Sunday, February 22, 2009

Driving in Saudi Arabia

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!


Micper said...

Dear EG,
Nice to see ur new post..!
Few suggestions:
To make it more user friendly, please club all your similar posts together with different sub headings. For eg. in recent days u wrote 3-5 posts related to vehicles, traffic, license etc.
It would be much better if one see them one after the other in a sequence with sub headings.
Also in Profession, Profession change, Family visa, visit visa, Business visa etc.....etc.
I would like to assist/help you in this regard.

Expatguru said...


Thanks for your constructive comments. In fact, I am already in the process of doing that. What happened is that when this blog was started, the labels for each post were different. Before I even realized, the size of the blog became extremely huge. I will now have to rename the labels to regroup them. For sure, it would be more comfortable, but just that it is a time consuming affair and that I have to take time off from my regular work. I would definitely do it very soon. Thanks, once again.

Anonymous said...

Dear Expat,

I am an Indian in KSA.

I am trying to find out the following:

1.What exactly is the criteria that classifes a student for an NRI quota.

2.Whenther after studying upto 12th in KSA, he can go to India and study without NRI quoata being applied to him.

noiseformind said...

I come to you with a problem afecting a friend of mine. He as a daughter born outside Saudi Arabia but living with him since 6 months after her birth (with him as his wive). She is with tourist visa (9 tears old) that expired 3 months ago. What penalties should he expect and how can he legalize his daughter, if that is possible, ofcourse.

Thank you, your blog is precious

Expatguru said...


Ask your friend to immediately get the help of his embassy. Usually there is a fine of SR10000 plus imprisonment, but atleast the imprisonment part can be possibly avoided if his embassy intervenes.

Anonymous said...

Salam Expartguru,

On driving a friend's car, will it be same case for rented car. Let say I rent a car to travel to Mekah with my friends, am I alowed to ask my friends to take turn driving (the car rented under my name alone). Is it possible to register multiple drivers for rented car.

Thanks for your help.


Expatguru said...


It is not possible to have multiple drivers registered for rental cars. In case of any accident, the person in whose name it has been registered would have to face the consequences.

Expatguru said...


An NRI is an Indian national who must have stayed continuously out of India for 182 days or more. Various Universities offer different definitions of NRI quota. For instance, some universities only need the sponsor to be an NRI, not the children. So, you will have to contact the individual university for the details.

Anonymous said...

Dear Expat Guru,

I am moving to Riyadh from Dubai to join a new company.

My Saudi Iqama will be issued approx. in 2-3 months.

Can I use my Valid UAE driving licence to drive a car during initial 3 months.

Lu said...

hi there expatguru,

i have a few question that i needed to ask & hope you could help!

my husband is gg to be stationed in KSA in a couple of months time and i am suppose to follow him there.
however there is a few concerns that we have & that is:

what sort of VISA am i suppose to be on?

my background is in Hospitality management (Hotels), is it possible for me to work in a hotel? (i am from Singapore)

what criteria or requirements do the family have for tutors there?

hope to hear from you soon! and many thanks in advance!

concerned singaporean

Expatguru said...


You can use your UAE for upto 3 months from the date of landing in the kingdom.

Expatguru said...


Expatriate women in the kingdom can work only as teachers, nurses or doctors. You will not be able to work in any other profession, unfortunately.

However, with the right skills, you can be a virtual assistant and make money sitting at home. My friend Deepa, a software expert, has a very useful blog on this. Have a look at

Hasan I. said...

Hello Expat Guru,

Let me inform you that you site really helped in the work visa stamping process and it got stamped without issues.

Now that i am here , i was just wondering if i will be able to get my Qatar driving license converted into a Saudi Driving License ( my nationality is Indian) alternatively I have an old Saudi License could that be renewed.

Thank you for the help.


Expatguru said...


Glad to have been of help. If your old Saudi license is already expired, I would advise you to take a fresh one rather than renewing, because otherwise you will have to end up paying the fine for delayed renewal plus the hassle of converting the old iqama number into the new one. If you have a Qatari license, you need not take the computer test. That's the only 'concession'.

Anonymous said...

Hi Expat Guru,
I wanted to ask if Pakistani International Driving License is valid for use in Saudi?
Would it be of any help to get a Saudi Driving License?


Expatguru said...


It is useful only for the first 3 months after your arrival in Saudi Arabia. You will have to undergo the complete test for a valid Saudi license.

Anonymous said...

Dear ExpatGuru

First of all thanks for your wonderful & kind hearted service.

I had a saudi driving license which was taken by my earlier company on exit. After exit I had entered the kingdom in a different company.
For transfer of my old driving license to new iqama, I need the original driving license. Are there are alternatives for this as I do not have the original license?

Another problem is I cannot get new license because I had to claim that I had lost my old license to get the duplicate license(another tedious procedure I heard) and then do the transfer. Please guide me what I should get to get the license in a faster way.

Expatguru said...

The best way is to just give the test as a fresh candidate and pass the exam.

Anonymous said...

Dear Expat Guru.

If my husband join me as my dependant in KSA, will he be allowed to drive or obtain saudi drivers lisence, since I will be his sponsor for entering the country

Expatguru said...


Quite an interesting question! Unfortunately, he cannot, due to technical reasons. When one applies for a driving license, the photocopy of the iqama must be attached with the application. In your case, since your husband is your dependent, the iqama will be in your name and not his. Due to mismatch of names in the iqama and the person applying the license, it would not be possible for your husband to apply for a DL.