Today is a historic day! At 31 years old, I have officially completed my driving school and am now a licensed driver! And I say that with the utmost pride, because I have absolutely NEVER had any interest nor intention to drive, not to mention: strong fear of the roads. I was always very comfortable in the passenger seat, however I realised that with the taxi prices increasing in Abu Dhabi, it’s now or never. Another thing which put me off, is hearing about the ordeal when it comes to getting the license in Abu Dhabi, which my friends told me about. Nevertheless, I intended 2018 to be a fabulous year, and this is one of the things which I wanted to tick off. So – for anyone who is interested to get a license, I hope my lengthy experience below helps you out 🙂

STEP 1: REGISTRATION 

Registration can be slightly confusing as information is not clearly available on any of the websites. The first step is to visit the Vehicles Licensing Department, located on the corner of 27th & 2nd Street, behind Mushrif Mall. Documents which you need to take with you include:

  • A passport photo
  • Your passport and a copy
  • Emirates ID
  • Copy of a valid Abu Dhabi residency visa
  • Translated letter of no objection from your employer or visa sponsor

Once there, you will first take an eye test (AED 30) and then proceed to the counters where the agents will open a file for you (usually confirmed with an SMS). You will then be directed to an iPad station to complete your registration details and pay AED 200. Once this step is done, you can go to the Emirates Driving Company in Mussafah to schedule a driving test or theory lessons if you are a new driver. The counters are VERY busy all week long and especially on Saturdays, so my recommendation is that you go as early as 7am because your chances are faster than any other time. Luckily for ladies, there is a ladies section so it did not take too long for me to register.

Theory lessons can be booked in 3 ways:

  • 4 days – AED 830
  • 2 days – AED 1,050
  • 1 day – AED 1,530

You will be required to show your Emirates ID and Traffic file registration SMS in order to pay. You also have the option to schedule your classes on the spot while paying, or you may send an email to Customer Services – which by the way, I continued to schedule all of my lessons and classes. The team are superbly helpful and even call you back if you do not acknowledge their email, and I would like to give a special shout out to Myrna who really helped me throughout the process 🙂

STEP 2: THEORY LESSONS 

Theory lessons were interesting for me, as I have never learned this before. They are broken down into the following categories:

  • Lesson one: Traffic rules, road markings and road signs
  • Lesson two: Inside city limits
  • Lesson three: Outside city limits
  • Lesson four: Driving under difficult conditions
  • Lesson five: Critical situations
  • Lesson six: Driving behaviour and road manners
  • Lesson seven: Vehicle knowledge
  • Lesson eight: Safety

I keep thinking if we all followed the rules as we learn them we would drive in a safer environment. The instructors were different every single time, which worked out well, as they each had their own teaching style. It was quite informative and interesting, especially for a first time driver who has absolutely no interest in it. The “Vehicle Knowledge” lesson was tough for me as I have absolutely no clue whatsoever about the mechanics of a car, however I was intrigued by the “Safety” lesson, which demonstrated the real importance of a seat belt through a rolling car model.

Once I finished the theory classes, I booked my theory exam, by email through Customer Service. They shared with me several date and time options, and the cost is included in your lesson registration. The exam is 35 mins and you need to pass 36/45. It is computer based with a very easy to use interactive touch screen system, which allows you to change your answers until you are ready. Once you finish, the system automatically gives you the score. A tip: read the theory manual, the test is taken directly from what you learn in the lessons, do not use your own “common sense”. If you study the book and are prepared, you will have no problem passing. 🙂

STEP 3: PEP TEST

After that you go down to reception and book a PEP test to evaluate your car knowledge after which the instructor assigns how many practical hours you need. The cost to book the test was AED 68.25. PEP test takes place in the practical examination area next to the theory building. My examiner Mr. Sam was so wonderful and gentle, and asked me to drive around for 5 minutes with basic instructions like turns, roundabout, and parking. He assigned me Level 2 (out of 5), which saved me AED 600. The next step is to schedule the practical driving lessons which you must queue at the counter for to pay.

STEP 4: PRACTICAL LESSONS

I loved this part! I must admit, the theory completely freaked me out, because I felt I had to memorize everything – however with the practical part, its you, the car, and the instructor. I am also a person who truly learns more if I can either have a visual understanding, or try it out myself so I fully embraced every moment of the practical lessons. Each class had a different instructor, and I have to say all of them were extremely friendly and easy going. Not once did I ever feel like I was under pressure or stress, rather they guided me through everything and I felt at ease, which was very important for me.

For Level 2, I had to take 15 lessons, which can be taken over 3 options:

  • 13 days- AED 2,462.25
  • 7 days – AED 2,672.25
  • 5 days – AED 3,302.35

I opted for 7 days (2 hours per day), and the package which I booked included the refresh parking lesson and cost of the parking test. My lessons were as follows:

  • Lesson 1 & 2: Areas 2-5 | the instructor teaches you to drive in a basic square, zig zags so you can learn the turning point of the car, and parking (parallel and 90 degree)
  • Lesson 3 & 4: Towers 2 – 4 | you are in the car alone and the instructors communicate with you via radio, and you cover the same areas as you did with the instructors.
  • Lesson 5 & 6: Simulator | you sit in front of a large simulator (like in an arcade), and drive through different weather conditions: night time, rain, fog and open highway
  • Lesson 7: Tower 5 | again you are alone in the car and practice roundabouts, traffic lights and junctions, acceleration is blocked so the car drives on max 20 kmph
  • Refresh Parking & Parking Test: I recommend you book the refresh parking 1 hour before your test to refresh your memory as the steps are literally copy/paste to what the instructors teach you.

STEP 5: PARKING RE-FRESH & PARKING TEST

After completing all practical training, I was finally ready for a parking re-fresh lesson (50 mins), and the parking test – which is really needed as Abu Dhabi has a HUGE problem with poor parkers. When learning to do a proper side (parallel) and 90 degree parking, the instructors make you memorize it step by step using cones. It is exactly the same thing during the exam, and after you pass (you have 2 chances) – you are finished with the school! The next step is to schedule a road test through the Abu Dhabi Police App.

STEP 6: SCHEDULING THE ROAD TEST & PRACTICING THE ROAD LESSONS

Once you have downloaded the Abu Dhabi Police App, you will be asked to enter your login (the same one which you registered in Step 1 at the Vehicles & Licensing Department) so make sure to keep them handy. An overview of your profile will appear and you book the test date by simply clicking “issue try date” on the App which will automatically select the next available date and time for you. You will immediately receive an SMS confirmation as well as a digital copy of your “trainee permit” which will allow you to go on the open roads with an instructor, until you receive the physical card. This training card must be presented to the police during your exam, so make sure to follow up with Empost (Emirates Post) if you do not receive it within 10 days.

If you are a beginner like me, then it is highly advisable to schedule private driving lessons with instructors who will train you on the open roads. Al Aqeed Driving School is the licensed school to provide instructors who will train you in Mussafah (Abu Dhabi’s industrial zone and the only area where student drivers are allowed to practice). Your trainer will decide how many lessons you require depending on your experience and comfort level (ie: how confident are you with controlling the car). I took a total of 6 lessons (each one is 1.5 hours) and we drove literally all over Mussafah, so I am now an expert of that area. It was also the true test for me as I had the biggest fear of the roads and my instructor made me feel so comfortable and confident. She has also, in great detail, explained to me what the police will look for in the exam and we have driven the entire course so that I can have a mental picture of what to expect. Lyn also made me focus the most on checking my mirrors, blind spot, using indicators, and staying in between the lanes. My biggest weakness was speed, and this is where the fear came from. I can still hear her voice telling me to increase my speed, while I was happy in my comfort zone – however this encouraged me to have a stronger control of the brakes and steering wheel and to keep my attention on what is happening in front, beside, and behind me. She even let me drive back to Carrefour (the pick up location for training), and to cruise along the highway, which was so much more fun than Mussafah! The school will then issue you a certification stating the number of hours you have completed which will be uploaded in the system and attached to your driving file.

STEP 7: ROAD TEST

The day before my road test, I was freaking out. I had the confidence, I knew I had the knowledge how to drive the car, but I had so many little details to remember which Lyn pointed out during our weekend practice which were creeping up. We both agreed that it would be best to do a final training session at 6 am before my exam (which was at 7:45 am). Lyn encouraged me to relax and to get a good night’s sleep because nerves are the biggest factor for students to fail, and that happened to many of her star students – so I drank all the herbal teas I could find in my cabinet and snuggled in bed, nice and early. The morning of the road test I was surprisingly calm and allowed only positive thoughts – I kept visualizing that “Pass” sign on my phone. We practiced for 1.5 hours – the exact same route which the police would take us on, and Lyn dropped me off at Vehicle Licensing Department located in Mussafah next to the Emirates Driving School. Registration is very fast – you simply present your training card and are then asked to board the bus (which costs AED 40). The police get in the car in front of the bus, where you take your exam, and the bus follows along together with all the ladies – so it can definitely seem intimidating as everyone seems clearly if you pass or fail. I was mentally ready for this and was prepared to go 2nd or 3rd, however was surprised to see ladies jumping over each other just to get it done. After the 7th girl, I stood up and announced my turn as I had already been sitting in that bus for 1 hour and my anxiety was climbing. I sat in the car, did the SMS check (seat, mirror, seat belt) which I learned in the school, pulled out of the parking and moved into the second lane as instructor by the policeman who sat next to me. I was then instructed to take a round-about and continue straight, keeping my eyes at all times on the mirrors, as the policewoman behind me took notice of my controls. I was then asked to stop at the parking – and that was it. 30 seconds. I then received an SMS saying that I have passed the exam. I literally cried tears of relief and joy as I called my instructor, who apparently was right behind me the entire time since I told her what bus I was in. After you receive the SMS stating you have passed, refer back to the Abu Dhabi Police App where automatically you will receive a digital copy of your driving license. You then apply the same procedure as the training card and order it to be delivered after paying of course.

THE COSTS:

As everything else in this country, costs run high, and getting a license from scratch, is no exception. Considering that I do not have a driving license from my home country, and the fact that I do not have a car and had to make multiple taxi journeys to Mussafah, my expenses looked like this:

  • Driver’s registration & file opening: AED 200
  • Eye test: AED 30
  • Theory Lessons (4 days) which includes theory exam: AED 830
  • PEP Test: AED 68.25
  • Practical Lessons (level 2 for 7 days): AED 2,672.25
  • Trainee Permit (with delivery service through Empost): AED 115
  • Private driving lessons on open roads (1.5 hours for 6 sessions): AED 900
  • Charges for bus during road test: AED 40
  • Approximate cost for taxi’s during the entire process: AED 1,700
  • Driving license (with delivery service through Empost): AED 300
  • Approximate total: AED 6,855

Overall, I had a great experience! My biggest set back for learning how to drive was fear of the roads, and the fact that we always had a driver while growing up, combined with me always living in the city. The greatest feeling, is not to finally receive the license, it is knowing that I conquered my fear. I invested all my time and energy in making sure that I succeeded, kept the faith (praying works like magic, trust me), and stayed positive throughout the entire time. It is the most empowering feeling I have experienced in a long time, and I could not have done it without my strong support network, especially my instructor Lyn, who has really taken the time and the patience to guide me through everything. Lyn- if you ever read this post, you are an angel and I am eternally grateful to you.

Time to go car shopping!

xox,

 

 

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Disclaimer: All views are my own and are © My Pink Diary. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take any photos, so I tried to be as detailed as possible for visualization purposes 🙂 More information and photos can be found on the official Emirates Driving Company website, link above.