Driving in Dubai is more of a necessity rather than choice as public transport is still being developed to ensure connection to all parts of the emirate. Although the Dubai Metro, which opened in September of 2009, connects major hubs in the city, and taxis and buses can take you pretty much anywhere in Dubai, bus frequency is not as high as most commuters would like and often times, taxis will refuse to take commuters to their destination, especially during peak hours and during the holy month of Ramadan. During the latter, most taxi drivers, who are Muslims, are fasting and pray several times during the day. Hence, it is much more convenient to own your own vehicle so that you can travel where you want at your convenience without having to rely on public transport.
When applying for a driver’s license, there are two main methods:
Converting to a Dubai driver’s license
If you already have a driver’s license from any one of the approved countries, you can directly convert your license to a UAE driver’s license without having to undergo a road test. The approved list of countries can be found here.
Canadians require a letter from their Consulate in Dubai authenticating the driver’s license before it can be transferred.
Applicants who hold a driver’s license from Greece, Canada, Turkey, Cyprus, Poland, Japan or South Korea will need to have their licenses translated from their respective consulates. All applicants will need to undergo an eye test.
The following documents are required for conversion of the driver’s license:
- Emirates ID copy
- Copy of passport and copy of your residency visa along with original passport
- Eye Test certificate for the required category
- Copy of your driving license along with original license (plus translation of license if form one of the countries named above)
- Letter from sponsor
- Passport photos x 2
Applicants must ensure that the driving license from their original country is valid and that the sponsor is a Dubai based company. Transfer services are available at the Traffic Department driving license section in Al Qusais, which is open only from 7:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Fill in the application form, get the relevant documents signed and make the payments after which all approved paperwork will need to be submitted to the Data Entry Counter. You will be called for your photo and after a short wait, will receive your new UAE and Dubai driver’s license.
Applying for a new driver’s license
If you have never driven before or do not have a license from one of the approved countries, you will need to undergo training from one of the five authorized driving schools in Dubai before you can get your driving permit. The authorized list of Dubai driving schools is as follows:
Al Ahli Driving School- 04-3411500 (10 branches)
Belhasa Driving School – 04-3243535 (18 branches)
Dubai Driving Center– 04-3455855 (13 branches)
Emirates Driving Institute- 04-2631100 (53 branches with several mall counters)
Galadari Driving School- 04-2676166 (14 branches)
To open a file at any one of the above mentioned driving schools, applicants will require their passports with the residence visa stamp, photographs and a No-Objection-Certificate from their employer. These are the steps required to obtain a driving license:
- All applicants need to get an eye test done from an optician or at the driving school, which will handle all the paper work with the Road and Transport Authority (RTA).
- The RTA will issue a temporary driving license which must remain in the training car during driving sessions.
- Applicants will be required to pass all internal tests such as the garage and parking test before they can take the theory test or the road test.
- The theory test is a set of 35 questions that test the applicant’s knowledge of road signs, safe driving guidelines and hazards and the test is available in several languages including English, Arabic and Urdu. There is also an oral exam facility for candidates who are not computer literate.
- Once you pass your theory test, you will receive the date on which you are to take your road test. On the day of your road test arrive early and bring all the required paper work. You will be required to wait until your name is called out; when you hear your name you will be required to proceed with three other candidates to the test car along with an RTA official. Each applicant will be asked to demonstrate their driving skills and each test typically lasts just for 5 to 10 minutes. The RTA inspectors are not only looking for your understanding of driving safety on the road but will also be looking at your confidence and ability to maneuver the car safely in traffic. You will know immediately if you have passed or failed the test
- If you fail, you will be required to take a minimum of 7 additional classes before you can apply for a new road test date.
- If you pass, you will be issued an approval paper by the RTA inspector and will need to proceed to the Pass Counter to complete the necessary formalities required to collect your driver’s license.
Driving Do’s and Don’t’s
New driver’s can find driving in Dubai a daunting experience. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you get familiar with driving on the roads of Dubai.
- Maintain a safe distance when driving. Tail gating is, unfortunately, a common occurrence on Dubai roads and is a leading cause of accidents. The RTA has indicated that it is soon to be made a criminal offence in Dubai.
- Tinting your car windows is the in-thing to do here and you will see many cars with varying degrees of window tints. These can hamper visibility, particularly at night so allow for this if you plan on applying a tint to your car windows. Also beware of driver’s who do not use their headlights; this is, unfortunately, also common in Dubai.
- In Dubai, the left lane is the fastest lane and is primarily meant for overtaking. However, many people will continue to drive in the fast lane and there are many times when cars will overtake you from the wrong side. Be aware of this as you drive.
- Scan your mirrors constantly. This is one of the best ways to keep vigilant on Dubai roads.
- Watch out for speed-demons; there are many in Dubai and you will usually hear them coming in their powerful sports cars before you see them in your mirrors. Steer clear of these cars and give them way; this is the safest thing to do.
- If you see flashing headlights in your rear view mirror, it is usually someone racing up behind you to pressure you into giving way. Many impatient drivers do this; it is advisable to get out of their way as quickly and as safely as you can.
- Many Dubai drivers rarely use their indicators when changing lanes so don’t assume that no indicator means that the driver in front is not going to change lanes.
- Know where you are going before hand and which exit you will have to take. Many drivers swerve at the last minute to avoid missing their exits and this is often a cause of major accidents on Dubai’s roads.
Buying a car in Dubai
The UAE has a Sole Agency Law meaning that there is usually only one dealer for each car manufacturer. There are a number of car dealers who will be willing to allow you to test drive a new car so take a few cars for a ride before you make your decision. Remember that once you purchase your new vehicle, you will be bound to the car dealer from where you purchased the vehicle for all your servicing requirements. If you opt to go elsewhere to save money, this will void your warranty.
There are a number of options for those who want to purchase a used car; used cars can be bought from used car dealers, individuals who may advertise on popular websites such as Dubizzle or Souq.com, car auctions (Al Awir has a weekly car auction run by Golden Bell Auctions) and classified adverts in newspapers, magazines or on expat forums.
Once you have your driver’s license make sure to obey traffic rules and adjust your driving to accommodate conditions in the UAE and you can enjoy exploring Dubai.