Mamzar to Jebel Ali: Car or Dubai water taxi?

A water taxi transports passengers on Dubai Creek (Patrick Castillo )

Not a lot of people are aware of the options to travel over water and that is a shame, if you ask Baha Al Qadra, one of Dubai's senior transport officials.

Although water travel is considered by many a leisure activity and one of Dubai's attraction for visitors to the emirate, residents of Dubai too could benefit from the options that are offered by the RTA.

Al Qadra is adviser to the CEO of Rail Operations, RTA and until recently held the post of Director of Marine Transport at the Road and Transport Authority (RTA).

Baha points out the benefits with a simple calculation, comparing a water taxi with a car.

The route: from Mamzar to Jebel Ali.

Booking a water taxi to travel from Mamzar to Jebel Ali is Dh520 - the maximum fare for a water taxi.

The water taxi can be shared by 10 people; doing so the costs per person would be Dh52.

"Let us say you own a BMW X5 for 20 years. You have purchased the car for Dh360,000. This comes to Dh49 per day.

"Add to that the costs of petrol for a trip from Mamzar to Jebel Ali; this would be around Dh20 and could even be more.

"You will pass three Salik gates, which will add up to Dh12. And then, there are maintenance costs, which can lead up to an average of Dh50 a day; insurance costs; registration fees… I think we have already exceeded the price of a water taxi per person."

A similar ride by taxi over land would cost the passenger Dh200.

"The water taxi can be shared by a group of people, also if these people do not know each other.

“Arrangements at the pick-up point can be made by the person that booked the taxi: he is in charge and can arrange the ride as he likes," explains Baha.

However, using water transport to travel around the emirate still needs to get off the ground.

The taxi is typically booked by tourists, as many hotels sell packages including the water taxi.

Water bus

As a means of transportation, the water bus is more appropriate.

Although the routes are outlined, the real bargain lies here with a Dh2 charge for a single trip.

"The water bus is meant to get from point A to B. It serves like a bus. There are currently 60 stations and the bus moves frequently between 7am and 10pm," explains Baha.

"We recently opened two stations in Marina, and there will be two more stations here that are currently under development."

In addition, the water bus is the only vessel that offers commuters payment with the NOL card, something which may change in the future if the commute by marine transport becomes more common, says Baha.

Inter-emirate, by water

In the future, the vessels of Dubai will connect to other emirates too. Not all vessels are appropriate for the long distance ride, explains Baha.

"The water bus is good for inland travel because of its limited height, for example."

Furthermore, the speed of the vessels differentiates; the water taxi can reach 35 knots, while the ferry can reach 23 knots and the bus 50 knots.

"Speed alone is not the factor to decide which vessel would be most appropriate for travel between emirates. The maximum speed on these waters is 5 knots, so we are restricted by rules."

However, residents will still have to wait for inter-emirate water transport to happen. "At the moment some other options have been introduced, and we do not want to compete with other transportation means. Water transport to other emirates is something for the future."

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