Driving in the UAE: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re thinking about living in the UAE and plan to drive, it’s a good choice. Due to the hot weather, driving in an air-conditioned car is often more comfortable than walking. Also, many places in the city are far apart.

While UAE has different public transport options, they can sometimes be slow. Plus, since fuel in the UAE is quite cheap compared to other countries, many people prefer driving.

This guide will help answer important questions you might have about driving in the UAE. It also provides useful advice for navigating the roads and getting around the city.

General Driving Rules and Regulations in the UAE

  • In the UAE, you must drive on the right side of the road.
  • Everyone in a car, including passengers, must wear seat belts at all times.
  • Children under 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat unless they are in a proper rear-facing car seat with the airbag turned off.
  • When in the back seat, they need to use suitable safety or booster seats with the belts fastened.
  • Drinking and driving is strictly illegal in the UAE because of religious reasons against alcohol.
  • The legal blood alcohol limit is 0%, and breaking this rule almost always leads to jail.
  • Do not use your phone or any other devices while driving.
  • Keep a safe distance from the car in front of you; ideally, a 5-second gap.
  • The left lane on roads and highways in the UAE is for fast driving.
  • If you’re not driving at the top speed limit, it’s better to stay in the slower lanes on the right.
  • Be cautious around emergency vehicles with flashing lights, whether they are moving or parked on the road or shoulder. Slow down, pass carefully, and always be prepared to stop.
  • Always let emergency vehicles go first and never follow them closely, race them, or try to pass them when their lights are flashing.

UAE Driving License Categories List

Navigating the roads of the United Arab Emirates requires a valid driving license, and understanding the different categories of UAE licenses available is essential for any aspiring driver.

In the UAE, driving licenses are categorized to suit various types of vehicles and driving purposes, ranging from light motor vehicles to heavy trucks, and from motorcycles to buses.

Each category is designed to ensure that drivers have the specific skills and knowledge required for the type of vehicle they intend to operate.

Whether you’re a beginner looking to get behind the wheel of a car or a professional aiming to drive a heavy-duty vehicle, there’s a specific license category tailored to your needs.

International Driving Licenses Valid in the UAE

Regarding the type of license needed: if you’re moving to the UAE, you can initially use your international driving license until you receive your residence permit.

After getting your residence permit, you can apply for a local UAE driving license.

People from the following countries can directly convert their existing license to a UAE license without additional tests:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kuwait
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

If you are transferring a driver’s license from Turkey, Poland, Japan, Greece, or South Korea to the UAE, your certification must be translated into Arabic or English.

For those transferring a Canadian driver’s license, a letter from the Canadian consulate in the United Arab Emirates is required.

If your license is from a country other than those mentioned, you’ll need to undergo driving classes and pass an RTA test to obtain a local driving license.

Driving Speed Limit in the UAE

In the United Arab Emirates, speed limits are set and enforced to cater to different vehicle types and roads.

These limits are monitored through speed cameras to identify and penalize traffic violations like speeding.

Specifically, heavy vehicles, including trucks, mini buses, and buses, are equipped with speed limiters to control overspeeding.

The UAE stands out for having some of the world’s highest speed limits.

Notably, two major highways, the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain highway and the Sheikh Khalifa highway, have limits set at 160 km/h (99 mph).

Speed limits in Abu Dhabi are typically higher compared to other Emirates, with a general speed limit of 140 km/h, while in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, the limit is usually around 120 km/h.

Additionally, every Emirate, except Abu Dhabi, implements a speed buffer that allows drivers to exceed the posted speed limit by 20 km/h without incurring fines.

When driving in Dubai, it’s important to drive carefully and adhere to speed limits. If you encounter a speeding driver, either maintain your speed to allow them to pass or safely pull over.

  • On highways, the speed limit ranges from 100-120 km/h (approximately 60-70 mph).
  • For urban roads, the speed limit is usually between 60-80 km/h (around 40-50 mph).
  • On smaller suburban roads, it’s advised to stick to a speed limit of 40 km/h (about 25 mph). Remember that these speed limits are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour.

Dubai Driving FAQ

Can Women Drive in Dubai?

Yes, women are allowed to drive in Dubai. The city even offers special taxis that are exclusively for women and are driven by female drivers.

This is in contrast to Saudi Arabia, the UAE’s neighbor, which until 2018 was the only country in the world that banned women from driving.

If you’re visiting Dubai as a tourist, you can drive if you have an international driving license.

You can rent a car in Dubai if you are at least 21 years old and have a valid international driving license and a credit card.

Is Driving in Dubai Hard?

Driving in Dubai can be challenging, especially for those not accustomed to its specific conditions. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Traffic and Road Size: Dubai has large, well-maintained roads, but traffic can be heavy, especially during peak hours. Navigating in such conditions requires patience and attentiveness.
  2. Driving Behavior: Local driving styles might differ from what you’re used to. Some drivers in Dubai are known for speeding and changing lanes abruptly, which can be intimidating.
  3. Parking: In some areas, especially downtown and tourist spots, finding parking can be difficult and might require using paid parking facilities. You can pay the parking fee via SMS.

Can I Renew My Abu Dhabi Driving License in Dubai?

Yes, you can renew your Abu Dhabi driving license in Dubai through this website or through their mobile application. This method is convenient and can be done from anywhere, including Dubai.

What to Do If You Lost Vehicle Registration Card in Dubai?

If your car registration card is lost in Dubai, you need to first report the loss to the police. This can be done through the Dubai Police website, their smart app, or by physically visiting a police station.

Once you’ve reported the loss and obtained a police certificate or report, you can apply for a duplicate registration card.

This application can be made online via the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) website or at an RTA customer service center.

When applying, you’ll need to provide your Emirates ID and the police report of the lost card. The RTA will then issue a new registration card after processing your application and verifying the details.

Sharjah Driving FAQ

How to Renew a Driving License in Sharjah?

To renew a driving license in Sharjah, you typically need to follow a process set by the Sharjah Road and Transport Authority. Here’s an overview:

  1. Eligibility for Renewal: Ensure that you are eligible for renewal. Your license must be near or past its expiry date.
  2. Eye Test: Pass an eye test from an RTA-approved center. This is a crucial step and the result must be submitted with your renewal application.
  3. Application Submission: Apply for renewal either online through the official RTA website or by visiting an RTA service center. Online applications often require you to create an account on the RTA portal.
  4. Required Documents: Submit the necessary documents, which usually include your Emirates ID, a copy of your residence visa, and the eye test results.
  5. Fee Payment: Pay the applicable renewal fee. This can be done online or at a service center.
  6. License Issuance: Once your application is processed and approved, you will receive your renewed driving license. This can be collected from the service center or, in some cases, can be mailed to your address.

The cost of renewing a driving license in Sharjah varies. It typically includes the renewal fee and additional costs for the eye test and potential late renewal fines if applicable.

It’s advisable to check the latest fee structure either on the RTA’s official website or at their service centers.

For the RTA-approved eye test, there are numerous centers in Sharjah. These include optician shops and medical centers authorized by the RTA to conduct eye tests for driving license applications.

You can find a list of these approved centers on the RTA website or by visiting any RTA service center in Sharjah.

Remember, the exact process and costs can vary and it’s always best to verify the latest requirements and fees through official RTA channels.

Driving in Abu Dhabi

Driving in Abu Dhabi offers a unique experience that blends modern infrastructure with strict adherence to traffic regulations. The city’s well-maintained roads and highways are a testament to its rapid development and commitment to providing a smooth transportation experience. In Abu Dhabi, drivers can enjoy clear road signage, expansive highways, and an overall high standard of road quality.

However, it’s crucial for drivers to be well-versed with the local traffic laws which are stringently enforced to ensure safety. Speed limits, indicated by clear signage, must be adhered to, and traffic violations are met with strict penalties. The city is known for its rigorous approach to road safety, with speed cameras and other monitoring systems in place.

For expatriates and tourists, understanding local driving customs and regulations is essential. While the city accommodates a diverse international community, being aware of local driving etiquette and rules, such as the prohibition of handheld devices while driving and the mandatory use of seatbelts, is vital for a safe driving experience.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Driving License in Abu Dhabi

The duration to obtain a driving license in Abu Dhabi can vary based on the following factors:

  1. For Beginners: If you are a beginner, the process generally includes a set number of mandatory driving lessons. The total time can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on how quickly you complete these lessons and pass the final road test.
  2. Experienced Drivers: If you have a valid driving license from certain approved countries, you might be eligible for a direct road test without the need for mandatory lessons. This can significantly shorten the time required.
  3. Test Attempts: The time frame also depends on how many attempts you need to pass the theory and road tests. Each failed attempt can add to the overall duration.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Driving License in Abu Dhabi?

The cost of obtaining a driving license in Abu Dhabi includes various fees:

  1. File Opening Fee: This is the initial fee for starting your application.
  2. Theory Test Fee: Charged for the theoretical knowledge test.
  3. Driving Lessons Fee: This can be a significant part of the cost, especially for beginners. The number of lessons required depends on your prior experience and proficiency.
  4. Road Test Fee: Charged for each attempt at the final road test.
  5. Additional Costs: These can include eye tests, learning materials, and potentially re-test fees if you do not pass on the first attempt.