For expatriates based in the United Arab Emirates, driving around can be quite a daunting experience. Many expats avoid it at first, but it does offer a high level of freedom and is worth exploring.
There is a high level of road traffic accidents. There are strict fines and a no-tolerance policy on things like drink-driving, and for expats, traffic fines have to be settled before being able to leave the country. On the plus side, the actual road infrastructure is modern and excellently maintained, which can make driving a pleasure.
Many expats will choose to drive to commute to work and will often buy a car on relocation, as the prices are quite low. Fuel costs are also relatively low, making it a cheap way to get around. A UK driver’s licence can be replaced with a local licence upon production of various documents and undergoing an eye test. All expats with residence status are required to get a valid UAE driving licence, and usually this is required before registering a car.
The other essential for driving in the UAE is insurance. There is a lot of traffic on the roads in the region and, as we said above, there is a high incidence of accidents. When accidents occur, should there be a fatality, ‘diya’ needs to be paid, and this can be quite high. Non-payment will lead to a jail term. This is extreme, but when it comes to insurance, considering the worst-case scenario is worth doing to get the best policy.
As in the UK, there are both third-party and comprehensive policies available. In order to insure a car, various documents (passport, residence visa, licence, vehicle details, registration documents and proof of any no-claims) and tests (an eye test) will have to be provided.
Car insurance policies are valid for 13 months before needing to be renewed. Why 13 months? Car registration is valid for 12 months, but there is a one-month grace period to get it renewed. As such, insurance policies allow for this grace period to ensure drivers stay covered, and insurance must be in place to register or renew the registration on a car. Reminders are usually sent a couple of months in advance, so deal with it straight away to ensure continual coverage.
The easiest option is to simply renew the same insurance policy with the same provider. However, after 13 months there may be factors that could change the premium. For example, non-claims will build up and this will count towards a discount; on the flipside, any accidents, whether at fault or not, could push prices up.
It is worth hunting around for a good deal at the end of each car insurance period to see if there are better deals. Just like in the UK, it is possible to do this online, using a comparison site like www.souqalmal.com.
Also check what the current policy covers by reading the fine print; after the first year, it becomes clearer what extras need to be included and what could be taken off the policy, as this could affect the price going forwards.