Getting a driving license in Qatar used to be easy if you were from a list of mainly western countries. Simply hand over your home country driving license and they give you a Qatar one. However, in January 2017 the process changed. Now EVERYONE has to go through the following series of steps:

  1. Eye test and document check
  2. Driving theory test
  3. Practical driving test

Exact details on how to do this are quite vague so here is my experience of what you need to do as an ex-pat with a valid western license.

Step 1: Eye test and document check

The first thing you need to do is gather the required documentation:

  1. Letter of “non-objection” from your sponsor: addressed to Traffic Department indicating that you are allowed to enrol for driving license. Your Qatar ID number must be mentioned in the letter which needs to be on headed paper.
  2. A photocopy of your Qatar ID – front and back
  3. A photocopy of your Passport
  4. A photocopy of your home country driving license
  5. Four passport style photographs on a blue background (with glasses if you need them to drive)
  6. QAR 50 in cash (I’d suggest five QAR 10 notes in case the prices have changed)

You’ll then need to take all of these to the Karwar Driving School in the Industrial district first thing in the morning. The driving school is easily found on Google Maps and I used Uber to get there. The entrance has light green gates.

When you arrive go to the front desk and tell them you need to start a new application. They’ll probably give you a number and send you to the correct room to begin the process. Having taken most of your documents off you and begun the application form you’ll then need to pay for the Eye Test. I think you need to do this in cash and it cost me about QAR 20. You then take the application form (with all your photocopies stapled to it) to another room where they test your eyesight using the standard board with rows of letters. If you have to wear glasses to pass this then it is important that you are wearing these in the photographs you supply. My initial photos were without me wearing glasses so I then had to leave to go and get another set taken before I could proceed with the eye test.

Having completed the eye test and had all the application forms filled it you then go to another room and book your theory test. This will be for a future date and you have to pay for it by card.

Step 2: Theory Test

My theory test was due to start at 7:00 am but I wasn’t called until 07:45. The theory test is administered by computer and involves 20 multiple choice questions. An example question might be that they will show you a road sign or set of road markings and ask you what they mean. The English answers are not always well translated but you should be able to get enough to pass without studying for the test. If you want to brush up on some signs as they appear in Qatar you can find some on the Ministry of the Interior’s website HERE. I managed to get 18/20 (enough to pass) and the test took me 10min to complete. Interestingly, in one of the side rooms off the main corridor there is a notice-board that includes a print out of what looks like example questions with the correct answers circled! Have a look for it when you are undertaking step one.

Having passed the theory test you then need to go back to the room where you booked the test and they will then book you a practical test. The wait between booking and attending a theory or practical test can be quite long. I had to wait 4 weeks to do my theory test and then 8 weeks between that and the next available practical test.

Step 3: Practical Driving Test

My practical test was again scheduled for 07:00 am but I wasn’t called until roughly 10:00! It is worthwhile bringing a movie to watch or a book to read! When my name finally was called, myself and two other candidates were shown to a car and told to get in. One in the front and two in the back. My advice is to get in the back because you will go second or third and it gives you time to learn from the first person’s mistakes. We were then told to reverse out of the parking spot and follow the examiner’s instructions.

They proceeded to take us on a drive around the industrial area. There isn’t too much traffic there and a lot of the time was spent in the car park of a shopping mall so the actual driving part was easy. The key thing to remember is to slow down to an almost complete stop when negotiating any speed bumps as you will upset the examiner if there is any kind of “bump” when you go over them! After the first person has driven for about 10-15min you are required to park forwards into a parking space and then the driver gets out and swaps with someone in the back. You then reverse out of the space and drive as normal. Apart from telling me off for going slightly too fast over a speed bump (I was going about 5 miles per hour) my examiner didn’t say anything else except to tell me directions.

That’s all folks!

Assuming you don’t drive the wrong way down the road, you shouldn’t have any problem passing the driving test if you drive the way people do in western countries. Once you arrive back at the Karwa Driving School you then wait in the waiting room for your paperwork to be processed. Assuming you pass you then need to go to another room and pay QAR 200 for your plastic driving license.

Once you have this you can then buy a car… but we’ll talk about that in my next post!