Driving Licenses in Dubai
by Al Mubasheri | Novemebr 2014
Anyone who wishes to drive in Dubai needs a valid driving license. This also applies to tourists and temporary residents, who can drive with an International Driving Permit as long as they hold a valid license issued by one of a number of approved countries. Those who plan to become residents of Dubai must apply for a Dubai license. Expatriates from certain countries are able to exchange their existing license for a Dubai one, but new drivers, anyone without a valid Dubai driving license, and drivers who hold a license from a non-approved country must take a full driving test.
Cars are left-hand drive, and traffic is supposed to stay on the right hand side of the road (as in Europe, US and Canada; opposite of Britain, Asia, Australia, South Africa and NZ). Bicycles with cardboard boxes or newspapers stacked up on the rear; however, seem to prefer doing the opposite – that may be a result of cyclists wanting to "face the enemy". Boxless bicycles usually travel on the correct side of the road.
Speed limits on Dubai roads are clearly indicated on road signs and vary according to the road type. In general, speed limits are 40-80 Km in urban areas, 25 Km/h in parking areas and on service roads, and 100-120 Km on main highways and roads to other emirates. On highways there is a minimum speed limit of 60 Km. In residential areas; speed limits can be as low as 40 Km. Yellow lines painted across the road indicate an oncoming speed bump. Speed cameras and radars are common, as are on-the-spot traffic fines for certain offences. Speeding fines are often paid when renewing vehicle registration, as it is not possible to renew a vehicle's registration unless all fines have been paid.
Dubai has a black points system. If 24 points are issued within one year the person's driving license is suspended, and they must wait for at least three months before the license is issued again. It may be possible to deduct points by taking certain training courses, but this is at the discretion of the police. Repeat offenders will incur higher penalties.
Dubai police usually deal with minor traffic offences and hand out fines up to 500 Dhs (could be 3000 Dhs after March 2008), however if a traffic offence involves injury and/or significant property damage then the case will be referred to the courts and a judge will decide the penalty. After some time in Dubai, driving around, it will become apparent which rules are important to adhere to. For example:
Driving through a red light will cost 500 Dhs (possibly 1500 Dhs) if flashed by traffic light camera, and probably a long conversation at the police station if seen by a policeman. If it's a second or greater offence, you may end up in jail and/or have your car impounded.
Driving through a stop sign without stopping is normal behavior (but most people do slow down and look).
Ignoring speed limits is unlikely to get you pulled over by the police unless you are going significantly faster than the rest of the traffic. The number of radars being installed is increasing substantially so expect to collect a few speeding fines.
Parking – where there are meters, you'll be likely to get a ticket if you don't use one (100-200 Dhs per ticket vs 1-2 Dhs per hour parking fee). Pay them when renewing car registration (the demand to pay within 7 days isn't enforced in our experience).
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