Driving in Dubai? Read This First

The third time a giant SUV tailgated me, horn blaring and high beams flashing, I got anxious. I quickly switched to the center lane. The SUV zoomed past me, tinted windows and all. They take the passing lane quite seriously in Dubai.

After accumulating two speeding tickets with my first car rental, a white Toyota Yaris, I was being extremely careful. Radars were everywhere.

Driving in Dubai takes undivided attention. I mean, that should be the case anywhere you drive, but Dubai is something special. I got hit once, on my way to Abu Dhabi. I lost count of how many times I almost got hit.

What’s the main issue? Some people change lanes without checking their mirrors or blindspots. If you do get into an accident, Call 999 and ask for a Saeed, a cop that responds to minor accidents, to obtain a police report. Car damage, no matter how minor, can’t be repaired unless there is an accompanying police report. You’ll need to give the police report to the car rental company once you return your car.

 
 

The Accident

On my way to Abu Dhabi, the car driving beside me, swerved into my lane and hit my side mirror. We both pulled over and hopped out of our cars. Luckily, the lady who hit my car admitted guilt. I dialed 999, explained there was an accident and asked for police. A Saeed called me a few minutes later.

“Asalaam-alaikum,” he said, meaning 'peace be upon you', the standard greeting in Islam.

“W’salaam,” I replied, meaning 'peace'.

I began to explain the situation, only to have the Saeed interrupt me.

“No, No. Arabic.”

“I don’t speak Arabic,” I replied.

“Okay, is this accident one car, or two?”

“Two.”

“Okay, give it to the other one.”

I gave the lady my cellphone and they both began to speak in Arabic. I had no idea what she was telling him.

About 20 minutes later, the Saeed arrived and spoke with the both of us. The lady admitted guilt to him so the process was easy. He took a picture of my scuffed mirror and wrote me a no-fault police report. That was it. I was back on my way to Abu Dhabi.

 
 

Car Rentals in Dubai

The Toyota Yaris I rented from Fast Rent A Car wasn’t great on gas. On some days, I had my tank filled twice. The Nissan Sunny I rented from Thrifty, afterwards, was much better.

If there’s one thing driving in Dubai can teach you, it’s to be very conscious of the driving laws and regulations of another country. So I've compiled a list of 6 tips you should know about driving a car in Dubai:

  1. Be aware of the behaviours of surrounding drivers. If you get into an accident with the wrong person, the odds may not be in your favour, especially if you’re a foreigner. Definitely abstain from yelling obscenities if a driver angers you.
     
  2. Always buy full car insurance with your car rental.
     
  3. Drive at speed limit (in some areas, it’s alright to go up to 20km above). I received two speeding tickets for exceeding the maximum speed limit by no more than 30km/h. Each ticket was AED 600. The car rental company will tack on an AED 50-60 administrative fee.
     
  4. Learn basic Arabic terms. Although the Saeed could understand and speak English, he refused. You'll find this is often the case when dealing with police. The second time I called 999 to report a dent in my car door, I asked the man on the phone if he could send a Saeed that spoke English. He yelled, "No! I will explain the situation to him and he will come to you." Frankly, I think my question may have offended him. However, some cops are accommodating.
     
  5. There is no address system in Dubai, so people usually go by landmarks. If you get into an accident, the Saeed will inquire about your location. Give the name of the street you’re on and the name of a nearby building, store or park.
     
  6. If you find any dents or scratches that weren't there before, park anywhere, call the Saeed and tell them that you accidentally hit something (a curb, a pole etc.) and ask for a police report. They’ll come to you and write one up. I got this information from the policeman working at Al Muraba'a Police Station’s front desk.
 
 

Driving in Dubai offers a convenient way of exploring the beautiful city. This post is not meant to deter anyone from renting a car in Dubai—rather it’s to make one aware of driving laws, regulations and my experience with driving there for over a month. Would I rent a car again, in Dubai? Definitely.