Tossed salad Dubtown
By christophersaul on Jan 25, 2010
A superb article in the Gulf News on Dubai's unwritten social contract. Well worth a read.
One comment you often hear when people come to Dubai and find themselves in some sort of trouble is 'they should have found out before coming here'.
Fair enough, up to a point, but there is little official information available on this topic - and, as the article suggests, there's something of a balancing act that goes on.
A simple example. When I first arrived here, I needed to find out whether a British friend who was visiting could drive my car or not.
The answer I got from everyone was that someone with a British driving licence could legally drive my car whilst in the UAE and still be insured. I asked all over the place for what the official rules were, as all I was getting was an answer based in people's personal experiences. 'Yes, it's fine, my uncle drove my car when he was here and there were no issues when he was involved in a crash'. That sort of thing.
Eventually, the insurance company came to my rescue, but only after repeated questioning. The answer was that a British citizen in possession of a British driving licence had to apply for a temporary UAE driving licence. The UAE driving licence would automatically be issued, for a small fee. Once in possession of a temporary UAE licence, my friend would legally be able to drive my car and be insured as well.
The rule is a bit odd - if you automatically get the temporary licence if you have a British licence, there's not really much of a process going on, so why go through the process in the first place? That would explain the attitude of the Police and the insurance companies in many situations - you have the British licence, which would get you a temporary licence anyway, so why not simply skip a bit of paperwork and get on with things.
Being a boring type, I at least wanted to know what the official letter of the law was, before I made my decision on what path to take. Getting that information was pretty tough though.
Perhaps things could be made a little easier for tourists and new expats to know what's what, without frightening anyone off. I would expect almost everyone coming to Dubai to be more than happy to comply with the rules, as long as they know what they are.