Driving in Dubai – an overview
As a cosmopolitan city filled with expats from all over the world, Dubai’s roads are filled with drivers of various levels and styles. If you have recently moved to the region, or are just looking to brush up on your knowledge of the rules and regulations to be aware of when travelling around the city, we have provided you with essential information you need to know about driving in Dubai. With the punishments for breaking these rules ranging from having your car impounded or even being deported, it is essential that you thoroughly understand each section.
In Dubai, and the rest of the UAE, people drive on the right hand side of the road, unlike countries such as the UK. Therefore, when driving in the region, it is worth noting that the fast lane will always be on the left side of the road you are driving on, with the slow lane being on your right. Cars are left-hand drives and the majority of vehicles bought in the region are automatics, with little demand from expats for manual cars.
Road Signs – How to read?
The road signs aren’t much different to the ones you would find in the UK or US, and road signs are also written in English and Arabic. However, if you are a non-Arabic speaker or are unfamiliar with areas such as JLT and The Palm, be wary that the areas on signs have been given Arabic names such as the JLT exit being referred to as Al Sarayat Street. Speed limits are clearly indicated throughout the city, too, along with warnings for traffic cameras, often signaled with “These roads are controlled by radar”.
Driver’s License – Basics
To apply for a driving license, you have to be a resident and over the age of 18. If you have an existing driving license from another country, then you can get it transferred into a Dubai license, but only if it’s on the list of eligible countries. If it’s not on the list, or you don’t have a license, you’ll need to have driving lessons from an authorised driving school in the city such as Belhasa or Emirates Driving Institute.
If you are learning how to drive an automatic car from scratch, you will need roughly 40 hours of lessons depending on how skilled you are. If your instructor feels you are not ready to drive on the roads within that time, your lesson hours could increase significantly. You will be tested on parking, driving, lane changing, your ability to understand road rules and regulations, emergency breaking and more.
Speed Limits – Look out!
Speed limits in Dubai vary, some main roads can have speed limits of 140 km/h, while others are 120 km/h or 100 km/h. The usual speed limit for built up areas is 80 km’h, however they can be slower in busy areas.
It is also worth noting that roads have a 10 or 20km/hour excess limit (where the traffic cameras won’t trigger if you’re just a tiny bit faster than the set speed limit), which will explain why you may have drivers in the fast lane whizzing past you when you adhere to the limit.
It may also be useful to go through the list of traffic fines to understand the penalties that are imposed for breaking various traffic rules.
Car insurance is a legal requirement in the UAE, a minimum of third party cover is required to ensure you are complement with the law. Websites such as https://carinsurance.ae/ can help you compare quotes and policies.
Given the fast speeds that cars can reach on UAE roads and the mixture of driving abilities, given the melting pot of cultures in the region, it is essential for you to protect yourself financially from any damage incurred to your vehicle by other drivers. There are many providers in the region who use both traditional and Islamic insurance. These consist of international well-known car insurance providers based in the region, or home grown providers who will specialise in Islamic Insurance (Takaful).
Using obscene hand gestures or language is against the law, which can result in fines, jail, or even deportation. Err on the side of caution and avoid raising your hands or saying anything to drivers who have angered and frustrated you.
Drinking and driving – ZERO tolerance
There is a zero tolerance policy for drink driving, it is against the law to drive if you have consumed alcohol. The consequences of being caught with alcohol in your system while driving include huge fines, a jail sentence deportation and potentially a ban from the UAE.
Mobile Phone – Don’t use while driving!!
Driving while using your mobile phone without a hands-free kit is illegal. However urgent the call, message may be…do not answer or reply. Not only is it illegal, it is not safe to do so.
Road Tolls – Salik
Dubai has it’s own road toll system called Salik, which are overhead arches that appear on the main roads of the city. Vehicles are fitted with a tag on their windscreen that can be credited with money, and every time the vehicle passes through a toll gate the fee for the toll is automatically deducted from the available credit on the tag.
If you pass through a toll gate without a tag, or without sufficient credit on your tag, then you have 10 working days purchase a tag or replenish your credit before you are fined.
The fee to go through a toll gate is Dirhams 4 and there is no cap on the amount you are charged. For example, if you pass through four toll gates in a day, you are charged Dhs16.
Toll gate locations include Sheikh Zayed Road (before you drive towards Trade Centre), Al Barsha near Mall of The Emirates and Garhoud.
If you are in a taxi that goes through a toll gate, you will have Dhs4 added to your fare per toll gate. So if your total fare is Dhs30, but you have been through two toll gates on your journey, your final fare will be Dhs38.
If you are involved in an accident, it must be reported to the police immediately.
All drivers involved in the accident must stop almost exactly where you are on the road, unlike other countries where you are sometimes able to move further down the road to somewhere safer or less disruptive to traffic, in order for police to assess the severity of accident and fine the correct party who caused the crash. The emergency number to call for the Police in Dubai is 999.
Police can take over an hour to arrive at the scene of an accident due to traffic, so try to wait with your fellow passengers in a lay-by lane where it is safe.