International Driving Permit or License (IDP) in Dubai UAE
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International Driving Permit (IDP) (not license) Dubai UAE
International Driving Permit (IDP) in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE information. An IDP can be obtained in the UAE, and an overseas IDP is recommended and might be necessary for driving a rental car in Dubai and UAE.
Remember that there is no such thing as an international driving or driver's licence (despite the headings on this page and many other references). What is commonly referred to as a licence is an International Driving Permit (IDP). It is an important distinction. An IDP on its own does not legally allow you to drive anywhere, even if rental car agents accept one without checking for your national driving license. The IDP is only a supporting document which verifies you have a valid national driving licence from the IDP issuing country, and is written in several different languages as a convenience for authorities and rental car agencies in different countries.
Driving licence rules, especially in the UAE it seems, appear to change frequently and/or be implemented inconsistently. Be wary of whatever you read (including this page, official government websites, and newspaper reports). Remember that within the UAE, each emirate might implement rules differently and/or have their own rules. Also, authorities sometimes sound like they contradict each other, and press reports of updates are only as accurate as information they receive. The IDP topic is especially notorious for conflicting information.
Those information conflicts could mean that you are driving legally in one emirate, but not necessarily in another. And drivers usually find this out the hard way - by having an accident resulting in no insurance cover, and/or a fine, and/or the car being impounded by the police. Be even more careful on some roads (Dubai Hatta road for example) or desert areas where you can be driving in another country's territory (Oman, possibly Saudi Arabia) without having gone through a border crossing.
- An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a document that says you have a valid driver's licence issued in the country where you obtained the IDP.
- An IDP is not a driving licence on its own, despite often being referred to as an international driving licence.
- If you travel to a foreign country, unless you're sure you don't need an IDP, it could be worthwhile to obtain one before travelling, especially if going somewhere where the authorities or car rental agencies might not understand your national driving license.
- Fake, scam, fraudulent IDPs are commonly available (and of course, not recommended). One giveaway is if they are called an International Driving Licence instead of a Permit.
- The UN, or more specifically, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), deals with conventions and treaties on road traffic. In particular, the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic which most, but not all, countries signed, dealt with the International Driving Permit model that is currently in use (Chapter IV, Article 41, and Annex 7 - see end of page for link). The 1968 Convention came into force on 21 May 1977, and superseded the previous road traffic convention, signed in Geneva in 1949.
Driving licence in the UAE summary
- Visitors to the UAE can usually drive rental cars with the correct documentation (IDP and own licence) but not necessarily private cars (belonging to family or friends for example).
- UAE residents must obtain a UAE driving licence once they have been issued a UAE resident visa.
- A temporary UAE driving licence valid for 6 months might be available, which might then allow visitors to drive privately owned vehicles. This is more easily, or only, issued for citizens of UAE driving licence exchange countries.
Any other variations on the previous points might or might not be valid depending on nationality, emirate, insurance company, which department whoever you're talking to belongs to, and his or her mood.
The UAE Embassy in UK website says (last checked 09 November 2010, unknown how correct it is or if still valid):
- UK Driving Licence holders can drive hire cars only. Implying that an IDP is not necessary for car rental, and that UK visitors cannot drive private vehicles with their UK licence.
- ... you can obtain a temporary UAE driving licence for 6 months even if you are not resident. This can be arranged at the Traffic Police Office in each Emirate. Implying that if you do, then you can drive private cars with the temporary licence.
Obtaining an IDP in the UAE
- The Automobile and Touring Club UAE (ATCUAE) is the authorised issuer of IDPs in the UAE. The ATC UAE has offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and also subsidiary agents authorised to issue UAE IDPs.
- Post offices in the UAE can issue an International Drivers Permit (IDP), from 10 July 2006. When they have stock of the template booklets (we tried a couple of times and they didn't).
- In Dubai, some RTA offices and Dubai Traffic Police departments have IDP issuing counters.
- Bring your UAE driver's licence, about 150-200 dhs, and a couple of photos. Issuing the IDP should only take a few minutes.
- If you have a foreign license, you can only get an IDP from the country where it was issued. In some cases you might be able to apply online or by mail and have it sent to you, but confirm first you really are applying to an official issuing authority and not a fake or scam website. The relevant automobile association is usually the IDP issuing body in most countries.
- Only UAE nationals and residents can obtain an IDP issued in Dubai. Visitors cannot. According to an RTA press release 26 June 2007: "The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has confirmed that according to the traffic and roads law the applicants for the international driving licenses must be UAE citizens and UAE residents of those who obtain UAE valid driving licenses." This probably applies in emirates other than Dubai also. A UAE "resident" is someone who has a residence visa. Long term visit visa holders, frequent visitors, etc, do not count.
Online applications for an International Driving Permit in the UAE
- As of 26 June 2007, this is apparently no longer possible. An RTA press release said "while the agreed to stop issuing the international licenses through the Internet" referring to comments made by Eng Maitha Bin Adai, CEO of the Traffic and Roads Agency.
Driving on a foreign IDP in the UAE
- Visitors to the UAE can drive a rental car with an IDP issued where their driving licence is from, and their foreign license. Both documents should be issued in the same country.
- Some nationals might be restricted from driving in the UAE, and some nationals might be able to rent a car without producing an IDP, just their home country driving licence.
- An IDP might be accepted on its own by rental car companies in the UAE as evidence you have a driving licence but you should bring your home country licence also. Anyway, if for any reason you need to show the police your driving licence, they will expect to see your home country licence and are unlikely to accept an IDP alone.
- In January 2007, the Dubai RTA implemented a new rule that required all visitors to Dubai to show an IDP when renting a car, in addition to their home country licence. Previously it was possible for many nationalities to rent a car just with their home country licence. Note that the RTA only has jurisdiction in Dubai so the IDP requirement might not be the same in other emirates.
- The Dubai Government website, dubai.ae, indicates that an IDP is required rather than optional when renting a car at Dubai International Airport (as of July 2010): "When collecting your hire car, you will need to present a copy of your passport and international driving licence, as well as your credit card."
Visitors driving privately owned vehicles in the UAE
- Usually, visitors are not permitted to drive non-rental cars in the UAE unless they have obtained a temporary UAE driving licence.
- However, there were reports in 2009 that first-degree relatives (children, parents, siblings, spouse) of UAE residents could drive a private car owned by the relative as long as the visitor was a national of one of the UAE driving licence exchange countries, and had a licence from that country with them. This might only apply in Dubai. Confirmation from an official source not found so double check with either a police department, the RTA, insurance company, or all three.
- But however-however, the ATC UAE website says "Please note that tourists are allowed to drive only rented vehicles (Rent-a-Car)" (last checked July 2010).
GCC expat residents driving rental cars in the UAE
- Usually GCC residents (national and expat) are permitted to drive their own private vehicles while visiting other GCC countries as long as they have the correct insurance, and a valid driving licence issued by the GCC country where they have a valid residence visa.
- GCC residents who visit the UAE and rent a car were permitted to drive the rental car with just their GCC licence (presumably as long as it was valid, and they had a valid residence visa).
- However, an RTA rule change in January 2007 meant that in Dubai at least, residents of other GCC countries were no longer allowed to do this (possibly doesn't apply to GCC nationals, only expat residents). A Khaleej Times report 25 April 2007 quoted an unnamed Dubai rental car industry person as saying "Earlier, an expatriate resident of Bahrain, for instance, who had a valid driving licence issued by that Gulf state, could avail himself of a rented car in Dubai. But following the recent memorandum from the RTA, an expatriate's Gulf country-issued licence is no longer accepted in the emirate. They, too, need to apply for a temporary driving licence,"
Locations and procedure for issuing a temporary driving licence in Dubai
- RTA head office in Rashidiya/Rashidiyah
- RTA branch offices in Dubai - Deira City Center or Union Co-operative in Al Twar (Al Tawar). Opening hours 0900-2100 Sunday to Thursday.
- Visitors who want to apply for a temporary driving licence should bring passport and copies, results of an eye test (double check with the RTA in case you can do eye test at the office), original driving licence and copy, AED 110 application fee. The licence should be issued on the same day.
- This service is restricted to nationals of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Western European countries (possibly all EEC members). Not clear if Canada and Turkey are included or not.
ATC UAE licensed agents for issuing an IDP (as of 11 July 2006 - might not be up to date)
- Abu Dhabi - Abu Dhabi Duty Free, Abu Dhabi Travel Bureau, Air Choice Travel, Al Masood Travel, Al Tunaiji Travel, ATC UAE Abu Dhabi (tel +971-2-6212175), Avis Rent a Car, Omeir Travel Agency.
- Dubai - Arabian Automobile Association, ATC UAE Dubai (tel +971-4-2284019), Belhasa Advanced Motorist, Belhasa Driving Centre, Belhasa Travel & Tourism, DCA Social and Sports Club, DNATA, Dubai International Airport (outbound at UAE Touring Club office?), Emirates Driving Institute, EPPCO, Hertz Rent-a-Car, International Motoring Club, Shakiba Travel.
- Sharjah - ATC UAE Sharjah (+971-6-5523183), Marur Typing Centre & Tourist Agency, Orient Travels, Sharjah National Travel and Tourism Agency (SNTTA).
- Ras Al Khaimah - RAK Travel Agency.
- Fujairah - Brothers Travel, Forty Paper Processing.
Post Offices in the UAE (Emirates Post) can issue IDPs from 10 July 2006. Organisations in italics not confirmed, or might no longer be authorised (list updated from ATC UAE information 25 July 2010).
References and press release information
The Roads and Transport Authority Dubai (RTA) says in their November 2008 driving handbook (note that this applies Dubai and not necessarily in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and other emirates):
Driving on a visa in Dubai
If you are not a permanent resident and want to drive on your visit to Dubai you must:
- be at least 18 years of age
- have either a valid Visit Visa or a valid Residence Visa
- hold a valid driver licence
International Driving Licence restrictions
Generally you can drive a hire car using an international driver permit if you are on temporary stay (Visit Visa) only. However, you will need to check with individual car hire companies to see if they accept international driver permits, as some companies do not accept them. You will need to check that you have insurance cover if you are intending to drive outside the UAE. An International Driver Permit carried in conjunction with your foreign driving licence is required for driving in the UAE. You cannot drive using an International Driver's Permit if:
- you are on a Residence Visa
- you want to drive a privately registered vehicle (temporary Dubai licences must be obtained from the RTA Licensing Agency or an external RTA Driver Licensing Branch for private vehicles)
Eligibility to apply for a Dubai Driving Licence
If you hold a licence recognised by the UAE and have:
- a Dubai Visit Visa you may apply for a temporary Dubai Driver Licence
- a Dubai Residence Visa you may apply for a permanent Dubai Driver Licence
A press release 02 July 2007 from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing said:
About the International Driving License (IDL) and Temporary License, the industry felt that the local license was more reliable than the international one. They added that holders of a UAE license could drive in the US and UK using the license.
The RTA officials explained that other emirates do not accept visitors to drive with their local licenses. Hence, if a driver makes an accident outside Dubai, he would be taken to court for driving without a license. Moreover, the insurance would not cover the accident. Hence, the present system offered more protection to visitors and car rental firms at a license exchange fee for certain nationalities listed on RTA website www.rta.ae.
Other visitors could use their international license.
It was clarified that the IDL could later be obtained from the UAE Touring Club at the Airport, for outbound passengers only.
The RTA will contact Ministry of Interior asking that UAE law be amended to allow for reciprocal use of domestic license with certain countries. The RTA said it would consider empowering reputed car rental firms to issue temporary license for domestic license holders of approved nationalities.
Last update Tuesday 12-Jun-2012. Page development 4L 5C.
- Dubai driving - some tips and information about driving in Dubai and the UAE
- Dubai driving licence - guide to how to get one
- Dubai driving licence exchange - for nationals of countries that can just swap for a UAE licence
- Dubai driving schools - and if you can't swap, you'll have to do lessons and a test
- www.atcuae.ae - Automobile & Touring Club UAE website which, when looking up how to get an IDP in the UAE, helpfully tells you "In order to obtain an International Driving Permit you need to have a valid UAE driving license."
- www.atcuae.ae/en/intl_driving_permit.html - IDP page on the ATC UAE website (last checked July 2010).
- www.unece.org - United Nations Economic Commission for Europe website
- www.unece.org/trans/conventn/crt1968e.pdf - full text pdf of the actual 08 November 1968 Vienna "Convention on Road Traffic" (last checked July 2010).
- treaties.un.org - United Nations Treaty Collection website.
- treaties.un.org/Pages/Treaties.aspx?id=11&subid=B&lang=en - list of all road traffic treaties, including the 1949 and 1968 conventions (last checked July 2010, received network error trying to view actual convention documents).
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