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Saudi Arabia - Driving and Public Transportation
Traffic accidents are very common in Saudi Arabia as the standard of driving is quite poor. Moreover, many cars are uninsured as there is no legal requirement to insure vehicles. If an accident occurs in which someone is injured, it is the usual practice for everyone involved to be taken to the local police station while responsibility is determined. Under Islamic law blood money of up to SR 100,000 can be imposed for injuries, so it is important to take out insurance to cover this. If you are held by the police, you should contact your own Embassy or consulate. Speed detection devices are in use in the country, and there are standard fines for exceeding the speed limits of 45kph in urban areas and 80 to 120kph on motorways. There are automatic jail sentences, or corporal punishment, for some driving offences.
You can drive for up to three months in Saudi Arabia on the licence from your home country or on an international licence. After this time, you are required to have a Saudi driving licence. Some licences, including those from the UK and US, are convertible to a Saudi licence without a driving test.
The application procedure for a Saudi driving licence is as follows:
- Obtain a translation of your own driving licence.
- Obtain a green hanging file folder (yes, this is essential!) and insert into this a copy of your licence and its translation, a letter from your employer, a copy of your Igama and the relevant application form.
- Take these in person to the Driving Licence Office, where you will be required to undergo a blood test and an eye test.
- If your application is successful you can pay the relevant fee and collect your licence.
Women are not allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia, and a woman can only travel by car if accompanied by her husband, male relative or male driver. Most expatriate compounds have regular bus services to schools and local shops, and employment contracts often include the use of a private or shared driver. Taxis are plentiful, and fares are reasonable, with some cars having meters. There are also car rental companies in the main cities, including international chains such as Avis.
Public buses operate in cities and towns, but this form of transport is mainly used by locals. Women are not allowed to travel on these city buses. The Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) has modern air-conditioned buses operating inter-city routes, which have screened-off sections for female passengers.
For travel between Saudi Arabia's main cities, however, it is quicker to go by air due to the distances involved. Saudi Arabian airlines operate flights between all main population centres. There is also a rail service operating between Riyadh and Dammam. There were formerly restrictions on travel within the Kingdom, with a letter of authorization needed for travel more than 10 miles outside your city of residence, but these have now been lifted.
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