or download the app and hire movers in Abu Dhabi to aid you with the moving and settling part. Rest assured, every company featured on our platform undergoes thorough vetting, and are fully licensed professionals.

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