Sunday, 12 June 2011

Saudi Drivers License


Hubby phoned me one day with news about his Saudi Drivers License.

Hubby:  I did it.  I got my Saudi Drivers License.

Me: Really!  Excellent.  Well done....now lets go hire a car!

Of course, once he got home I was full of questions....first being "Did you get a car?"

He hadn't.
But, he had started the ball rolling.
His mate over at Innovations was arranging a vehicle and the paperwork.  We had decided our first self-driven outing would be to Bahrain and to get to Bahrain in a rented vehicle you need paperwork.

The next obvious question was "What did you have to do to get this license?"

There is a process for obtaining a Saudi drivers license which, I gather, as an expat you're supposed to get after being here for three months.  The Husband has never bought a car in Saudi which negated his need for a local driver license until I started getting angsty about not going anywhere.

As any husband can attest, an unhappy, irritable, somewhat tetchy wife is not a nice person to be around.  Time to go get the license!


The Process, for those who already have a license from another country, involves obtaining an appropriately stamped (by the Chamber of Commerce) letter of permission from your employer, visiting a hospital for a blood test (for your blood type) and submitting all relevant forms, with all necessary attachments, to the police who have to give approval for you to continue to the next step in The Process.

This all sounds very simple but Saudi has this penchant for doing things the long way, so there is a bit of running around and rigmarole getting your various bits and pieces together. 

Once approved you're sent to a local driving school for the (hopefully) final phase of the application process, which may or may not involve a driving test.  I understand 'Who You Are' and 'Where You're From' is a large factor in this determination.

Hubby went early in the morning and took an Arabic speaker with him who is familiar with the staff - it speeds up the process.  He had to do the driving test.  There were numerous nationals from the Indian sub-continent and Philippines lined up waiting to do their test.   Hubby didn't have to go to the end of the queue - one of the benefits (or terrible acts of racism, classicism and other ism's I'm sure - depending on your point of view) of being western and taking an Arab who knows the ropes (as per paragraph above) is you get to skip to the head of the line.
 
He drove forward a few meters, then reversed back again.  That was it.

Apparently while he was there a number of men failed the driving test.  We have a friend who failed the driving test.  A Brit and a professional.  The car used in the tests is a manual.  He hasn't driven a manual for years.  He stalled it.  He failed.  He traipsed passed the waiting queue of watching faces, who were in as much disbelief as he was, out to the waiting taxi....

It is nice to know the 'ism factor didn't let him pass when he so obviously couldn't drive the car.


So, what of those who don't have an existing driving licence?

I'm less au fait with this process though I understand that, as in any other country, there is a manual to be studied and a theory component that must be passed before moving on to the practical driving test. 

Mr Noor told us you have three chances to pass your theory before you can get your hands on the wheel of the test vehicle.  He was, however, a little vague on the time frame between the two.

Failing the theory for the third time requires paying to do the whole process again, not something these men can easily afford - they have tetchy wives back home who need their men on the road raking in the moola! 

Reasons for failing the theory include not knowing the road rules, not knowing how to use a computer (the test is computerised multiple choice) or not being able to read - an issue that is fairly common, I'm discovering, among the Riyadh driving population. 

After fail number two, those who can afford it (which by all accounts is quite a few) opt for fail safe Plan B - they pay for an official, usually the one who is supposed to be supervising the test, to do their theory component.

And then, if they can start the car, move it back and forth a few meters without graunching the gears or stalling, they are now the proud owner of a Saudi Driver License.  Yep.  Just like that men in this country - many of whom are employed to cart women around - can get a driving licence.  And people wonder why the driving here is shit!




Ka Kite,
Kiwi





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