Sunday, January 26, 2020

Driving in Kuwait

by Ibraheem

Before living in Kuwait I lived in Cambodia for a few years, so it was a good primer for driving in a country where driving laws are basically not enforced in any way. You will really learn the meaning of the word "sabar", patience here. People basically drive like madmen. I have heard Saudi is worse! It is kind of like some grand social experiment. Let's take Kuwaitis, Indians, and Egyptians, all put them on the same roads with zero traffic law enforcement, and lets just sit back and see what happens. I have seen more lack of basic respect for other road users here than I have seen in a lifetime in the USA. From reckless endangerment to cutting people off, to just being in so much a darn rush they will not let you enter into the flow of traffic. I have gotten "accostomed" to it I guess you can say. Lots of Bismillahs, Astagfirullahs etc. The key is being aggressive but still civil. I can highly recommend driving a SUV type vehicle here (any SUV here is just known as a "Jeep" lol). A SUV can allow you to go anywhere, big traffic jam and your stuck and want to go the other way? Just jump the divider and turn around. No parking spot? Just park on the sidewalk or wherever you can get in. It is the way of the land here. You can also go out exploring in the desert when you have free time.

To get a license here, you must have a civil I.D. first which you get after completing your paperwork for your work visa. Now here is the interesting thing. As a tourist, on a tourist visa, you can legally drive on an international license and maybe some USA state licenses. But, as soon as you get your civil I.D. you MUST get a Kuwaiti license. They are cracking down on this (not through traffic stops but by random road block/checks) and you can get kicked out of the country for being here permanently and driving without a local license.

There are some complications now if you are on a visa and your job title is something like "manager". I have been told you cannot get a license, a teacher is fine, and house servants/drivers get them easily, but I personally know someone who is an older Brit, ex policeman whose job title is manager and he has tried three times to get a license with no success.

I am not sure about insurance yet, but I have been told it is cheap. I think a car stays registered for two years? And then has to get checked? You must pay yearly, but the actual check is every few years and they can be ridicuously stupid and nitpicky. For example, your rear bumper, the paint is chipped off, nope, they will not renew your registration until you get it painted, but hey, the horn and seatbelts don't work, no problem!

Seatbelts, no one wears them here, literally maybe 5% of the population.

Having said all this, it is a must to have your own transportation here. Taxis add up and can be a hassle. The bus system seems to work, but there are no set schedules, they just come, and a foreigner riding on the bus would be incredibly odd and looked down on. For example, a Kuwaiti will never, ever, in a million years ride the bus.

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