An earlier version of this article first appeared in May 2021
No matter where in the world you live, gaining a driving licence is seen by many as a passage to freedom.
It is a skill that can take you almost anywhere.
In May, UAE residents welcomed news that drivers who passed their driving test in the Emirates can now exchange their licence for a British one.
It costs £43 (Dh224) to convert the licence for an automatic vehicle. Additional lessons are required if a driver wants to switch to a manual car.
The minimum age to be allowed to drive a car in the UAE is 18. Applications for a licence can be submitted six months before turning 18.
Here is The National guide on how to obtain your licence and apply for your test in Dubai.
Converting your foreign licence to a UAE one
If you have a driving licence issued by your country of citizenship, in some cases it is possible to convert it to a UAE one without having to take lessons or a test.
This applies to citizens of a large number of countries, including Australia, France, the UK, the US, Saudi Arabia and Ireland.
In Dubai, you need to visit a Roads and Transport Authority centre and submit the following documents:
- Original driving licence of the exception country plus a copy
- Electronic eye test results
- Original valid Emirates ID
- Legalised translation of the licence if it is not in English or Arabic
The licence is applied for and processed on the same day, meaning you will walk out of the centre with your shiny new UAE licence within hours of submitting your documents.
You will be required to pay:
- Dh200 for opening a file
- Dh600 for issuing a licence
- Dh50 for a handbook
- Dh20 for knowledge and innovation fees
How to get a licence from scratch
If you are not from one of the countries that allow for a simple conversion, you have a few more steps to complete. Basically, you will have to start from square one.
Under the RTA guide, a Dubai resident can apply for a driving licence provided they meet the following requirements:
- They are 17 years and six months old or above
- They are medically fit
- They join a training and qualification programme offered by an approved driving institute
- They pass the theoretical and practical tests
To apply for a licence, the driver will need a valid passport, Emirates ID, at least eight passport photographs, eye test results and a traffic file number.
You will be required to pay service fees to the RTA, including Dh200 in test fees and Dh20 of knowledge and innovation fees.
Take an eye test
To proceed with lessons, you need to undergo an eye test.
These tests can be carried out by an optician approved by the RTA.
Take the paperwork with you when applying for a licence and booking lessons and tests.
Ready, set, test
The number of lessons you take depends on your experience. Learner drivers who do not possess any licence, from any country, have to register for 20 lessons, usually 10 x two hours.
You have to pass a few tests to obtain a driving licence in Dubai, the first being the theory test. This is taken on a computer and has to be completed before the final on-road test.
Your driving school registers you for the theory test. It examines your knowledge and understanding about traffic laws and driving risk perception, as well as your awareness of safety procedures. It usually consists of 35 multiple-choice questions and is carried out at your driving school.
Tips for the RTA theory test
- Thoroughly read and understand the RTA handbook
- Practise as much as you can on the RTA mobile app
- Memorise what all road and traffic signs mean
- Take online mock tests to assess your ability
Parking test For any new driver, parking can often be the bane of the learning journey.
Before taking the on-road test, you must pass the parking test, which is carried out in the yard of the driving school.
You will be tested on slope/hill parking, an emergency stop, angle parking, parallel parking and garage parking.
This is basically a mock test of the on-road exam. Your instructor will advise you on when best to book the assessment and it will allow them to gauge when you can book your final on-road test.
Your time is limited during this phase. You usually get about 10 minutes to show your instructor your worth.
On-road driving test
This is what all the preparation has been for. This is the final leg of your learner journey, so make sure you are mentally prepared.
On your assigned date for the test, reach the RTA driving licence centre with your:
- Emirates ID
- Driving file
- Two passport photographs
- Payment for the road test fee
Wait until your name is called then follow the examiner to the car.
In some cases, you may ride in the same car as other drivers doing their test, but do not let this faze you.
The on-road test can last a few minutes or up to 30 minutes, so be prepared.
When your turn comes, drive confidently in a way that demonstrates your overall driving skills.
Thankfully, there is no waiting around once you have completed your test. You will receive your result once you return to the driving centre.
If you fail, you need to complete seven additional classes before you can arrange anothe road test.
If you pass, the examiner will give you the approval paper. Submit it at the pass counter along with ID and the driving licence fee.
Your licence will be issued then and there. Well done!