OBTAINING A DRIVING LICENCE
Some residents, such as Westerners, may obtain a Kuwaiti driving licence on the strength of their national driving licence only. Other nationalities, even if they have a driving licence from their home country, are obliged to apply for a learner's licence and pass a driving test.
To get a Kuwaiti driving licence, applicant must go to the Licence Section in the main Traffic Department in Shuwaikh or any other area and obtain approval for a learner's licence (istimara). To obtain approval, an expatriate must (a) be legally resident in Kuwait, (b) have been resident for at least two years, and (c) be earning a salary of not less than KD 400 a month.
Once approval has been granted, the applicant must go to the Licence Section in the Traffic Department in the governorate in which he or she lives. Documents required include passport, original and copies of civil ID, four passport-sized photographs, as well as (if relevant) company employment letter and copy of work permit from Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour or letter of employment from a ministry. A KD10 stamp must be affixed to the application form. Then the learner must go to the Traffic Department in Qurtoba for eye and blood tests. The results of the texts, which can be picked up after two days, must be submitted to the Licence Section for registration. Then the learner must go to the driving test centre at the governorate's Traffic Department to fix a date for a driving test, for which a KD10 booking fee is levied. KD10 must also be paid on the day of the test. Learners are only allowed three shots at the driving test, which includes a written examination.
Renewing a Driving Licence
Kuwaiti driving licences are issued for periods of up to ten years depending on the driver's age. Once the licence runs out it can be renewed in less than a day at the Traffic Department that originally issued it. Documents required include original and copies of passport and civil ID, old driving licence and three passport-sized photographs. An application form must be typed and submitted.
Whether an eye test is required by a driver who does not wear glasses depends on the driver's age. Drivers up to the age of 40 are exempt from the test and are given a ten year renewal of their driving licences for KD10. A driver between the ages of 40 and 50 is also exempt but his licence is only renewed up to his 50th birthday. Drivers who are 50 years or older must undergo an eye test at the MPH clinic in Qortuba. Provided they pass the test, drivers aged 50 to 55 are given a 5-year renewal of their licence, those aged 56 a 4-year renewal, those aged 57 a 3-year renewal, those aged 58 a 2-year renewal and those aged 59, a one-year renewal. Drivers who are 60 or older get a 3-year renewal (for KD3) after passing the eye test and may renew their licences every three years thereafter provided they pass the eye test each time.
Buying A Car
The range of vehicles available in Kuwait is impressive. Many (but not all) are made to 'Gulf specifications', i.e. their radiators, transmissions, and other hard-working parts have been strengthened to deal with the rigours of the local climate. The most popular vehicles are those best able to withstand the climate and which are easy to maintain with spares readily available. Warranties on new cars are usually for one year.
New cars can be purchased on instalments. The dealer sells the car to a finance company, such as Kuwait Finance House or The Financial Facilities Company, and the buyer pays monthly instalments, over 24, 36, or 48 months, to the finance company. A deposit of 10-15% is usually required. Comprehensive insurance for the first year and third party insurance for the remaining years of the plan may be included in the total price.
Buyers on instalment will need a letter from their employer showing their salary details, a copy of their civil ID, and proof of address (such as tenancy agreement or recent electricity bill). Foreign residents may need a Kuwaiti guarantor, who will be required to submit details of his financial position and any other loans for which he is a guarantor.
Second-hand cars are widely available. Dealers and car hire companies may sell these with a three-month warranty and credit arrangements are possible. Indeed there are plenty of second-hand car dealers in most areas. And in Ardiya industrial area (off the 5th ring road there is used car auctions called Suq Al-Harraj. At the Suq Al-Harraj it is not possible to test drive or otherwise adequately check the cars on offer. Auctioneers, who get a fixed commission from the seller, set a base price and invite bids. The contract, in Arabic, is signed on the spot and a deposit put down, the balance being paid on transfer of ownership. As most used cars are sold for cash, an element of risk is involved, and the best advice is to buy a known car from a friend.
Caution: Avoid buying second-hand cars of 1985 and earlier models as they may not be allowed on the road by the traffic department, if they are not in good condition.
To bring a car into Kuwait permanently an import licence, which can only be obtained by a member of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce, is needed. There is a ban on the import of second hand cars more than 5 years old. However special permits for bringing in veteran and classic cars can sometimes be obtained. Foreigners may bring a car into Kuwait on a temporary basis for three months provided they have a triptyque.
Insurance & Registration
A new car is first registered for three years. Thereafter registration must be renewed annually. Third party vehicle insurance is compulsory and costs KD19 a year. Comprehensive insurance is also available.
To re-register a car after the third year, the insurance must first be renewed and then the car taken for testing. The receipt issued by the insurance company and 'log Book' (daftar) must be taken with the car to a testing station at a Traffic Department (murour) in the governorate in which the car owner lives. Murour are located in Shuwaikh, Jabriya, Farwaniyah, Ahmadi and Jahra. The test is not onerous and, if the car is deemed roadworthy, the insurance receipt is stamped. Then, inside the murour, KD5 must be paid for a revenue stamp which the cashier sticks on the insurance receipt. Then a check must be made to see whether there are any outstanding fines on the car (such as for speeding and the like). If no fines are due, the insurance receipt is stamped. If any fines are due, a paper will be issued which must be used to pay the fines to the cashier. The cashier will stamp the paper which is then taken back to have the insurance receipt stamped. The stamped insurance receipt and old daftar can then be exchanged for a new daftar.
In Kuwait's harsh climate cars deteriorate much faster than they do in more temperate climes. Dust gets in everywhere, rubber parts perish quicker, and the heat thins down oil causing more rapid engine wear. So routine maintenance tasks, such as oil and filter changes, need to be carried out at shorter intervals.
Driving in Kuwait
Kuwait's roads are very good, and as sign posts are in both Arabic and English getting from one area to another is easy.
Petrol & Parking
Kuwait has over 90 petrol stations, many of them self-service. All are operated by Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC). Petrol stations are easy enough to find in the Metropolitan Area and some are open 24-hours a day. But they are few and far between in the more remote desert regions. However, at only 60fils a litre for unleaded premium petrol and 65fils for super premium and only 55 fils a litre for diesel, fuel is the cheapest in the world. Leaded petrol (70fils a litre) is only available at certain stations.
The Supreme Petroleum Council is planning to add about 100 new stations in the near future. Privatisation of new Petrol Stations is also under consideration.
Parking is free on the patches of desert found even in built-up areas. Parking lots usually cost a modest 100 fils for the first two hours and 25 fils an hour thereafter.
Long term and short term parking facility is available at the Kuwait International Airport. Short term parking costs 200 fils per for the first hour and 400 fils per hour subsequently. Long term parking costs KD 2 per day.
Driving is on the right. The overall speed limit is 120 kph, but on some motorways the limit is 100kph. Some motorways have minimum speeds of 50 or 80kph. Speed limits are 45kph in urban areas and 60kph on urban dual carriageways and all bridges, flyovers and loop roads. Speed signs are in English as well as Arabic. There are radar cameras, which record vehicle and speed, on motorways and some main roads and at traffic lights.
Wearing seat-belts is compulsory for all passengers and children under 10 years may not sit up front. Ladies drivers may not wear veils that cover their faces. When entering a roundabout a car must stop fully, rather than just giving way. Parking against black and yellow blocks painted on kerbstones and on pavements is illegal. A driver must show his driving licence and daftar when asked by the police. If he cannot do so, he is taken to the police station, fined and held until someone brings them on his behalf.
A driver who is jailed by the traffic court for a major offence may find that he is barred from renewing his residence and is thus effectively deported.
Check the New Traffic Law in Kuwait effectieve from July 2006
Driving Offences & Penalties
The new traffic law was passed by the National Assembly in June 2001 introducing stiffer penalties for major life-threatening offences such as running a red light, speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics and repetitive offences.
Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a KD 500 fine. The court can also confiscate the driving licence in case of repetitive offences.
Reckless driving, driving without a valid driving licence or driving a vehicle not permitted to drive as per the driving licence, is punishable by KD 100 fine and/or one month in jail. Out of court settlement is possible after the payment of KD 30 fine.
Breaking a red light is punishable by up to three months in jail and/or KD 300 fine.
Speeding, unauthorised racking, wrong side driving are punishable by up to KD 100 fine. For out of court settlement the violator will have to pay KD 50 fine.
Failure to fasten the seat belt, failure to produce a driver's licence or the vehicle registration book upon request by traffic police or security men is punishable by up to KD. 15 fine. An out-of-court settlement is possible after payment of KD 10.
There are two types of monetary penalties, settlement and court fines. Settlement refers to fines that may be paid without going to court. However out-of-court settlements must be made within 30 days of committing the offence or from the date of being informed. If this time limit is exceeded then the offender must pay the minimum court fine in settlement, unless he decides to go to court.
Out-of-court settlement is not acceptable in certain circumstances and the matter must go to court where the penalties are more onerous. If jumping a red light or exceeding the speed limit results in death or serious injury, settlement is not allowed and the driver is liable to a court fine of at least KD1,000 and a jail term of one to two years. If these offences are carried out under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the jail-term is two to three years.
The law also introduces the ?points system? which is a record of the number and nature of traffic offences for drivers within a period of one year. The points will determine the penalty of suspending the driving licence for up to one year or revoke the driver's licence completely and require drivers to pass driving test again.
The new points system for traffic offences effective from October 1, 2001 is as follows:
While still upholding the enforced penalties of the new traffic law, 4 points are recorded in the drivers record for breaking the red light, exceeding the speed limit, driving the vehicle in the opposite direction of the traffic flow or reckless driving.
Three points are recorded for driving a vehicle other than the type allowed in the driver's license, driving a vehicle with expired or suspended registration, using a vehicle for racing without a permit, using a vehicle to commit immoral acts, driving a vehicle without or with tempered licence plate, or using false information to obtain drivers license or car registration documents.
Two points are recorded for using a private vehicle to ferry passengers for money, deliberately obstructing traffic, driving a vehicle with malfunctioning brakes or handing over the vehicle to someone without a valid driving licence.
One point is recorded for driving a vehicle with unclear or unreadable licence plates, driving a vehicle with a missing plate, or making any changes to the shape and colour of the plates, driving with an expired car registration, failure to produce the driving license or the registration , operating a vehicle producing excessive noise or smoke or with insecure cargo, or faulty tyres.
A driver who accumulates 14 points faces having his license suspended for three months for the first time. For the next 12 points, the driving licence is suspended for six months and for nine months to a year for the next 10 and 8 points respectively.
For the next six points, the fifth time, the driving license is revoked and the driver must apply for a new driving license and take the driving tests again.
The points are cancelled only after the execution of the stipulated penalties or maintaining a clean driving record for a year after recording of the most recent points.
A court conviction or an out-of-court settlement for traffic offences does not cancel the recorded points.
New drivers who commit two serious offences such as breaking the lights, exceeding the speed limit or driving against the traffic flow, during their first year on the road have their licences withdrawn, and have to wait four months and retake the driving test before applying for a new licence.
The police have the power to detain drivers for the following reasons:
w Driving without a valid driving licence
w Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
w Causing an accident which may result in death or serious injury
w Racing on the public roads.
w Attempting to flee after being involved in an accident in which people may have been injured or after being ordered to stop
w Failing to stop at a red traffic light
w Driving recklessly so as to endanger others
The emergency services and police usually respond quickly to traffic accidents. In nearly all cases all the parties involved are required to go with the police to the nearest station to sort matters out. If the police decide to prosecute and the accident is not serious, those involved are required to post a bond pending their appearance in court. If an accident is serious, the parties may be held in custody until they appear in court.
In the traffic court the judge, will have a copy of the police report, the drivers' and witnesses' statements, photographs and maps. Proceedings consist mainly of the judge's questions. In minor cases involving only expatriates, the questioning may be conducted in English. In serious cases, proceedings are in Arabic and a non-Arabic speaker should ensure that someone whose bilinguality he trusts is present to interpret. After statements have been heard, the matter, if the case is minor, may be decided there and then. In more serious cases, the court will adjourn to consider the facts and there will be a further hearing later.
DRIVING OUT OF KUWAIT
To drive a car from Kuwait through other countries the following are required:
w International Driving Licence
w Orange Card Insurance (for Arab countries)
w Green Card Insurance (for Europe)
To enter European countries, a vehicle ownership international book is also needed.
International driving licences are issued by the KT club for KD8/-, on presentation of a valid Kuwaiti driving licence, civil ID, car registration (daftar) and one passport-sized photograph. The club also issues the vehicle ownership international book. Orange and green card insurance may be obtained from car insurance companies or the KT Club.
The triptyque (international car certificate or 'carnet de passage') is a 25-page booklet containing tear-off transit coupons, with one entry and one exit coupon plus counterfoil per page. The booklet shows the details of the vehicle, and guarantees that if it is left in the foreign country through which it is passing then any customs duties will be paid by the automobile club which issued it. A triptyque is valid for one year, during which 25 entries into and exits from other countries can be made without paying import duties. When entering a country the entry coupon is removed by customs, and the entry stamped on the counterfoil. When leaving the exit coupon is removed and the exit will be stamped on the counterfoil. Triptyques can be obtained from the KT Club, other driving clubs and from some travel agents. A Kuwaiti guarantor plus a fee of KD30 is required.
Exporting a Vehicle
There are two ways to export a vehicle from Kuwait. The first is the easiest for those who are driving back to their home country. The second way is for those who are sending their car home by sea-freight.
In the first way the expatriate obtains a triptyque and orange and green cards, and drives home on Kuwaiti number plates. Once the car has been registered in his home country he returns the number plates to the traffic department in Kuwait, and the triptyque to the issuer in Kuwait to have his deposit refunded or his Kuwaiti guarantor released.
In the second, more official way, the number plates are taken to the traffic department and exchanged for an export number and various documents. These are then taken to the customs department in Shuwaikh in order to obtain an export permit which allows the vehicle to be shipped out of Kuwait.
As the rules are changing very often, please check with the officials for latest rules and procedures.