Well, as you all know by now, it was my birthday earlier this week. This year, it was time to renew my driver’s license again, so I went down to the LTO (Land Transportation Office) last Friday to take care of the task. I thought I’d share the process with you, so that those of you who want or need to know how to get a driver’s license in the Philippines will have a better idea. Now, keep in mind, I was renewing an about to expire license, not getting a new license, but the procedure should be similar, though.
I had been planning to get my renewal for several days last week, but other things came up, so I kept putting it off, but by the time Friday rolled around, I really wanted to get it all taken care of. So, first thing in the morning, after taking care of businesses, I headed out to get ‘er done.
First stop: Drug Testing
That’s right, to get a driver’s license in the Philippines you must first go and take a drug test. In the States, you had to do this too, but it was all handled right at the Dept of Motor Vehicles. Here, you must go to an independent, but certified drug testing center. Generally, wherever there is an LTO office, there will be many drug testing centers all around the area. I went to a drug testing center which is near my home. It’s a rather simple procedure. I sat down with an agent, answered a few questions (name, address, what prescription medications I am taking, etc), and then waited for the lab technician to come and get me, which took less than 5 minutes. When I was approached by the lab technician, he gave me a container to urinate in and directed me to the restroom. After filling up the sample container, I was asked to be seated and wait, which again was just a couple of minutes, under 5 minutes for sure. Next, I was given a certified drug test report, which I was to bring to the LTO.
In addition to the drug test, I was also given a medical exam, which consisted of an eye test, a blood pressure check and the answering of a few health questions. I was pronounced fit to drive!
Price of this part of driver’s license renewal? For the drug test it was P170, and for the medical exam it was P80, bringing the total to P250 for this part of the renewal. This comes to about $5.95 in US Dollars.
Next step: LTO Main Office
This step is a new one since the last time I renewed my driver’s license in 2009 (they are good for 3 years). You see, here in Davao there are two places where you can renew your driver’s license. You can do it at the main LTO Office, or you can do it at the LTO Satellite Office in SM City. I like to take care of the renewal at SM, because it is less crowded, there are no fixers there bothering you, and it’s a more efficient process, in my opinion. However, the LTO has added this new procedure, which is rather inconvenient. Unfortunately, if you want to renew at SM, you must first go to the main LTO office and get the signature of the head of the office there, to approve you to do it at SM. Crazy, but that is the system. Luckily, SM and the LTO office are only about 10 minutes apart by jeepney, probably 5 minutes if you are driving your own vehicle.
So, I went to the LTO office, and searched out and finally found this man who had to sign my paper (there is only one person that can sign, so you better hope he is there!). Got the signature and was on my way to SM.
Cost for the signature: Free
Next Step: SM Satellite Office
While I said that the SM office is less crowded than the main LTO office, there is still a crowd there, just less of a crowd! Because of this, I had timed my drug test so that I could be at SM when the mall opened, which is at 10am. Even though I had to go get that signature on my paper, I was still at SM early, 9:30am, so I had to wait for the mall to open. As I waited at the doors, I noticed that a lot of the others who were waiting were also holding drug testing papers, which indicated to me that there was going to be a mad rush to the LTO office in SM. Sure enough, the moment the doors opened, people were pushing and shoving to be the first in line for a driver’s license renewal!
I don’t like fighting for a place in line, or getting into these childish antics, so I just took my time. Funny thing was that by the time that I made it to the LTO office, about 40 people were ahead of me, but the vast majority of them lined up at the wrong window! Ha ha… I was patient and acted like an adult, and turned out to be 8th in line when I lined up at the proper window! The other 30 to 35 people ended up behind me! It pays to act civil, I guess.
First step was to get an application form from the window and also a priority number. I sat down and filled out the application and was quickly called to the next window, where they reviewed my application and then told me to sit down and wait for my number to be called again. Next, I went to the 3rd window, where they took my new picture and got my signature, both of which would appear on my new license. Sat down again and waited until I was called and asked to pay for the license renewal. After the payment, I sat down for another 10 minutes or so and when I was called again, I was given my new license and printed receipt.
Cost of renewal at the LTO: P417.63, which equals US$9.95.
Total of all costs for renewal (drug testing and license fees): P667.63 or about US$15.90.
The entire process took about 20 minutes at the drug testing center, a 15 to 20 minute trip (10 min or so each way) to the LTO office, and 1 hour and 5 minutes at the SM LTO office. So the total time was approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. I felt like it was efficient and pain free. I found the personnel at the LTO office (both of them) to be friendly and efficient.
One thing you hear from a lot of foreigner is that all of the government offices are corrupt, lazy employees, inefficient, etc. Basically, a bunch of complaints. Yes, I found a couple of things inefficient (having to take a trip to get that signature, mainly), but overall, it was at least as easy and efficient as any driver’s license renewal I have done in the States. I was not asked for any bribes. I was not asked for money for any reason other than the official fees which were posted right on the wall. I was treated kindly and with respect.
Oh by the way, this might be of interest to some of you. Do you remember a couple of years ago when I lived in my old house in Marfori Heights? I had trouble with a neighbor who made accusations against me and took me to court? Well he was there at the LTO office when I went there. Guess what? He was fighting with the personnel there, yelling at them. He was mad because he was late in renewing his license and did not want to pay the fine for being late. He was really making a fool out of himself (again). I recognized him immediately, and really all I could do was laugh at him. The funny thing is that there were about 40+ people in the office witnessing his antics, and they were all laughing at him! Gave me a chuckle!
Oh, here is one bit of advice. As I said, when everything was done, I was given my new license and a printed receipt. Don’t throw your receipt away! Basically, whenever you are asked to show your license there is a good chance they will want to see the receipt too! So, you should save this in your wallet with your license. Don’t throw it away until after you have completed your next renewal in 3 years and have a receipt for your new license.
So, anyway, this is my 2012 driver’s license renewal experience here in Davao. Quick, painless, cheap and no problems at all! I hope it goes as smoothly for you!
Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.