An essential guide to getting your UAE driver's licence: how to transfer or start from scratch

Depending on where in the world you come from, the rules are different when it comes to getting a UAE driver's licence. Here is what you need to know

Getting on the road need not be arduous. The National
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So, you’ve arrived in the country and your new workplace isn't on the Metro line, if you’re in Dubai, or near any other public transport if you're not. 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 the traffic jams and pushy and/or erratic drivers to take into consideration – but thankfully, getting on the road need not be arduous. Bear in mind, though, that things will vary depending on which emirate you are in and where your original licence is from.

Transferring your licence

If you're from certain parts of the world, and you hold a driver's licence from back home, you can simply transfer it. This applies to Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK and the US.

You'll need to submit a series of documents at an official outlet and pay a fee to complete the deal. Requirements vary slightly between emirates, but you can't go wrong if you have the following bits and pieces with you:

  • Your original driving licence, plus a copy
  • A no-objection certificate from your employer – some professions are exempt from this, but it's best to get one of these if you can to save any hassle later
  • A certified eye test – you can get this from any optician
  • Your original Emirates ID
  • Your residence visa
  • A legal translation of the licence if it is not in Arabic – you can get this done at one of many outlets across the country
  • Passport-size photos

In Dubai, you'll need to take these documents along to an RTA branch, and, after an hour or so, you will be able to walk out the door with your new permit, ready to drive on UAE roads.

In Abu Dhabi, you’ll need to visit the Drivers’ Licensing Department in Mushrif, submit all your documents, and then upload all your details on to an iPad. A week or so later, your permit will be delivered to you.

The fees will vary depending upon how much you pay for individual services, but setting aside about Dh1,000 for the entire process should leave you with quite a few dirhams left over.

Motoring school cars for learner drivers in Dubai. Ravindranath K / The National
Motoring school cars for learner drivers in Dubai. Ravindranath K / The National

Starting from scratch

If you are not from one of the countries that allow for a simple transfer, you have a more difficult time ahead of you. 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.

After finishing classes and tests, you can get a new licence valid for two years. You have to start the whole process from one of the UAE's authorised driving institutes, which include Emirates Driving Company in Abu Dhabi; Emirates Driving Institute, Dubai Driving Centre, Galadari Motor Driving Centre, Belhasa Driving Centre and Al Ahli Driving Center, all in Dubai; Sharjah Driving Institute; Ras Al Khaimah Driving Academy; and Fujairah National Driving Institute.

It may seem like a lot of work, but once you walk out through 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. And when you are navigating roads filled with Nissan Patrols and constantly late for work, it is a necessary evil.

For full details, visit the UAE government website here.

This article was updated on August 29, 2019. If you notice any factual inaccuracies, please contact The National at