How to Survive Driving in Saudi Arabia

Very dramatic title you may think if you have not yet had the privilege of driving on the roads of Saudi Arabia, why would you need to know “how to survive driving in Saudi Arabia?”

Well; those of you that are already there and have dared to get behind the wheel of a car will fully understand the sentiment behind this headline, driving in Saudi has to be the worst in the world. Having driven on most continents (I have not yet managed to reach Australia or the poles) and many countries including some in Africa and Asia with terrible driving habits, I can say without a doubt KSA is the very worst of the worst.


Driving in Saudi Arabia



In over twenty years of driving in the west I have only ever been involved in two accidents, a lorry ran into the back of my car when I was parked in a residential area and the other was a car pulled out prematurely into the side of my car as I passed. Thankfully I have managed to avoid anything life threatening and have never hit another vehicle myself. I can also add that as a frequent traveler (I used to do 60k miles every year commuting and traveling for work) I witnessed very few accidents.




Saudi Accidents


This record has changed dramatically within Saudi Arabia, the following are my statistics for 3 years of driving;

  • I still have managed to avoid hitting another car myself.
  • I have been hit from behind 3 times.
  • Had a car scrape down the side of mine while in a queue.
  • Had a car reverse into me at a set of lights.
  • Was hit in the side by a car pulling out of a junction as I passed
  • The whole side of my car crushed in a car park (no note left!)
  • Witnessed accidents or the aftermath of accidents every day that I was on the road (not an exaggeration!)
  • Witnessed a 20 car long shunt when a car stalled on a slip road in riyadh
  • Attacked by a man with an iron bar in road rage incident
  • Two very serious near misses


Crazy Saudi Driving


Just to highlight how bad Saudi driving is in general I will give you some examples of “normal” Saudi driving;


  • All lanes including the hard shoulder and some footpaths are used for overtaking!
  • There is no need to stick to one lane when 4 or more are available (Imagine downhill high speed slalom skiing)
  • If their is a shorter route to where you wish to go even if it means driving against oncoming traffic take it!
  • If the queue at the lights for turning left is too long take any other shorter queue and turn across all other lanes.
  • Indication of any type is unnecessary.
  • It is possible to levitate smaller vehicle out of your way by driving on their bumper and repeatedly flashing your lights and hitting your horn.
  • The only possible position for the accelerator pedal is flat down. The space between traffic lights should be treated as a race track.
  • Giving way is only observed for royalty or bigger more expensive cars, otherwise everywhere should be treated as a free for all.
  • A car flashing their lights as they approach a junction is not telling you to pull out (for the information of polite UK drivers), it means “get in my way and I will crush you.”

If you have any other examples that you wish to add just leave a comment at the bottom and I will add them for you.


My Saudi Near Misses


I have had two almost fatal or at least very serious near misses;


The first involves driving from Riyadh to Dammam / Al Khobar for the first time. It is about a four hour drive through the desert on an otherwise straight and featureless road until you reach the outskirts of the Dammam and Al-Khobar area. At this point there are several options for roads to take and being a new driver to Saudi and to the area in general I was approaching each junction in the middle lane (generally the slowest!) and trying to read the sign in the dark before I passed the junction.

Looking up to read I was suddenly aware of several horns sounding and a squealing of tires and looked forward just in time to see a car reversing backwards in the middle lane of the highway to return to the junction, how I avoided hitting him I have no idea or the cars either side of me. That has to be one of the most frightening encounters I have ever had on the road and probably the most stupid piece of driving I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. Maybe the driver thought that Allah would protect him and if he didn’t then he would get his place in paradise!


I thought that was the worst driving I had seen until;


I had to drive from Jeddah to Riyadh one day (about a 12 hour drive) and like most of the other drivers was failing to keep to the 120KPH speed limit and was going at a steady 180 to try to get the trip over with as quickly as possible. I was with a “pack” of about 7 or 8 cars all of us doing similar speeds. Two or three hours out from Jeddah we were all pulled over by a police speed trap (yes they do have them!)

This incident was very friendly and everyone was amazed to find a westerner taking the drive, I was provided with my speeding ticket which was explained as “road tax” by a giggling officer as the other booked drivers laughed on. Once we were all given our tickets off we all drove, the other drivers all roaring off again as fast as they could go still without regard for the limit. I kept my speed down but still found it creeping up to about 150 while I kept a careful lookout for more police.

A few hours from Riyadh a car overtook me at about 160 – 170 so I decided to follow about half a kilometer behind knowing that if he saw the police he would put on his brakes and I would have some warning. I followed this car until about an hour from Riyadh where we started to hit more traffic. Still at the same speed he approached a few cars in the outside lane flashing his lights and they dutifully moved aside allowing him to soar past with me following shortly behind.

A little further on a car came up behind me flashing its lights at speed, so I moved quickly out of the way and it roared past doing at least 200. This car rapidly approached the car that I had been following which was by now in a small queue of three cars in the outside lane who did not move aside as he approached, frustrated he did what all “good” Saudi drivers do and moved onto the hard shoulder to pass the cars without so much as slowing. Unfortunately for him the middle car of this small pack also frustrated at the car in front of him not moving to one side did the same obviously without a single glance behind.

Saudi Arabia Car Accident

This is how the car looked!


The nutter was launched into the air by the impact across the central reservation into the path of the oncoming traffic while the car he had hit was launched sideways into the other lanes of traffic. At this point my ability to see was reduced to nil as the amount of sand that was thrown in the air was worse than a sandstorm. I stood on my brakes and slid through the sand storm hearing a number of impacts to all sides. Miraculously I emerged the other side of the sand without a scratch before moving over to the edge of the road to see what had happened.



On our side of the road there were several cars that had hit each other and people were obviously hurt, some unable to get out of their smashed up cars, the other lane looked far worse with bits of car thrown everywhere. I tried to help for a few minutes but I was taken firmly in hand by a couple of Saudis who told me to just leave as sometimes the police can be a little unpredictable in cases like this and I may have problems and could easily be detained overnight.

So I jumped back in my car and continued my drive home within the speed limit. Surprisingly no one died in that accident.


How to Drive Safely in Saudi Arabia


Anyway I have probably explained enough about how people drive in Saudi Arabia I should explain how to survive driving in their country, here are my tips for minimizing problems;

Take an advanced driving course if possible before you come to Saudi Arabia

Defensive driving is an absolute must, always expect the unexpected (and the Spanish Inquisition – although no one expects.. sorry I digress)

Offensive driving is required if you want to be able to cross junctions and navigate roundabouts.

Don’t drive too fast, keep to the limits everywhere (they have speed cameras now also.)

If another driver wants you out of their way, move and allow them to pass; it will not add long to your journey!

Drive a big car, expensive will make them them think twice about damaging your car, old will make them worry about damaging theirs.


Finally; If you are not a confident driver do not drive in Saudi Arabia!






14 comments for “How to Survive Driving in Saudi Arabia

  1. a saudi
    September 22, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    I totally agree with this article, driving in Saudi specially in big crowded cities like Riyadh or Jeddah is a very disturbing thing. Im actually suffering from this thing and until now I dont drive my car
    ( I live in Riyadh btw ), and taken your last advice as well, I hope that one day I can handle this issue.

    • Dave
      September 16, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      I was born in Saudi Arabia and I’ve been living here my entire life. The article is spot on. They drive like idiots and even the police drive the same way. I’m planing to buy a new car and I’m hesitated to do so. I’ve always parked my car in a good legal parking and find it later scratched or hit without a note!. I don’t think I can handle it. My car is covered with dents. I’ll just leave it at that.

  2. hopeful expat
    November 23, 2012 at 2:41 am

    There is a good chance that I will be moving to Riyadh. I have already made up my mind that I will not be driving, and will hole myself up in the compound when I am not at work. How expensive are cabs and are there busses that go from the compounds ?

    • admin
      December 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      Hi Hopeful
      Cabs are not too expensive although it can be cheaper to hire a car if you make more than 2 or 3 trips in a cab each day.
      Some compounds and even some businesses will provide you with buses to and from your place of work.

  3. Abdul
    June 19, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Well done! To all readers from all over the globe, this article describes the Saudi way of driving perfectly. I’m a Saudi who used to drive like this until I moved to the US for studying.Now, I drive the way the Americans do, and I find it so hard to obey the rules since obeying them may hurt you. I’m sure you’re amazed, but it’s true. Uncrowded red traffic lights without cameras mean ” don’t even think to stop” to most Saudis! The Saudi people can be considered friendly, but no while driving.

  4. roooky
    September 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Here we say ” if you can drive in saudi Arabia, you will be able to drive anywhere else ” lol.

  5. Yamen Kharsa
    January 29, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Totally agree with this article except for one thing which is the very last point driving expensive cars !

    In my opinion actually you’re the one who should think twice before buying such a car cause these people will not give a f*** whether your car is expensive or not specially Badawi people.

    I bought a Range Rover Evoque …so far passed 10,000 kilometer and I had an experience with two Saudi idiots 1st one when a 2008 f*** up corolla driver wanted to over take me by squeezing his car between my car and the middle island pavement…ended by giving my car a small dent.
    The 2nd one happened just this evening, I arrived my building ,and as usual I parked (60 degree parking street) got my stuff out from the passenger seat lucked the doors and booofff !!! hit by the car parked next to mine when reversing!! if I didn’t see him he would probably just keep going (like if nothing happened)I freaked out to my car and thanks god 4 another small dent…he got out of his Sonata saying “I didn’t see it” & I was like WTF !!! who would reverse without watching his mirror !! I realized that it’s a small dent so I told him to get lost…this bitch didn’t even say “I’m sorry” !!!

    The bottom line is : even if your car is stand still it will gets hits somehow in this country !!!

    • Muhammad
      February 5, 2016 at 5:33 am

      I am driving here since last year; You will not find any car in perfect condition on road; Dents, scratches or lines are obvious;

      So far Allah saved me & my love while driving back from Makkah; Its second life we are living…

      Please don’t follow local talent, they drive to fun as other things are banned here ๐Ÿ˜‰ use your brain to save your life here


  6. abdul waheed
    November 5, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    hello sir
    i need this job kindly brief me how
    can i raceve this visa

  7. Nasser
    November 24, 2014 at 1:50 am

    You know what’s funny about most Saudi Drivers? is that they believe that they are with out a doupt the best at driving and foreigners are the problem. They also think that they are entitled to do whatever they want.

  8. June 11, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I totally agree with the writer. One should be very cautious while driving in Saudi Arabia. From 2005 until now, 2015, I’ve driven almost 400.000 km, as my work place is about 90 km from my residence & mostly I’ve driven from Jeddah to Thuwal, Makkah & Medina, during this time & also inside Jeddah & Makkah cities. Fortunately, during this time, I didn’t hit any other car or a person, with my car, whereas, my three cars were hit by other road users, four times, twice from the rear & twice from the sideways. Again, you must be extra alert while driving in the KSA. Safe Driving – Live Long

  9. Madz
    January 17, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    I agree with this article. thanks for the tips but i need an advice.i’ll be going to buy a car this year and i haven’t drive yet in the city of jeddah i’ll be driving the first time when i buy my very first car. should i rent a car first for first time driving in the city of jeddah or should i wait till i buy a new one?

  10. Tayyab
    April 28, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Fully agreed & Endorsed upon. Excellent write up.
    I have had driven almost 350+ K in last 10 years in Pakistan but these people are far ahead than the uneducated / untrained people & Drivers of Pakistan.
    They won’t mind hitting you every now & then and almost always blame you that its your fault or Maktoob.
    May be cheaper fuel prices & tax free low priced luxury cars are the contributing factors for their rash driving habbits.
    They even drive within the cities at terrible speeds.
    Once a poor expat afghani was hit by a fast moving SUV just after putting his foot down the foot path infront of my eyes last year & believe me … It was a stat Death. This country isn’t safe for pedestrians either.
    BTW i reside in Tabuk which has worst stats for road traffic accidents.
    I used to be a confident driver at my homeland & there still i use to drive more than 1300km at a go (roads are very poor there) but here the things are terrible. It is your own responsibility to avoid a collision and save your life otherwise these Saudi’s dam matter a life or a vehicle.
    Yes they think they are extraordinary gifted drivers & others are always wrong.
    Very very defensive driving with all the 7 senses in action can assure that you may have an accident free small trip within the city.

  11. G Slim
    September 2, 2016 at 1:52 am

    Dear Admin,

    Thank you for as it was one of the more useful spots on the web in finding information on KSA.
    For your information, driving in Australia is pretty easy and you will enjoy it if the opportunity arises. The cities are getting a bit crowded, but there are plenty of spots to go to along the coast. My recommendation is the Great Ocean Road from Airley’s Inlet to Apollo Bay.

    In Saudi Arabia I was given the option of a car to drive, or sharing a driver. One day in Dammam convinced me that I am never ever going to drive in Saudi Arabia. These people are absolutely crazy! Generally I have found the Saudi men extremely gentle and very friendly, but once they have a set of car keys, all bets are off. The joke I was told by the other expats was the prerequisite for a Saudi Drivers Licence was two arms and two legs.
    My idea was that alcohol and women drivers should be introduced, as it can’t make it any worse. That or bubble wrap cars.


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