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 obtain a driving licence on the basis of a home-country licence, an expatriate must present the following at the Traffic Department in the governorate in which he or she lives:

  1. passport and photocopy of pages showing personal details and residence stamp,
  2. letter from sponsor stating the applicant’s position in the country (employee or dependent), and showing the applicant’s full residential address,
  3. proof of residential address, such as copy of tenancy agreement or electricity bill,
  4. original driving licence from home country,
  5. photocopy of original driving licence certified by applicant’s embassy in Kuwait,
  6. blood group certificate from a local clinic,
  7. sight test certificate if the applicant wears glasses or is over 50 years of age,
  8. four colour photos (2.0 x 3.0 cm)
  9. fee of KD15.

To get the eyesight certificate, a paper from the local traffic department must be obtained and taken to the Ministry of Public Health (MPH) testing clinic in Qortuba.

Persons who are not allowed to get a Kuwaiti driving licence on the strength of their national licence must go to the Licence Section in the main Traffic Department in Shuwaikh and obtain approval for a learner’s licence (istimara). To obtain approval, an expatriate must satisfy conditions mentioned in the box above. However certain persons (see facing box) are exempt from these conditions.

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.

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.

When an expatriate’s residence permit lapses or is cancelled, his driving licence also becomes invalid. The driving licence becomes valid again when residence is renewed.

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. 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 1990 and earlier models as they may not be allowed on the road by the traffic department, if they are not in good condition.

Importing cars
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 3 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.

Car Care
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, some of them are self-service. Most of them 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 for the first hour and 400 fils per hour subsequently. Long term parking costs KD 2 per day.

Petronet Pre-paid Cards
Pre-paid cards are sold at all self service petrol stations and Burgan Bank branches in KD 15, 20, 25 and 30 denominations. There is issue fee of 500 fils for KD 15, and 1 KD for 20, 25 and 30 value cards. The amount of the card could be used for several refuelings and disposed when fully consumed.