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Tips for Expats Driving in Abu Dhabi

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Abu Dhabi.
Tips for Expats Driving in Abu Dhabi

1. Understanding the Driving Culture

Driving in Abu Dhabi can be a unique experience. The roads are generally in excellent condition, but the driving style can be aggressive. Speeding, tailgating, and sudden lane changes are common. It’s important to stay alert and drive defensively. Always follow the traffic rules and regulations to ensure your safety.

2. Choosing the Right Car

Most people in Abu Dhabi prefer SUVs due to their comfort, safety features, and suitability for the desert environment. However, smaller cars are also common and can be more economical. The choice of car largely depends on your personal preference, budget, and needs.

3. Parking in Abu Dhabi

Finding parking in Abu Dhabi can be challenging, especially in the city center during peak hours. However, there are numerous paid parking lots and some areas offer free parking. The cost of parking is generally affordable, but it can add up if you park in paid lots regularly.

4. Driving with an International License

Foreigners can drive in Abu Dhabi with an international driving permit (IDP) for a period of up to one year. However, if you are a resident, you will need to obtain a UAE driving license.

5. Obtaining a UAE Driving License

If you hold a driving license from certain countries, you can simply convert it to a UAE driving license without taking a driving test. If your country is not on the list, you will need to enroll in a driving school and pass the theory and practical tests to get your UAE driving license. The process can be lengthy and costly, so it’s advisable to start as soon as possible.

6. Following Traffic Rules

Abu Dhabi has strict traffic rules and heavy fines for violations. Always wear your seatbelt, avoid using your phone while driving, and never drink and drive. Speed limits are clearly marked and should be adhered to. Remember that traffic fines in Abu Dhabi can be quite hefty.

7. Dealing with Traffic Jams

Traffic congestion is common in Abu Dhabi, especially during rush hours. Plan your journey in advance and allow extra time for travel. Using navigation apps can help you find the fastest route and avoid traffic jams.

8. Car Maintenance

Due to the hot climate, cars in Abu Dhabi require regular maintenance. Make sure to regularly check your car’s oil level, tire pressure, and air conditioning system. Regular servicing will help keep your car in good condition and prevent breakdowns.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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