There are some good public transport options across the UAE but most people travel by car, whether that’s driving themselves or using the generally excellent and inexpensive taxi service.
Vehicles in the UAE have the steering wheel on the left, they drive on the right hand side of the road, and the vast majority of cars have automatic transmissions. Speed limits are usually 60 to 80kph in town, while on main roads and roads to other emirates they are 100 to 120kph. The limit is clearly indicated on signs.
You can drive on an international licence while on your visit visa, but getting a UAE driving licence is compulsory once you have a residence visa. Some nationalities qualify for an automatic licence transfer, so long as their original licence has not expired. Owning a car requires you have an annual registration that confirms the vehicle is roadworthy, as well as an insurance policy to cover the vehicle. Always keep your driving licence in the vehicle, along with the vehicle registration card – you could be fined if stopped by the police otherwise.
See the How To's section for step by step guides to buy and sell a vehicle, learn to drive, and register a vehicle.
Once you have your residence visa, you must apply for a UAE driving licence if you wish to drive (apart from GCC nationals who are allowed to drive on their existing GCC licences). This licence is then valid for 10 years.
How to get one
Citizens with licences from the following countries are eligible for automatic driving licence transfers: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States. If you are not eligible, you will have to re-sit a theory and practical driving tests. It is the same procedure for obtaining a motorcycle licence.
To get your UAE driving licence, you need to take an eye test at a government-approved optician and submit paperwork to the Drivers Licensing Department in Abu Dhabi or an RTA licensing centre in Dubai. The licence is produced within minutes.
If you fail to produce your driving licence during a police spot check not only will you be fined Dhs.100, but you also risk having to appear in court or having your car impounded. If you take your licence to the police within 24 hours, your fine will be reduced.
See the How To's section for a step by step guide to apply for a UAE driving licence.