Driving in Abu Dhabi: Playing Chicken in the Rain

I’m American. I LOVE to drive and have driven since I was 15. I’ve driven across the US three times, by myself; I’ve driven in Atlanta, Dallas, LA, and numerous other major cities. But nothing prepared me for driving in Abu Dhabi….and NOTHING prepared me for during in Abu Dhabi in the RAIN!

First, let’s think about who is driving here. Remember that 85% of this country is composed of expats from around the globe…many of which drive on the “wrong side of the road.” Also, understand that the Emirate (locals) cannot even learn to drive until age 18, so once they do pass their driving exams…watch out! Did I mention that many of the locals have really fast sport cars. This odd mix makes for some interesting driving experiences and “customs.”

Being American, getting my license was easy.  Pay a small fee, have a photo taken and done.  The entire process took less than 30 minutes.  No road sign test, no eye exam, no actual driving test.  The fact I had a valid US license was sufficient.  That in it self should tell you something about driving here.  Many countries have nearly “automatic” approval.


Now driving is an experience.  The website below gives you a taste, but understand it is five years old and the traffic is much worse.


Driving is like playing “chicken” at 60 kph. First one to blink, loses. Therefore, here are my rules of road:

Rule #1 Don’t look in the rear view mirror. It will only make you nervous and there is nothing you can do what’s back there anyway.

Rule #2 Be slightly aggressive. Meaning don’t give way (except for city buses). The big cars and trucks like to “bully” themselves into your lane.  If there is the slightness bit of space, they will turn in.

Rule #3 No hand gestures.  This is a tough one for me to remember, but showing someone, especially a local, how a “bird flies” can get you arrested and deported.  There are cameras everywhere.

Rule #4 Remember there are cameras everywhere, so if you run a red light you will get a ticket. But the country makes this issue hassle free…there is an app in which you can log in with your tag number and check for fines. You even pay online.  Rarely will you see police pull someone over; if there do, it is usually for erratic behavior, etc.  Minor offenses, speeding, illegal turns, lights, etc., are all handled electronically.

Now, back to the rain issue.  It rained on my way home today.  To you, that probably isn’t news, or blog, worthy, but here in Abu Dhabi any small about of rain is a major event.  The rain was enough that I had to use my wipers (blades for you British folk). It wet the road, but barely. So I’m talking about a very, very small about of the wet stuff. But this is enough to make everyone crazy.  You would think they would slow down….you would be mistaken. Just the opposite.  They speed up so as to get out of the rain faster!  That makes for even shorter braking distances, faster lane changing (forget about using blinkers…that just doesn’t happen), and lots of horn honking.  After several near misses, I managed to get home without a scratch on the car, but I know there are a few more gray hairs on my head.

Very glad it only rains a couple of days a year. 🙂

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