If you hold a driving license and an international license you can drive a rental car while you are visiting the UAE; the insurance of non-rental cars will only cover UAE driving license holders, so avoid driving a local’s car around. Once you hold a residence/work visa you will have to obtain a UAE driving license.
Information on driving in the UAE can be found here. If you are from a country which allows for Foreign Driving License Replacement you can easily obtain a UAE driving license. Even though it is called ‘replacement’, you will not be required to give up the license from your home country.
In Abu Dhabi, go to the Drivers Licensing Department, located along Airport Road, between 25th and 27th Streets – entrance gates to the premises are on 25th and 27th Street. Head to Building 1, which is at the 27th Street entrance. There is free parking available within the premises.
You are advised to bring:
– Arabic legal translation of your driving license
– Your driving license (original & copy)
– Passport and Visa (original & copy)
– 3 Passport Photos
– Letter from your employer
(If you’re not employed, you’ll need one from your sponsor’s employer. The letter needs to have the company’s letterhead and state that you/your sponsor is currently employed at that company, and be dated and officially stamped/signed by a manager.)
– ‘Letter of No Objection’ from your sponsor (if you are not employed)
(This is only essential if you are not employed yourself and sponsored by a family member. Your sponsor will have to write a simple letter stating that he/she has no objection to you obtaining a UAE driving license. Sign and date.)
Eye Test: The website states that you will have to undergo an eye test, which can be done on the first floor in Building 1 – neither of us two had to do this.
Legal Translation: The legal Arabic translation of your license can be obtained in Building 1 on the 1st floor at the WOSTB Legal Translation office (Tel 02-6272065, Fax 02-6267257), or by any other legal translation office in Abu Dhabi (eg. Elite Legal Translation Services). Prices and translation times vary. At WOSTB, a German to Arabic translation cost 300 AED and took 24 hours; Elite Translations would have taken 4 days, but they may be cheaper.
Enter Building 1, go up the stairs on your left and head to the information desk. If you need a translation, you will be directed to the WOSTB office; if you already have a translation you will be given a number and directed to the waiting area. Although I went at lunch time and it looked very busy, I only had to wait 10 minutes until being called to a desk. Only my license, translation and passport were required. A picture was taken at the desk, I paid 200 AED cash and within 10 minutes I held a brand new UAE driving license in my hand. The license is valid for 10 years and can then be simply renewed.
Note that in general, only your light vehicle class will be transferred onto your UAE driving license!
Further specifics: The driving license you ‘replace’ must be issued from a country for which you hold citizenship. Your license should be valid for another 6 months. Car rental agencies may ask for you to prove that you have held a driving license for a certain length of time (for us it was 1 year) to be able to rent from them, due to insurance purposes.