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Driving in the UAE: Top Tips for Tourists and Expats

Whether you are visiting as a tourist or planning on living in the United Arab Emirates to take advantage of career opportunities, one thing that you might want to look into care is the idea of driving in the country.

A robust car culture

Although the UAE has invested heavily in transport facilities and offers different modes of transportation, from buses to water taxis, a substantial number of residents rely heavily on private transportation.

One reason behind this is the low cost of car ownership. If you check the Toyota Camry car price in UAE and compare its price with those in other countries, you’ll notice a substantial difference. Plus, being situated in the Middle East means that fuel costs are low.

Many locals and expats prefer to drive their cars to gain a measure of control, as well. Driving your car means that you can depart and arrive at your destination at more or less the time you intend to.

Before UAE invested in public transportation, available facilities could not provide a high quality of service because these were far from residential areas.

And although government officials expect the adoption rate of public transport facilities to rise steadily, private transport remains one of the most viable methods of moving in and around the country.

But before you think about buying a vehicle or getting a long-term car lease in the UAE, there are a few essential things you need to know about driving in the UAE.

Obtaining a driver’s license

Like in most countries around the world, you have to be at least 18 years old to drive a vehicle here.

If you currently hold a driver’s license from certain countries, you can exchange it without taking a test. These include Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.

However, if you are from Canada, Cyprus, Greece, Japan, Poland, South Korea, or Turkey, you will need to have your license translated by your consulate. Canadian citizens also need to go to their consulate in Dubai for the verification of their driving license.

To exchange your driver’s license, you will need to submit a few documents, including your passport, residence permit, driver’s license, passport photo, and eye exam results.

For citizens from countries not mentioned in the previous lists, they will need to take driving lessons and pass a test before securing a driver’s license.

A UAE driving license is valid for up to two years.

Important driving rules

To maintain order on the road and prevent accidents and injuries, the UAE implements several rules and regulations. Here’s a brief list of the most important ones.

Wearing seat belts

Wearing seat belts is mandatory for both driver and passengers. If you have a child passenger who is four years old and below, they have to ride with a child safety seat.

Children aged ten and below are not allowed to sit in the front passenger seat.


Car insurance is also mandatory. Your vehicle should have at least a third party insurance.

Driving while using a phone

Using a mobile device while driving is prohibited. Apart from paying a fine, you will be charged four black points if you are caught.

Driving under the influence

The UAE has a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of alcohol. If authorities catch you, you may face fines and even imprisonment.

Speed limits

The UAE implements three speed limits, depending on the area where the road is located. For highways, driving speeds should be anywhere between 100 and 120 kph. For urban areas, your driving speed should be within 40 to 80 kph. In residential areas, driving speed should be maintained at 40 kph.

Understanding the Black Point System

The UAE implements the black point system. That means that apart from paying fines, you will receive a specific amount of black points for every violation that you commit.

Drivers are allowed up to 24 points in a year. If you exceed that number, you will be banned from driving for a year. Black points are valid only for a year. The following year, you will start with zero points.

The Salik system

The UAE has only one road toll system, which is used in Dubai. This is known as the Salik system.

To use the road toll system, you will need to get a Salik tag from any of the Road and Transport Authority centers, the Dubai Islamic Bank or Emirates National Bank of Dubai, or from gas stations. Salik tag credit can be recharged in a variety of ways, including through a mobile app.

The Salik tag costs AED 100, AED 50 of which will be returned to you in the form of credit.

To use the tag, all you have to do is to affix the sticker on your car windshield. A machine will read the sticker, and you do not have to stop your vehicle. You will be automatically charged when you pass through the system’s scanners.

Right-hand drive

The UAE implements a right-hand driving system. This means that if you want to overtake, you should do so from the left side.

Drive safely

Part and parcel of driving safely are knowing which rules to follow on the road. Following these rules plus a few other sensible road safety tips will allow you to arrive at your destination free from harm and other hassles.

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