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Driving in the Philippines

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Driving is not very recommended to foreigners in Philippines, but you can still try if you have a valid driver's license. Here is how to proceed.

If you have moved to the Philippines, you would probably want to rent or buy a car at some point of time. Indeed, having a car at your disposal will allow you travel more independently, whether alone or with your family. However, driving can be quite risky in the country due to the road infrastructure's conditions and local driving habits, especially if you are not yet acquainted with these. Moreover, you must have a driver's license which is recognized in the country. So it is best to inquire about these beforehand.

Converting your driver's license

If you are making a more than 90 days stay in the Philippines, you are required to convert your original driver's license into a local one. The application has to be made at one of the branches of the Land Transportation Office. The following documents are to be produced:

  • 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 Philippines)
  • a valid passport proving your latest arrival in the country
  • your original visa along with a photocopy or your Alien Registration Certificate if you are in the Philippines for a specific period
  • an original medical certificate along with an official receipt issued by a doctor as approved by the LTO or related authorities
  • a negative drug test result, issued by a public hospital or an approved screening center by the Department of Health
  • a duly filled and signed ADL form
  • your tax identification number (TIN) if you are employed.

You will then be photographed before undergoing oral and written examinations at the LTO. Fees of some 1,000 pesos apply. A receipt will be issued in the first instance. Your driver's license will be issued once your examination questionnaire has been corrected.

Apply for a driver's license

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

  • be at least 17 years old
  • be physically and mentally fit to drive a motor vehicle
  • not be a consumer of drugs or alcohol,
  • be able to read and write in English or Tagalog (Filipino)
  • have a neat look (avoid wearing shorts, sandals or any other fancy shoes).

Thereafter, you are required to:

  • pass a medical examination in a LTO-approved medical center
  • duly fill and sign a driver's license application form
  • settle the written examination application fees
  • pass the written examinations
  • obtain your results
  • pass the driving test (fees are to be settled on the spot unless you have your own vehicle - car or motorcycle which you are driving with a Student permit accompanied by your original driver's license)
  • obtain your results.

Your driver's license will then be issued against fees applied if you have succeeded.

 Good to know:

The following fees apply: some 100 pesos for medical examination, around 168 pesos for the written examination, 418 pesos for the driver's license some 250 pesos for practical examinations in the case of a car and 150 pesos in the case of a motorbike.

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. As regards local drivers, they 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 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

Remember that you have to drive on the left. Therefore, you are not allowed to import your vehicle if its steering wheel is on the right. Otherwise, there is no restriction regarding the number and weight of vehicles you can import. Note that diesel is also easily available in the country.

 Good to know:

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

  Useful links:

Expat.com - Transports in the Philippines Forum 
Land Transportation Office - Driving www.lto.gov.ph
Official Gazette www.gov.ph

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