Round-A-Bout A U-Turn: 3 Things You Must Know to Drive in Abu Dhabi

SignToday I did it! I drove to and from my husband’s job by myself. Well, my eight month old was in the back seat so I did have a co-pilot. 😉 I have been here for three weeks now and since my husband was on vacation he chauffeured me around Abu Dhabi and Dubai. During every outing, he would point out things to me about driving laws, navigating and traffic patterns. While I understood the words that were coming out of his mouth, I couldn’t fathom I would ever be ready to drive here. I certainly didn’t think the day of my independence would come so soon.

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First, let me start by saying I did make it to my destination and back. It took about triple the amount of time that it would have normally, but I made it. LOL Abu Dhabi is a fairly new city that’s still changing and developing. Consequently, the infrastructure and driving rules supporting it’s commuters are just as new. I tried to follow signs but it’s the type of set up where you see the sign at the turn. There’s not much forewarning. I had to turn around a few times. I entered highway 22 when I was supposed to get on highway 11 and I explored a little industrial area called Binyas…not because I wanted to.

If you ever plan to drive in Abu Dhabi, here are three things you must understand off the top:

1. U-Turns are Encouraged. Have you ever flown by your turn, only to reach the next intersection and there stands the infamous red and white No U-Turn Sign? Well that’s not the case around here. U-Turns are encouraged. In fact, the U-Turn is a tactical driving skill in Abu Dhabi. You must make at least two U-Turns to get anywhere in this city; and that’s a modest estimate. What’s even more interesting is that a U-Turn can be made from just about any lane. While driving with my husband, we approached an intersection that allowed three lanes to make a left turn. I made a U-Turn from the far left lane (the only lane I figured you could U-Turn from). My husband kindly told me thatI should keep my U-Turns tight because all of the lanes were permitted to U-Turn. Huh!?! Where do they do that…Abu Dhabi obviously.

2. Round-a-Bouts are implemented everywhere. The round a bout is the turn style for Abu Dhabi drivers. In the heart of the city, along major thoroughfares you encounter stop lights but most four way stops meet at a round a bout. Here’s the danger…there are no specified terms for entering the round a bout; no suggested speed limit, no real way to determine who should enter, no rhyme or reason for which lane you enter into and most importantly you never know how or when a vehicle is going to exit the round a bout. My husband and I have both been cut off by cars who seemingly chose to exit the round a bout whether our car was coming or not. The good thing…if you miss your turn, just circle again. LOL New drivers really can get dizzy in a round a bout. Ask me how I know.

3. Different Speeds for Different Lanes. In my Phaedra Parks voice, “Everybody knows that the far left lane on the highway is the fast lane”. Well in addition to that convention, in Abu Dhabi the lane farthest to the right is the slow lane. The drivers here take this seriously. Most highways have signs along the side that post a maximum (120 kilometers/hr) and minimum (60 kilometers/hr) speed. What does this mean? You have people driving at a variety of speeds on a single highway depending upon the lane they are in. The potential for problems happens when drivers want to switch lanes. Switching into a lane where other drivers are going substantially slower or faster than you are is a recipe for disaster.

Wherever you are driving in the world remember to buckle up, stay alert and be courteous.
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