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How to get a non-professional license in Manila

After years of failing to learn how to drive, I overcame my fears (told myself I was too old and it was time to acquire this skill), took some lessons, and got a license. I still bike most of the time, but now I can drive people around. This is a step by step explanation of how I got my license at the Land Transportation Office along East Avenue in Quezon City. 

1. When to go

Some people will insist that you go early in the morning, but at the LTO on East Avenue, the earliest examination time is 11 a.m. to give way to return applicants from the previous day.

The entire process will probably take around five hours, so the latest you should go is noon unless you want to risk being asked to return another day.

Return applicants do not need to be back the next day, but they must be back within a month, as long as their student permit is still valid.

2. What to bring

a. Medical certificate with official receipt (200 pesos) – it’s safest to get this at one of the nearby LTO-accredited places right before going to the LTO.

b. Application for driver’s license – this can be downloaded from the LTO website, but they will most likely ask you to fill out the form at the LTO again.

c. Photocopy of any valid ID with picture – this does not have to be a government ID. This requirement is not listed on the LTO website, but is required at the LTO.

d. Valid student permit issued at least one month before, with official receipt. If you don’t have the card, the official receipt will do.

e. Application fee (167.63 pesos)

f. License fee (652.63 Pesos)

G. Test vehicle fee (250 pesos for a manual car)

H. Black or blue ballpen for the written exam – not a sign pen

I. Water and snacks, a book, and someone to talk to – the first two are available at stalls inside the LTO compound, the last is likely to be found among fellow applicants 

LTO waiting room
You’ll spend around five hours here.

3. What to expect

A lot of waiting. Here is the step by step process:

1. Get a number from the guard.

2. Submit your documents to the evaluator. There are tiny white boards posted at the evaluators’ windows. This is where they write the numbers of the applicants they are currently serving. 

3. Wait for your name to be called for your first payment at the cashier: the application fee.

4. Wait for your name to be called for the photo and signature.

5. Wait for your name to be called to go to the review room.

6. Sign the log at the review room. Read the instructions posted on the board. Get a reviewer, and review for the written exam. The reviewer is available in English and Tagalog. It contains 100 items.

LTO review room
Most of the answers to the written test are in this room.

7. Wait for your name to be called for the written exam. You will be asked to choose between the English or Tagalog version. Questionnaires are generated on the spot, and are unidentical. The exam is 40 items, multiple choice. Erasures are not allowed. There are helpful posters in the exam room with the road signs. The passing score is 30 out of 40. Once you are ready, submit your exam to the proctor.

8. Return to the waiting area and wait for your name to be called. If you fail the exam, you will be called back to the examination room. If you pass, you will be called to the track for the actual driving test.

9. At the track waiting shed, wait for your name to be called. They will ask for your restriction code. 

10. Pay the test vehicle fee. 

11. Wait for your name to be called at the window. Sign the log.

12. Wait for your name to be called for the actual driving test. The track is a squarish lot with parking slots in the middle, and an elevated ramp on one side. The test will probably include pre-driving checks (check the tires, lock the doors, wear the seatbelt, disengage the handbrake), driving around the track including turn signals) and parking (just on the side of the road).

13. Go back to the waiting area and wait for your name to be called. If you pass, you will be called to pay the license fee. 

14. Wait for your name to be called at the releasing window. You will be given the official receipt which is valid as a license until the card is available, usually a few months later.

LTO test driving track
The practical test takes around 10 minutes.

TL;DR

1. Submit your documents to the evaluator

2. Pay the application fee

3. Get your photo and signature taken

4. Take the written test

5. Take the driving test *pay the test vehicle fee

6. Pay the license fee

7. Get your official receipt

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