Driver's license
in the UAE

To provide a fast and comfortable way to travel around the city, many expats who have moved to the UAE or any other country might decide to buy or rent a car here. The possibility of using a driver's license obtained in the home country of an individual is the first question that arises in this case. We have prepared a special article, in which we will look at the specifics of the traffic rules and the registration of a driver's license in the UAE, as well as which categories of foreign nationals and in which situations they can use their existing driver's license issued in other countries.

Traffic rules in the UAE

The UAE is among the world leaders in terms of the level of road system development. In 2019, the state took seventh position in terms of road quality: the corresponding rating was announced at the World Economic Forum.

In general, the traffic regulations in the UAE are the same as in most countries across the world. According to the local laws, the driver has to always carry a driver's license, their Emirates ID, as well as their vehicle registration documents.

Drivers are allowed to travel at speeds from 40 to 50 km / h in residential areas, in the city — from 60 to 80 km / h, and on motorways — from 100 to 120 km / h. There is a fine of AED 400 to AED 3,000 (from USD 109 to USD 817) for drivers who violate the speed limit. The amount of the fine may depend on the degree of the violation and on the legislation of a particular emirate in whose territory the driver violated the established norms.

The use of seat belts is another important requirement. All persons in the car must have a fastened seatbelt. Children under 10 years old must be in special child seats, and only in the back seats. It is forbidden to seat a child next to the driver.

Drivers are prohibited to talk on a mobile phone (but they are allowed to use a speakerphone). In the case of being drunk at the wheel, serious punishment is taken including a large fine, the minimum amount of which constitutes AED 20,000 (USD 5,500) or the deprivation of rights and even prison for up to three years. The degree of intoxication is not important.

The system of "black marks"

In case of violation of traffic rules in the UAE, the driver is fined and receives "black marks", which are special points. A one-year ban on driving any vehicles is imposed on the violator, if he/she scores 24 points or higher. In fact, he/she will be deprived of their driver's license for one year.

The degree of violation affects the amount of accrued "black marks". The driver can receive four points for talking on the phone or other actions that distract attention from the road whilst driving. Twenty four points are awarded on the spot for drunk driving and this is an automatic deprivation of rights for a year.

During the year, these points are summed up and if the limit does not exceed 24 at the end, the result is reset to zero and the account starts again.

Driving features in the UAE

The behavior of local residents on the roads can become a big problem for many foreign drivers in the UAE. Local residents often ignore the established rules despite the strict system of punishments. For instance, in most cases, local drivers neglect the need to turn on headlights, turn signals, etc.

Important! Try to calmly react to the behaviour of local drivers, even if it pisses you off. Rude expressions and gestures, that may seem inoffensive, can lead to serious problems for you, including the imposition of a fine.

UAE Driver's License

There are specific conditions for obtaining a driver's license introduced by the authorities of each emirate. In this regard, it is recommended to apply for the rights in the place where you intend to settle and draw up the rest of the documents, including an Emirates ID and a resident visa.

Driving a car in the UAE is allowed from the age of 18, but only people over the age of 21 are allowed to rent a car. We recommend applying for the rights in advance — six months before the individual turns 18. You must have a local driver's license if you plan to live and work in the UAE on a permanent basis, since a document obtained in another state can only be used temporarily.

There are about 30 definite countries of citizens who have the opportunity to exchange a driver's license issued at home for a UAE license. The list of these states is frequently updated. You can view the list of countries on the website of Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

Citizens of countries not included in this list will need to go through the entire procedure of obtaining a driver's license from scratch, including driving lessons and exams.

Driving in the UAE with a foreign driver's license

Citizens of a number of countries visiting the UAE on a short visit (as a rule, we are talking about tourist or business trips) can use their driver's license issued at home. This applies only to representatives of the Arab Gulf countries, Canada, Great Britain, Bulgaria, Malta and some other states. The majority of CIS countries are not included in this list.

If you are going to rent a car in the UAE, we recommend checking with the rental company before you travel to the country whether they accept the rights issued in your country, or if you need to get an international certificate. Having found out this nuance, you will have time to issue an international document in your country in advance.

An international driver's license is valid for one year and can be issued in 10 languages. Foreigners who have a UAE resident visa can get this document from the UAE Automobile and Tourist Club (ATCUAE).

In the UAE, it is recommended to always keep your international rights/documents with you, since they can be used as an identity card if you lose your passport or Emirates ID.

Note! A foreigner who comes to the UAE on a tourist visa can drive a personal vehicle only if the car belongs to his/her close relative. This is due to the fact that in this country, in case of violation of traffic rules or an accident, the owner of the car will be responsible and fines will also be imposed on the owner of the vehicle.

Exchange of foreign driving licenses

Citizens of 30 states around the world, including Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc., can replace the driver's license obtained at home with a similar UAE document. The UAE driver's license is valid for a year for drivers under the age of 21 and for two years – for people over the age of 21.

To exchange the license, individuals have to submit an appropriate application to one of the RTA offices and attach the package of following documents:

  • a foreign driver's license (original)
  • a legal translation of the document into English or Arabic (if the certificate is in another language)
  • the result of a vision test (in electronic form)
  • Emirates ID

The exchange of a foreign driver's license will cost approximately AED 870 (USD 240). The expenses comprise: 

  • AED 200 (USD 55) — opening a dossier
  • AED 50 (USD 14) — issuance of the directory
  • AED 600 (USD 165) — issuance of a driver's license
  • AED 20 (USD 6) – target fee for education and innovation

An individual will have to retrain and take further driving exams, if his/her country is not included in the list of 30 states whose citizens can exchange their rights for local ones.

How to get a driver's license in the UAE?

The process of obtaining a driver's license in the UAE is no different from the procedure in most countries around the world. The applicant undergoes training, and then passes exams. There are specialized organizations that provide relevant services in each of the emirates:

  • Dubai — Emirates Driving Institute, Belhasa Driving Centre, Al Ahli Driving Center, Dubai Driving Centre and Galadari Motor Driving Centre
  • Abu Dhabi - Emirates Driving Company
  • Ras Al Khaimah - Ras Al Khaimah Driving Academy
  • Sharjah — Sharjah Driving Institute
  • Fujairah — Fujairah National Driving Institute

Persons from the age of 18 are allowed to drive cars in the UAE, from the age of 20 you can drive tractors and trucks, and buses can be driven from the age of 21. The right to drive motorcycles, as well as transport for people with special needs has been granted from the age of 17.

The creation of a driver's dossier in one of the authorized organizations listed above is the first stage of registration of the certificate. The applicant is given a license after the theory training and passing the practical exams. The document is valid for two years for both UAE citizens and expats. The document can be extended for five years for foreign residents and for 10 years for citizens of the Arab Gulf states, including the UAE.

The validity of a driver's license can be extended in most emirates online, but an individual must first pay off all their outstanding fines, if any. A fine of AED 10 (USD 2.7) is imposed on the driver in the case of delaying the renewal process for more than a month.