Driving in Dubai

Driving in Dubai - night rush hour
Driving in Dubai – Night Rush Hour

The exciting bustle of Dubai’s rapidly expanding metropolis, its sparkling Persian Gulf waters and very welcoming climate appeal to holidaymakers and expats from all over the globe.  When it comes to driving in Dubai, heeding the rules is vital.  Minor infractions can net you fines or worse – jail time!

Driving in Dubai can become challenging sometimes.  Since the area has a well-developed public transportation system, many prefer to use it rather than deal with the hassles.  If you’re brave enough to drive, you’ll need to: –

Get an International Driving Licence – Dubai and Abu Dhabi both require one for hiring a car.  To drive in other Emirates you’ll need a UAE licence which is attainable from local traffic departments for those with residency visas.

Understand the rules – Each Emirate has its own driving rules that can differ rather greatly.  It pays to learn the local laws for where you will actually be driving.  For example, if you crash in Abu Dhabi, cars cannot be moved out of the lane of traffic until police authorities arrive.  In Dubai, the rules are different.  Vehicles here can be moved if they are obstructing other motorists and they can safely be moved out of the way. In fact, it’s strongly advised to do just that if it is possible and the accident is minor in nature.

Be a calm driver – Road rage is not tolerated here.  The penalties for even giving another driver a rude gesture can be quite strong.  The British government warns its citizens to “display calm at all times.”

Take care when driving in the desert – the Arabia Desert is a very harsh environment to drive within.  If exploring outside of the populated areas is on your agenda, it is recommended only 4 x 4 vehicles be used and that other cars follow in a convoy.  Extra water and petrol should also come along for the ride, along with a mobile telephone.

Avoid drink driving – Unlike other areas where it is legal to drink and drive with small amounts of alcohol intake, it is not so when driving in Dubai.  Consuming any amount of alcohol and getting behind the wheel can put you in a tub of hot water.  Just don’t do it!

Dubai has a very welcoming environment for expats, retirees and holidaymakers.  As inviting as it is however, Dubai authorities do expect you to follow the Emirate’s rules and laws.  Take care when driving in Dubai to follow all local laws and you’re likely to avoid seeing the inside of a local jail.  If you don’t, you just might find yourself wishing you had hired public transportation!

Driving in Dubai with International Driving Permit

An international driving permit or IDP is the document required if you want to rent a car in Dubai.

To get one you can go to main post offices in the UK for example, there you will complete an application form and for that to be processed you have to either present your UK driving licence, (if it’s a photocard one you will also need to present the paper counterpart that comes with it), or your UK pass certificate and your provisional licence.  In addition to this you will need to supply a passport sized photo and another signed form of ID such as your passport.

Desert Driving in Dubai
Desert Driving in Dubai

You can also apply at any of the AA’s travel shops for example, or if neither of these options is convenient you can send off for one.  First download the application form, then complete it and post it to the address on the form together with a passport sized photo and a full photocopy of the following, (note: do not send the originals!): –

• Your UK driving licence (if it’s a photocard one then copy the front and the back and the counterpart as well) OR
• Your UK pass certificate (certificate of competence to drive, valid for two years from the date of your test) and your provisional driving licence OR
• Your DVLA confirmation of entitlement to drive
• Photocopy of the page(s) of your passport showing your photograph and identification details.
• A self-addressed envelope – maximum 240mm x 165mm (Royal Mail’s standard letter, no stamps required)
• An original, signed application form (licence holder’s signature only).
• The appropriate fee.

Once you have your IDP you can rent a car in Dubai!  If on the other hand you want to drive a privately owned vehicle you have to apply for a Dubai driving licence.  You can only get a permanent licence when you have your residency permit, so in the interim you can get a temporary one.  The process is quite straightforward and you don’t actually need an IDP to get one!

You go to the Traffic Police offices and get an application form filled in there in Arabic – you will be charged a small fee for the typing service.  Once this has been filled in go to the counter with your passport, your visa (even if all you have is a visit visa), and 2 passport sized photos.  You will also have to show your foreign licence and it is possible that you will also have to supply an eye test certificate and even consulate certified proof that your licence is valid.  As you may not need these extra documents most people don’t bother getting them.  But if you are asked for them do NOT argue!  Go away, get what you need and return.  Your application will be processed there and then, and you’ll have your picture taken.

This temporary licence can be valid for up to 6 months – which gives you plenty of time to get all your other essential paperwork in order before returning to get your permanent licence.  If you want to save money, then don’t apply for the temporary licence, simply wait until you have your residency permit allowing you to live in Dubai, and then apply straight for the permanent Dubai driving licence.  To get this you follow a similar procedure to getting a temporary one.  Go to the Traffic Police with your foreign licence, your residency permit, an eye test certificate (or you can have a test done on site usually),your passport, and 110 dirham!  You will have to have an application form filled in in Arabic, and then just take everything to the counter and wait to be processed.  Your wait time will just depend on the queue.  Again you will have your picture taken and your licence will be issued there and then and be valid for up to 10 years.

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