Car accidents in Al Ain

I received this email yesterday from a woman I’ll call Jane…

Thanks so much for your website and the book. It has been very helpful.

I do have a few question for you and I hope you have time to respond. I just got hired to teach at either the Abu Dhabi or Al Ain public schools and I have family questions. I have a 6 and 4 year old as well as an 8 month old and I am curious about safety for them. I keep reading about the large about of car accidents and how it is the worst driving in the world. As far as being an expat how are you treated? I want this to be an enriching, safe experience for them. We live overseas right now, but it wasn’t much of a culture shock and so it was an easy transition for them. I just want to make sure I am making the right choice for my family and any personal input would be great. Thank you.

I replied as follows…

I’m delighted that you like the site and ebook. The quality of driving here is… different to be sure! It is not the worst driving in the world though. I was talking with a guy who was in Turkey, and another who was in Korea, and they were saying how much better the driving here was compared to where they were before! Yes, there are far more crashes here than in the UK, US, but I still feel safe driving. I believe you should get a 4×4 for safety. My car been hit from behind once in 2 years, and it wasn’t so bad. My wife’s car has been hit once too. Again not so bad. Other friends haven’t had any crashes at all. Cars do race up behind you and flash their lights and can drive so close that they almost touch, but you just need to get out of the lane. It could be a lot worse! If you were to talk to one of these drivers you’d find he (generally he) is very pleasant and friendly, and not at all aggressive! If you were to gently tick him off, he would be very apologetic too! (But don’t curse him, or you could get into more trouble with the law than you’d imagine: Emiratis don’t name call each other from what I understand, and take a dim view of it.)

The roads can be very crowded in Abu Dhabi. A number of people have told me that, because they would come down to their cars in the morning and find a new dent or scratch.

This doesn’t happen in Al Ain.

Every place has its positives and negatives. All I can say is that this country has its challenges, but we love living here. And you may very well feel the same when you’ve settled here after a few months.



Renting a car from Fast Rent A Car in Al Ain

There are dozens of car rental outlets in Al Ain.

The one that was recommended to us is Fast Rent A Car in Kuwaitat: go north from the Hilton Hotel towards the town centre, and it’s on your right on a corner…


This is one of the team…


Their prices are lower than Europa Cars.

And when we got rammed in the rear one sunny afternoon, while sitting at the traffic lights near the Al Ain Mall, Fast swapped our car immediately.

The staff are very helpful, and the manager there speaks excellent English.

How to renew car registration in Al Ain

Melissa asked by email… “Where can I renew my car registration in Al Ain?”

Here’s what I believe is the answer…

From the Etisalat building, head west.

About 3-4 roundabouts from there, you’ll see the Choueifat School on the far right of the roundabout (white walls with circular logo). Turn left here.

Go across 2 roundabouts. On the right is the Adnoc car testing centre.

Enter the main building there, and get a ticket from reception.

You’ll get served soon after that.

I think they open at 7.30am and are open all day (i.e. they don’t close from 1-5pm as most places do).

Car insurance in Al Ain

I was recommended to use Oman Insurance by the guy from whom we bought our second car: a Nissan Pathfinder.

Oman Insurance is situated in a new building…


…located on the same road as the Al Ain Mall, but at the west end of that road, the building next to the old Lulu in Nyadat, located on the corner. This next photo is taken to the right of the photo above, and you can see Lulu on the right…

Oman-Insurance-Al-Ain 2

Enter the building round the back…

Oman-Insurance-Al-Ain 3

Go up to the mezzanine floor…

Oman-Insurance-Al-Ain 4

This guy, Mohammad Naser, is really helpful. His English is good too…


Say hi from me if you go!

Tel:. 03 784 9185

Mohammad’s email address is m_naser [at]

Their website is at

Opening times: 8am to 5pm, Saturday to Thursday.

If you know of any other good places to get insurance, let me know!

Getting your UAE driving licence in Al Ain

Once you get your residence visa, you then must get a UAE driving licence. (In other words, it is against the law to drive without one if you have a residence visa.)

A friend of mine called Paul told me that his wife got her residence visa the other day, so today he went with her to get a UAE driving licence for her.

He said the process took 6.5 hours from 9am this morning. Ouch!

Steps included…

Go to the Al Jimi area to get fingerprinted, palm printed and photographed for a UAE Identity Card. You will be given a receipt which you can then take to the traffic department to get a UAE driving licence. (Your Identity Card will be likely be delivered to you by motorcycle courier about 2 weeks later.)

Have your eyes tested at the traffic department. This is the only test you will need to undertake.

I will post all the steps once Paul has read my summary above of what I remember from our chat, and he has got back to me with more info.

Avoid this parking mistake in Al Ain!

Take a look at this photo and see if you can see what’s wrong with it!…


If you’re like me, you won’t see ‘it’.

What’s the price for not seeing it? 1,000 dirhams. That’s £175 or US$270.

What do I mean?

There’s a parking offence being committed in the photo with a 1,000 dirham fine.

Me not realising this one dark night taught me an expensive lesson a few months ago!

Click here to reveal/hide what the offence is. [slide] The sign with the red circle and red ‘x’ in the middle means ‘No Parking’. So that middle car is parking illegally.[/slide]

One morning I went out shopping to pick a few up a few things from Daiso (see separate post), across the road from the Choithrams supermarket, and Al Noor Hospital. All the parking slots were full… apart from one – so I grabbed it. It was dark, but I did see the red sign. However I thought, “Nar, I’m sure my car will be fine here”, and walked into Daiso. I came back 10 minutes later to find a slip of paper, all in Arabic, under my windscreen wiper.

You may or may not know that all driving and parking fines can be reduced by 50% if you ask for this reduction when you go to pay your fine.

You can do this in Abu Dhabi or Al Ain.

Any fines you get in Dubai you have to pay in Dubai, and you cannot negotiate the fines down.

So I paid 500 dirhams a couple of days after I committed the offence.

I should have known better as I’d learned all the signs a month earlier at the Driving School (again see separate post)! So I hope this article saves at least one ex-pat from a 500AED fine over the next year!

How to get a UAE driving license if your UK etc one has expired

My UK driving license expired 2 days before my residency visa arrived. I tried to renew my UK license, but the DVLC or whatever said that, as I’m now living overseas, they wouldn’t renew my license!

So I had to cough up a fair amount of cash (I can’t remember how much at the moment: maybe £100-£150??) – and take 6 instructional lessons of about 90 minutes each over about 10 days, then sit a very easy multiple choice test which I completed in 10 minutes. I also booked one driving lesson.

This is what most of the learner driver cars look like…


I have been driving automatics for most of the time over the last 25 years, but my wife has a manual car in the UK. As I wanted to drive this when we’re in the UK for the summer, this meant that I had to take lessons and pass my test in a manual/stick shift car.

Boy, was that hard!

My instructor gave me HELL! He was a very nice guy, but he constantly criticised my driving during those 30 minutes. I was only planning to take one lesson to get a few tips – after all: I’m a good driver! :)

However my guy gave me such strong feedback about the quality of my driving that I decided to book 2 more lessons! I’m glad I did this as you need to know the official way to approach a roundabout, say, if you are going across it regarding which lane to be in, when and how you indicate etc.

The driving test itself was hilarious: around 7.30am about 30 of us piled into a bus, each of us with a numbered ticked. The coach followed a car with 2 officials inside. Person number 1 got out of the coach and into the car and drove off for his *5-minute* driving test which was just round the local area, negotiating roundabouts mainly. After 5 minutes he got out, was passed a certificate from the official in the back seat if he passed, and he was left by the side of the road to get a taxi. Then number 2 person got out of the coach and climbed into the car for his test. I was one of the last on the coach so I watched nearly 30 people before me take their tests. Almost all my fellow passengers were Pakistani or Indian men.

Some drivers drove so badly that their test was over in less than one minute!! They’d drive out into the traffic without looking in their mirror or indicating. One veered across the dotted line into the traffic coming in the opposite direction! It was like watching a comedy sketch on TV! For one of the guys who failed so spectacularly this was his third test. And I believe that you *have* to have 40 30-minute driving lessons if you are starting from scratch, so gosh knows how they can drive so badly after so many lessons

After an hour and a half of going round and round the same area of Al Ain, following this car, it was my turn. My driving instructor of the days before told me to show the official my expired UK driving license and explain that I have been driving in the UK for more than 25 years, which I did. I was very nervous as I was so desperate to be driving a car again, but the official next to me was quite chatty and I soon calmed down, and it was all over after 5 minutes, I got out and was given my certificate. I was now dumped by the side of the road.

However enterprising taxi drivers had been following our coach over the previous 90 minutes, picking up the dumped drivers, so there was one ready to pick me up and take me back home. He was manically happy for me that I’d passed. Back at my place he demanded a fee of 25 AED (£5), which I refused to pay, and gave him 6 AED which would have been about the fee if he had put his meter on. He was furious with me and ranted away, but I just got out and walked off!

I forget how I got the paper certificate transformed into a silver plastic credit card with my photo on it, but it was very straight forward.

Driving on the roads in Al Ain

Let me say that this is an adventure!

On a 3-lane road, if you are in the middle lane, you can expect to be overtaken on both sides at the same time which can be a little unsettling occasionally! If you are in the outside lane you can expect to be tailgated on a regular basis by a driver in a hurry who flashes his lights and will sit on your tail closer than you would ever think possible, until you move to the middle lane. As he races past you, often in a large white Toyota land cruiser, you may wish to take a sideways look to see what kind of a person would drive so dangerously – but in most cases you’ll find that the side window was blacked out!

Soon after we arrived in Al Ain, I heard about the quiz night for mainly British expats at the rugby club, so I went along with a new friend I had made here. We got chatting with a delightful couple from the UK who had been here for a couple of years. The husband, called Phil, informed me that it wasn’t a matter of if I had a car smash in the coming months, but when! Sure enough, a few weeks later, I pulled up gently at some traffic lights, and about 30 seconds later, I watched a saloon car raced down the road towards me, slam on his brakes, heard the screech of his tyres on the road and watching smashes the back of me, with my two sons in the back seat.

I got out of the car, as did the driver of the car behind me, and found out that he spoke very little English. In this country you’re not allowed to move any cars involved in an accident. (Even if you have been shopping, and you come back to your car, only to find that there is a dent in your car, you are not allowed to move it until you have rung the police, waited for an official car to turn up and give you an accident report which will enable you to get your car fixed. You will not be able to get your car repaired by any repair shop without this receipt.) So the other driver rang the police and an official car arrived about 30 minutes later, and they stayed with us logging in the details for the next 15 minutes. Over the course of these 45 minutes the driver of the car that crashed into me was constantly on the phone, which led me to guess that he was on the phone when he hit me. I have seen a number of drivers reverse out of tight car parking spaces into moving traffic while holding their mobile phone against an ear, so I’m not surprised that there are so many traffic accidents in this town.

I once saw the results of 3 car crashes in the space of 2 hours. My eldest son says he has seen 8 car smashes on one stretch of road over a two-month period.

My original plan was to buy a saloon car soon after we arrived here but my wife felt that we would be safer in a 4×4 because there are so many car smashes here. So I bought a Toyota Prado, and I’m very glad I did.

Garmin GPS navigation

We bought a 5-inch Garmin nuvi 1410 GPS device to use in our car, mainly so we could find our way round Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This is what mine looks like…


It came with a suction cup to attach to the windscreen, and a cigarette lighter charging lead – and cost us about £200 from our local Lulu hypermarket. We bought it in December 2009. We registered it online. The unit comes with one free downloadable upgrade to the maps. It really is great to have this unit however the maps are very out of date. The map for Al Ain is about 2 years out of date. We know this because in the centre of town there used to be 3 roundabouts which were replaced by traffic lights about 2 years ago, but these show up on the Garmin as roundabouts still.

Dubai has changed massively road wise in the last 2 years so one of the main motorway routes to the Dubai Mall isn’t on the Garmin map, as are many other roads in Dubai. On many journeys into Dubai the Garmin has been more of a liability than a help and has added sometimes another 15 minutes to the journey as the route has constantly recalculated itself as we went on to roads which don’t exist on the map. Eventually we do get the destination but the route is a little long winded.

One more thing, I recently needed to renew my passport and my eldest son’s passport. The website for the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi gave the address for the embassy, but when I entered this address into the Garmin, the device couldn’t find the road name. Then I noticed that the map on the Embassy’s webpage with the address on it had a different spelling for the road name, it being an Arabic name. When I put *this* address into the Garmin, the device found the road name and was able to navigate me safely to it.

Finally… I took the Garmin back with me to the UK in July 2010 and was able to download the UK road map into it for a cost of about £36. If you go to the site, it may quote you $99, but if you add the map to the shopping cart, then go to the checkout, you’ll see that the price has been changed to £36. Downloading is not brain-dead simple: for some reason I remember having to download the map twice to get it to work on the Garmin, so be careful to follow the instructions carefully.

My family and I travelled between Scotland and England. The Garmin treats these as 2 countries, so if you’re driving in England and you try to enter a new destination in Scotland then the Garmin says it can’t find that place. So what you have to do is change the country to Scotland on the main menu (easy to do) then enter the destination again, and you will get route instructions.

Remember to switch from kilometers to miles from the Settings menu, otherwise the Garmin will show you the speed limit for each road you’re on in kilometers per hour which looks weird.

Update: if you want to tell people where you live so they can drive to your home, simply select the GPS map coordinates icon on the main screen to see the map reference, then text or email this to people – or put it on a printed map. Then people can tap this into their satnav device and get directed to it.

Note: there are a number of ways to convey the final part of a map reference: in decimal or as ‘minutes/seconds’ – check you get this right: I didn’t understand this when I was was trying to get to a new friend’s house recently. He gave me a map with map reference in minutes/seconds whereas my Gamin defaulted to decimals, so I put his numbers in as decimals and ended up 150 metres from his home, on a different street! My friend explained what I’d done wrong when I eventually found his home.

Further update: I would recommend that you don’t buy a dedicated GPS like this: the maps will be out of date. Instead, if you have an iPhone or an Android phone, buy the TomTom app for the region: this comes with free updates for life. (If you buy a dedicated unit, you will be paying about $99 for every map update!)

What’s more, with the TomTom app, if someone emails you a photo of their home or a tourist attraction, if you copy that to your phone, you can tell TomTom to navigate to the photo!


If the photo was taken with a smartphone or a digital camera with GPS built-in, the location of the shop is stored in the jpg image – so TomTom can help you get there!

If you don’t have an iPhone or Android phone, I highly recommend you buy one: you’ll be amazed how useful it will be!

Fill ‘er up

It costs just 60 dirhams, a little over £10, to fill the tank of a small size car at a local Adnoc petrol station. The one pictured below is a few hundred yards west of the landmark Etisalat building in the Sanaiya district…

Adnoc petrol station

It costs about 100 dirhams to fill a 4×4. That’s less than £20 for a tank of petrol. As a free bonus, petrol is put in your car by an attendant…

Adnoc attendant

…who will then wash your front and back windscreens…

windscreen washing

…so you can stay cool in your car, until it’s time to wind your window down again to pay by cash or credit/debit card.