When moving to Dubai, you’ll need a way to get around the city. All the major international car hire firms are present in Dubai along with a few local companies so getting hold of a vehicle isn’t a problem.

Your take on Dubai’s drivers will largely depend on the standards in your country of origin – everything is relative. So, before we get to coping strategies we’ll begin with the Dubai car rental basics.

Dubai car hire

As always check the contract carefully and make sure any pre-existing damage to the vehicle is documented. Auto liability insurance should be included in addition to your own personal insurance cover.

Leasing or buying a car

Long term leasing is an option for long term residents as is buying a second hand car (thus avoiding large depreciation) on the active Dubai market. Individual circumstances will dictate which is the most economical option.


An International Driving Permit is required in the UAE for non-permanent residents. Permanent residents will get by with their foreign driving licence but make sure you have it with you at all times.


Dubai’s roads are mostly new and of a high standard. They’re based on US traffic systems so people familiar with cloverleaf intersections will feel at home. As in the US, you drive on the right hand side of the road in the UAE, despite the UAE being under British influence until the late 20th century. Road signs are both in Arabic and in English.

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Much like in the UK, US and several other countries, talking on mobile phones while driving is outlawed and seatbelts are mandatory.

Speed limits max out at 120kmph on the motorway with a +20kmph margin of grace, leading to a top speed of 87mph. Nevertheless, around 20,000 speeding fines are issued per month. It may have something to do with all of the fancy cars..


As you’d expect from a major oil exporter, Dubai’s petrol prices are much lower than in Europe. There are generally only two grades of petrol available at service stations though: ‘Super’ (mumtaz), which is equivalent to 4-star, or regular (benzin).

Driving tips

  • As with all countries, having a defensive mindset when driving is helpful
  • Beware of vehicles with tinted windows at night – though illegal, tinted windows are very popular with young arabs who might not spot you overtaking and change lanes suddenly.<
  • In the event of an accident causing personal injury the vehicles should not be moved prior to the police arriving. You should always have a warning triangle on board.
  • A parked car in Dubai is likely to reach oven-like temperatures pretty quickly. It’s worth investing in some windscreen shields for this reason and never, ever leaving anything in the car.
  • The almost constant construction can lead to sudden changes to the layouts of roads. An up to date GPS system might therefore also be worth the investment.
  • Driving expeditions to the desert should only be undertaken in four-wheel-drive vehicles – the roads get much poorer outside of the cities – and in convoy with someone who knows what they’re doing.