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Converting your driver’s license in Abu Dhabi

This is a guide to converting your license in Abu Dhabi City as of August 2017.

If you want to drive in the UAE, initially you can do so with the license issued to you in your home country.

Footage of me driving when I 1st arrived in the UAE

However, as soon as you receive your emirates ID (and residency permit), your original license becomes null and void meaning that you need to get a local license. If you are a CITIZEN- not resident- of one of the following countries then you are able to convert your license to a local one without undertaking lessons or a test:


The good news is that it is a relatively painless process; the bad news is that there is too much of conflicting information online (as always). So here is my experience of converting my South African driver’s license:

Documents you will need:

  • ORIGINAL Passport (with residency permit stuck inside)
  • ORIGINAL Emirates ID
  • ORIGINAL license from home country
  • Translation of license (this can be done at any Typing Centre found in Abu Dhabi city)
  • 100AED in cash
  • 615AED on a card you can use to pay online

Step 1: Get yourself to the licensing centre

This was the most challenging part of my process because way too many people gave me the wrong directions including Google Maps! However with my usual Panda foresight, I dropped a pin on my location while I was there so that I could share it here:

You can’t miss the building- its HUGE, grey and says Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Department on the front. There is plenty of parking although you may have to walk a little. It is in Mushrif (27th Street between Muroor and Airport Road) and they are open from Sunday to Thursday from 7:30 19:00.

Tip: Go as early as you can. Its gets busy after 11am.

Step 2: The eye test

When you arrive you will head to reception to receive a ticket. It may seem chaotic if this is your first encounter with a government department in the Middle East- IT ISN’T. They have their own systems in place and although it seems crazy, it does work. The ticket issued to you will direct you to door number 46 where you will await your turn for an eye test.


The eye test costs 100 dirhams and you will pay the person administering the test directly, in cash. It takes around 5-6 minutes. After which you will head back to reception for another ticket number.

Step 3: Entering the details

You will get a new ticket number to join another queue for entering and processing your license details.

Tip: If you are a lady, ask to join the ladies-only queue. The ratio of men to women in the UAE is highly uneven so ladies-only queues move much faster than general queues. 

At this point you will need to produce all the documentation as mentioned above. Ensure that there are no errors in the translation as this means you will not be able to obtain the license and will have to get your documents re-translated. The translation is the only piece of paper that they will keep with them.

You will be issued with a specific 6-7 digit number which is your new license number and directed to complete the process at a self service terminal using that number.

Tip: If you do not receive the new number, ask for it before you leave the counter because it is going to be your new license number and you need it to complete the process.

Step 4: Completing the process

Using one of many provided iPads, you will register a username and password for yourself thus creating an online account with the Abu Dhabi police system. Your mobile number will appear on the screen and you will enter the verification code sent to you. It is simple and easy to follow.

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 07.53.43

After which you will be able to find the option to ‘exchange non-UAE license”. Enter the number given to you, choose the country where your license was issued and enter the address where you would like to have your license DELIVERED to your doorstep.

You then need a Visa or MasterCard that you can use to pay for the issuance of the license online. The fee is 615 dirhams as of August 2018. 

That is it, you are done! Your license should reach you in a few days.

Last notes:

-At this particular department, I was not asked for photos or copies of any documents merely just my originals which were deemed sufficient. The photo will be generated from your Emirates ID photo. No fingerprints or retina scan was taken.

-There is no need for a No Objection Letter whether you are employed by a private company or the government.

-If the names in your passport and license don’t match (for example, my drivers license has my maiden name but my current passport is with my married surname), it is no problem. The photo identification and date of birth is enough to prove that you are you!


-You will receive an SMS to confirm that you have completed the process. This SMS will include your new license number and includes a link to your receipt for the payment. I love the fact that you don’t have to hold on to annoying receipts and bits of paper!

-Save your login details as you can download the Abu Dhabi police app for your phone, or alternatively login from your laptop. You can view your fines, pay them online, apply for a renewal of license and a whole host of of other services.

-Your license will be valid for a period of two years.

The struggle is real!

Good luck!

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