Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in UAE?
Cars in the United Arab Emirates drive on the right hand side of the road with overtaking on the left. Remaining aware at all times is vital in the UAE as local drivers have a reputation for being fast and reckless and often you'll find yourself overtaken on both sides. Because of this the Emirates have some of the world's highest accident and driving death rates.
Avoiding the rush hours in the cities as much as possible is a good idea as this is when people are at their most volatile.
If you plan to see the incredible deserts surrounding the UAE then choose a 4x4 vehicle. Other safety precautions should be taken. Let people know where you are going before you leave, travel in a convoy of vehicles and always carry lots of food and water with you.
Having a good map is very useful but constant road works mean they rarely stay up-to-date. You may wish to get a GPS to be on the safe side.
Seat Belt Laws
Because of the appalling road death statistics, it's imperative that all occupants of a moving car wear seatbelts.
Drinking and Driving
Because of the religious restrictions on alcohol, it's no surprise to find that the alcohol limit for driving is zero. This law is imposed firmly and you risk an almost certain jail sentence for breaking it. Don't risk it on your night out, take a taxi.
Must Have Documents
It's necessary for everyone who intends to drive in the UAE to have an international drivers' licence to accompany their own licence. If you are an expatriate resident of the UAE you must obtain a local licence.
Whilst no other documents are compulsory, it's useful to carry the vehicle registration document, proof of insurance and proof of identity.
Speed limits are very variable in the UAE. Some main roads have speed limits of 140 km/h, some are 120 km/h and some are 100 km/h. the usual limit for built-up areas is 80 km/h but slower in busy areas. There's a leeway of 20 km/h for roads with a 120 km/h limit effectively taking them up to 140 km/h but at that speed there are no further concessions.
Minimum Driving Age
The minimum driving age is 18. Most car rental companies require you to be over 25 with some driving experience. Some allow you to be 23 but you'll have to pay a young drivers' excess to do so.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
The use of safety camera warning devices is not illegal in the UAE but given the high accident rate, we recommend that you leave it at home and stick to the limit for your own safety and that of others.
On the Spot Fines
Traffic police issue fine notices for minor offences. These can be up to £500. For more serious offences you'll be given a court summons and can face suspension of your licence, a bigger fine or even a jail sentence.
Child Safety Rules
There have been many changes in UAE driving laws in recent years to reduce road deaths. One is to improve the safety of children travelling in cars so that now no children under twelve can travel in the front unless they fit in an approved car seat that is rear facing with the airbag disabled. Children in the rear who are under twelve must have appropriate seats or booster seats and restraints.
A minimum of third party insurance is required in the UAE.
Rules of the Road
Many of the rules of the road in the UAE are designed to bring down the road death statistics but still they are often ignored.
There are no specific rules you need to watch out for apart from the following:
Be careful travelling on the roads outside of the cities as you'll have to share them with camels or livestock.
Using obscene language or hand gestures can land you in prison, get you a large fine or even deportation so you need to control your temper or face the consequences!
You'll find no specific laws or regulations for towing in the UAE but please make sure that the towed vehicle is securely attached and that other drivers are aware of your actions.
There are both fixed and mobile speed traps in place in the UAE and, despite the seemingly flexible speed limits, they are strictly enforced when the limits are reached. Speeding fines have increased in recent years and are likely to do so again to reduce road deaths. Tickets will be issued by traffic police unless you are considered to be driving dangerously when a court appearance is more likely.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
Despite almost everyone using mobile phones whilst driving, it is illegal to do so without a hands-free kit.
In the cities, parking is hard to find and expensive. You have the choice of on street parking if you can find a space or parking in garages. In smaller towns or in the suburbs you'll find parking much easier and often free.
In town it's best to go for garage parking as street parking isn't easy to find when the cities are so busy. If you find a spot, you can pay at a machine or you can use your mobile and a service called mParking which also warns you when your ticket is about to expire
Traffic police will enforce bad or overdue parking with tickets and fines. Your car can be towed away if it is causing an obstruction.
Special parking arrangements for disabled drivers in the UAE are virtually non-existent but if you ask for assistance at a garage, the attendant will often find you a more convenient spot.
Motor Way Signs
Road signs are similar to what you will find in Britain and are usually easy to understand. Motorway signs have a blue background and white writing. Signs are displayed in Arabic and English language.
Hello/Welcome - Marhuba
Goodbye - Ma’assalaama
Thank you - Shukran
Yes - Na’am
No - La’
Sorry - Muta’assif
Do you speak English? - Tatakullum ingleezi?
I don’t understand - Ana maa afham
How much is that? - Bekam?
Where’s the nearest doctor? - Wayn aghrab tabeeb
Traffic lights in the UAE follow the rules of the Vienna Convention and the sequences will be familiar to most EU and US drivers.
There are some tolls to pay in United Arab Emirates - the Al Garhoud Bridge has a toll for crossing it and the Sheikh Zayad Road does too.
The police can be contacted on 999 or 112 and the medical services are on 998 or 999.
The British Embassies in the UAE are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Khalid bin Al Waleed Street 22
PO Box 248
+971 2 610 1100
Al Seef Road
PO Box 65
+971 4 309 4444
The British Embassy website is http://ukinuae.fco.gov.uk/en/
The US Embassy is at
Abu Dhabi, P.O. Box 4009
+971-2 414 2200
Their website is http://abudhabi.usembassy.gov/
What to do in an emergency
Each Emirate has different rules for accidents. If you are driving in Dubai do not move the vehicle unless it is obstructing other motorists. In Abu Dhabi you can move the vehicle to one side so as not to block traffic, but only if vehicle damage is minor and no one has been hurt. Generally you should keep the car where it is but some of Emirates allow you to move it if it is a minor collision and both drivers can agree on who was responsible. In all cases the police must be called and you must not leave the scene until they have inspected it.
Whatever you do remain calm and courteous as displaying a temper can land you in big trouble. The police have the power to fine anyone that they think is being rude to them. Saying or making any obscene gestures to other drivers in the UAE can be a criminal offence and can result in jail then deportation.
As of June 2014, the price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in the UAE is around 30p a litre. This rises to 32p for diesel.