Dubai: A driving licence in the UAE is more than just a good skill to have. Whether you are a job seeker, a working professional or even a stay-at-home parent, a driving licence can make or break your chances of successfully living in the UAE.
With one of the world's best infrastructure, ranked third best in the world by the World Economic Forum in 2015, the UAE is extremely well-connected and driving is almost an essential. Also, driving without a licence can land you in a lot of legal trouble, which is not worth it. Of course, the country also has an excellent public transport system, which can be used very effectively, too. We have another detailed article on everything you need to know about using public transport in the UAE. Do check it out.
Here, we break down all that you need to know on how to get your licence for a light motor vehicle.
Do UAE residents need a licence in 2018?
Who can apply?
You need to be:
- a citizen or resident of the UAE.
- over the age of 18 (for a light motor vehicle licence. Motorcycles and heavy vehicles have separate set of requirements).
- Medically fit (entails an eye test).
What documents do I need?
Documents required to open a traffic file include:
- Copy of passport and residence visa page
- Copy and original Emirates ID card
- 2 photographs
- Eye test report
- No objection letter from the sponsor (if required by the related traffic department).
For Emiratis, only an Emirates ID is required. For expats, Emirates ID and resident visa is required.
A no objection certificate from the sponsor is required for certain professions, details of which are provided at each driving centre or can be found on the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) website. The RTA has now started allowing sponsors to issue the NOCs online, making the entire process a lot quicker and easier.
Eye tests check an applicant for visual activity and colour blindness. Most optics shops across the country provide eye test reports for applying for a driving licence. Head over to a shop near you and simply ask them if they offer the service. Prices can vary based on the emirate you are applying from.
I already have a driving licence, though. Can I drive in the UAE?
Only nationals from around 30 countries are eligible to convert their home driving licence into a UAE one. The detailed process of how that can be done can be found here.
Nationals from other countries need to follow the process below to get a licence.
Which centres can I apply to?
UAE's federal website provides the following list of registered driving centres in the country:
- Emirates Driving Company - 600 588880
- Emirates Driving Institute - 04 263 1100
- Dubai Driving Centre - 04 345 5855
- Galadari Motor Driving Centre - 04 2676166
- Belhasa Driving Centre - 800 2354272
- Al Ahli Driving Center 800-252454
- Sharjah Driving Institute - 06 538 2020
Ras Al Khaimah
- Ras Al Khaimah Driving Academy - 07 233 2888
- Fujairah National Driving Institute - 09 201 4000
How many classes should I register for?
This can vary significantly based on your driving experience, from 10 training hours to 40.
Most centres offer applicants the chance to take a road test after 10 training hours if they have a valid driving licence from another country.
Applicants also need to take eight mandatory theory classes and take a theory test before moving to training on UAE roads.
Speak to your centre to find out the number of training hours (driving classes) you would need to register for. Passing the driving test on your first try, though, is easier said than done.
Bonus money–saving tip - If your budget allows for a one-time payment, many centres offer a discounted cost for a pre-determined number of training classes.
Automatic or manual – which licence should I get?
While many driving enthusiasts cannot get enough of the manual driving experience, a majority of driving applicants seem to go for the automatic vehicle licence as there are fewer vehicle management rules to learn.
Whether you choose one or the other, here are some basic differences you need to keep in mind:
- With a manual licence, you will be able to drive any light motor vehicle, whether it has a manual or automatic gear.
- With an automatic licence, you will only be able to drive a car with an automatic gear.
If you already have an automatic vehicle licence from the UAE and want to convert it to a manual driving licence, you can simply register with a driving school and apply for a manual road test. If you pass the test, your licence will be converted to a manual driving licence.
Driving schools, however, advise that the applicants take a few hours of training before attempting a road test.
How much will it cost me?
Once you register with a driving school, they will charge you a one-time fee which includes the registration fee, the road test fee and the licence issuance fee. If you want to take a few classes of training, that fee will also be added to the one-time payment.
Total costs can vary from one institute to the other, so speak to the institute in your emirate for details.
What are the tests that I need to take?
The tests an applicant needs to take are:
- Theory test
- Parking test
- Road test
Theory tests can be harder than you think, with applicants being tested on the meaning of road signs, rules while driving on highways or busy junctions and how to act when there are road hazards. Many driving institutes, however, offer free online mock tests to help prepare you for success. A quick online search can help give you several tests available online to practice before you head over for the real one.
Theory tests can be harder than you think, with applicants being tested on the meaning of road signs, rules while driving on highways or busy junctions and how to act when there are road hazards. Many driving institutes, however, offer free online mock tests to help prepare you for success.
The parking test, also known as yard test, includes checking the applicant’s abilities to successfully maneouver the car in the following situations:
- Parallel parking
- Side parking (60 degrees angle)
- Garage parking
- Sudden braking.
Did you pass your yard test? Now computer will tell Dubai driving learners
Road tests are perhaps the hardest, with many residents having the dubious distinction of taking several tests before finally passing and getting a licence. If you want to get tips and tricks on how to pass your road test and what not to do, check out the links below.
Driving schools in the UAE apply very strict training rules, with many monitoring a trainee's every move.
Once you have been given a date for the road test, you will be part of a group of applicants who take the car out for a drive with a traffic officer. After the group has taken turns to drive and each applicant has been tested for several aspects of driving according to the rules on UAE roads, the group returns to the driving centre to find out if they have passed.
Dubai recently announced that it would be using artificial intelligence to conduct road tests in an automated way.
Even though many residents find it challenging to get a driving licence in the UAE, others have written to Gulf News finding the entire process extremely easy.
If you do pass the test, well ... Mabrook! You are now the proud owner of a UAE driving licence.
For how long is my licence valid?
For drivers under the age of 21, the validity of the licence is one year.
Each driving centre has departments where the licence is issued right after the test is successfully completed.
Can I get a bike licence?
If applicants have a bike licence from any of the recognised countries that are listed above, they can automatically convert their country’s motorcycle licence to a UAE one.
If you have a bike licence from a country that is not on the list, you can register for fewer classes before taking a road test. Beginners need to register for a mandatory 15 hours of training in most centres before they can take a road test.
The training covers all aspects of driving a motorcycle in the UAE, including how to control and balance the motorcycle, lane discipline, use of gears, clutch, side mirrors etc as well as what the traffic signs mean. There are also 8 theory classes that need to be attended, with many centres offering online classes as well.
- Original Emirates ID
- Passport copy
- Eye test
- 2 passport size photographs
- NOC (No Obecjtion Certificate) may be required from sponsor in certain cases.
- Visa copy may be requested by the centre in certain cases.
- If you want to take fewer classes because you have a licence from your home country, you will need to provide the valid driving licence along with a legal translation if it is not in English or Arabic. If the licence is in a handwritten or book format, it needs to be attested by the home country embassy/consulate.
The bike licence validity is the same as a light motor vehicle licence validity - two years, except for drivers under the age of 21
Do I need to get a desert driving licence?
While Sharjah has introduced mandatory desert driving licence, other emirates also offer optional training for those interested in mastering their dune bashing skills. Applicants are trained in aspects of desert driving like the vehicle’s swing technique, basics of the vehicle's mechanics, identifying the desert terrain and safety techniques.
Desert safari company drivers are required to have a specialised driving licence, but individuals in emirates apart from Sharjah can also register with some driving institutes to get one-day training courses. Not every driving centre offers the course, so speak to your driving institute to find out if you can register for it.
Original and valid 6 months UAE car driver’s license OR an original and valid 6 months international car driver’s license