Driving in Dubai

Driving in Dubai

23rd February, 2012

One of my favourite pastimes in Dubai is cruising the open desert roads just outside the city. With the sun blazing overhead and the lonely sand dunes on the horizon, driving in Dubai can be a real pleasure and a great time to be alone with your thoughts.


When I first came to the city, packed into gridlock, I thought I might never enjoy driving in Dubai. But I soon changed my mind. It’s a great destination for drivers and every highway is clustered with shining BMWs, and pristine off-road vehicles. I had thought that LA was a city for prestige driving, but with more Hummers per square mile, Dubai takes the crown.

In this post I’ll look at the pleasures and pitfalls of driving in Dubai. If you’re heading there to work soon, you might also find it useful to read more about becoming an Expat in our free eBook The New Expat.

Traffic and driving in Dubai

Admittedly it’s not all good news for drivers. Dubai’s sweltering heat makes even the simple act of walking difficult during much of the year. And with temperatures regularly exceeding 40C, air conditioned shopping malls and hotel bars make up the mainstay of leisure activities. For this reason driving in Dubai may be the only way to get to where you’re going, and the roads reflect this. Traffic is the biggest bugbear of many ex-pats living and driving in Dubai, and it can take a frustratingly long time to get across the city. During rush hour, the smart drivers stay off the road completely. But if you’re working regular hours, it’s not always possible to put off driving in Dubai.

Closed roads and breakneck speeds

As a construction city Dubai is always changing and evolving, and this is part of what makes it such an exciting location. But for those of us driving in Dubai, this means that roads can close for construction, seemingly at a moment’s notice. I’ve driven into work using a major highway only to find it closed on my return home eight hours later.

With so many drivers on the road and a population in love with their cars, it’s perhaps no surprise that driving in Dubai is fast-paced and sometimes erratic. Those new to the city can often feel intimidated by driving there. Some people also believe there’s an element of condescension towards cheap cars. With that in mind, you may find driving in the city a whole lot easier if you’re among the ranks of prestige car owners.

Buying your own car and driving in Dubai

With challenging road conditions the best solution is to make sure that your time behind the wheel is as comfortable as possible. The good news is that cars are good value in the city and, of course, petrol costs are extremely low.

You can use your international driving license to rent a car, but to buy one you’ll need to get an UAE licence. This is relatively straightforward and possible for most nationalities. Once you have this paperwork, you’re all set to choose a car and start driving in Dubai yourself.

Unless you’re a mechanic it can be very hard to judge the condition of vehicles in Dubai. Some have immaculate bodywork, but may have been taken out for regular high-octane spins in the desert, which will have done their engines few favours. My advice if you’re buying second-hand would be to use a dealership that offers a warranty. The lower car prices in Dubai should make this worth your while in any case.

Once you have the keys in your hands, you’ll soon find that driving in Dubai gets under your skin, and putting the pedal to the metal in this desert destination is a leisure activity in its own right.

More on the move abroad

For more on making the move abroad, don’t forget to download our free eBook The New Expat which covers family matters, accommodation issues, financial arrangements, medical considerations and much more.

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Alison Massey

Group Marketing Director

Now Health International

Alison Massey is a 15-year digital marketing veteran, who has spent the last seven years using social media to help expats and soon to be expats find out what to expect from a life overseas. An expat living in Hong Kong herself, Alison is the Group Marketing Director of Now Health, the award-winning international health insurance provider.

Contact Alison Massey

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