With it’s incredible skyscrapers, expansive deserts, and rich culture, the UAE is known for providing one of the most glamorous travel experiences in the world. As such, it’s two major cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are popular destinations amongst travelers and expats alike.
Similarly, when it comes to driving, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are renowned for providing a luxurious experience. Here, it is not uncommon to spot sports cars blitzing down skyscraper-lined superhighways.
For those visiting or moving to the UAE, you may want to drive while you’re there. Many of the country’s major attractions are spread out, and the hot desert sun can be unbearable. As such, traveling in an air-conditioned car is undoubtedly the best way to get around.
To ensure you’re all clued up before your visit, here is everything you need to know about driving in UAE. This includes the country’s traffic laws, tips on car insurance, and more.
Is it Safe to Drive in the UAE?
The United Arab Emirates is neither the safest nor the most dangerous country to drive in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that road accidents are the second-highest cause of death in the UAE.
While the rate of deaths on the road was expected to increase, efforts by the UAE’s Ministry of Interior and local traffic departments have helped reduce this. A figure that was reported at 17.9 per 100,000 people in 2016 was reported at 3.14 per 100,000 people for 2020.
While the mortality rate of the roads is decreasing year on year, this remains a major cause of death and injury.
Main Causes of Road Deaths in the UAE
Below is a breakdown of some of the major causes of road accidents in the UAE:
- Sudden lane change and/or swerving – 20%
- Driving under the influence – 20%
- Not leaving a safe distance between cars – 19%
- Incorrect estimation of distances – 10%
- Not following the lane – 6%
- Entering a road without checking if it is clear – 6%
- Jumping a red light or ignoring traffic signals – 5%
- Driving without paying attention – 4%
- Reversing in a dangerous way – 3%
- Speeding – 2%
Below is a look at who causes accidents based on gender:
- Male – 90%
- Female – 10%
Here is an outline of who causes accidents based on age:
- Younger than 21 – 9%
- Age 21 to 29 – 37%
- Age 30 to 39 – 34%
- Age 40 to 49 – 14%
- Older than 50 – 6%
Below is a look at the different types of cars involved in road accidents in the UAE:
- Private car – 64%
- Truck or bus – 11%
- Motorbike – 8%
- Taxi – 5%
- Minibus – 5%
To ensure you drive safely, it is important to adhere to the UAE traffic laws. Below are rules and regulations that you need to know before driving in the UAE.
Valid Driving License
When driving in the United Arab Emirates, it is important to have a valid driver’s license on you at all times.
For individuals above the age of 21, driving licenses are valid for up to two years. It will then need to be renewed and will be valid for ten years for citizens and GCC nationals and five years for other nationalities.
For drivers below the age of 21, your license will be accepted for one year and will then need to be renewed.
In the UAE, the steering wheel can be found on the left-hand side of the vehicle. As such, driving takes place on the right-hand side of the road. However, on larger roads like a Dubai highway, you can overtake cars on either side.
UAE Speed Limit
Speed limits in the UAE vary depending on the classification and size of the road. Common speed limits are:
- UAE/Dubai highways – 62 to 100 mph (100 to 160 kph)
- Rural areas – 62 mph (100 kph)
- Urban areas – 25 to 50 mph (40 to 80 kph)
- Residential areas – 25 mph (40 kph)
- Parking areas – 16 mph (25 kph)
Depending on how far above the speed limit you are caught driving, you can expect fines of between $82 USD (AED 300) and $817 USD (AED 3,000). If you’ve really pushed it, you may also get slapped with 23 black points. This is a lot, as 24 black points will result in your license being either confiscated or suspended. Your car may also be impounded for 60 days.
Driving under the influence is illegal in the UAE. Regarding drinking, it is important to note that the UAE has zero-tolerance to alcohol. It doesn’t matter how little alcohol you have consumed before driving; you will still face some severe consequences.
Penalties for driving under the influence include:
- Getting your license suspended for one year
- A fine of $4,445 USD (AED 20,000) to $8,168 USD (AED 30,000)
- Jail term spanning one month to three years
Not Wearing a Seatbelt
In the UAE, wearing a seatbelt is mandatory. And this does not apply solely to the driver but to passengers sitting in the rear seat as well. Failure to comply with this will result in a fine of around $110 USD (AED 400).
Children up to the age of four need to be seated in a child safety seat. Violating this law will result in a $110 USD (AED 400) fine, as well as four black points.
Reckless driving comprises a variety of actions that can endanger the lives of others on the road. Common violations include sudden swerving, not leaving a safe distance, driving without a number plate, and several more.
Generally, reckless driving will result in a hefty fine of around $545 USD (AED 2,000). Depending on the severity of the action, it could also result in black points or impounding of your vehicle.
Ignoring Traffic Signals and Road Signs
Ignoring traffic signals and road signs such as red lights and stop streets is also a finable offense. Whether you’re a motorist or driver in Dubai (or elsewhere in the UAE), ignoring traffic signals can result in a fine of around $273 USD (AED 1,000). You may also receive a penalty of 12 black points, and your vehicles or bike may be seized for a month.
Being distracted while driving is dangerous. As previously mentioned, this is the cause of 4% of road deaths – which equated to 239 deaths in 2019, according to the WHO.
Common distractions include using your phone, eating or drinking, or slowing down to observe an accident. Using your phone while driving or any other distractions can result in a fine of $110 USD (AED 400) and four black points.
There are a number of violations that drivers and pedestrians make. If you’re visiting the UAE, these are common acts to avoid for your safety as well as the safety of others.
- Crowding around accident sites
- Throwing garbage out the window
- Not fastening your seatbelt
- Driving without insurance or car registration
- Illegally transporting passengers
- Driving a car with expired tires
- Overtaking on the hard shoulder
- Driving a noisy vehicle
Now that you know the basic laws and regulations around driving in the UAE, let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions below.
What is the Dubai Driving Age?
The legal driving age in the UAE varies depending on the type of driving license you wish to obtain. The minimum age requirements are as follows:
- Motorcycles – 17 years old
- Cars and light vehicles – 18 years old
- Heavy vehicles and tractors – 20 years old
- Buses – 21 years old
International driving licenses are accepted in the UAE. However, the country does not accept driving licenses from many countries around the world. Currently, the list of valid UAE international driving licenses comprises 50 countries.
It’s also worth noting that Canadian travelers or expats will need to present a letter from the Canadian consulate in the UAE to validate their driving license. People from Cyprus, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Poland, and Turkey will need to have their licenses translated to English.
Driving in Dubai (or elsewhere in the UAE) with a US license is possible for non-resident visitors as a US driving license is on the list of valid UAE driving license countries.
For those with a residency visa, you will need to convert your US driving license to a UAE or Dubai driver’s license. Fortunately, for US nationals, this does not mean retaking your driving test. All you will need to do is visit the driving license center and present a series of documents.
For US license holders who are not US residents, you will not need to acquire a new driving license. However, you will need to retake the theory, yard, and road test before transferring your current license.
Are Women Allowed to Drive in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
Yes, women are allowed to drive in the UAE. Some cities, including Dubai, also offer women-only taxi services with female drivers. The misconception that women are not allowed to drive in the UAE stems from a law that was present in Saudi Arabia, the UAE’s neighboring country. This was the only country to prohibit females from driving; however, this ban was lifted in 2018.
Now that you have a better understanding of the rules and regulations for driving in the UAE, here are several more tips to help you get around safely:
- If it’s your first time driving in the UAE, consider hitting up the roads when it is less busy. Generally, Friday mornings are the quietest times.
- If someone is speeding, maintain your speed and let them drive around you. Avoid speeding up as there are many speed cameras on the Dubai roads.
- Be aware of the different lanes and the speed limits. It can be dangerous driving slower in the fast lane. Similarly, speeding in the slower lanes is not allowed.
- Be mindful of camels and goats on the road.
- Avoid using hand gestures as this can be perceived as offensive in the UAE.
- Familiarize yourself with the different road signs in the UAE.
Summary on Driving in the UAE
Driving in the UAE may be a totally different experience when compared to driving in your home country. With luxury sports cars speeding down the fast lane and the odd camel in the road, driving here can take some getting used to.
While the UAE roads do offer a wonderful driving experience, car accidents are not uncommon. As such, to ensure you drive safely, it is best to adhere to the rules and regulations outlined in this guide.
Planning a trip to the UAE’s remarkable deserts? Check out this article on tips on off-road driving in the UAE.