UPDATE: The information here is certainly applicable to my non-US readers as well … there are not special LTO regulations for different countries … as long as those countries offer reciprocity to Philippine citizens driving on their Philippine license. Just substitute your home country terms for the places I refer to US state licenses.
I’m using a really great software to maintain my blogs called Windows Live Writer and up until a few days ago I have to say I absolutely loved it …but lately it has developed the apparent trick of posting earlier drafts of what is supposed to be a finished, spell checked document. I’m a lousy typist and a darn poor speller but I do proof read better than it appears the way this post went live yesterday … sorry for all the typos, I shall try to fix them now.
Recently I posted some notes about driving here in the Philippines and it occurs to me that I didn’t give very useful instructions about getting a Philippines driver’s license. This is not a hard thing to do … but like everything else it is a bit strange to the “first timers”. You need to do this within your first 90 days in the Philippines if you plan to drive … and it’s worth doing anyway because the picture ID license with your local address is a useful form of ID for other business transactions you might need to do. (Some law enforcement officers have the idea your foreign license is only good for 30 days … that’s not what the law says, but you likely won’t be in a position to argue if you get stopped … word to the wise)
The Philippine equivalent to what most of us know as the Department of Motor Vehicles is the LTO … Land Transportation Office. They handle driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, license plates, mandatory insurance laws and in general anything to do with vehicles with wheels (yes, there is an ATO and a MARINA also, for vehicles that fly or float).
The first step (if you want to do things the easy way) is to download, unzip and print out the application form. (Yes I wish it was already online in PDF Fillable format but this is good enough(pwede na)). As you can see the form is quite simple … you are applying to convert from a Foreign License to a Non-Professional Philippine License. Don’t worry about blocks such as restrictions … if the LTO decides to add any (like a requirement to wear glasses, etc.) they will take care of what is needed. There is no written or practical test for a conversion license (no, you won’t have to give up your US license, it will be handed back to you) so I see no reason to print out both sides of the form … the back side is the examiner’s score sheet for practical exams … print it only if you are extremely concerned with being a stickler for instructions ;-))
Next make a copy of:
- Both sides of your US license (remember, your “real” state-issued driver’s license, the so-called International Licenses do not convey driving privileges except those that your US state has granted and they are not needed and essentially useless in the Philippines)
- The identification page of your current passport
- The page in your passport that authorizes you to be in the Philippines … 13 series Visa, latest Tourist Visa, SRRV, etc.
Might as well do this now … in case you aren’t aware of how things work in the Philippines, 90% of the time for any government procedure is waiting for copies and/or walking somewhere to have copies made for a fee … government offices often don’t do this for you.
Next step Is to call or visit your closest LTO serving office. They are all listed here. I suggest calling because not every local office can/will issue licenses … some do renewals only. Since I live in the metro Manila area I got my license at the LTO headquarters on East Avenue.
Where ever you go there is one important thing to remember: Avoid “fixers”! The LTO is actively trying to stamp out these “parasites” … in addition to being illegal they often screw things up. Just have a little confidence in yourself and do this on your own … no matter what office you visit there will be a security guard at the gate/door and he’ll tell you where to go. Signs are in English … just look for a window that says “Applications” and do what you are told there. The officer will look at your paperwork and direct you to an accredited drug testing and medical testing center outside the LTO proper. Again, go to the one he recommends and avoid the ubiquitous “fixers”. You’ll simply fill up a simple form, be asked to give a urine sample and then directed to a doctor who will test your eyes, take your blood pressure and make sure you have no disabling injuries … 5 minutes, most likely. Cost will be about 200 pesos. Take the forms from the screening center back to the application window and hand them in.
You’ll likely be given a number and/or told to listen for your name. You’ll be called to sit in front of a camera, sign your signature into the computer and then, after another wait, you’ll be called to the cashier to pay about 300 pesos more and then collect your shiny new license. Some provincial offices may not issue the actual license on that date, you’ll be given a receipt (which is valid for driving) and instructions on how you get your permanent license. Whole process took me less than an hour.
Whether you get your “real” license or just the receipt remember one thing … the OR .. Official Receipt you get from this transaction is very important. Essentially nothing is valid in the Philippines without the OR … so keep it, even when you have your license. Carry it with your license. Whatever the government document … keep the Official Receipt!