What is an International Driving Permit or License?
What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driving License (IDL)?
An International Driving Permit is a small grey booklet marginally larger than a passport containing a translation of your original driving license in 10 languages, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. It is recognized by 141 countries worldwide and is valid for one year.
On the other hand, an International Driving License is not a legal document and cannot be used to drive in foreign countries or instead of an IDP.
How does an IDP work in Saudi Arabia?
You can drive for 12 months with an International Driving Permit and a valid foreign license. You may also use your IDP as an identification document while traveling.
How do you apply for an IDP in Saudi Arabia?
You can apply through our website.
How long does it take to obtain an IDP in Saudi Arabia?
A digital IDP takes up to 2 hours to land in your inbox. Alternatively, if you want a faster processing time, you can choose an Express Order, in which you will receive your IDP in 20 minutes.
A printed IDP can be delivered to your doorstep, with the estimated delivery date varying between 2-30 days, depending on the selected delivery method.
Benefits of Carrying an IDP in Saudi Arabia
Functionality as an ID
An IDP is valuable as it can also act as identification while traveling. Using an IDP as an ID document can be helpful if you want to keep your passport in a secure location to prevent it from being misplaced or stolen.
Quicker traffic authority stops
Police may have trouble understanding your license information during a routine traffic stop if it is in a foreign language. Having an IDP ensures that police officers can quickly decipher your license and note your details.
Car rental companies
Car rental companies may be hesitant to rent cars to individuals who do not have an IDP. Since an IDP is a document recognized by the United Nations, most vehicle rental companies will require an IDP to rent a vehicle.
Driving Requirements for Non-Citizens in Saudi Arabia
Short-term visitors vs. residents
Getting a residency permit in Saudi Arabia can be a costly affair. There are two schemes for achieving residency, SP1, and SP2. SP1 (Premium Residency) requires a one-time payment of $213,206 (SR 800,000). SP2 requires a yearly payment of $53,301 (SR 200,000). Having a Saudi residency permit allows the holder the following benefits:
Use of special lanes in the airports usually reserved for Saudi citizens
Ability to do business using foreign investment regulations
The ability to enter and exit Saudi Arabia as often as you require
The possibility of sponsoring visit visas for your relatives
You can employ a housemaid/domestic worker
The ability to buy and sell land and property
Working in any job you please in the private sector and switch jobs when you wish
You can buy and sell vehicles
If the above perks don’t seem worth the investment, you must use your visa to enjoy visiting this beautiful country for its unique experience.
How long can I drive with a foreign driving license?
You may drive in Saudi Arabia for one year with a foreign driving license and an International Driving Permit, irrespective of your country of origin.
When should I get a Saudi Arabian driver’s license?
You can only drive in Saudi Arabia for one year as a visitor. If you have business in the country or have to stay longer for personal reasons, you will need a Saudi driving license to continue driving there.
Saudi Arabia is a country where you have to evaluate whether the cost of driving yourself is worth the liberty to do so, as it costs over $50,000 per year. If you don’t have business in the kingdom, you might benefit more from renewing your visiting visa and IDP and continuing to drive as a visitor. However, if you have business in the kingdom and it is worth spending over $200,000 on a one-time investment or over $50,000 per year, it might be worth the cost for the added perks.
How to get a Saudi Arabian driver’s license
Suppose you are from a state in the EU, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In that case, you may exchange your original license for a national one without taking a driving test.
To do this, you must make an account in the government services mobile application ‘Absher’ and pay the license fee. Your Iqama (KSA identification document), passport, and medical certificate are required to bring to a driving school. The driving license fee will cost $10.66 (SR 40.00) per year.
If you are from a country not listed above, you must take the theory and practical test. This will include a 3-hour class before the initial tests. You will also need to present a receipt of the license fee, a copy of your passport, four passport-sized photos, a residency permit (iqama), a complete application, and a medical report. If you pass the tests, you will be issued a 10-year driver’s license from Saudi Arabia.
Renewing Your IDP or Original Driver’s License While in Saudi Arabia
Renewing your International Driver’s Permit
You can renew your IDP for a further year through our website.
Renewing your original driver’s license
For your IDP to be valid, you must also have a valid driving license. If your license expires while abroad, you must get a new license to continue driving in that country. The procedure for renewing a license varies significantly by country, and license renewal may include a vision test that cannot be taken online, which may mean you need to return to your home country to renew your license.
Car Rental in Saudi Arabia
Deposit and costs for car rental
A rental deposit of $500 to $3,000 can be charged when renting a vehicle. If you use a credit card, this amount will be blocked for the duration of your rental. You can get cars from $25 to $100 daily, and a week’s rental will cost $350 on average.
Insurance coverage is based on the vehicle, not the driver. All vehicles on Saudi Arabian roads need to have 3rd party insurance. Rental car companies typically rent out vehicles with the required insurance package. Usually, the insurance cost is included in the quoted prices, but it’s wise to ask and be sure of this. It is handy also to get insurance covering any damage caused by theft, damage to your person, or the car you rent. These additional covers can be bought at the car rental company for an additional fee.
The crime rate in Saudi Arabia is very low; however, it is still wise to get travel and car insurance. Some points to look out for when getting your travel insurance are:
Coverage for doctor visits
Funeral costs (in case of an extreme situation)
Insurance fees for damage, lost or stolen baggage
Cancellation insurance if you have multiple stops within the country
Rental car excess
Dental insurance for oral emergencies
Driving and Safety in Saudi Arabia
Where can you get a driving handbook with the road rules?
If you want to brush up on the guidelines for driving in Saudi Arabia, you can purchase the complete driving handbook, The Highway Code, at most bookshops (the English version will cost more than the Arabic version). The penalties are high in Saudi Arabia, and we advise you to be 100% familiar with the rules and regulations of the kingdom before driving on its roads.
Overtaking on Saudi Arabian roads
You are advised to only overtake from the left-hand side as long as there have been no signs signifying otherwise. You must check your mirrors, judge the speed correctly and make sure that the lane ahead is sufficiently clear for you to enter back into its traffic. You cannot cut in on the vehicle that you are overtaking. Overtaking during nighttime or with poor visibility should be undertaken with extra vigilance.
Speed limits on Saudi Arabian roads
The speed limit for driving in built-up areas on Saudi Arabian roads is 50 km/h (31 mph). You can drive 70 km/h (44 mph) on urban freeways and up to 120 km/h (75 mph) on national highways. If you are caught speeding 9 km/h (6 mph) to 25 km/h (16 mph), you will be fined $80 (SR 300). If caught driving 25 km/h (16 mph), 6 points will be deducted from your license and fined $240 (SR 900). Speed cameras installed on all the major routes in the kingdom may not always be advertised.
Tips for driving in Saudi Arabia
You must drive on the right side of the road
You must be a minimum age of 16 for driving a motorcycle and 18 for other vehicles
Twelve points will be deducted from your license for running a red light
Eight points will be deducted for driving without brake lights
Two points will be deducted for driving without your seat belt
If your car breaks down in the middle of the road, you must park out of the way of the traffic, turn in your hazard lights, place a warning triangle next to your vehicle, and call a car breakdown service or 993
Women must be cautious when driving vehicles in the kingdom since they were not allowed to drive until 2018 and may still face some discrimination on the roads
Drinking and driving
Saudi Arabia is a religious country that follows Islam’s zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. Points may be deducted from your driving license, or you may be permanently suspended from driving in Saudi Arabia if found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You might also be imprisoned for an extended period. If you are a foreign national, there is a high chance that you will be deported from Saudi Arabia. In extreme cases, you can be banned from ever entering the kingdom again. It is highly recommended that no mind-altering drugs or alcohol are taken before driving in Saudi Arabia.
Top 3 Destinations to Visit in Saudi Arabia
You can start to explore Saudi Arabia’s rich history by visiting At-Turaif in Ad Diriyah. This area of Ad Diriyah crisscrosses with innumerable streets that will leave you feeling like you are in a labyrinth. It is also filled with mud houses that were built in the 1400s. UNESCO recognizes the site as a World Heritage Site. It has a steady stream of regional and international visitors throughout the year.
The site is vibrant, and the Saudi Arabian government continues to restore old structures and build new ones. It is set to re-open for tourists this year. You will be able to visit a re-creation of what life was like in the 15th century and eat all the traditional foods at Najd village. To beat the scorching heat, it is highly recommended to visit At-Turaif from January to May or September to December.
Jebel Fihrayn (Edge of the World )
While tourism is relatively new to this part of the world, some sites such as Jebel Fihrayn have already been built up as tourist hot spots. You will be able to enjoy the splendor of the rocky Tuwaiq escarpment that overlooks the sandy valley below. You should ensure you leave early on your road trip here as the outer gates close at 6 pm. You should arrange to camp at Acacia valley to get the whole experience. However, this spot is only open on Fidrads and Saturdays.
The best time to visit this unique spot is from November to February, when the weather is nice and cool. There will also be crowds of local and foreign tourists to keep you company. As the roads and environment around this spot are rough, you are advised to use an SUV and a reliable GPS. Like in other Middle Eastern countries, it’s better to make your trip convoy to ensure your safety.
Al-Ahsa is an oasis that has been used for hundreds of years and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Oases have been a vital part of life in the Middle East. Al-Ahsa is situated in Hofuf, the largest governorate in Eastern Saudi Arabia. This oasis has numerous cave systems that can be explored in the Al-Qarah mountains. Al-Ahsa also has a natural spring known to have healing properties by the locals due to its high mineral content.
Souq Al-Qaisariya is one of the region’s oldest markets and the perfect place to buy souvenirs. You can get a pulse of life at an oasis while buying your necessities. This beautiful ancient town is best enjoyed from November to March when the weather is not too hot.
Am I required to have an International Driving Permit in Saudi Arabia?
Yes, having an IDP to drive in Saudi Arabia is highly recommended.
Can I drive a vehicle with a foreign license in Saudi Arabia?
You may drive with a foreign license and an International Driving Permit for 12 months before reviewing your permit.
How long will my International Driving Permit be valid in Saudi Arabia?
Since Saudi Arabia was contracted to the Vienna Motor Traffic Convention in 1968, you can use an IDP for 12 months.
How long will transferring my license to a Saudi Arabian license take?
If you are from a select list of countries, you may get your driving license transferred to a Saudi driving license in one 1 to 2 weeks.
On which side do you drive in Saudi Arabia?
Motorists drive on the right side of the road in Saudi Arabia.