I had not made up my mind to get a Qatar driving license till Maria insisted me to take one when I met her at a party last month. I was scared even to apply for one as I had heard it’s very difficult to pass the driving test here. Even my hubby was little worried when I asked him if I could go for a driving test. He asked me if Maria was my inspiration, else why would I even think of a driving test after seven months of my arrival in Doha? Yes, she was the first person in Doha to encourage me with supportive words and here I am with my Qatar DL :)
Vij took me to Al-Rayah Driving School before we left for Meghalaya last month and got me enrolled for a 25-day class. They offer 12-day class with one test, 25-day class with two tests and 40-day class with three tests. I wondered if I need to go for 25 days when I already know driving and have an Indian driving license, but Vij didn’t want to take the risk and he put me in a 25-day class. As a Ramadan offer, they charged only QR2000 for the 25-day class and QR125 for the CD and instructional manual.
Before accepting the application they asked me to go for an eye test which cost me QR30. All they took along with the application was three passport size photos, eye test certificate, a copy of my Indian driving license attested by the traffic department, plus a copy of Qatari resident permit. Vij was more than happy because rules to obtain driving license have been changed and made little easy. When he took his DL, he had to produce a no objection letter from the company/ sponsor he was working for, of course in Arabic.
The fee had to be paid using the debit card as cash is not accepted. Ladies section is open only in the morning hours and I had to go for early morning class of 45 minutes duration for two weeks (except Friday which is a holiday) before giving my first test. I paid QR50 for the test. This test includes -- Identifying Road Signs, Slope test, Pocket parking and finally Road test. Vij initially had doubts if I could make through the test in my first attempt as a very few get passed in their very first test.
My driver, a Sri Lankan, had told me that I should reach the traffic department at 5 am. I reached the place at 5.10 am and the room was filled with so many aspirants. As women are not allowed to take Road test in the Holy month of Ramadan, the number of aspirants was huge. Around 5.30 am, I gave my Road Signs test. The police pointed at 5-6 signs and I had to tell him what they are and I felt it was easy. After the oral test, I waited anxiously to know if I had passed in it. Meanwhile, a Malayali woman, who was appearing for the test, told me that she had failed in Slope test, Pocket parking during her first attempt and how difficult it is to pass the test. The theory test is quite easy – the examiner points at a sign and you say what it is. My tension increased and when my name was announced, I was happy that I had passed the first stage of the test and little tensed as to how I would perform in the Slope test and Pocket parking test. Vij had warned me how the test is very difficult and about half of all the applicants fail. Most notorious in the test is Pocket Parking – manoeuvring the car backwards into a small place. Applicants have to do it in one go, although they can take as long as they want. They can also fail if they stall the car. I went through this stage successfully and was taken for the last stage -- Road test.
I remembered all the points Vij and my driver had told me a day ahead of the test.
Fix the seat belt.
Adjust all the three mirrors properly.
Adjust the seat.
Fix the seat belt.
Start and stop the car very smoothly.
Maintain the track always.
Keep an eye on the speed limits.
Follow the road marks and signs.
Always use the mirror and side mirrors while driving.
Use the signal lights properly.
Apply handbrake in parking.
Be careful while overtaking.
Maintain safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.
Be confident and near roundabouts.
Concentrate on driving.
After giving each test, we were made to wait and each passing moment was like a day. In my mind I was only thinking, have I made it or not, have I made it or not. Meanwhile, Vij called me asking for the test result and my tension increased. When finally they called out my name, I couldn’t believe my ears. I had made it, made it in my very first attempt! They took QR250 and issued my Qatar driving license immediately. I received a Congrats message from Vij the minute I got the DL in my hand. Not telepathy, but he had received bank message for using his debit card ;) The DL is valid for five years and it is 10 years for Qataris.
I just went and thanked my driver and he was also excited to know that I had made it. He congratulated me and said, “I know you enjoy driving, but drive safely. Be extra careful near roundabouts.” I agreed J Roundabouts are like a feature of Qatar road system. It is a circle, can also call it a central island, where traffic travels in one direction around this circle. Traffic entering the circle must slow down and give way to drivers already in the circle. As I have observed, they are actually well signed and well marked with approach lanes, give way lines, circulating lanes, and exit lanes. Most large roundabouts have three lanes on approach, three lanes for circulating traffic and three lanes for exit. Most of the busy roundabouts also have signals that help in managing the traffic. And I have seen many accidents in these roundabouts. Some drivers force their way onto a roundabout without giving way to the drivers who are already in the roundabout. I have also seen some drivers using any approach lane for any exit. Some approach the right lane to turn left, or approach the left lane to turn right!
In Qatar, legal age to obtain driving license for light motors or motorcycles is 18 years and 21 years for heavy public motors or construction and agricultural equipment vehicles. People having GCC driving license can automatically obtain a permanent driving license. People from several European and Western countries can also enjoy this benefit. But Americans can no longer directly exchange their license for a Qatari license. Even they have to take a test. And all nationalities can exchange their original license, i.e., country of origin license for a temporary license. But it is not possible if the residence visa is still in the processing stage. After getting a temporary license, a person can drive only rental cars and drive them till the Visa expires. After getting a residence visa, he/she has to apply for a permanent driving license which is valid for 5 years. On the other hand, a person with an international driving license can drive rental cars with no time limit. But we, with or without non-exchangeable license will have to undergo training and driving tests. If caught driving without a license, people can end up in jail besides penalty fee according to the prevailing laws applicable.
Authorised driving schools in Qatar
Al Rayah Driving School: +974-4877774
Doha Driving Center: +974-4792263
Gulf Driving School: +974-4652822
United Driving Company: +974-4681003