Even though the Public Transport system in Saudi Arabia is quite advanced, most residents own a vehicle and prefer to drive around, which is why there is one car for every four people. As compared to other countries, gas in Saudi Arabia is very reasonably priced. Moreover, the road network and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia is second to none. Some of the inter-city highways have up to eight lanes to accommodate the flow of traffic. Overpasses, underpasses and ring roads further help ease traffic in the cities.
The minimum age limit for driving in Saudi Arabia is 18. Most American expats living in the country face little or no difficulty driving, as the steering wheel is placed on the left side of the car and people drive on the right side of the road.However, for expats from the UK, driving in Saudi Arabia is a considerable change.
Driving in Saudi Arabia can be thrilling for some, yet terrifying for others. To make the experience a pleasant one, given below are a few tips that may be useful for expats –
• Get your paperwork in place: It is compulsory to have a local driver’s license before sitting behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia. Licenses are valid for a period of 10 years. Foreign nationals can drive with an International license issued in the US or the UK for no more than 3 months. Fortunately, those who have a driving license from these countries can apply for a local license without taking a driving test. All drivers applying for a license need to clear a computer-based test on the traffic signals. A driving license that has been issued by any of the nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (like the UAE) is also accepted for use in this country. All drivers are required to carry their license as well as some other form of identification at all times. Expats are generally asked to produce a copy of their residence visa along with their license.
• Stay within the speed restrictions: In urban areas the speed limit is 45 km/h and on motorways it can be anywhere between 80 km/h and 120 km/h. Most drivers stay well within the speed limit, especially since there are cameras, radar sensors and policemen positioned almost everywhere. Drivers who are over the speed limit can be pulled over even by an undercover cop and fined. The fine for speeding starts at 300 Riyals and increases with the number or severity of traffic offences. The maximum fine amount for speeding is 900 Riyals. In some cases, a speeding offence may warrant a prison sentence or corporal punishment.
• Choose the right lane: Always take the right lane while driving in Saudi Arabia. In case you are slower than the rest of the traffic, drive in the extreme right lane. Look out for traffic entering and exiting the road, especially if the right lane isn’t curbed.
• Use indicators: In order to avoid accidents, all drivers are required to let the others know when they are about to turn or change lanes by using the right signals and indicators. In case of a road mishap, drivers who do not show the right indicators are held responsible for the accident.
• Follow the traffic rules and regulations: In Saudi Arabia, it is compulsory for the driver and passengers to wear a seatbelt when the car is in motion. Talking on the cell phone while driving is also against the law in the country. Since these rules are also enforced in the US and UK, most expats from these countries have no trouble following them. Heavy fines are levied for those who do not follow the rules. A detailed list of all the different traffic violations and their fines can be viewed on www.moi.gov.sa.
• No women drivers: In spite of a lot of controversy, there is a ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia, the only country where women (including expats) are not allowed to drive. Ironically, a woman can own a car, but she cannot drive it. Women in Saudi Arabia need to rely on their male relatives or a chauffeur to drive them around. While there is no formal law that makes driving for women illegal, the cops can arrest a female driver.
Vehicle insurance has now been made mandatory in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, all expats need to get a good insurance policy for their car, as soon as they purchase one.
In case of a road accident, it is imperative that you call the police immediately. Moreover, do not move your car till the police says it is okay to do so.