As I have said on a previous post, getting my UAE license was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life. Most will find it weird but UAE residents (locals and expats alike) will surely understand why.
It is a common knowledge that in the UAE, one will have to spend substantial amount of money and time before finally hitting the road with a professional license. A student needs to undergo 8 Theory classes, Signal Test, 20-40 Driving Lessons, Parking and Assessment Test before the final road test.
Let me tell you my driving license journey.
1. File Opening
It was in May 2013 when I and a colleague decided to finally apply for a driving license. We looked around every driving school to make sure we get the best rates possible. We also needed to consider the availability of schedule which will accommodate ours (office hours from 8:30-17:30, weekdays). If I’m not mistaken, there are 5 accredited driving schools in Dubai:
Emirates Driving Institute (EDI) – EDI was offering discounts for our company but it was still too steep for us. I think total was around 5,100 AED after discount.
Belhasa Driving School – We didn’t get the chance to check their rates but it’s probably a little less than EDI.
Dubai Driving Center
Al Ahli Driving School – They offer 500+ AED off in Groupon/ Cobone but their schedule and location was quite impractical for us
Galadari Motor Driving Center (GMDC) – We opened our file in Galadari as they have convenient locations. In fact, their Abu Hail Branch was only a few buildings away from our place. More importantly, our company was also part of their discount scheme. We only needed to pay 40 AED instead of 50 per class, and parking test was free!
I went to Galadari to ask for the requirements. Their friendly front desk Amina provided a list which includes:
Passport & Visa Copy
NOC Letter with company stamp and addressed to RTA
Eye Test – Some schools have this facility but since I opened my file from a branch, I had to do it outside. You will need to present passport copy and a picture
4 passport sized pictures
I submitted all the documents and paid for file opening. Waited for few days until they called me to say that my learning permit was ready and I could come over to schedule my classes (I needed a total of 40 classes as I had zero driving experience) and book for Theory class. They handed me my RTA handbook, learning permit, and class card which I need to carry with me at all times.
2. Theory/ Lecture Class
I attended my Theory classes on a Saturday. I opted to take all the 8 sessions in one day as it was only available in Al Qusais, their main branch. It would have been a hassle to go back for the remaining classes on another day. For me, the only downside of Galadari was that their lecture room was too small to accommodate all the students. Since I attended a Saturday lecture, I remember 5 of us seating on a 3-seater bench. And those who came late had to bring chairs from outside (I am not sure if it’s also the same case on weekdays though). I eagerly listened to the lecture as I had very little knowledge about Traffic Rules, Signals, etc. The instructor was able to finish all the 8 topics in a shorter period so we were dismissed earlier than scheduled. BTW, I read the RTA handbook prior to the lecture so it wasn’t difficult for me to understand all the topics =). Next step, Theory/ Signal Test.
3. Theory/ Signal Test
During the lecture, the instructor gave us a quick run through of some sample questions for the test. And since the exam was online, he also gave a demo on how to input the answers using the touch screen monitor, mouse, or keyboard.
Before I went for the exam, I read the handbook again to make sure I didn’t miss something. I also went through the RTA Practice Signal Test which was helpful.
There are a total of 35 questions for the Theory Test. It’s divided into 2 categories. I’m not sure if it’s the other way around but there are 18 common questions and 17 specific/ situational. To pass, you have to get more than 12 & 11 correct answers respectively.
I aced the Theory Test with only one mistake which was a proud achievement for me! =)
4. Driving Classes
I don’t have a Philippines license so I had to take 40 classes. It was actually good for me because even if it’s embarrassing to admit, I didn’t even know how to start a car, where the indicators are, or which ones are the headlights! Of course, I had to learn the basics before actually driving!
See, I often heard of other instructors who are lazy, impatient, shouts at students for small mistakes, and some apparently even ask for bribes! Imagine how horrible it is to deal with a grouchy person for a long time! But I was lucky to meet Mr. Naeem Khan (I highly recommend him) who was a very cheerful and patient instructor. Lessons were not boring as it was like driving with a friend. I learned fast because he didn’t teach by the book. He thought me real-life driving situations, gave me tips on how I will pass the exam, and patiently answered every question I had (even the dumbest). Also, I was never judged when I made mistakes. I was at ease all throughout my license journey. Mr. Naeem teaches with his heart. He genuinely cares for his students.
The assessment was done in Hor Al Anz branch. After I finished 30 classes, Mr. Naeem gave me the go signal to do the assessment test. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel nervous at all. I, however, was secretly praying not to be the first one to drive. Unfortunately, I was called first! So I had to park out after doing the 5 pre-drive checks
1. adjust seat’s position/distance
2. adjust seat’s backrest
3. check & adjust rearview mirror
4. check side mirrors
5. put seatbelt on (remember to remind all the passengers as well)
I managed to turn left & right, follow speed limit, slow down on humps, give way to pedestrians, etc. However, when it was time for me to drive along the highway and approach a signal, I was hesitant whether I will slow down or go faster as the lights were blinking! I chose the latter, btw and managed to cross before the signal changed to red. Right after the signal, he asked me to park the car on the side of the road. The problem was I had to park it in between two cars (parallel)! That time, I didn’t have a lot of parking experience so I struggled. I knew my driving was good but if they were to consider parking, I would have failed for sure. Hehe. The 2nd lady drove better than me. However, the 3rd one didn’t even do any pre-checks and was braking roughly. And since she was the last, she was asked to park the car back where we started. She had a bit of struggle as well but she managed with the instructor’s guide. After a few minutes, the results were handed. I passed!! But there’s a catch though – I had to take extra 6 classes which meant I had to pay extra 240 AED! But still that was better than repeating the assessment so I was still happy nonetheless!
6. Final Lessons
I still had to do more than 10 classes after the assessment. My final lessons were mainly spent driving around Galadari Main School premises. This gave me more confidence as the actual road test will take place there. I asked Mr. Naeem to pretend that he’s the inspector and tell me all my mistakes. That way, I will be able to avoid the same during the actual test itself. =)
7. Road Test
My road test was scheduled on 29th August (Thursday, 9 am). I slept early the night before and woke up refreshed. I prayed for a successful test and took a cab to Galadari. I had happy thoughts along the way, even imagining how I will thank the inspector when she announces that I passed. Lol! I submitted my file to the lady in Room 3 and was asked to wait for my name to be called. When I arrived at the women’s waiting area, I already saw a bunch of ladies. The atmosphere was mostly quiet and you can clearly see the tension on their faces. While waiting, I overheard horror stories of people who have taken N number of tests and lessons yet still failed, apparently there were also “cranky inspectors”, and what scared me the most was when they told me that of all the 16 people who took the road test that morning, no one passed!!!!! See, I have read all of these in internet forums, but to experience that yourself was nerve wracking!
Equipped with faith that I will make it on my first test, I stood and walked to the car confidently when my name was called. I didn’t actually mind if I was the first or last to drive. I was confident with my driving and that’s all I needed. =)
The first lady sat in front of the wheel, adjusted her seat, checked her mirrors and shifted to drive gear. The car ran for a few seconds and we heard a beep – she forgot to put her seatbelt on!! Since forgetting to put your seatbelt on is a grave mistake in road tests, I knew then and there that she will fail. Still, the inspector let her drive for some more minutes. She drove to the main road and was later asked to park on the side to give way to the next lady. The 2nd to drive was an elderly Arab lady. She did the pre-checks and successfully got the car back to the main road. After a minute, the inspector asked her to change lane (to the right). She looked at the rear mirror and glanced at her right side mirror. However, since she didn’t do a head check, she failed to notice that there’s a truck coming! She began to turn the steering wheel to the right but the inspector was quick enough to grab it to safely steer us away from an imminent accident. The inspector asked her to park the car immediately and we all knew what her rating was. =(
I was the last one to drive. Upon entering the driver’s side, I greeted the inspector with a “good morning”. Since she was upset with the previous students, I didn’t expect her to greet me back. But I was surprised when she did! I smiled and thought that it was a good sign. It also showed that I was confident unlike the other two who never said a word from start to finish. I did all my pre-checks and managed to get back on the road smoothly. She asked me to change lanes many times, make a left, right, & u-turn. All those I did after of course checking my mirrors and doing head checks from time to time. However, before we reached the school on our way back, I encountered a truck blocking the way (with hazard lights on). I saw some cars using the other lane to pass thru so I asked the inspector if I should overtake the truck as well. She said yes and I nervously but successfully did it! For ladies, there was no more parking test so even if I was the last, I didn’t have to park! Yey! I just had to stop the car where we started and wait for the dreaded verdict.
Honestly, I didn’t expect to pass as well since I made a few small mistakes. But I think what made up for those mistakes was my constant and obvious mirror checking, correct use of indicators, proper speed, and of course a bucket full of confidence & prayers.
I was still surprised and ecstatic when she announced that I passed. (Sadly, the other two failed) I guess she got tired of my never ending “thank you’s” so she eventually shooed me out of the car! Hehe
I would never have done this feat without the support of my family, boyfriend, boss, colleagues, & of course Mr. Naeem who patiently taught me everything about driving! =)
This post is for all the future drivers who like me tried to seek support from any internet forum, blog, & website for driving application requirements, tips, & road test experience. All the best! =)
Galadari Motor Driving Center (GMDC)
Al Qusais, Dubai
Nearest Metro station – Al Qusais (green line)
+971 4 267 6166
Abu Hail Branch
Ground Floor, Al Maha Bldg.
Abu Hail, Dubai
nearest Metro station – Al Qiyadah (green line)
+971 4 239 7992