About the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Situated at the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to a diverse range of destinations, from the modern megacities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to the gorgeous beaches of Fujairah on the east coast.
Rich in history and culture, the U.A.E. is renowned for massive stretches of remote desert landscape. More than half of the country is contained in the remote Empty Quarter that occupies the desolate western half of its boundaries. Indeed, the common misconception about the Arabian Peninsula in general is that it’s nothing but sand. But in addition to the most popular urban sites, the U.A.E. includes a number of relatively undiscovered natural attractions including the desert oases of Al Ain, featuring waterfalls and other surprisingly pristine topographical features. It’s said that the best attributes of the U.A.E. are found by knowing where to look for them.
International travelers generally enter the U.A.E. in through the airports of Abu Dhabi or Dubai. For most visitors, getting around the U.A.E involves a familiar driving environment, best facilitated by car hire. Public transportation is skeletal, at best. Fortunately, the U.A.E. is also known for cheap car rental rates and relatively inexpensive fuel prices. You’ll find an extensive highway system linking the major cities and outlying areas. By first appearance, the roads are inline with European and Western standards — consisting of broad, paved, well-marked roadways. However, as in many Middle Eastern countries, local driving habits on the fast freeways can be downright frightening. Therefore, experienced drivers with advanced defensive driving skills will likely fare better than brand new beginners.
The U.A.E. is a country in constant development, and navigational systems do a great job of keeping up with changes. As road networks continue to evolve, hardcopy maps have become obsolete. Therefore, GPS is highly recommended for all visitors who rent a car.
Choosing your car
United Arab Emirates car rentals are provided by the most trusted names in the business: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty. You’ll find a comprehensive selection of vehicles from minicars to economy cars to luxury and premium 4-door sedans. Group travelers will find an exceptional range of 7-12 seater minivans. But perhaps the most popular UAE car rentals are all-wheel drive SUVs, which are ideal for on and off-road driving.
Tips and advice
The emirate of Ajman is gaining a reputation as a terrific budget destination. Centrally located on the western coast of the Persian Gulf, the region supports a relatively laid-back atmosphere in contrast to the hustle of most major cities.
Just north of Ajman, you’ll find the emirate of Umm al Quwain, the most tranquil and green region of the U.A.E., home to coastal mangroves, the oases of Falaj Al Moalla, and rolling sand dunes to the south of the city center.
Respect is paramount in the U.A.E., which ultimately means being conscious of local sensibilities, and following them to the letter. Dress conservatively, be polite, and get familiar with the laws as well as local customs.
If renting a car in Dubai, your vehicle should be equipped with a Salik tag, which allows you to access the toll road system. Otherwise, the U.A.E. is free of toll roads.
Road accidents are on the decline in the U.A.E., but still among the highest in the world. If you are involved in an accident, first of all, do not move the car — unless it’s causing a traffic hazard. If no one is injured, only then should you move the vehicle to the side of the road — if possible. Most importantly, stay on the scene until police arrive.
It’s important to remain calm amidst the chaos of highway driving, where you’re likely to be cut off or forced to change lanes at moment’s notice. Avoid any outward signs of “road rage”, especially offensive gestures, which are prohibited and carry stiff penalties.