An essential guide to getting your UAE driver's licence: how to transfer or start from scratch
So, you have arrived in the country and your new workplace isn't on the Metro line, if you are in Dubai, or near any other public transport. Basically, you have two options: run up a tab on fares for taxis and the like to get you from A to B for the rest of your tenure in the UAE or give driving a go.
The latter may leave you feeling anxious – what with traffic jams and pushy and/or erratic drivers to take into consideration – but thankfully, getting on the road is relatively easy.
But things will vary depending on what emirate you are in and where your original licence is from.
To get started, you basically need to know the guidelines for your country of origin, because it is going to be easier for some than others.
If you are from the below countries, and you hold a driver's licence from back home, you can simply transfer your licence:
One you have all this sorted, you will need to get an eye test.
Most hospitals, clinics and opticians offer the test – which were originally supposed to be free – for a fee of about Dh150, and it is a relatively simple process. Especially, if like in my personal experience, they ask you to read the exact same letters on each eye – meaning it can sometimes be a game of memory more than anything else.
After you have had your eyesight verified, all that is left is gathering a few documents. You will need:
- Your passport (original and copy)
- A copy of your residence permit
- Your home-country driving licence
- A no-objection (NOC) letter from your sponsor (which isn't always asked for, but is worth taking just in case)
- One passport photo
- Your eye-test certificate (again, this isn't always asked for, but better to have on hand in case)
- The added extras if you are from a country that requires translations and consulate letters
- Dh870 in cash
Unfortunately, if you're applying now, the price of getting your licence transferred is more than double as expensive as it is was before December 2017. It will now sting you Dh870 compared to the Dh360 it used to: Dh200 for opening a file, Dh600 for issuing the licence, Dh50 for a handbook manual, and Dh20 innovation fee.
Take these along to an RTA branch, and within twenty minutes or so (depending on how many people had the same idea as you that day), you will be walking out the door, newly minted to drive on UAE roads.
Total price: Dh1020
Dubai motorists might take umbrage at the idea they are forking out a lot more to get their driver's licence than their neighbours in the capital. But while Abu Dhabi may be cheaper, it also involves collection of a few extra documents. Again, it also differs on where in the world you hail from.
While information online is scarce, we called Abu Dhabi Police to get a definitive answer on what countries' driver's licences can be transferred. They are as follows: the United Kingdom, United States, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Greece, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, Turkey, Canada, Poland, South Korea, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Romania, Singapore, Hong Kong, Estonia and GCC countries.
This means, like in Dubai, you need to organise a few documents. You will need:
- Passport copy
- Current driver's licence
- Emirates ID
- Two passport-sized photos
- No-objection (NOC) letter with a company stamp (don't forget that crucial part)
- Arabic translation of your current licence
The translation can be obtained from several outlets for a small fee (about Dh60). Then take all your documents to a Drivers’ Licensing Department, have an eye test done (Dh30), submit all your documents, pay Dh213, then upload all your details onto an iPad. Three to four days later, your licence will be delivered to you.
Hot tip: Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi has everything under one roof at Infinity Services. If you time the opening hours of the optician correctly, this can be done in one hour.
Total price: Dh303
If you are not from the countries that allow for a simple transfer:
UAE residents that don't find themselves on the list of transferable countries face a slightly more difficult task ahead of them. Basically, you will have to start from square one.
This means a long process of theory and practical lessons, parking and driving tests, and plenty of paperwork; all entailing constant visits to Mussaffah in Abu Dhabi, or Al Quoz and Nadd Al Hamar in Dubai.
In theory, starting at the beginning should mirror some of the admin of transferring a licence: having your home driver's licence translated into Arabic and completing an eye test for starters.
You will then need to start a driving file at the Drivers’ Licensing Department, before you head on to do your lessons and tests.
Emirates Driving Institute centre states a "beginner", holding no licence, must register for 20 hours of compulsory practical lessons and tests to obtain their UAE licence. However, those with a licence between two and five years old only have to do 15 hours. Before sitting the theory exam, you have to take eight hours of lessons across four days (Dh300).
For Dh1,500, however, you can condense these into a one-day, two-hour class. Then, you can sign up to do your 15 or 20 practical tests.
However, if your licence is more than five years old, the "golden chance" rule applies. This means you are eligible for a one-time exam without lessons or reverse/parallel parking tests.
It may seem like a lot of work, but once you exit those doors with your shiny new driver's licence, you will at least know you are a more-seasoned UAE driver than many on the roads already.