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Driving in SaudiThe Roads of Saudi Arabia: A Guide for Non-Saudi Drivers

Explore the ins and outs of driving in Saudi Arabia, from obtaining a driving license to understanding local regulations, ensuring a smooth and safe journey for expatriates and visitors alike.

With a limited public transport system, people in Saudi Arabia often rely on their own cars or taxis to get around. Expatriates relocating to Saudi Arabia for work, visiting for leisure, or exploring business opportunities should learn the local driving regulations to move around safely and efficiently.

This comprehensive guide offers information on driving in the Kingdom for non-Saudi residents, from obtaining a driving license and traffic rules and regulations to renting and buying a car in the country.

Can Non-Saudi Residents Drive in Saudi Arabia?

Absolutely. Foreigners residing in Saudi Arabia are permitted to drive, provided they adhere to specific legal requirements, including obtaining a Saudi driving license. In some cases, non-Saudi residents can drive with their foreign driving license for up to one year after entering the country.

It's important to note that driving in Saudi Arabia requires one to be aware of local customs and regulations, which can be distinct from other parts of the world.

To obtain a legal driving license in Saudi Arabia, non-Saudi residents need to provide all the required documentation and sometimes need to complete training and examination by the General Traffic Department.

General Rules and Regulations

  • The main regulatory body for driving in the Kingdom is the Public Security Department of the Ministry of Interior.
  • The legal driving age in Saudi Arabia is 18.
  • From 2018, women can also drive legally in the country.
  • Foreigners holding an international driving license or a driving license from an approved country (neighboring Gulf countries, the EU, the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand) can drive in Saudi Arabia for up to one year before obtaining a Saudi driving license.
  • Many insurance and rental companies will require a Saudi driving license.

Driving License in Saudi Arabia: Steps and Requirements

For non-Saudi residents who don’t hold a driving license from an approved country or those who plan on staying in the Kingdom for more than a year, obtaining a Saudi driving license is mandatory. Fortunately, the process is relatively easy. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to do to legally drive on Saudi roads.

Eligibility and Required Documents

  • An activated account on the Absher platform.
  • You have to be 18 years of age.
  • Payment of required fees.
  • A medical examination from certified centers.
  • Four passport-sized photographs (4×6 cm).
  • Original copy of residence (Iqama) and passport.
  • The original foreign driving license and a translated copy in Arabic (if applicable).
  • Identification document from employer (sponsor).
  • Copy of the appointment.

How to Obtain a Saudi Driving License

Obtaining a driving license in Saudi Arabia is fairly straightforward and can be completed in five steps. Here’s a more detailed look at each stage of obtaining a Saudi driving license.

Step 1: Absher Platform Registration

The initial step involves registering on the Absher Platform, the online government service portal. Users should follow the instructions to the “Driving License” section and select the option for “Issuing a Driver's License.”

Step 2: Appointment Booking

Through the Absher Platform, individuals must book an appointment for theoretical testing at an approved driving school. The theoretical test encompasses road safety, traffic laws, and driving etiquette in Saudi Arabia.

Exemption for Valid License Holders

Holders of valid international or foreign driving licenses may be eligible to skip this step, subject to the latest regulations.

Step 3: Application Process

After booking an appointment, applicants are required to complete the necessary forms and submit the required documentation. Once the application is filled and submitted, a confirmation message (SMS or email) detailing the test date and other important information will be sent to applicants.

Important: Applicants should also submit or show a medical examination test that was conducted at Efada-approved medical centers to ensure compliance with health standards for driving.

Step 4: Training and Examination

With a copy of the appointment confirmation, residents should visit the designated driving school (Traffic Office) to complete the practical and theoretical (for some cases) tests.

While some non-Saudi residents may be exempt from this step, verifying Saudi Arabia’s current exemptions and recognition agreements with other countries is advised.

Step 5: Getting an Updated License Status

Once everything is completed, applicants can check the status of their Saudi driving license on the Absher Platform. Here, a notification regarding the collection of the Saudi driving license will be provided once the license becomes available.

Buying a Car in Saudi Arabia

For many residents, owning a car is a necessity in Saudi Arabia. Foreigners can purchase and own a car in the Kingdom if they adhere to the following requirements:

  • Valid Residency Permit (Iqama) and Driver's License: Essential for all car-related transactions.
  • Mandatory Insurance and Vehicle Inspection: Necessary, especially for second-hand cars.
  • Financial Compliance: Necessary to fulfill financial requirements.
  • Legal Compliance: Registration must be in the resident’s name, following local regulations.

Importing a Car

For expatriates looking to import a car into the Kingdom, the following requirements apply:

  • Three-Year Rule: Foreigners can import a car into Saudi Arabia every three years but can sell it only after three years from import have passed. The car's card is stamped "not sold until after three years” and removed upon final exit.
  • Documentation: Non-Saudi residents must comply with all the regulations and gather all documents, including a residency permit, payment proof, and original/certified origin certificates for cars from specific regions.
  • Vehicle Limitation: Non-Saudi residents can't purchase transport vehicles or buses.

Renting a Car in Saudi Arabia

Renting can be an ideal alternative for expatriates who prefer not to purchase a vehicle. Renting a car offers flexibility and convenience for short-term visitors or those not ready to buy a vehicle. The process is straightforward and accessible across the country.

Required Documents

  • Valid Driving License: Residents need a Saudi driving license. Visitors can often use an international driving license or a valid driving license from their home country, depending on the rental agency's policies and the length of their stay. However, it’s important to note that some rental companies do not rent to tourists and holders of foreign driving licenses.
  • Identification Documents: A valid passport is typically required, while residents will probably need to present their Iqama (residence permit).
  • Credit Card: A credit card in the name of the person renting the car is required for security purposes and to cover any potential charges or fines.
  • Proof of Insurance: Some car rental companies require renters to have valid car insurance. Others may offer insurance packages as part of the rental agreement.
  • Additional Documents: Depending on the rental agency and the specific circumstances, additional documentation such as a visa, proof of return ticket, or a letter from an employer might be requested.

Before renting a car in Saudi Arabia, it’s important to check with the specific car rental company about their requirements, as these can vary. Renters should also be aware of and fully understand the rental agreement, especially regarding insurance coverage, mileage limits, and any restrictions on travel outside city limits or across borders.

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