You won’t see many backpacks in Dubai. It’s no one’s idea of a budget destination and just getting around the city can be an expensive chore; it’s too big, hot and confusing to navigate on foot, taxis can get stuck in traffic and those fares add up over a few days’ visit. And it’s hardly the most environmentally friendly way of traveling.
The launch of Dubai Metro rail system in 2009 represented a huge step forward for a city where infrastructure has often struggled to keep pace with development. It was only one line but it stretched almost from one end of the emirate to the other, mostly running parallel to the coast. And from September 2011 the system expands considerably with the launch of the new Green Line, which loops around central Dubai City. The system is at the very forefront of urban transit technology and Dubai can add “longest driverless train network in the world” to its impressive trophy room of superlatives.
And because there’s no driver, there is room at the front for you to stand, gawp and film as the world’s fastest growing city whizzes past you in Blade Runner-esque flashes. The ride is smooth, quick and clean and naturally trains are air-conditioned. The stations are no less impressive, each one taking their visual cues from one of the four elements. Burj Khalifa station crouches under a sinuous metallic shell while Khalid Bin Al Waleed station is bathed in an eerie deep sea blue with hanging light fixtures more suggestive of something you’d find at the bottom of the sea than the bottom of an escalator. And best of all, you can use the entire public transport network, which includes buses and ferries, for just 14 dirham a day (under $4).