Almost all Dubai’s public transport services – metro, buses and waterbuses (but not abras) – are covered by the Nol system (wnol.ae), which provides integrated ticketing across the entire transport network. To use any of these forms of transport you’ll need to buy a pre-paid Nol card or ticket ahead of travel. Cards can be bought and topped up at any metro station; at one of the machines located at 64 bus stops around the city; or at branches of Carrefour, Spinneys and Redha Al-Ansari Exchange; no tickets are sold on board metro trains, buses or waterbuses. You swipe the card or ticket as you pass through the metro ticket barriers or as you board a bus or waterbus, and the correct amount is automatically deducted from your pre-paid account.
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Types of cards and ticket
There are three types of Nol card; all three are valid for five years and can store up to 500dh worth of credit. The Silver Card costs 20dh (including 14dh credit). The Gold Card (same price) is almost identical, but also allows users to travel on Gold Class compartments on the metro. The Blue Card is aimed squarely at residents, costs 70dh (including 20dh credit) and offers additional benefits including an automatic top-up facility and the chance to earn loyalty points; they aren’t available over the counter, however (you’ll have to submit a written or online application) so aren’t much use to casual visitors.
An alternative to the three cards is the Red Ticket (a paper ticket, rather than a card). This has been specifically designed for tourists, costs just 2dh and is valid for 90 days, although it has to be pre-paid with the correct fare for each journey and can only be recharged up to a maximum of ten times. If you’re going to be using public transport regularly while you’re in the city it’s well worth investing in a Silver or Gold card.