Getting a Driving License

The Great Divide

Not Your Choice

Obtaining a driving license anywhere is principally affected and determined by the one of the fundamental dividing features of the world. Which side of the road is the one on which to drive? About 65% of the countries in the world drive on the right. The remaining 35% drive on the left. The right side is correct for the great majority of the world's road length, about 90% with only approximately 10% of roadways carrying traffic on the left. The preference is clearly and overwhelmingly in favor of driving on the right.

Moving to a country which drives on the same side of the road as that from which one comes has advantages beyond the obvious. The requirements for obtaining a new local driving license is likely to be very easy. Often no actual driving test is required although the passing of a written examination is common. Sometimes it is possible to just present a valid license, submit to a cursory eyesight test, complete a form specifying any medical problems that may affect driving and if all is well a new license is granted immediately.

I Said Go Right Up The Hill But ...

It will almost certainly not be this simple where driving is done on the "other" side of the road compared with the place where the current license was issued. In these cases it is usually necessary to pass a real driving test as well as an oral examination and an eye test. A basic medical declaration is also routinely required. Although a good driver will probably have no difficulty after some acclimatization and study of the local highway code it is an intimidating procedure for the older person.

Failed! Why?

At this stage you will be well accustomed to providing a "standard set" of identity documents to any authority. In this case you will also need your original home country driving license and a few additional passport sized photographs. Every country has its own forms for completion and language may be a problem. It should not be hard to find an acquaintance who has done it all to accompany you and to smooth the path.

Got One!

There is occasionally some resentment after having been a safe driver without a legal stain on the license held when one is to be tested by someone thirty of forty years younger. This irritation is diminishing because many authorities in most countries now require older drivers to be re-tested, sometimes at regular intervals, after reaching the normal or prescribed retirement age. Retirees are becoming used to being re-tested almost inevitably by younger persons.

 Tipping the Balance

Can't Have It All.

Compared with considerations of finance, climate and time some of the other matters that may influence the choice of which new country will be the best in which to settle may seem a little trivial. These factors may tip the balance of preference for some. Driving a car is the norm for most people today but the rules and regulations governing the use of road vehicles vary from place to place. Also driving habits vary from country to country as do the state of the roads.

Very Free

The local practices and hazards can be assessed on a "Golden Rule" (make no irrevocable arrangement without visiting a country at least once) trip to a country. In general in Europe and the U.S.A. major roads, freeways, motorways or autobahns are generally in good condition. They are also extensive systems and make for easy long distance travel. It is a little surprising how poor some parts of the U.S.A. system can be. Generally much of the U.S.A. domestic infrastructure is old and in a poor state of repair. This applies particularly to domestic gas and water supply pipelines. The discipline of drivers is generally good in these countries. Drivers know the rules and regulations and abide by them.

Normal Day in Town

None of this applies in all Third World countries. Density of population and a lack of public transport make some places difficult for newcomers. The Philippines is one such place. In most larger centres jeepneys (small private buses for fare-paying passenger), motor tricycles and, in Manila only, taxis make their own rules with respect to driving, stopping and parking. Pedestrians are another a major hazard. Although a freeway system is under construction most trunk routes are not in a good state of repair and are often just two lane roads. A "might is right" system applies where large trucks and buses are concerned. Travel by night is best avoided. Inevitably such conditions brings up the subject of accidents.

 A Driving License of Convenience

An International Driving Permit is a very useful document. It is usually not valid in the country of issue. It is acceptable in about 150 countries but it is well worth having even if it not taken as a driving license. It is a valuable identification document. It carries your photograph and is written usually in some ten languages. At the scene of an accident it can be invaluable in avoiding tussles with the local police or other authorities. As a driving permit it is usually valid for a year. A permit can be obtained usually from one of the local motoring organizations (AA, RAC, AAA). The U.K. issuing organization (AA) carefully points out that an International Driving Permit is not and International Driving License and it also specifies how a permit must be used.


For short term visits a license issued in the home country is normally acceptable for a few weeks or months without the support of an International Driving Permit. If the stay is to be longer or permanent this is sufficient time to obtain a local driving license.

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Retirement Abroad - Your Complete Resource

A Short English Grammar

Your World

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