Here are our top tips on driving in Dubai and what to expect on the roads - the good, the bad and the ugly - and how to stay calm and safe whilst behind the wheel in Dubai.
Many drivers do not keep a safe distance - don’t be tempted to join them! Remember to stay three seconds behind the car in front. This adjusts for speed. You will find that you have left a safe space and someone else will sneak in and fill it- it's going to be up to you to pull back a bit to maintain the safe space again.
There are many crashes on Dubai roads and traffic comes to a complete standstill usually on both sides of the roads- the gawpers on the other side cause tail backs there too. But remember, it's actually illegal to rubberneck in Dubai so take care not to gawp too long.
Undertaking cars are, unfortunately, a fact of driving life here even though it is against the traffic rules law. When coming off the highway or roads beware the car that could be flying down your inside. Make sure you use all mirrors and check your blind spot before you change lane or pull off on a slip road.
Cars with very dark windows will have very bad peripheral vision at night so make sure you allow for this. A lot of cars do not put their headlights on as the drivers believe if they can see the road that they don't need lights- not realising the lights are also so other drivers can see them! So watch out for people driving without lights too and always use your own.
You will see a lot of powerful cars on the roads here from giant 4x4s to the suped-up sporty numbers and some do like to go extremely fast... This has improved over the years as there are fewer cars doing this now than in the past- at some times the SZR used to seem like a race track but the introduction of more speed cameras and the lowering of the speed limit to 100 has really helped. Nonetheless, there will still be the odd speed freak who drives like they are on a computer game.
Our advice is to stay out of their way- you will see or hear them coming- pull over if it is safe to do so or keep a steady speed and let them maneuver round you.
5. Headlight flashing
Flashing your headlights generally does not mean a polite “after you” – as in other countries. It generally means get out of the way I’m coming through ready or not. Sometimes this may be the police or an unmarked car and you are supposed to move out of their way. Generally it is impatient drivers using this technique. You can avoid this by staying out of the fast lane as much as possible and also using your rear mirror a lot- you will see the speed freaks coming and can move over before they get to the flashing headlights stage. If you can't move over it is imperative that you stay calm and don't panic, and move over only when it is safe to do so.
6. Driving on the hard shoulder
If you have a flat tyre on the high way do not stand on the hard shoulder get behind the safety barrier- you see too many cars driving down the hard shoulder despite heavy fines for this offence. People usually do this to undertake a traffic jam or to just get where they are going quicker! On a positive note- if you do have a flat tyre, especially as a woman, you will often find cars will stop and help you out which is a lovely thing.
Stay as far away from the trucks as possible. They do not stop very quickly and cannot see you if you are alongside them or are immediately in front of them. The drivers are often very tired and travel huge distances across the Gulf. A lot of trucks have worn tyres and blow outs occur very frequently so be ready for those too.
8. Lane discipline
This seems to be non- existent in driving on the roads here. People will violently veer from the fast lane to a junction off the road at a very late moment- be ready for this. All lanes are driven in and at various different speeds and you will see 120 plus being done in the "slow" lane and 80 in the "fast" lane! There is none of the usual this lane used for overtaking, pull out of the slow lane to let incoming traffic merge rule being followed.
9. Wet or foggy weather
This occurs so infrequently that some people do not know what to do in these weather conditions- they will still speed excessively, drive with their hazard lights on giving you no indication if they are moving lane or turning off and using their full beam. Most cars here do not have fog lights as they are Gulf spec cars which does not help.
The best thing for you to do is to slow down, stay in the slow or second lane and go at your own pace. If visibility gets really poor i.e. during a sandstorm or fog patch sometimes it is safer to pull over- preferably into a garage and wait it out. If it rains very heavily most of the roads get flooded as the drainage system cannot cope- be careful of aquaplaning and if your journey is not urgent- stay home!
Use of indicators here is very haphazard although the police do have crack downs- especially on the trucks so there has been some improvement. So don't rely on the fact that someone is indicating means they actually are going to move or that they are not moving if not indicating.
Hope with these suggestions your driving would be much safer.
Happy driving with Finalrentals.