What driving license for what status?
As a tourist, you can drive without problem with your foreign driving license in Chile. The international license is useful but not compulsory.
However, as soon as you are a resident, you are expected to use a Chilean driving license. Chile has almost no driving license equivalency agreement with foreign countries (apart from Spain and South Korea). You need to undertake a theoretical exam and a practical exam, plus some medical tests, to be granted a Chilean license.
The only exception is for diplomats, who can automatically get an equivalence.
Rest assured, it is not very difficult.
On this page, we describe the whole approach to perform, as well as some useful tips.
This article only address the driving license for people willing to drive a standard car. For other license classes, such as bus, trucks… you can consult this page.
The driving license examination in Chile consists of three parts:
- A theoretical exam
- A medical examination (vision / psychomotor)
- A practical exam of about 15/20 minutes
It consists of 35 multiple choice questions, with a maximum of 5 errors allowed (with a subtlety, see below). You have 45 minutes to complete the test, which is more than enough.
If you have already taken the exam in another country, this should not seem too difficult. There are often one or two answers that are obviously wrong, such as:
- “I accelerate”, while the question indicates that you are already at the maximum authorized speed
- “I honk”, when there is a pedestrian crossing while I want to turn to the right
You can also use the online platform EducacionVial, which is made available for free for people to practice.
Chile automobile club also offers a theoretical exam for free online, harder than those of EducacionVial.
WarningThree of the 35 questions gives two points. You do not know exactly which ones. The only thing the law says is that the issues that earn double credit concern safety-related issues, such as: speed, alcohol consumption, use of seat belt, helmet (motorcycle license), seats for children…
Actually the total count is 38 (32 + 3 x 2), and you have to score 33 at least. So maximum 5 errors on “simple” questions, or two errors on two-point questions…
A few minutes of interview with a doctor and some psychomotor tests not too hard. You should be fine without problem.
You are required to provide the car that will be used for the exam. It is a paradox, are you are not supposed to own a car without driving license. It’s up to you to find a relative who lends you his car. Make sure it is available to drive you to the exam.
What does this exam include: a round trip between the starting point and a place at 2-3km. No maneuver to demonstrate that you know how to park a car like in some other countries, it is a very simple.
The only think you need to remember are 3 to 6 destinations points and the route to reach them from your starting point. Each municipality publishes on its website the list of destinations. For example:
- Vitacura (destination 1 / destination 2)
- Providencia (list of destinations at the bottom of this page)
- Las Condes (6 destinations possible)
You must know how to go at a destination by the route of your choice, without the instructor guiding you. The inspector can choose the destination, or let you decide which one you prefer. During the second part of the exam to return, he is guiding you.
WarningHere are 2 classic pitfalls to avoid:
- the instructor does not put on his seat belt. You start without telling him to put it…
- upon exit, you open the door without looking if a car is coming.
An overview of the full process
Below is a feedback of the exam I took in Providencia. This may differ somewhat in other municipalities, but the approach remains the same overall:
All tests take place during the same day. You can not book a time slot. You need to be in the first 15 to arrive. If can’t make it on time, better come back another day. In some municipalities (Santiago Centro) you have to take the theory test and come back another day for practice.
- to be 18 years old,
- to have a proof of address in the municipality where you want to take the test (if you do not have one, ask for a certificate of accommodation to a friend living in the municipality where you want to pass it, signed by a notary of course),
- to have a valid identity card (Chilean),
- to have a copy of a diploma translated in Spanish (to justify that you have basic reading skills).
You start with the theoretical test, then the medical test. If you validate these two first steps, you can take the practical test.
If you want more details, and if you like to read laws, you can find here the driving license regulation. It notably includes the list of health problems that can prevent you to get your license, as well as the detail of serious mistakes that you can not make during the practical test if you want your license.
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