Well, before I even go on to say anything I’ll like to clear the air on the topic itself. The phrase “International Driving License” is incorrect and non-existing. What we have is a “National Driving License” as well as an “International Driving Permit”, both phrases are totally different in meaning and their purposes are also different. It might want to sound confusing, don’t worry, I’ll shed light on both of them.
National Driving License: by explanation, this is a domestic official document which is usually like a credit card in size and usually plastic, which certifies you as an individual to be competent enough to operate a vehicle on a public road.
International Driving Permit is basically a multi interpretation of your driving license. It is translated into the 12 most spoken languages in the globe. It shows your competency to be able to drive on foreign roads and is used by travelers when they travel out of their country to a farther place away from home. It is useful as a type of identification in over 150 countries.
It is clear that both of them certifies your ability to handle the wheels perfectly, the only difference is that the National Driving License is mostly only useful within your country of residence, while the International Driving Permit is a requirement when you travel to an entirely different country and would for one reason or another want to drive a car, then it’s compulsory to get a Driving permit. I hope that is clear enough.
Having said that, the topic can now be restructured to “Driving in Dubai with an International Driving Permit”.
Driving in Dubai UAE with an International Driving Permit (IDP)
Going straight to the point. If you happen to be a visitor in Dubai and would want to consider hiring a car throughout your stay to ease your motion within the city. Trust me, it’s a very good idea as renting a car is very affordable coupled with the fact that fuel is very cheap in this part of the world. Meanwhile, who has the guts to get on the wheels without a Driver’s license which certifies him/her to be competent, that will be like subjecting yourself to an unnecessary fine if caught by a law enforcement agent. Just as a License is a prerequisite to driving in every other part of the globe, the situation is no different in the city of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates in general.
We can say, driving in Dubai as a visitor can generally be divided into three (3) categories based on your country of nationality (or country of residence). The categories are;
- Countries that can drive with their country’s national driver’s license
- Countries that require an International Driving Permit coupled with their national Driver’s license
- Countries that compulsorily need to get a Driving License.
Each of these categories will be further explained, and the group of countries that are under will be listed extensively, so you will know precisely where you belong.
Countries that can drive in Dubai UAE with their country’s national driver’s license
The first group here mainly contains the countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). They are;
- Kingdom of Bahrain
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- The United Arab Emirates.
Possessing a driver’s license from any of the GCC countries (Saudi, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar) grants your automatic opportunity to drive a rented vehicle without any issue for three months in Dubai and the UAE. For more than 3 months, you will have to apply for a UAE driver’s license.
Presenting a GCC country license to the car rental company gives you outright approval. When stopped by the police, your domestic license is okay to save you.
Countries that require an International Driving Permit coupled with their national Driver’s license
According to the law that guides driving in Dubai, the second category here does not have the privilege of driving freely by just providing merely their domestic License (license belonging to their country of residence). In addition to that, it is necessary for them to provide an International Driving Permit at a car rental company for their request to be put into consideration. Presently, the countries on the RTA list are as follows;
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States of America.
Please note clearly that this list can be changed at any time depending on the decision from the Authorities, so make sure to always check out for an update on the RTA official website. If you are a tourist or visitor from the above-mentioned countries, you have access to rent a car by just providing your Local License and your international Permit as mentioned earlier. Though, in some cases, if you are not with an international Permit, the company from which you are renting a car can provide you with a temporary driving permit after certify your driver’s license to be genuine enough. The permit you will be offered will last for the few days of your stay.
Meanwhile, if you come from the above countries, and your driving license is not in either English or Arabic, you will require a translation or a consulate letter to prove your domestic License to be genuine. All you have to do is locate your country’s consulate and they will get it done for you in no time.
Note that; this is specifically for renting a car. If you want to drive a private car, then you must procure a Dubai driving license. Usually, a temporary one is issued, but this only lasts for a maximum of 1 month. So, if you plan on buying a car or shipping your car into the city, keep this in mind. As a temporary visitor, then it better to consider a car hire than bring your car from your country of residence.
Countries that compulsorily need to get a Driving License
If after going through the first two groups and you seem not to find your country on either of the lists, then the only option left is you will have to apply for a Dubai driver’s license. Well, I don’t think it’s a good idea if you are only visiting for a short time. You will have to undergo training and a series of tests plus, it will take some time to be ready.
But if you are migrating to the city (that is, you plan on becoming a resident already), then it’s better to get a Driver’s license to be able to drive freely within the city and other Emirates in the UAE as well.
How to get an International Driving Permit
Applying for an international Driving Permit depends on your country’s policies. Below are mostly required documents to apply for one;
- Valid National Driver’s Licence
- National Identity card
- Recent passport photographs (usually 2)
- Application form
These are the common documents that are required, you can contact the right authorities in your country for further inquiries.
Applying for a Dubai Temporary Driving Permit
As mentioned earlier, as a visitor who has an international Driving Permit, you are only limited to drive a rented car in Dubai but cannot drive a locally registered vehicle or a personal vehicle. To be eligible, getting a temporary driving permit is very important. Requirements for the application are;
- Your Passport
- Completed Application form
- Your National Driving License & International Driving Permit
- 2 passport photographs.
Visit the Dubai Traffic Police Department with the above documents coupled with the required fee and it will be issued to you if documents are genuine. Note that it is only valid for as long as your visit lasts. It will be retained by the Traffic Police upon leaving the city.
Meanwhile, once you possess an Emirates identity (either you are a worker, a student, or just living in Dubai), you should know clearly that you are no longer classified as a tourist but a Resident. In that case, you are not allowed to use either of your home’s driving license or your International Driving permit, it is a compulsion on you to procure a UAE driving license to be allowed to drive. If your country of nationality is eligible for an exchange, then that should be the best option but if not, then you’ll have to start processing a new one.
How to Exchange your foreign driver’s license
Exchanging your domestic driver’s license to that of Dubai is easier and faster. It only requires some paperwork and a visit to the Traffic Authority of Dubai and ta-da – you have your plastic card popping out of the printer; your UAE driving license. Meanwhile, not everybody is eligible, the authorities recognize the validity of some countries license above others. The eligible countries are;
- Hong Kong
- Kingdom of Bahrain
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- South Korea
If you have your license from one of the above-mentioned countries. All you have to do is locate the Local Service Center in Dubai, then take the documents below with you;
- Your national Driver’s License
- Your Emirate Identity card/resident Visa
- Your Passport
- Passport-sized photographs
- Eye test report
- Translation of your License to Arabic (if it is neither in English or Arabic)
- A No Objection Certificate (NOC), duly stamped by your employer (if required).
After submitting the necessary credentials, your License should be ready within a few days after being scrutinized, theory and practical tests are not needed. The whole expenses should not be more than AED 1000. Meanwhile, if your License is neither in English or Arabic, you’ll need a translation service at your country’s consulate in Dubai.
However, if you seem not to find your country in the above list, there’s no cause for alarm as far as you trust your driving skill. You’ll be given the privilege to quick theory and road test just to know if you are competent enough. If you pass that one test, you’ll be issued your UAE license in no time. But if you fail that first test, you’ll be required to pass through a minimum of eight lessons which will be focused on an advanced level, after which you can return to take the test again.
But, what if you are new to driving and want to have the experience so as to obtain a license. How could this piece be complete without guiding you through the process of obtaining a driver’s license as a newbie to driving?
How to apply for a new UAE Driver’s License
Being a newbie to driving and want to apply for a License from the scratch. I’ll be frank here, the process is a bit long and can be stressful, but do you have a choice? Here, I’ll be focused on the first process involved in getting a license for a light motor vehicle; it will be a breakdown of virtually everything you need to know.
First and foremost, you should know that applying for a UAE driving license requires that you must be over 18 years of age, be a resident, and be medically fit (mostly referring to eye condition). If you meet this requirement, then you are good to go. The first process involved is opening a file at one of the accredited driving centers in the city. Some of these centers are;
- Emirates Driving Institute
- Dubai Driving Centre
- Galadari Motor Driving Centre
- Belhasa Driving Centre
- Al Ahli Driving Center
The documents you’ll need to create your file are;
- Copy of your passport & residence Visa
- Emirates ID card
- 2 passport photographs
- Eye test report
- No Objection Certificate from your sponsor/Employer (if required).
Full details of professions that require a no-objection certificate and those that do not are available at the driving centers and you can also check it out on RTA’s website. However, RTA is currently making partnerships with employers to make the issuing of NOC online, which is even easier and saves time.
The eye test report is to check for how effective your vision is and to checkmate for eye defects like color blindness and other eye defects that make vision blurry as a driver having a blurry vision is likely to cause an accident. This test can be done at any shop you know that offers the service, then the report taken to the driving center.
After creating your file and paying the necessary fees to the driving center, they will be in charge of training you on both theoretical and practical knowledge you need to know about handling the wheels. After going through all the necessary classes, you’ll need to take a series of tests which is used to determine if you are competent enough to own a License or not. The tests are categorized into 3 stages namely;
- The Theory test
- The Parking test
- The Road test
The theory test entails examining your knowledge on the representation of road signs, highway driving rules as well as driving through busy junctions, and also things you should do as a driver when road hazards occur. Well, the test is not as easy as it looks. However, free online pre-tests are now available to prepare you beforehand; practicing online should make the real one easier.
The next test that follows is the Parking test which is used to examine how you can park your car appropriately in spaces provided for your Vehicle. You are provided with different parking conditions like; Parallel parking, Side parking, garage parking as well as hill parking to see how you can manage yourself to fit in.
If you successfully pass the two former tests, it is then followed by the Road test which might seem like the toughest of all. For many, they have to take several road tests before scaling through to get their license. On the proposed date, you will be required to drive through some certain routes with a traffic officer. The officer assesses your driving with respect to the rules guiding driving on the city road. His assessment determines your fate. If passed, then congratulations! You are a now certified possessor of a UAE driver’s license, it will be issued to you at the driving center. But if you eventually fail the test, you will be required to take more lessons and then return for another test when fit.
The Authorities announced recently its plan to start conducting road tests in automated ways by making use of Artificial intelligence, that will of course be a great development.
A driving license is one good property to possess irrespective of who you are or what you do (as far as you are above 18). It makes commuting very easy when you have access to a car. Asides from having your domestic national License, it is very important to also possess an International Driving Permit when planning on traveling abroad especially to a place like Dubai where car rental services are readily available and fuel is very cheap.
As a tourist, If your country is eligible to drive in the city with an international driving license, that is a greater advantage. If not, you have to apply for a temporary license which will last for as long as your visit.