19/08/2020, updated 10/10/2023
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 very few driving license equivalency agreements with foreign countries (apart from Spain, South Korea, and few Latin America countries). 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 process to perform, as well as some useful tips. This article only address the driving license for people willing to drive a private 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 the 2-point questions). 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 you want to turn to the right
The PDF guide to practice is available here.
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.
Three 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. If you are getting older and have problems with psychomotor tests, please note that the Automobile Club de Chile allows its members to practice the test and give them tips on how to perform better.
You are required to provide the car that will be used for the exam. It's up to you to find a relative who lends you his car. Make sure he/she 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 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 to come back to the starting point.
Here 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
It is necessary to register in advance. Contact the municipality for more information, or look on the website.
- 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).
Note: this last requirement should be waived soon, as a law is under review at the moment (May 2022). This has been done to simplify the application process for foreigners, who ofen have issues to get an apostilled degree that matches the criteria.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions about Driving License in Chile
As long as you are in Chile with a tourist visa, you will not have any problem, as you are legally authorized to drive with your foreign license (of course, considering you have one). Residents with temporary or permanent residence may not face lots or problems, as long as they do not have a serious accident involving injured or deal people. The insurances tolerate a foreign license, they will even refund some material damage if the bill is not too high. You may face issues if the insurance must reimburse hospitalization expenses, pay a pension to a third party… Beyond a certain amount, the legal service of the insurance studies the case to see if they can find a way not to pay… If you don't have a Chilean license while you are supposed to, they have the perfect excuse not to pay.
If you want a driving license in Spain or Korea, you can get one using your Chilean driving license. In the other countries, it will not be possible as there is no equivalency system.
In some countries, the license to drive a car also allows to drive a moto up to a certain category. In Chile, the driving license class B (for a car) indicates "vehicule with 3 or 4 wheels". Therefore, for a moto with 2 wheels, you need a driving license class C.
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