My earlier post on transferring the details of your license evoked a lot of interest that I decided to do a follow-up post on the same.
Expatriates driving in Saudi Arabia require special skills. Even if you are an experienced driver having an international driving license, you need to be street-alert while driving in the kingdom. If you are new to the kingdom, the first lesson is to unlearn whatever you have learnt elsewhere! For instance, theory states that whoever reaches a roundabout first has the first priority. In practice, the priority increases proportional to the size of your vehicle - i.e., Might is Right! Looks like the authorities are also fighting a losing battle, which is why you can find traffic lights even in roundabouts, particularly in places like Dammam. Amazing, isn't it?
Now for some practical tips on driving in Saudi Arabia :) Theory says that you don't move your car until the traffic lights turn green. In practice, you slowly inch towards the middle of the intersection even if the lights are red, virtually blocking half the traffic, and zip across as soon as the lights turn yellow for the traffic coming on some other road! Don't bother about the traffic behind you, what matters is that you have to be the first and ahead of all other cars! God help you, if you are racing ahead and the traffic lights suddenly turn yellow! Theory says that you overtake someone always from the left. In practice, you drive at 160 km/hour in the emergency lane, then race to the extreme left and again zigzag to the extreme right without any indication to the guy behind you. Who cares about road safety, you have a GMC and hence are the king of the road!
Jokes apart, Saudi Arabia has the dubious distinction of the maximum number of road fatalities in the world. Please be extra cautious and always adopt defensive driving while on the road.
By the way, did you know that you are forbidden from driving your friend's car without permission? One of the readers had specifically asked for this information in my earlier post (click here to read it). Let's say that your friend is on vacation and you want to use his car during his absence. The procedure requires both of you to go to the police station personally and sign a declaration form in Arabic. The car owner has to attach copies of his iqama, ownership and istemara cards and the person planning to drive the car must also attach his iqama copy and the copy of his driving license.The declaration letter must clearly state the starting and ending days, i.e., the duration for which you would use your friend's car. The police would then give an authorization letter to you and it is only after this that you can drive your friend's car. Without this letter, never ever drive any one else's vehicle. If the car meets with an accident, you would straightaway be imprisoned, so take care. Personally, I would suggest you do not even try driving any one else's car.
Here's wishing you a safe ride!