Driving in the UAE

Complete insanity. Fast cars, expensive cars, and smaller cars that just can’t hold their own. Before arriving here, I read up on what a nightmare it is to drive in Abu Dhabi. The inexperienced are frequently advised to steer clear of the roads, or at least the left lane. Accidents are commonplace; one new teacher told me he’s been involved (as a passanger in a taxi) in several fender-benders already. I’ve been advised on what to do WHEN I get in an accident, not IF. I haven’t been allowed to rent a car to this point because I don’t have my Emirates ID, so I’ve been taking taxis or the bus for the past week. Unfortunately, I was fingerprinted and photographed for my ID yesterday, which means a car is in my near future. I, along with many other teachers, will rent a vehicle instead of leasing or buying. By far, it will be my largest monthly expense, but in addition to being able to choose a new model, insurance and maintenance are included, and WHEN I get in an accident, someone from the rental company will bring me a new car on the spot if necessary. On a positive note, gas is below half the cost it is in Chicago so filling up won’t be the headache it used to be (and the gas stations are full service to boot… remember those days?)

As nervous as I am, I don’t have it the worst. Fellow teachers from the UK, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand not only have to navigate dangerous roads teeming with reckless drivers, but also have to learn how to drive on the right side of the road, which is not easy because of the way everything is set up (u-turns and roundabouts are everywhere). To make matters worse, directions are given by the location of a building in relation to its location to something else, not by a street address- internet directions to a furniture store we went to yesterday are as follows:


-Abdullah Hassan Hamarain Bldg, Madinat Zayed

Behind DHL / AL Falah (9th) St.

– Abu Dhabi

Say whaaaaaat?? (Yep; you want mail? Get a PO Box). For my furniture deliveries, I write the building name, apt #, and my area of Abu Dhabi. There is always a box underneath for “landmarking” that I leave blank. In the box, I just want to write in huge letters “IDK.” No clue where I am or where I’m going; this is how I feel all day, every day. Hopefully, it will get better once I’m in the driver’s seat. I’ve noticed that some people plug actual coordinates into their GPS. I may try that once I sort things out a bit more here.

It probably hasn’t been such a good idea putting my life in the hands of cab drivers, anyway. On the way home the other night, the driver topped out at 140km/hr in an 80 zone (87 in a 50). Instead of being stopped roadside and ticketed, offenders are texted or emailed tickets (there are cameras/ speed monitors everywhere) and have to go to the police station, which is located in the mall, like everything else, to pay their tickets. To say the lines are always long is an understatement. I don’t think a place with gold ATMs can successfully use fines as a deterrent for unsafe driving!

Where am I?Fast cars everywherePolice CarGold ATM


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