Obtaining a driving licence is a big milestone in many people's lives.
And, like anywhere else, you need one to drive in the UAE.
For some residents, it is a simple case of transferring their home country licence to one valid in the Emirates and continuing as normal. For others, a driving test must be passed first.
How much does it cost to get on the road?
The cost of the driving licence will vary depending on two things: the driving school you are taking lessons with and your experience behind the wheel.
Each driving school offers packages that take into account a certain number of lessons, the cost of the tests and the licence.
Emirates Driving Institute, for example, offers packages starting at Dh5,000 up to Dh22,000 for those who want to take lessons and test in a luxury car.
The price will increase if you fail your test, as you are obliged to take at least another four hours of lessons before reapplying.
Some service fees are payable for those eligible for a UAE licence without the need for a test.
The application process in Dubai includes a Dh200 fee for opening a traffic file and a Dh600 charge for issuing a licence. A further Dh50 fee for supplying a handbook manual and Dh20 for administration fees are also in place.
Abu Dhabi charges Dh600 to eligible motorists applying for a UAE permit. The procedure can be completed online through the Abu Dhabi government services portal, Tamm.
How old do you need to be to apply for a driving licence?
This really depends on the type of vehicle you are planning to drive.
You must be at least 18 before taking your test. But you can start learning at 17 years old and six months.
To ride a motorcycle, or operate a vehicle equipped for people with special needs, the age restriction is slightly lower at 17.
You must be 20 to drive heavy vehicles or tractors, while a licence for buses requires applicants to be at least 21.
Do I need to do take driving lessons if I am qualified to drive in another country?
You might not need to undergo driving lessons, or even take another test, if you have a licence issued by some countries.
It depends on where your licence was issued.
Driving licence holders from 32 approved countries are automatically eligible for a UAE licence. These include the US, the UK, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China.
However, if your licence was issued by a country that is not on the preapproved list then you must start from scratch in the UAE.
This includes drivers from countries such as the Philippines, India and Pakistan.
What do I need to apply for my driving licence – do I need an eye test?
The first step is to sign up for a driving school that will provide you with lessons and, eventually, the tests that will determine if you are eligible for a licence to drive.
You must be 18 to hold a driving licence but you can start your lessons at the age of 17 years and six months.
If you are a first-time driver in Abu Dhabi you must provide the following documents.
· Copy of passport and residence visa page
· Original Emirates ID plus a copy
· Two photographs
· Eye test report
· Letter of no objection from your sponsor
In Dubai, the required documents are:
· Original Emirates ID or soft copy from the ICA app
· A valid visa issued in Dubai and a copy of the visa page
· An original driving licence from another country within the same vehicle category (if applicable). If the licence is not in English or Arabic it must be translated in Dubai. If the event the driving licence has been lost a letter from the consulate of your country is required
· Eye test report
Once you are ready to learn to drive, you must open a traffic file with a registered driving centre. Once you begin lessons, you'll often start out in a closed driving centre test area or car park before progressing onto the roads and motorways.
Some driving schools can arrange for you to take three or more lessons per week to quickly get you ready for the test.
How many lessons should I take before the driving test?
The number of lessons you have to take varies from one emirate to another emirate.
In Abu Dhabi, you are required to take at least eight lessons and pass a written theory test, before being allowed to take the full driving test. The lessons typically last two hours per session.
It is slightly different in Dubai, where the number of lessons depends on your level of experience.
Learner drivers must register for 20 hours of lessons in Dubai, usually in the form of 10 lessons consisting of two hours each.
Anyone who has a full driving licence issued by another country in the GCC or Golden Visa holders can skip the lessons and take a driving test straight away.
However, if they fail, they must take at least four hours of lessons before reapplying for the test.
What is involved with the driving test?
There are three different tests to take before you can be issued a driving licence, said an instructor from Emirates Driving Institute.
These are the written theory test, parking test and the driving test itself, each costing Dh290.
The theory test consists of 35 multiple-choice questions and learner drivers are advised to thoroughly study the RTA handbook in advance.
The parking test includes emergency stops, angle parking, parallel parking, garage parking and parking on a slightly inclined area.
This is then followed by the main part, the on-road driving test.
“You have to drive for half an hour under the supervision of an instructor,” said Wajahat Noor, from the EDI.
“There will be another learner driver in the car with you and both of you will drive for half an hour, so expect to be in the car for about an hour in total.”
Why do people fail their driving test?
“A lot of people are nervous about the test. I would recommend arriving about half an hour early so you can relax and be familiar with the surroundings,” said Mr Noor.
“Most people who fail their test do so because of minor mistakes.
“Not using indicators properly happens a lot – sometimes people don’t use them at all – or they use them incorrectly."
Another common mistake is not checking the centre mirror when braking or not checking over both shoulders when reversing, he said, which means the person is not fully aware of their surroundings.
The candidate is deemed to have failed if they accumulate 12 minor mistakes or one major mistake.
“Among the major mistakes we see is failing to stop at stop signs,” he said.
“Another is driving too fast towards traffic lights to try to make it before the green light changes.
“Not judging the traffic properly on roundabouts or when making U-turns also count as major mistakes."
Not stopping when you should give priority to oncoming traffic is also seen as a major mistake in the test, Mr Noor said.
How do I convert my home driving licence to a UAE one?
Drivers should first check if their licence is from an accredited country and is still valid before submitting a request to convert it.
In Abu Dhabi, the process is done online through Tamm or Abu Dhabi Police's website/mobile application.
You can also visit one of Tamm's customer service centres or the Traffic Licensing Department at Abu Dhabi Police to apply in person.
Applicants need an eye test at an optician accredited by Abu Dhabi Police. You will need a valid original foreign licence, a legal Arabic translation of the foreign licence – if it is not already in Arabic – a copy of your passport and Emirates ID, and two personal photos with a white background.
The cost of converting a driving licence is Dh600 ($163).
In Dubai, applicants can access the service on the RTA website. Once the application is submitted, a reference number will be issued for all follow-up actions or queries.
The applicant must visit the RTA customer happiness centre with an original driving licence to verify it. The licence will then be printed and given to the customer.
Singaporean residents need to submit the application through driving institutes and present the required documents to book an appointment for the knowledge test.
The cost of converting the driving licence is Dh870. For Singaporean licence holders, the cost is Dh1,070.
Residents in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah can ask to convert their foreign licences through the Ministry of Interior website.
Applicants need to submit a legal translation of the foreign driving licence, as well as their Emirates ID and take an eye test before logging on to the ministry’s website for the service. Customers need to approach the traffic licensing department in the emirate and present the receipt to receive their UAE licence. The cost for this service is Dh600.