Unless they are very aggressive drivers or accustomed to reckless road behaviour, most visitors find the style of driving far too dangerous to be willing to get behind the wheel themselves. Rented cars/visitors are not treated differently if they get into a car accident. Tests for alcohol can also be administered, and even the blood-alcohol level rise from a glass of wine will be sufficient grounds for one month's incarceration.
If you do decide to take the plunge, beware that the street numbering system is unusual and it can take 30-45 days to get used to it. U-turns are allowed at almost every intersection. When the left lane signal turns green, you simply have to swing a U-turn and come back. Whatever other flaws drivers here may have, they do not run red lights. There are cameras at many intersections, fines are high about Dhs. 550 or $150 US, and residents who are not citizens can be deported for running too many red lights. When the light turns yellow, that taxi in front of you will jam on the brakes, and you should, too. When the light turns green, however, expect someone behind you to honk at you immediately to get you moving.
Unfortunately, despite excellent roads, and a traffic signal system, vehicle accidents remains the largest cause of deaths in the UAE.
The best way to get around if you did not rent a car is by taxi. Basic white and gold taxis with green signs on top are ubiquitous and crossing town will cost only cost Dhs. 10 $3.70 US or so. Basic metered fares start from Dhs. 3.50. Slightly more luxurious silver cabs, have white signs on top and charge a little more with a Dhs. 3.50 starting fare and Dh. 1 per 750 m thereafter, slightly more at night. They are probably the safer bet in the unruly traffic. Taxis like Al Ghazal and National monopolize the hotels and charge roughly twice what the local Silver or white and gold cabs charge. Alternatively, you can book a taxi in Abu Dhabi by calling 600535353.
A host of silver colored taxis have now entered the local taxi business. Though the cars used are of a higher standard, have better educated and trained drivers, they charge a little more. These cabs charge the metered fare plus Dhs. 10 for a trip to the airport, which usually works out cheaper than the white and gold cabs. Silver taxis are fitted with GPS based tracking system which are monitored from centralized control center.
The local white and gold cabs or silver cabs are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport as this service is reserved for the Al Ghazal limousine service, who charge around Dhs. 75 for a trip to the city.The white and gold taxis are no longer legal. They will not use their meters and require haggling over the fare. Rides to the airport will entail bargaining. The previous fare was between Dhs. 35-50, depending on your race and bargaining ability.
You are not expected to tip cab drivers, but gratuity will be extremely appreciated. Many taxi drivers are displaced persons, far from their home countries and families, so often they take out pictures of family members for you to comment on.