Updated 2 years ago

Foreigners are often discouraged from driving in the Philippines. However, if you have a valid driver's license and are aware of local driving practices, it shouldn’t be a problem. Here is how to proceed.

If you have moved to the Philippines, you might probably want to rent or buy a car at some point. Indeed, having a car at your disposal will allow you to travel more independently, whether alone or with your family. However, driving in the country can be quite risky due to the road conditions and local driving habits, especially if you are not yet acquainted with the latter. Moreover, you must have a driver's license recognized in the country.

Qualifications

To apply for a local driver's license, you have to meet the following criteria:

  • be at least 18 years old;
  • be physically and mentally fit to drive a motor vehicle;
  • be a holder of a student permit issued at least 30 days prior to the application;
  • be able to read and write in English, Filipino, or the applicable local dialect;
  • must have been in the country for at least one month and provide proof that you will stay for at least one year from the date of application.

New application/conversion

The application has to be made at one of the branches of the Land Transportation Office (LTO). Note that to be able to apply or convert your license, you must prove that you will stay in the country for at least a year from the date of application. The following documents are required:

  • duly filled and signed Application for Driver’s License (ADL) form;
  • medical certificate stating you are physically and mentally fit to operate a motor vehicle (or otherwise stating your impairment);
  • your original driver's license along with a photocopy (if it is not in English, you will have to request for a translation from your home country's embassy or consulate in the Philippines);
  • a valid passport proving your latest arrival in the country (must have been in the country for at least a month).

You will then be called to take a photo and provide a signature, and pay the required fees. For new applications, you will undergo the following before you can obtain the license:

  • a written examination in the form of the Basic Driving Theory Test for Non-Professional Driver’s License;
  • a practical driving test.

You can refer to the LTO website for a detailed information on the fees.

Driving

Driving in the Philippines can be quite stressful, especially if you are not yet used to it. In fact, most roads are clogged and have potholes. Local drivers, especially in Metro Manila, generally drive in a chaotic way, ignoring the highway code, traffic lights, etc.

Make sure that the vehicle's registration papers are always on board, as well as the official payment receipts. You also need a local car insurance so that you don't have to spend a lot in case of an accident just because you are an expatriate.

Car insurance

You are required to subscribe to a car insurance with a local insurance company. You might as well opt for additional insurance so as to cover any other damage that can be caused to your vehicle. In case you prefer an international insurance, make sure it is valid in the Philippines.

Vehicle import

Only the following foreigners are allowed to import a personally-owned motor vehicle:

  • immigrants holding 13g or 13a visa or dual citizens;
  • Special Resident Retiree’s (SRR) visa holders; and
  • 47(a)(2) visa holders under the Balik-Scientist Program

Remember that the vehicle needs to be a left-hand drive and does not exceed 3 tons. In addition, it needs to have been registered under your name for at least six months and that it has a Certificate of Roadworthiness and Emission Compliance (CREC) from your home country (and is duly authenticated by the Philippine embassy in the same country).

 Good to know:

The Metro Manila area is a polluted, dusty, hot, and humid region. Hence, you are advised to import air-conditioned vehicles, which will prove their efficiency especially when you are stuck for long hours in traffic. You are also advised to “tropicalize” your vehicle and equip it with resistant shock absorbers.

 Useful links:

Land Transportation Office - Driving
Official Gazette
Bureau of Customs

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.