I walk with a spring in my step towards any metro station! My kind hosts FlyDubai gave me pre-loaded metro cards to use and explore the Dubai city! I was on cloud nine, I was going to explore Dubai by Dubai Metro on my own! I have always liked metro trains, undergrounds, trams and other such modes of transportation but the obsession with them is recent.
I Love Metros
I have a theory about my I like metros so much. Given my poor sense of direction, metro is heaven sent for me. They usually drop me close to an attraction and I can always keep the station in my sight! It makes my life simple.
I have now used metros in 4 countries India (Delhi), Thailand (Bangkok), UK (London) and Dubai but I have retained only three cards, I returned the Oyster Card in UK. As and when I use it the next time, I will keep that card as a souvenir too. Other than the Delhi Metro, photography is allowed on the others listed above.
Dubai Metro is Driverless!
Dubai Metro is the longest driverless metro system in the world! Because it is driverless if you board the first and the last coaches you can look back at the tracks. This is not possible on the Delhi Metro as the first and the last block is for the drivers. I discovered this quite late into my Dubai trip. I still manage to take a few pictures and make a video. There were many other excited tourists doing the same in the coach. One of the coaches (not sure if it is the first or last) is the first class cabin which has a higher priced ticket, do remember not to enter it unless you have a first class ticket.
Look at the color of my card, it is a gold card. But I did not realize it while traveling in the metro. I did not enter the first class cabin even once!
Dubai metro was inaugurated by the King of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum on 09/09/09!
There is a Women and Children Only Coach
In Dubai Metro, like the Indian metro there is a coach reserved only for women and children. I traveled both in the general and women and children only coach.
More than once, men along with their family or girl friends entered the coach. More often than not, they were tourists. They were always asked to leave the coach politely by the fellow passengers. There is a fine of 200 AED if you enter the wrong coach and if you get caught.
The General Coaches
Women can board any coach and I did it several times. People are well behaved, I never felt insecure or unsafe. I boarded the general coach more than the women and children coach without any problems.
You need to purchase NOI cards to travel in the metro and pre-load them. There are cards for tourists too. As my card was pre-loaded by my hosts FlyDubai with a generous amount of money, I did not need to top it up again. As my friends did not use their cards, I had two with me. When I was low on money on the first, I simply used the second card. There are ticket counters and personnel at every station, so help is nearby if you need it.
Red and Green Lines
There are two main lines on Dubai Metro- Red and Green. The closest station to my hotel, Melia Dubai was the Al Fahidi station on the green line. The one way taxi fare to the station was 12 dirham. I could change to the red line at the next stop Bur Juman. The other interchange station is Union but I never managed to reach there. I was told I could get the buses to Abu Dhabi from Union but I simply didn’t had time. I have noted it down for the next time.
You can see a map of Dubai Metro here.
Bur Juman- The Most Beautiful Metro Station in Dubai
If you would ask me Bur Juman is the most beautiful metro station on the Dubai Metro. Even though I have not seen them all but I am sure that it is. It was my interchange station for the Red Line so I crossed it more than once and I was happy for it.
The Dubai Metro gets crowded during the office hours, the women and ladies coach felt as crowded as Delhi Metro in the evening.
The Places I Went
I explored Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, Mall of Emirates, Ibn Batuta Mall and the Festival City Mall by Dubai Metro. By the list of destinations you can see Dubai is a city of malls. Except for the Festival City Mall everything else is on the Red Line. The malls are so huge that I could not walk end to end even in one single mall, even though I love walking.
I later realized that my nephew used to work at Mall of Emirates for his internship. Had I known it before, I would have gone into the high end furniture store he used to work at!
If you wish to go to the Festival City one way to do it is to go to the Creek Metro Station on the Green Line. Walk out and go to the Water Taxi Station. For 50 dirham you can take a canal tour or for 2 dirham (one way) you can cross to the Dubai Festival City. I went to the Festival City. It was sunset time and I enjoyed a drink at the Crowne Plaza sky lounge on the 7th floor. I was actually chasing the sunset (the first picture in this post) but then it would have been too rude not to order anything and walk away after clicking pictures! By the next time I go I hope they have something really high up in the sky.
I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Dubai by Dubai Metro. I hope my journey on the metro trains will continue in 2017 too!
PS: My trip to Dubai was sponsored by FlyDubai
I realized that I was in love with the London Underground on my recent trip. It also reminded me that Delhi Metro is my preferred mode of transport in my own town. So when the opportunity came to visit Thailand I decided to extend my stay. My sole purpose was to explore Bangkok by BTS on those extra days. And what fun it was!
I have been to Thailand 8 times, 7 times with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, including the present trip. I feel comfortable out there. But this was the first time when I was staying back, extending my trip and roaming around on my own. I am glad I did that.
My trip started at Bangkok, I went on to Amphawa, Hua Hin and Kanchanaburi and then came back to Bangkok at the end of the trip. While I was the guest of Tourism Authority of Thailand I was staying at Courtyard by Marriott. It has two BTS stations close to it Chit Lom and Ratchadamri. For one night I stayed on my own and I shifted to a less expensive hotel Studio Nana in the Nana area. I picked the hotel for the sole reason that is was 260 meters away from the Nana BTS.
When I was all on my own, the first thing I did was, I went to Chit Lom and bought a day ticket for BTS. Bangkok has three lines the BTS (sky train), the MRT (underground) and the Airport Express line. But the trick here is that unlike Delhi Metro smart cards and Oyster Cards in London, the lines here have separate cards. The day card for BTS will not work on MRT or the airport express line.
I used the BTS the most. A day pass costs hundred and twenty bahts which is roughly 240 Indian rupees. From what I understood it give me 140 entries to the BTS. Every time I would complete a journey, it would detect 1 baht from my account which meant I could enter and exit hundred 140 times during the day. It is much more than you would ever be able to use in a day.
Bangkok.com has an excellent post which lets you click on each of the stations and see what to explore nearby! I relied on it heavily to find my way around the stations.
All the BTS stations has staff at the ticket counters as well as on the platform. At the platform there is always security. I found the staff courteous at all the times. The security would initially get a little confused as to why I was staying on the platform and not exiting! But then I would point out to my camera and everyone would be smiles. All the BTS stations have maps and directions. I only took trains in wrong directions twice but that is just me!
I knew from my previous experience that Saphan Taksin was close to Asiatique (you need to take a ferry across) and the riverside activities. However I have done all that on my previous visits. This time I just strolled around and went back to the BTS.
My adventure was to visit Udom Suk which has a quaint local market. There was no tourist other than me, hardly anyone spoke English. I bought rice cakes and like all street food in Bangkok they were excellent. There was a lady in the market who spoke English but as we started chatting, she got customers. And business comes first.
My point was just to go around, explore, get down at any BTS that caught my fancy. I know you must be thinking what kind of a mad person would do that but that is just me!
There was a young boy who was reading a comic book in the BTS and I asked him if I could click a picture. He was happy to let me click. There were times when I was the only tourist in the entire train but that was because I was moving out of the tourist areas. If you remain within the main attractions, many tourists use the BTS. It makes a lot of sense as you can easily bypass the legendary traffic of Bangkok.
However at the peak hour the BTS gets crowded like anywhere else. It no longer remains a joy ride. At the peak hours you can still use it because people are courteous and polite, people queue up. But use it only to go from point A to B. It is no longer a joy ride!
On my last day I took the Airport Express link by changing from BTS at Phaya Thai. Even though I had a day pass for BTS, I had to buy a separate ticket for the airport express line. Not every station of BTS has elevators or escalators. There was an escalator at Nana to lug my heavy suitcase up the station. But I could not find any to get down at Phaya Thai. The Airport Link has escalators and lifts.
I had an interesting conversation with a boy from Germany on my way to the airport. He asked me if I am an Indian? I said yes and he asked- “so do Indian women travel solo?” So I told him about the story about me being a travel blogger and how I was hosted and how this was the first time I was extending my stay in Bangkok. Otherwise I never took the airport express, I am treated like a princess by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, dropped to the airport in fancy cars.
But it was fun to explore Bangkok by BTS on my own. It is pocket friendly too. It helps you to avoid traffic jams. Only at the peak hours the BTS gets crowded. So next time when you are in Bangkok, buy a day pass and explore Bangkok by BTS. It is super fun and it will take you beyond the regular tourists spots too. I could touch one terminal station Bearing this time. The next time, I am going to do better! Next time I am also not going to return my Oyster Card, I am going to keep it as a souvenir.
PS. I was invited by Tourism Authority of Thailand on a FAM trip. However, I extended the trip to explore Bangkok by BTS on my own.
I wonder what my fascination with the London underground is! I discovered it in 2007 on my first visit to England! I was mesmerized with ‘mind the gap announcements.’ I think I wrote about it then as well.
Let’s move forward to my recent visit to England this year. I had an Oyster Card and Google Maps; I was ready to go! I bought a data card to use Google Maps but then I had enough data to keep using all the social media I wanted to!
I bought the Oyster Card at Heathrow T5 without any hassle. The first tube I took was from T5 to Hounslow Central as that is where my hotel was. My first brush with the London Underground, 2016 addition, was memorable. I got down at Hounslow Central Tube Station. I believe it’s an old station, there are no Elevators/escalators, only steps. That is not a problem for me but I was arriving from the airport and I had a big suitcase. At every other place I only had to drag it but now I had to carry it over the steps. Still as I was going down I knew I would manage. As I took a few tentative steps down the staircase a gentleman came from behind and said “You need some help with that” and simply took away my suitcase. He carried it down all the way and gave it back to me at the very end of the steps. All I had to do was to drag it through the barriers.
I came back to the underground the same evening. I went to the Victoria station looking for Golden Tours office as I had a few trips booked with them (courtesy Visit Britain in India)! The station brought back so many memories from the 2007 trip. But the fool that I am I did not click a picture of that beautiful station this time. Anyways I hope I will go back to London and then click tube stations to my heart’s content.
On one of my journey on the tube I saw young boy in the school uniform trying to climb up the pole in the center of the coach. Kids will be kids everywhere! It reminded me of my daughter who does the same in Delhi Metro. The amount of energy the kids have even at the end of the school day!
Music on the Tube!
Then one evening I saw a musical procession passing through the coaches. I actually heard it first. I was surprised, I did not expect something like this on the tube! Then at home today, I was searching for London underground on Google. I came across the term busking! So you have to be really talented to play music on London underground! You need a license to do so!
I don’t know what is it with me and HOHO Buses. I prefer the tube any given day to HOHO, just don’t ask me why! I am sure I do not know how to use the HOHO buses properly. I sit on them, I go through the whole circle and then I am like what? It has happened to me in more than one cities. I abandoned my HOHO Bus ride in Edinburgh too but put me on London underground and I don’t mind travelling for 45 minutes to reach the next destination and explore it.
The biggest surprise that I got on the London underground was a Twitter message by the ‘On the Move’ magazine. They somehow found my tweets about the #londonunderground. They said a correspondent from the magazine would get in touch with me. I thought someone would get in touch over the email. Sure enough I got a mail from Nicholas Dawson. But they wanted to set up a face to face meeting. I said let us meet at Westminster as I find it such a happening place! So that is where we met! Nicholas showed his press credentials to the station staff and we were chatting with David and Yuksel who work for the tube! It was such a fun meeting!
I asked David, “Westminster is a big tourist hub, so what do tourist do?” Yuksel exclaimed- “the toughest is when they leave their kids behind!” David said as far as the tourists are concerned “the sky is the limit to the things they can do”, though he did not elaborate further! He said the most commonly asked question is “where is the restroom.” I agreed as I could not find the restroom easily myself. David mentioned that they are outside the station.
For me as a tourist, the biggest fear was that somehow I would end up not having enough money on my Oyster card. They said it was the easiest problem to solve. I asked him what would happen if I really did not have money. They mentioned that if it was late at night and I was a woman in all probability they would let me go. They also said after working for so many years they think they can judge a genuine case from a fake one! They also mentioned that only a few people try not to pay the fare. My visit to the control room at the Westminister was the highlight of my tube experience! It was fun, I never even imagined it was possible. The station staff was extremely helpful and friendly but then that has been my impression since 2007.
In the end it was the time to go. I came back to Hounslow Central which was a station which has no tube stuff. There was a surprise inspection going on, the Inspector decided to stop me and check my tickets. I’m happy to report that my ticket was alright. I had enough money and I did not miss calculate fares right till the end.
Later, I headed back to the hotel to collect my luggage and started my journey to the airport. But wait, I am getting the sequence wrong. I went out went shopping in Hounslow and then went to the hotel, took my luggage and came back to Hounslow Central Tube Station. Heathrow is a short hop from there.
I had the stairs waiting for my suitcase again. Walking behind me were two strapping London police officers. By the time I reached to step no. 2, one of them relieved me of my suitcase and said, “you run along I will bring it up for you.” So that is how my Rendezvous with London underground ended!
But there is one last story to tell. I arrived at the London Heathrow Terminal 5 tube station and I had to return my Oyster card. I was wondering how easy or difficult it was going to be. I waited in the queue of the clueless tourists and finally it was my turn. After greeting the staff, I said I would like to return my Oyster card. He took it back with a smile and gave me £11 and some change. I used that money to buy beer at the airport. So that is actually how my affairs with London underground ended. I hope I will get a chance to renew my affair with it soon.
PS. I was featured in On the Move (OTM) the magazine of the London Underground in their August Issue.
However, much time I spend at my sister’s place, it always feels way too less. I was particularly tired today and I was not looking forward to the more than two hour Delhi Metro journey back home. As usual in my zombie mode, I crossed the barrier at the Vaishali Metro Station. I had a strolly and a handbag. Whenever I go to my sister’s place it is prudent to carry one because she always gives me way too many things to carry home!
I suddenly heard a mother calling out loud, “Hey come back, give me the card or else how would I get in?” The person she was calling out loud was this high, not more than my knee! She simply went under the barrier and walked off on the other side with the card! She was blissfully unaware that she was creating a ruskuss! She started running away towards the stairs, her mother looked on helplessly, still calling out loud and pleading.
I decided to take the matters in my hand. I left my strolly for a short while and I scooped up the kid. She was as light as a feather! For a while she was surprised and kept quiet while I started walking back to her mother.
Then I remembered my strolly. I didn’t wish it to vanish while I was busy with the child as apart from a few new dresses it had my laptop and my camera as well! So, I had a child in one hand and now a strolly in another.
When I reached the barrier I took the card from the kid’s hand and gave it to the mother. That proved to be my undoing. The kid went into the ferocious mode. She reached out with her little hands and started pulling my hairs. Once again I would not even feel the tug, but I had to put in a mock protest! By this time her mother was on the right side of the barrier and I deposited the howling and hair pulling baby to her safely. I cannot remember when I laughed so much while simply boarding a metro train! It is incidents like these that make the journey so much fun.