Driving in Dubai

‘No problem,’ they all say, ‘I’ve been driving for 25 years, I can handle it,’ they insist.  The thing is, driving in Dubai is probably unlike any driving you’ve ever done before.

Driving in Dubai really has a very distinct feel and style to it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Mad Max here on the roads but there are certainly some drivers that wouldn’t pass their test in the UK.

If you’re new to Dubai, about to arrive or just visiting, here are a few things you should know about driving in Dubai.

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Requirements to Drive

If you are a tourist in Dubai you must be 18 years old, you must have a valid tourist or visit visa and you must hold a valid driving license.

If you’re visiting Dubai you can only drive a rental vehicle using your UK license.

If you are moving to Dubai and you enter on your entry permit (the pink visa) you cannot rent a car on your UK license.  Once the visa process has begun (the moment your pink visa is stamped in Dubai airport, your visa process has started) you cannot rent a car on your UK license anymore, you must get a UAE driving license and you can only apply for that once you’ve received your residence permit and ID card.

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The Roads and Traffic

Driving can be a little bit nuts here in Dubai.  You’ll see lots of other people not using indicators, speeding, undertaking, tailgating, driving while on the phone and not wearing a seatbelt.  Don’t be mistaken though, it is definitely illegal.  Dubai is beginning to really crackdown on these kind of driving offences, so don’t always assume they’re actually getting away with it.

The roads in Dubai typically vary between 60km/h and 80km/h (37mph-50mph) and the highways are usually 100km/h to 120km/h (62mph-75mph).  For people living in cities, this type of driving is a lot faster than you’re used to since it seems like 90% of roads in Dubai are highways.

The layout of the roads can be a bit daunting, initially, but as long as you have a satnav or mobile map application you’ll be fine.  You’ll also find that, sometimes, the route getting somewhere is significantly longer or shorter than the route back, which is a bit weird.  The reason is because a lot of Dubai’s roadways are set out like highways where you’ll need to go to the next exit before you can do a u-turn.  You’ll get used to the whole spaghetti junction style roads, though.

Just remember, always pay attention to the road, your surroundings and, oh, yes, you drive on the right in Dubai!  Probably should have mentioned that first.