Philippines – Driving in the Philippines and Applying for a Local License

How to get a Philippine Drivers License

Everyone who has a valid driver’s license from his / her home country or an international license can drive with that license for a maximum of 90 days upon arrival into the Philippines. After this period you will have to apply for a Philippine driver’s license.

Local rules allow you to apply at seventeen (17) however new rules imposed by the Land Transportation Office state that a student’s License can only be applied for when 18 and with proof that the applicant will be residing in the Philippines for at least a year from application.
The law requires that you have a work permit before applying for a driver’s license

Drivers License Conversion & Application

This is a fairly simple process except that it takes time, upon arrival at the main Land Transport Office (LTO) in Quezon City the whole procedure can and will take you anything from 2 to 5 hours depending on how early you get there in the morning. It is recommended to be at LTO by 8am to start the process.

Kindly take note that there are a lot of fixers (people who say they have contacts on the inside to speed up the process for a fee). It goes without saying that it is advised not to use these fixers as you may end up paying a lot of money for something that is not authentic or legal.

The requirements are as follows:

• Original Passport and Photocopy (ID page of passport and 9G Visa stamp page ) *
• Foreign License and Photocopy (front and back)*
• Approximately Php 1,000 – 1,500 in cash
• If documents are in a language other than English, an official translation must be done beforehand by embassy or embassy accredited agency.

*Photocopy services are available at LTO office but better to do it before arriving

1. To start the process you submit all needed documents as mentioned above with accomplished LTO application form (furnished at LTO office).
2. Medical exam with takes around 10 to 15 minutes in another building, procedure includes vision, blood pressure, reflex weight height and a few questions from the registered LTO doctor. The cost is between Php 100+300). Fingerprints and photos are also taken at the medical clinic.
3. Fall in line again and have the documents examined and approved. Once approved, you are given a number. Wait for your number. From this part in the process it now takes between 2 to 5 hours. Once called you go for 1st photo capture and signature in the LTO office.
4. Wait again for number to be called for 2nd photo capture and signature. Cashier will call your number for payment .
5. License card issuance. Unless they have another person in the databank with the same name, the license card is issued right away. They also do not have lunch breaks.

At this time in the Philippines there has been a delay in delivery of new driver’s license for the last six months which means that once the process is completed you will be given a temporary license. After you have this you will then need to wait for a letter from the LTO to say when your official license will be ready for collection. This releasing of the new drivers license takes around 2 to 3 months.

Tips for driving in the Philippines

Driving in the Philippines specifically in Metro Manila, can be a great challenge especially for first timers. Although rules do exist, most local drivers are just focused on getting to their destination in the fastest possible time, without much consideration for traffic regulations. Therefore, rules such as staying in one lane, giving right of way and respecting pedestrian crossings are often ignored.

A newcomer will have to be on guard for cars staying too close or blowing their horns unnecessarily. Blowing of horns in the Philippines whilst driving is very much part of the culture. It can take some time getting used to, so the best option is defensive driving. The only consolation for foreigners though is that by being from another country, the traffic enforcers will most likely cut you some slack the first time you violate the traffic rules

The following are a few reminders to take note of when you do feel good and are ready to explore the local roads:

• Local driver’s license is valid for a period of 3 years from date of issue.
• Traffic rules do exist although not consistently enforced. However in the major business districts the rules on “ no parking” areas and “tow away zones” are strictly followed.
• Some major and minor roads do not have visible street signs, so it advisable to list down landmarks when asking for directions.
• Road maps are available from gas stations and book stores but do check on the date of printing as they may not be updated. If you have an iPhone app the Offmaps application allows you to use the map without internet connection to your mobile data or wifi.
• The majority of public transportation drivers (buses, jeepneys and taxis) do not practice road courtesy, so it is best to stay on guard. They do not remain in the assigned lanes whilst driving
• Defensive Driving is Key

Do not hesitate to blow your horn at intersections to make sure no one is running a red light, to warn a pedestrian about to cross, or to make a jeepney that has abruptly stopped in front of you to start moving again.

• When driving out of town make sure to get to your destination by early evening as most countryside roads are not well lit and language maybe a problem. There are hardly any street signs when heading out of the central business district areas or public telephones around so a cellular phone is always handy.
• If you find yourself in a sudden down poor or storm take extra care as some roads become easily flooded quickly due to poor layout of roads and garbage being in and blocking the gutter systems in the road.

If caught in a major or minor road mishap you should adhere to the following:

• Do not get out of the car and let the driver deal with the situation
• If a major accident contact the local police also your company and RELOC8 Asia Pacific Group – Philippines.