50 countries now accept UAE driving licences, including 20 Arab countries

Last September, only nine countries accepted a UAE licence

Many UAE residents want family members to drive their cars when they visit the UAE. Silvia Razgova / The National
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The UAE driving licence has been given the green signal overseas with permit holders allowed to drive and hire cars in upto 50 countries.

A driving licence issued in the Emirates is now recognised in countries including the US, UK, Ireland, Singapore, New Zealand and in EU nations such as Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Norway and Spain, according to an updated list on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

This is a leap from last year when the UAE driver’s licence was cleared only in nine countries, including Austria, Slovakia, Luxembourg, China, Portugal, Finland, Denmark, Romania and Serbia.

Romania is not on the updated list.

A consular officer in the Swiss Embassy confirmed that the rules are in force and UAE driving licence holders would no longer require international licences in Switzerland.

The UAE driving licence can be used to hire and drive cars in Switzerland for the same categories of vehicles as mentioned on the UAE driving licence, he said.

The duration that UAE residents will be permitted to use licences issued in the Emirates will differ in each country depending on local laws.

In the case of Switzerland, the rule is applicable for tourists from the UAE on short stay visas of up to 90 days.

For UAE residents planning a longer stay, “They can drive for upto one year using their UAE licence. After that they have to exchange their licence against a Swiss licence for which they must pass a 45-minute driving examination. Professionals (such as truck drivers and taxi drivers) must exchange their licence before taking up the job and pass a more sophisticated test,” the consular officer said.

The complete list of nations where motorists from the Emirates are permitted on the road using their UAE driving licence is on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation https://www.mofa.gov.ae/EN/Pages/Driving-Licenses.aspx.

The new rules should be well publicised so car rental companies are aware of the fresh guidelines, residents said.

“It is a bold and interesting move. This means that people in general will not need to rush around to get an international licence while they get their visas sorted out,” said Shahzad Sheikh, editor-in-chief of Motoring Middle East.

“There will be a bit of confusion initially because this information will need to be publicised so car rental companies in many countries know about this. If a UAE resident becomes a resident in any of those countries then to buy or insure a car, just like in this country, they would need a local licence.”

Even before the rule was publicised this week, frequent travellers said they have hired and driven cars in Europe and the US on driving licences issued in the Emirates.

“I have had no issues renting a car with a UAE licence. There was no law then but the UAE licence was accepted in the US, in Greece, Italy. I was never asked for my international licence,” said Vijay Pillai, owner of Max Garage, a company that services and restores classic cars.

“Of course in case of any accident, it may have been required. But for a few years now, it is just the UAE licence that is taking me across. It is probably because there is a big volume of people from the UAE who travel around the world so the UAE licence is well recognised.”

In case of accidents and insurance claims, travellers are usually advised to apply for international driving licences.

The ministry in earlier directives had cautioned residents planning a long stay aboard to check the legal requirements that could vary in different countries.

In the UAE, visitors with international licences or those holding permits from 36 approved countries can lease and drive a vehicle. Once a residence visa is stamped in the passport, they are required by law to obtain a UAE driver’s licence to drive a rented or privately-owned vehicle.


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