Driving licence in The Philippines – how to get it?


After over 2 years, I have finally got my Filipino driving licence!
I have passed not very difficult exam and today I can legally drive not only motorbike but also a car. Some of you may wonder why I need that here if I have valid driving licence from my country. The answer is simple – I decided to legalise that, as foreign (in my case Polish) driving licence, according to the local law is valid for the first 3 months only and if you have international one you can use it for 6 months.
Many of you may say – all right, but who the hell is checking driving licence and – if it happens – who combines that with the length of your stay in this country? That’s true, it doesn’t happen often, but my personal motivation was being in line with the law just in case. Simply, in case of any road accident, if only I would like to claim compensation, each insurance company will ask to prove I could legally drive my motorbike in The Philippines and it’s nothing surprising.
I try to describe the whole procedure in case anybody would like to follow it and get this document, like the local law requires.

How to get driving licence in The Philippines?
There are 2 ways of doing that. First one requires visiting LTO (Land Transportation Office) and applying motorbike diving licence. After that you get temporary driving licence valid one month and next you come back, need to pass theoretical and practical exam and you can get driving licence valid 5 years only. After 5 years you repeat the whole process.
I have chosen second possibility and tried to make my Polish document valid in The Philippines. To make it happen I had to have sworn translation of my driving licence. It has to contain official stamp and formal confirmation of the translation with registered number, which is actually typical with any sworn translation. For further process it is enough to have scanned document printed in colour, that is why sworn translation can be arranged easily, also online. I can recommend translation office „Lingopro”, which can deal with clients from all over the world and provide translation in any language combination. My translation was ready within few hours and we had only e-mail contact. LTO in The Philippines officially requires sworn translation made by your country embassy, and all clerks remember that rule perfectly, but as from my experience any sworn translation is enough.

Additionally I had to provide:
– 2 passport photographs
– original and copy of my Polish driving licence
– passport and copy of the page with picture as well as copy of all Filipino visas up to date
– result of the medical examination
– drug test result

And that’s all.

And how medical examination and drug test look like? More or less as follows:

Medical examination
I came to the medical centre nearby and explained I need examination for LTO. I was directed to the next building where was supposed to fill in the form and pay the fee. I paid 75 pesos in total and came back to be examined by the doctor. Not sure why they call it examining by the doctor. Nurse, who weighted me, checked blood pressure and run eyesight test, managed the whole examination. Actually the eyesight test was very specific – I didn’t have to read anything. The nurse only looked at my eyes and said she was pretty sure they are ok and scored 20/20 for left and right eye… WTF ?!? 


Drug test
This examination is a kind of mystery to me, because I do not get why they check urine to determine you didn’t get drugs and never check whether you are under alcohol influence.
Anyway it is required and you do not have any choice. It takes approximately 10-15 minutes and costs 300 pesos. I was obviously not surprised I was “clean” and went back to LTO with medical documentation required.

Land Transportation Office – day one
Having necessary documents with me I came to LTO about noon to avoid crowds, expecting most of the people would choose lunch. And I was right. I was quickly invited to manager’s office. He was really surprised why I wanted to have local driving licence. As each clerk he started with the question why my driving licence was not translated by embassy, so I explained again there was no Polish embassy in The Philippines and that any sworn translation is actually official government document. He agreed. Then we had a chat about Polish chickens, because his family manage farm and they import Polish chickens, which according to him, are good quality ones (maybe, I’m not sure).
After leaving his office, after 15 minutes only, I was invited to the counter to pay 760 pesos and 10 minutes later my driving licence was ready. Well, printed on piece of paper, because they did not have plastic cards on stock and it takes 6 month waiting before you can get one.
Ok then. Nice man shook my hand and said now I could drive my car… WHAT !?! A CAR ?!?. I ride motorbike and came on motorbike, so why the car?
I was explained my Polish driving licence was valid for cars and it did not matter in my country I could drive motorbikes up to specified engine capacity. These are two separate categories in The Philippines, so if I wanted to include motorbike driving licence, I had to do that in a formal, prescribed way.
So went to the counter to inform I was ready to do that, but they told me I had to come next day as that is forbidden by law to get two different driving licences at the same day… LOL

Land Transportation Office – day two
I came to LTO next day again. With set of necessary documentation: copy of my ID, motorbike insurance and “old” driving licence, which was actually the same I received a day before. It was also necessary to come to LTO by any motorbike and bring own helmet in order to approach practical exam.
First they asked me to join the group filling in written test, but a while later someone decided it was not necessary as I had my car driving licence already and I should be familiar with road traffic rules. That was enough to check my practical skills only. 20 minutes later examiner told me to ride straight, turn, straight again, cross the parking lot and stop in the place indicated. About 200 meters all together. Ok, let’s start. Examiner said GO and I started with full speed. I was sure my run time was much better than the Filipino riding before me, so proud of myself I asked examiner how fast I was and… surprise! He laughed at me and said that was skills test, no speed test. That made me feel a bit confused and I wanted to do that again, slowly. It was not necessary though, I passed. Passed practical part, because he decided to check my theoretical knowledge, too, and asked few “difficult” questions: what would you do if you want to turn left? Answer: I use direction indicator. Correct! And suddenly he asked “which one?” I swear it knocked me out. I thought that was a joke, but no, the guy was absolutely serious, so I only said that I use same direction indicator which direction I want to turn.
There were additional questions like “what would you do if there is emergency vehicle behind you?” or “what would you do with main beam headlights if someone was going opposite?” etc.
After that I only paid additional 470 peso at the counter and sat down waiting for new driving licence confirming I could drive both a car and motorbike.

That is more or less how the whole procedure looks like here. Of course most of foreigners know the level of corruption in The Philippines and was able to buy or arrange by somebody else local driving licence without any problem, but I wanted to do this step by step and share with all of you how it works in real. I had enough time for this, and a lot of fun as well.

The list of all expenses related to getting local driving licence below:
Medical examination – 75 peso
Drug test – 300 peso
Driving licence sworn translation – 60 PLN (about 840 peso) – done by translation office lingopro.pl
Changing driving licence from Polish into Filipino one; administration fee – 760 peso
Motorbike driving licence; administration fee – 490 peso
Documents copying – 10 peso
4 passport photographs – 60 peso


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