Rules for driving a rented car in the UAE: what you need to know

Photo of author

Editorial Team

Maneuvering strategies: How to drive a rented car in the United Arab Emirates effectively

The UAE is a beautiful and large federation consisting of 7 different countries. To explore it’s all the unusual places, the best option is to rent a car in Abu Dhabi or Dubai as soon as you get an international driving license. Hiring a car is the best way to understand whether you are ready to drive alone in Abu Dhabi or whether it is better to pay attention to public transport. But before choosing a car, you’ll need to take care of your international driving license. In addition, you need to have a passport and a bank card with the amount of money blocked on it, which will be returned to you as soon as the rental period expires and the car is returned to the lessor. 

What documents must you have to drive a car in Abu Dhabi?

Previously, following the established law, only those who had obtained a local driving license could drive a car in the UAE. However, over the past few years, the number of tourists and labor emigrants has increased significantly, so now, anyone with an international driving license can drive a car. If you have a rather old document, you can exchange it in Abu Dhabi and get a local or corresponding driving license.

Citizens of many European countries, Canada, the USA, and Australia, have the full right to drive a car immediately if they have an international driving license. Without an international document, everyone else must obtain a license. Anyone over the age of 18 can apply for a license. In this case, you need to apply to the Licensing Department with the following package of documents:

  • a copy of your passport;
  • copy and original of the resident visa;
  • Emirates ID;
  • colour photo in 3×4 cm format;
  • a copy and original of your valid driving license (as well as a certified translation into Arabic);
  • permission from your employer (required if it was the reason for obtaining the visa).

If you have never had a driver’s license but have turned 18, you can obtain the document directly in Abu Dhabi. To do this, you must have a resident visa issued in the relevant emirate. In this case, you must register with a licensed driving company responsible for your training. After passing the theory test and the exam, you will be admitted to the theoretical part of the course.

Please also note the following nuance: no law in the UAE would precisely indicate the required number of hours of practical driving. Depending on your knowledge, experience, and practical skills, you can choose from 40, 20, or even 10 hours. Upon course completion, the instructor will issue a certificate stating that you are ready to take the test. Then, the test date is set. If everything goes well, you can get a driving license and rent a car.

Manoeuvring rules: peculiarities of traffic in Abu Dhabi

First, you should pay attention to the fact that there is exclusively RIGHT-hand traffic in all the Emirates. The rules of driving are quite simple and are similar to other countries. You should also pay attention to a few critical nuances:

  1. Read the Abu Dhabi Traffic Code to avoid getting into trouble. 
  2. First, be sure to use a navigator, as the roads in the Emirates have complex junctions, and you can get confused about where to turn, creating an emergency. The city’s speed limit is 60 km/h and 120 km/h on the highway.
  3. Keep your vigilance while driving, as drivers in the UAE drive quite extravagantly, breaking most of the rules. They often exceed the speed limit and suddenly change lanes or turn without turning on the signal. Refrain from following their example, as photographic equipment on the roads records everything, and you will receive a fine.
  4. Never drive drunk, as this is one of the most severe offenses. There are no fines for it. Your insurance will be canceled, and you must pay for the damage you caused. 
  5. If you get into an accident and you are sober, you shouldn’t argue with the other driver. Just call the police and be sure to wait for them. If you leave the scene, you automatically become guilty.
  6. Abu Dhabi has toll roads but very few paid parking spaces. Most of the time, you can safely park your car in special free places. 

Also, public transport in Abu Dhabi is not very well developed compared to Dubai. Therefore, renting a car is the best solution if you need mobility and need to move frequently to different locations without any problems or delays. At the same time, be sure to follow all the rules, remember that cameras are on every corner, and constantly record all events. If you break something, you will have to pay for it.