**This is based from my personal experience. The following steps are applicable to other women who also have a valid foreign driver’s license. For female dependents, we do not have experience/updated and verified information regarding their driving license applications as of writing.**
It’s been almost two years since women have been allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and today, I – Reina of The Pink Tarha – finally got my own driver’s license here in Riyadh! We’ve written about this when the licenses for women were first allowed based on the experience of a friend (read here), but a few changes here and there may have happened so I’m writing about a fresh 2020 experience in getting my very own license. This is a big deal for me especially because I grew up here and I never thought this would be possible. When the ban was first lifted, thousands of women flocked the driving schools and the licensing office to get theirs ASAP. At that time, I decided to wait it out a bit and see how the streets get adjusted to the influx of women drivers. Seeing that the public reception was calm and even encouraging (and with soaring Uber prices) I decided that it was #TimeToDrive.
Unfortunately, the driving schools here in Riyadh have a long waiting list and it can be quite expensive too. Hence, I waited until my upcoming vacation in the Philippines and chose to enroll in the driving school there instead. By the end of my vacation just this January, I had finished 18 hours of driving school and was also able to secure my driver’s license from the Philippines’ Land Transportation Office.
This was a crucial step because it’s definitely easier for women to get a driver’s license in Saudi Arabia if you already have an existing and valid driver’s license from your own country. Once you have that on hand, you can now refer to the five main steps that I did to get my own Saudi driver’s license.
Get your foreign driver’s license translated.
Before anything else, you will need to head over to a certified translation office to get your foreign driver’s license translated into Arabic. This is the first step because it is one of the required documents that you need to upload on the system and you won’t be able to get an appointment without it.
I got my license translated at the Darleen Translation Office in Abu Bakr St. in Dhabab. Note that most translation offices are closed on Fridays (I learned the hard way) so schedule your visit accordingly. My foreign license’s translation cost 40 SAR and was done in just under 15 minutes since I was the only customer at that time.
Upload your documents to ABSHER and schedule an appointment.
Log in to your Absher account (create one, if you don’t have it yet) and go to:
Electronic Services > Appointments > Traffic > Book an Appointment. You should see the welcome message from the Muroor Appointments Service.
Click ‘Proceed to Service’ and go to ‘Book New Appointment’
You will need to scan and upload the following: Iqama, Foreign Driver’s License (front and back) and the translated driver’s license in Arabic. After uploading them, you will be directed to the available, selected dates and timings. In my case, it was February 9 when I uploaded my documents and at that time the nearest available date for an exam was March 4th. So manage your expectation that you’ll get an immediate schedule. On average, it will be three to four weeks before your exam date and that will give you enough time to fulfill other requirements (and brush up on your driving skills too!)
An appointment ticket will be given to you as you wrap up in Absher and you will also eventually get a text message with a location of the exam’s venue for future reference. Keep that text.
Get your medical certificate from accredited clinics/hospitals.
Since my workplace is one of the accredited hospitals for medical exams of the Saudi driver’s license, this was quite an easy step for me. The main exercise was the eye exam and other vital signs and within 20 minutes, I was done. Other hospitals might need to do a blood test to get your blood type.
All the accredited clinics/hospitals handle the uploading of your medical certificate to the system (EFADA) under your iqama number and you are supposed to receive a text message about it being completed once it’s done. So you won’t need a hard copy anymore.
For a list of the accredited clinics/hospitals, click here: https://www.efada.com.sa/EMC.UI/Hospitals/HospitalListForUnregistredUsers.aspx
Pay your license fees.
I paid mine online thru the SADAD payment portal of my bank. You can also do so via ATMs. Rates are 250 SAR for 5 years and 400 SAR for 10 years. I chose the latter.
Again, this is automatically registered under your iqama number after you pay so no need for a hard copy. Tip: Don’t wait til the last minute to pay for it because there might be unforeseen system errors that might not register your payment on time. I recommend that you accomplish this no less than 3-4 days before your exam to ensure that it is reflected in the system.
Pass the driving exam!
This is the most important step of them all. At first, I had my anxiety, yes and I made sure that I practiced before my exam date (shoutout to my dad and my friends Len and Machelle who all helped me out big time). I also asked Janelle to accompany me to the traffic office as moral support (in case I fail and need a hug). My appointment was scheduled at 10 AM but we left at around 9 since the location is more than 30 minutes away from the city center. The venue is located here: https://goo.gl/maps/gYJHAWsaNXnTjA4m8
Once there, I headed to the reception to hand in my foreign driver’s license ID, Iqama and Appointment Ticket. They scanned for my fingerprint and told me to enter the door on my left and follow the red line to the exam lot.
On the way there, a woman was walking back and she was smiling. It seemed like she got good news, which made me optimistic. The waiting area was spacious and it had a big window where you can see the lot itself. There was a lady going about the route and it was helpful to see someone else doing it before me. In her case, the lady traffic officer was with her in the car. However, when it was my turn, she said I did not need to be accompanied. Hmm, I wondered why.
Before the actual driving exam, the lady officer explained the route and what I needed to do. The track is fairly simple with straight paths and a two roundabouts that make an 8 for turns. At the base of it is a T-shaped parking space where you’ll need to a front and reverse parking twice before heading back to the roundabouts and back to the starting line. There are no other people with me in the car and there was no parallel parking needed. Take note that the procedure/route is different for the Men’s Driving License and for the ladies who went for Driving School here and took their exams at Princess Nourah — the experiences there are NOT the same as my particular exam.
The driving exam itself took about five minutes. There is no time limit so take your time and it won’t matter if you’re moving a bit slow. Just breathe and focus. After I left the car, the lady officer handed me a form that indicated if I passed or not and she gave me a big smile and asked me if I knew what “Mabrouk” means…it meant Congratulations! I PASSED!
I literally wanted to explode in a big Carlton dance right then and there but I had to keep my composure. As we were walking out, two other ladies were about to walk in and I greeted them with the most cheerful good morning they could ever hear. Haha!
I went back to the reception to hand in the form and they took my fingerprint again before ushering me to Office #2 for the printing of my Saudi driver’s license. Still holding in my happiness at this point.
Alas, as Janelle and I exited the office doors we erupted in squeals and giggles and I posed for a celebratory photo right away! Alhamdullilah, I can finally drive in this place that I call HOME.
There goes my own experience so I hope you learned a couple of helpful things. With this new license, who knows where me and Janelle can go and travel to around Riyadh? Our husbands might no longer see us at home. Haha!
See you in the streets, RIYADHizens!