Applying for a driving licence in the UAE involves a bit of a runaround if your original licence isn't from one of the countries eligible for an automatic transfer. Mine, from India, is not.
Once you open a file, attend the theory lessons and pass the theory exam, there are two options. Those who have held a licence for five years or more can take advantage of the golden chance, which means you can directly take the practical test without any driving lessons. Alternately, you take at least 10 hours of lessons, get a certificate from your instructor and pass a separate parking test before the test. I was eligible for the former, but – and this comes highly recommended – I took several classes with an Emirates Driving Institute-certified driver anyway. Lessons typically cost Dh70 per hour.
In Abu Dhabi, you can arrange to meet your instructor in Mussaffah, which is where the driving institute is located, or at Carrefour on Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Street (Airport Road). I would meet my instructor in the city and head to Mussaffah to get a feel of the roads – and the many roundabouts – on which the final exam takes place. A typical 90-minute session involves going over the points that the police officer conducting the road test will assess, such as starting the engine, using the indicators, making a smooth emergency stop, changing lanes with ease and tackling those roundabouts. While the test route has no traffic lights and few regular junctions and turns, it’s still worth getting on the main roads now and again to get a feel for what’s in store once you pass and start driving regularly.
On D-day, and after paying an additional Dh40, aspirants are bundled in a 30-seater bus that follows the test car. Choosing whether you go first, second or last is voluntary.
You may have heard tall tales of how it’s now much easier to pass the test compared to a few years ago, or how it’s almost impossible to pass on your first attempt, with rookies failed for the smallest of errors, such as wearing sunglasses (in reality, you will simply be asked to take them off).
On the day I took the test, six of the 25 women I was with didn’t go home happy – thankfully, I wasn’t one of them. From forgetting to put on their seat belt and keeping the handbrake up to parking too close to the pavement and attempting a U-turn from the right-hand lane, all the “failures” committed quite serious mistakes, mainly because of nerves. Not surprisingly, five of them were part of the golden-chance group and had taken no practice lessons beforehand.
On the day of the test, confidence is key, as is a mental checklist of all the things you need to do before and while driving. If you think you’re not ready as your exam date looms, you can reschedule for Dh50 and practise more. However, even if you fail, you will be given a new test date on the spot for a few weeks later, and you need only fit in a few more training sessions.
For more information, visit www.moi.gov.ae.
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