Friday, March 25, 2011

Getting a Spanish Driver's License

Hip hip, hooray! Yesterday I finally passed my practical driving exam, making me an official Spanish, and European driver's license holder. They do not honor driver's licenses from the states once you are a resident of Spain. Many claim that the road to get a Spanish license is a money making racket and they fail you on purpose to get more money. So what's the big deal, you ask?

It has been a nine month process, or I could say ordeal--because truly this has been hanging over my head like an unpleasant toothache. I feel like I just gave birth--going through the pains of labor and experiencing the joy that follows.

Getting a driver's license is Spain is not a piece of cake. I got my US license when I was sixteen--had to take driver's ed in high school, take a 10 minute drive around the block and drive the car through some cones--scored nearly perfect. Then in my thirties I earned my commercial driver's license so I could drive a school bus--not easy--but nothing compares with the nerve wracking experience I have had here in Spain.

One blogger put it this way:

"There are few things in life as difficult or as intimidating as getting a
Spanish driver's license. It is akin to solving Fermat's Last Theorem while
sitting on death row in Texas. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone who has
been through it."

It is quite intensive, mandating that you attend a driving school, pass a very comprehensive written exam which involves all aspects of road rules, safety, car mechanics, first aid, drug and alcohol laws, and even operating a motorcycle. I took it all in Spanish--I could have done it in English but the English manual was poorly translated and not comprehensive enough--I learned that the hard way after taking my first written test in English--I had perfect scores on all the sample computer tests, but on the actual test day there were questions that were not covered in the English manual, so I failed the written test the first time.

When you pass the written test, you sign up for very expensive driving classes on the road with an instructor--and some are much better and patient than others--I learned the hard way. My first teacher never answered my questions--seeminly irritated that I even ask one. He didn't properly prepare my for the "tricks" and complicated intersections that I would encounter on the road test.

After three tries I passed. It requires nearly perfect driving on a road system much different than what we are used to in the states. Roads are often one way, with the signs painted on the road, and often you can't easily find the markings or they have been erased.

Not only did I have to learn to drive a manual, but here in the islands the roads are all up and down hill, which poses a greater challenge. Driver's licenses don't come cheap either--average cost will be at least $1000--1500 by the time you pay the school for instruction and the necessary traffic taxes.

After my test, my driving teacher tried to trick me, making me think I didn't pass. The examiner got out of the car, didn't say a word, nor crack a smile. I was sure I had blown it. Then my teacher started to tell me the things I did wrong, but then chimed in, "you passed!" I was in a state of shock and relief that lasted the whole day because I had prepared myself for the worst possible scenario in case I didn't pass. I gave my teacher a big hug and cried tears of joy!

1 comment:

Jamie Parfitt said...

I failed my first test when trying to get a British driving license. I cried for a week! Good job passing that test. Is it for life? The British one is good until I'm 70.