We explain the laws surrounding foreign driving licenses in Saudi Arabia as well as how to exchange a driving license and buy a car.
Between the affordable gas prices and the inefficient public transport system in Saudi Arabia, many expats decide to drive while living in the Kingdom. Fortunately, exchanging a foreign driver’s license is fairly common and straightforward. This helpful guide provides the following information on the topic:
- Driving licenses in Saudi Arabia
- Exchanging a foreign driving license in Saudi Arabia
- Getting a driving license in Saudi Arabia
- Driving in Saudi Arabia
- Buying a car in Saudi Arabia
Driving licenses in Saudi Arabia
The main regulatory body for driving in Saudi Arabia, including issuing licenses, is the Public Security Department of the Ministry of Interior. The legal driving age in the Kingdom is 18, however, it isn’t unheard of, especially in rural areas, to see much younger children driving. In 2018, the law also changed to allow women to drive legally and as a result, the government had to process far more license applications than ever before.
Fortunately, if you hold a driving license from a neighboring Gulf country, the EU, the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, you will be able to use it in Saudi Arabia. Similarly, if you hold an international driver’s license, you can legally drive in the Kingdom. The only caveat is that some insurance companies might not insure vehicles under these licenses; so make sure you do your research. Similarly, some car rental companies and dealerships may require you to hold a Saudi license in order to insure you. Therefore, make sure to shop around before settling on a company.
If you have a driving license from a country that is not approved, on the other hand, you must go through the whole process of getting a Saudi license, which includes taking a practical driving test.
Exchanging a foreign driving license in Saudi Arabia
If you would like to exchange your driver’s license from one of the approved countries, you will need to begin the process online, with the following documents:
- Scanned copy of ID (front and back)
- Scanned copy of valid driver’s license
- Scanned copy of driver’s license translation (front and back)
- Medical report results (easily available at clinics that provide driver’s license medical exams)
Unfortunately, exchanging a driving license is not available to women who do not have their own Iqama (i.e. women who are dependents to their husbands or fathers). Once you have all the documents, you need to take the following steps:
- Create and activate an Absher account, using your ID number, phone number, and bank account information;
- Pay the SR400 license fee;
- In the Electronic Services section, click on appointments, then traffic, then book an appointment. You will receive a confirmation SMS;
- Go to your designated Traffic Office with all your documents and take your practical driving test. Certain nationalities might be able to skip this step, but don’t assume so;
- Collect your driving license!
Getting a driving license in Saudi Arabia
If your country’s driving license is not approved, the process of getting a valid license in Saudi Arabia is similar to the one listed above. You will still need to register online, bring your documents, and pass an exam. Alternatively, if you do not know how to drive and would like to get a driving license, you will face the same process but will need to sign up at a driving school beforehand to learn driving theory and practice.
Driving in Saudi Arabia
Between the speedsters, car accidents, and distracted drivers, driving in the Kingdom can be intimidating. That said, with certain precautions, you can ease your way onto the highways and drive like a pro. Firstly, make sure to always use your seat-belt and to use a car seat for children under the age of 10. Furthermore, avoid the far left lane unless you are ready to go well beyond the speed limit and don’t text, call or otherwise distract yourself. Read more about driving rules and penalties in Saudi Arabia.
Buying a car in Saudi Arabia
As a result of affordable gas prices in Saudi Arabia, many expats choose to buy a car during their stay in the Kingdom. If you would like to buy one new, you should research a few different dealerships and do a few test drives. Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate or purchase around a major holiday, because you might find some great deals. Once you have settled on a car and a price, verify whether the dealer will be handling the registration and insurance processes. Alternatively, if you are planning to buy a used car, be sure that you get it professionally inspected, that you take it on a long test drive, and that you buy it from a trusted source. Be prepared to handle the registration and insurance paperwork yourself.