How to be a ROADHOG: 8 driving tips

We are now the owners of a new car with the required acceleration for Dubai: 0-100k in three seconds flat. I have to say I love it. Having spent the past three years sharing the 4×4 (a.k.a. gas guzzler) with DH – and all the complicated arrangements this entailed, ie, taking taxis to pick up the car when parked elsewhere, squabbling over whose errands were the most important – being a two-car family is wonderful.

Newcomers to Dubai often find the roads here chaotic. I’ve since learnt that they’re not as bad as many other countries in the Gulf and Asia, but nevertheless, compared to back home, Dubai drivers do some REALLY STUPID things that scare the hell out of me!

Last year, a wannabe stuntman in a 4×4 was caught driving on two wheels down the emirate’s busiest road, while his pal in a pick-up truck performed handbrake turns (click here to watch – wheelie bit starts half way through, it’s truly shocking). On the road from Abu Dhabi earlier this year, there was a 127-car pile-up due to drivers going too fast in foggy conditions.

Thankfully, these are extreme examples. But we do encounter motoring menaces on a daily basis here. Crazy manoeuvres we see include reversing down a slip road because a driver took the wrong exit, weaving in and out of lanes and extreme tailgating, where motorists, usually with tinted windows, drive right up behind you in the fast lane and flash their lights until you’re intimidated enough to move over.

And you have to be really careful not to let road rage get the better of you: Rude hand gestures can land you in court or even jail.

I’ve made good progress: when I was a newbie to Dubai, with my newly acquired UAE licence in my purse (no test required, but I did need a letter from DH giving me permission to drive!), I honestly thought I’d never be able to go anywhere. It took me four months to leave Mirdiff (the area our first villa was in).

If someone had offered me a secondhand tank to drive around in, I’d have snapped it up no questions asked. Now, I can get to work, get BB to school, and drive to most of the places I frequent, as long as I’m on one of my ‘established routes’. *

While I may never be the most confident driver, I am conscientious. I rarely talk on my mobile while driving (way too much multi-tasking and the noise from the kids in the back makes it futile anyway). I’ll indicate even if no one is behind me, unlike some people here who seem to think flashing indicators are only for Christmas. And I never, ever go in the fast lane on the six-lane highways.

All this led me to hunt around on the web for some driving anecdotes and I stumbled upon some great photos at Seabee’s blog Dubaithoughts.blogspot. She kindly agreed to let me repost them here. If you regularly drive around Dubai, you’ll love these UAE ‘road rules’. And if you’re planning to visit Dubai and drive on our roads, I hope you find these useful.

Rule 1. Like in the States, we drive on the right here.

However, in Dubai, if there’s a line of traffic waiting and you believe you are more important than the other drivers – that your time is more valuable than theirs – please feel free to drive on the left.

Rule 2. We have roundabouts on various roads and drive round them to the right.

This does not, of course, apply to self-important drivers, who may feel free to drive to the left through roundabouts.

Rule 3. Like other countries, we have hard shoulders for emergencies, breakdowns and so on.

Their intended use may be ignored if you are a driver of the self-important variety, in which case you may feel free to use the hard shoulder to get to the front of the queue.

Now to road signs.

Rule 4. In Dubai we use the standard international road signs with which you may be familiar.

For example, a large arrow pointing right means you MUST go right. A red circle with a white horizontal stripe means NO ENTRY.

However, in Dubai these may be ignored if you feel they inconvenience you in any way or you simply don’t notice.

Rule 5. A left pointing arrow with a red diagonal line through it means you MUST NOT turn left. Often this is used together with the ‘must turn right’ sign.

In Dubai you may ignore these if you find them in any way inconvenient.

A word of warning, though: if you do ignore these signs, you are likely to meet oncoming traffic head on.

On no account should you reverse, turn round and drive the correct way along the one-way road. The correct course of action in Dubai is to pull to the wrong side of the road and insist that the cars driving in the correct direction squeeze past you.

Oh, and parking.

Rule 6. There are clearly marked designated parking spaces, No Parking signs and so on.

However, in Dubai you may feel free to take up two parking spaces, or park at any angle in any place convenient for you.

Rule 7. And finally, the minimum age for driving in the UAE is 18.

But in Dubai, if your four-year-old would like to sit in the front on your lap, feel free to let him come forward. There’s only so much jumping around the backseat an unrestrained child can do.

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* I could also tell you about the trials and tribulations we go through navigating around Dubai! With all the construction work going on, roads change overnight and, sometimes, while you’re actually on them … but that’s a whole new blog.
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This blog is dedicated to my crazy friends who came here on holiday, hired a car and drove themselves all over the place, without incident or accident and just the one meltdown when they thought they’d never ever find their way back to our place. You know who you are, you brave ladies!

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