I passed my driving test! Whoop!
After failing my test five times (or wait, was it six?!) in the UK, I was a little nervous to do my driving test here in Chile.
Yes, you do need a local Chilean license, and after 90 days
I’d wrongly understood that I could drive legally with my international license for a year. Well, nope. Turns out that your foreign license is only valid for as long as your tourist visa, so generally 90 days.
I also thought that I just needed to rock up to a government department with a few papers and swap them for a shiny license. Alas, unless you’re South Korean or Spanish, this isn’t the case. All other foreigners need to complete theoretical, practical, medical and coordination tests.
The biggest test – paperwork
But breathe… the test wasn’t so hard. Trust me.
Perhaps the trickiest part is getting all the necessary documents together. For the test you’ll need the following:
- Your Chilean I.D. card (RUT) and a photocopy of both sides.
- A bill on your name showing your address in Chile no more than two months old.
- A legalized copy of your high school certificate or university diploma.
- A car for the practical test with documents up to date (insurance, tax etc.)
- $ 26.000 – $ 30.000 CLP approx. (I took cash)
By ‘legalized’ copy of your education certificate, I mean with apostille. I got my degree legalised beforehand while living in the UK with The Hague Apostille Service, but google the term ‘Apostille’ and you’ll find a zillion companies offering the same service. Just check it’s legit…
Otherwise if you’re in Santiago already, you might need to check with your local notary for the best place to get your papers sorted. Bear in mind that the original copy of your legalised education certificate may kept by the Drivers Licence Department. Mine was given back to me after making a copy, but other communes are less generous apparently.
As for your car, this can be a basic manual or the latest super doopa automatic, with GPS and parking assistance etc. Just bear in mind that for the test itself, you can’t rely on your car’s fancy technology and you’ll need to show you can drive ‘old school’ look in the mirrors, map in your head style.
I also find it weird that you need an education certificate to be able to drive. Since when did a degree in Classical Literature help reverse parking I’ll never know…
Proof you live in Chile
If, like me, your name isn’t on any of your household invoices, (and in your partner’s name instead) then panic not. You just need to do the extra step of requesting a proof of residence from your local municipality office (municipalidad). Check my post here for more information on how to do this.
The test itself
As for the test itself, there’ll be an interview with a doctor, vision and coordination tests, as well as a theoretical and practical test.
Thankfully you don’t need an appointment. You just rock up and normally if time is on your side, the whole process should be over in a couple of hours max.
And a tip for all pregnant ladies – show your bump and you’ll get bumped to the front of the queue. Be warned however – if you’re well into your pregnancy you may need a stamped letter, in Spanish, from your doctor confirming that you’re safe to drive.
Firstly, you take a queue number ticket and wait for your turn to hand in your documents.
Then you go for a photo. Now if you’re a specs wearer, keep your glasses on for the photo, or you’ll just have to go again and get your photo redone. If you’re wearing lenses, you can even borrow a pair of fakes. I actually rather liked the glasses I borrowed…
Then you go for a series of psychometric and reaction tests. These are rather fun, games arcade style tests where you press on a red pedal to brake when you see a red light, guide a needle along a maze route with the assistance of a set of levers and so on. There’s also a basic eye and hearing test.
For me, this was followed up by a short interview with a doctor. Other Expaters tell me that they skipped this part, so perhaps it depends on the commune (or if you have a huge baby bump like mine).
Next up you move to a separate room for a multiple choice theory test. The questions are mostly common sense, but some less so. Questions relating to alcohol consumption, child safety and braking distances were given extra weight in terms of points allocated so it’s worth paying a little more attention there. And hoorah, you can do the exam in English if you like.
The practical behind the wheel bit
Now for the best bit – the practical.
Most examiners don’t speak English, and even if they claim to, this might not be to the degree you were expecting. My examiner was a charming Beatles fan, who knew the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ in English, but everything else was conducted in Spanish.
The Chilean transport website states that you’ll be asked to drive from the exam centre to a point of your choosing on a map. (Here is the map for Las Condes region). No GPS allowed; you’ll need to remember your way. But chill – the routes are short and you can choose the easiest for you.
Remember that traffic switches directions on many streets in Santiago according to the time of day, so try to practise at the same time of day that you plan to do the exam.
In my case, my examiner knew I already had a foreign license so I was asked to drive a much shorter route and he guided me all the way. In Spanglish…
This part was fairly easy and in my case there were no special sideways parking or three point turn requests.
In under ten minutes we were back at the centre and I was told to pick up my license the following Saturday morning. In other communes the license is prepared while you wait.
All the above is true for my experience in Las Condes, Santiago, but every commune is different. Opening times can also be reduced if there are heavy queues I hear. So do check opening times, costs and requirements before you leave.
Any questions? Leave me a comment in the reply box below… And beware, Chileans behind the wheel are reckless!