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Key Tips to Driving in Dubai

Driving in Dubai can be very daunting especially if you have come from a quieter city or suburban area.

Below we have created a list of rules and tips that will be of benefit to even the most experienced drivers. If you are new to Dubai and are anxious about getting behind the wheel it is recommended by many expatriates to practice driving on Friday mornings when even Sheikh Zayed Road is empty.

• DO NOT use enthusiastic hand gestures that may be misinterpreted
• DO NOT leave electronics or food in the car; it will not survive the hot climate especially during the summer months
• DO NOT drink and drive – Dubai has a ZERO tolerance law, even the morning after, traces of alcohol can still be detected
• DO NOT leave animals or children in the car
• DO NOT use your mobile phone when driving it is illegal
• DO NOT drive through a red flashing light
• DO NOT let a driver without a valid UAE drivers license drive your car
• Not all driving license can be transferred to a UAE license automatically so check with for full details
• You cannot exchange your driving license until you have your UAE residency visa
• The legal driving age in the UAE is 18
• Your driving license is renewed every 10 years after the age of 21. Prior to this you will need to re apply for your license annually
• Indicators are not always used so be vigilant
• Drivers commonly use their hazard lights to alert other drivers they are slowing down dramatically
• During the winter months there is often dense fog and even though warned of the dangers, driver use hazard lights instead of fog lights
• Drivers take over other vehicles on the left and right using both lanes
• Speeds are calculated in kilometers and not miles
• General speed limits are 40km on a small suburban streets, 60km – 80km on main roads and 100km – 120km on highways
• Unlike Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) women are allowed to drive in the UAE
• Driving on the beach is generally not permitted
• Car windows may only be tinted upto 30% meaning upto 70% light transparent
• Some expat families choose to employ a full time driver. The cost for this is on average between 3000 dhs – 4000 dhs depending on the agreement
• You need a Salik card to drive along many sections of Sheikh Zayed Road. A Salik card is a a prepaid toll card.
• The acronym for Sheikh Zayed Road is SZR
• In addition to the speed cameras on the side and centre of many roads, the police often park cars in discreet areas checking on road violations
• The RTA ( Road Transport Authority ) website is very informative not only for private vehicle information but also for details on public transport.
• Fuel in Dubai is very cheap, you can fill up a small car with approx 100 dhs and a 4×4 with approx 170 dhs
• A member of staff from the petrol station will fill up your tank, as self-service is not common practice
• If you have an accident dial 999 or 112 ( if calling from a mobile )
• Do not leave the scene of an accident without police issued slip (green slips indicate the accident was not your fault, red slips meaning it was). This is the only way to proceed with an insurance claim
• Always keep water in your car in case of an accident or breakdown
• Traffic light signals are different to other countries. Green means go, Flashing Green means slow down the lights are about to turn, Amber means you should not be passing thought the lights and Red means stop
• The RTA implemented a higher tech system in Dubai where traffic lights turn green, flash green three times before turning to amber and then back to red. The idea behind the flashing green lights is to give motorists advance warning the light is about to change. This allows motorists to have enough time to make a complete stop at the approaching intersection and avoid an accident due to the potential of running a red light
• Roundabouts are commonly found throughout Dubai, when turning left you should stay in the left lane to avoid confusion to other drivers. However be aware as not all drivers follow this rule.  In recent years many roundabouts have given way to large flyovers and underpasses.
• GPS – Satellite navigation systems are not always reliable as roads change on a regular basis. We recommend you keep the Explorer Street map in your car as this is one of the most reliable resources
• Not all businesses have an actual address so they often use landmarks to give directions
• When using Sheikh Zayed Road if you miss your exit you will need to drive to the next interchange to re route your journey

This is not an exhaustive list as driving in Dubai is an on going challenge. We recommend you take time to familiarize yourself with the laws set out by Dubai police before you drive and to always ensure your mobile phone is fully changed before any journey in case of an emergency or simply getting lost.

3 Responses to “Key Tips to Driving in Dubai”

  1. Alexis says:

    Thanks for sharing, we will update this now :)

  2. Christine says:

    Driving in Dubai can be challenging, especially at the beginning… We have to be careful but it is possible. Thanks for this list, even after 4 years in Dubai I didn’t think about keeping water in my car in case I am stuck somewhere….
    Thanks for all your articles, they are really useful!

  3. Issy says:

    Very valid, succinct and on point. Well Done!

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