Expat Guide To Driving In The UAE

Driving in the United Arab Emirates can be a nerve-wracking experience for expats, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Drivers do not always show the same discipline behind the wheel as expats would expect back in Britain, says online guidance.

While the World Health Organisation confirms the chance of dying in a road accident is seven times higher in the UAE than in the UK.

Rules of the road

Many traffic laws are harsher than those in Britain – and some common British driving habits have a different meaning to UAE motorists.

  • Rental cars – British visitors or expats can drive rental cars with a UK driving licence. Expats applying for residence will need to swap their UK licence for a local one once their residence permit is issued
  • Drinking and driving – Driving with any trace of alcohol in your body is a criminal offence and car insurance providers will void a driver’s policy if they have an accident while drunk driving
  • Offensive gestures – Making rude signs to drivers or pedestrians and swearing can lead to fines, imprisonment and even deportation
  • Flashing headlights – To UAE drivers, headlight flashing often means they are coming through rather than giving way
  • Desert driving – Always take extra fuel and water and travel in a 4×4. Leave an itinerary and a mobile phone number with someone and try to travel in a convoy with other vehicles
  • Crossing roads – Pedestrians should only cross at recognised crossings, and even then, many drivers ignore their right of way and fail to stop

Dealing with accidents

If you have an accident, different rules apply in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the other emirates.

  • Across the UAE, call the police and wait for them to arrive – leaving the scene of an accident before the police turn out is an offence.
  • In Abu Dhabi, if no one is injured and their vehicles are not badly damaged, drivers should shift their vehicles to the side of the road to allow other traffic to pass.
  • In Dubai, the vehicle should only be moved if the road is blocked
  • Elsewhere, the vehicle can only be moved if all parties involved in the accident agree who is to blame

“Driving standards in the UAE are not the same as those in the UK and can be a shock to some drivers,” said an FCO spokesman. “Road accidents and speeding are common.”

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