Getting a Chilean Driving License
This article doesn't add any new key info, just more detail. Article is 2,300 words.
When to start?
I was never quite sure after reading the articles on this forum and elsewhere whether it was actually illegal to drive here with only a foreign license with temporary residence or only when you became permanent. When you get your license, it will likely only be given to the date of when your visa ends, or a similar date. Therefore it doesn't perhaps make sense to do the tests if you are a very short time away from the expiration of your current visa or cedula (i.e. ID card). For the legalization of studies part - it make sense to start that as soon as possible, maybe even before coming to Chile since it may be possible to do part of the legalization process in your own country.
Step 1: Proving Education Level
You need to get either your education levels from another country proved and legalized for use in Chile, or take a Chilean school level exam, since you are not allowed to learn to drive if you don't have a basic education level.
Part A: Trying to Get My UK Education Certificate Legalized (2016)
Went to the municipality in Talagante. They said to contact the British consulate/embassy in Chile who told me to contact the British consulate who told me they no longer did the University certificate legalization and referred me to Minrel (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores). I went to Minrel (at Agustinas 1320 in Santiago) but they told me it has to be legalized before being brought to them for translation. I went back to the Talagante municipality and this time they told me to go to the Ministerio de Educacion and they gave me a letter with something different to before saying I have to get my education certificate "validado por el Consulado chileno en pais donde curso la ensenanza, ademas traducido si esta en idioma distinto al espanol y legalizado en el Ministerio Relaciones Exteriores en Chile". I did call the Chilean Embassy in the UK but they told me to email them and then sent me back something about involving a solicitor in the UK. At this point I decided that this was more trouble than it was worth, since I would have to go back to England or perhaps pay an agent to go the embassy in England for me so I gave up.
Part B: Living In Semi-Legal (?) Grey Area (2017)
So I went to the muncipality and asked to do the test without the education certificate, which they refused. So I went to the police in Talagante and told them I was probably driving around illegally because it was such a nightmare to get the education certificate and a guy told me not to worry about it and to just give his name if I was ever questioned and he stamped a paper for me with his name. I then spent over a year driving around with this paper in the car as well as letters from the British Embassy and the British Council saying they wouldn't legalize the certificate just in case I got stopped. I did get stopped, several times, and I would just hand over my foreign license casually and they would just stare at it for an excessively long time before eventually accepting it.
Part C: Doing A Chilean Education Exam (2018)
Eventually in October 2017 I went to the Ministerio de Educacion in Talagante and asked if I could do the Octavo Basico (the exam usually suggested on this forum) and she said that I would have to go in the last week of March or first week of April 2018 to register for the exam, which I did, registering for an exam in June. However they suggested I instead do the basic level exam for fines laborales instead, and I had to go back to the municipality again to see if they would accept it, which they did (please check with each municipality which exam they will accept, I was told it varies). I took the exam and got a perfect 7 without even studying which was quite a surprise since I totally guessed one multiple choice question that I had no idea on (Ciclo de Saltre and its order in the history of Chile). Questions were so varied, about maths, Chilean history, even random topics like contraception, that it would be difficult to study for it anyway, but basic level means it is for pre high school level children so questions are simple. I personally found it the easiest part of the whole process and if I only I had known that in advance I wouldn't have wasted any time trying to legalize an education certificate. But obviously this option only works if you can understand Spanish.
Step 2: Optical/Medical Reaction Exam
So I went to the municipality with the education certificate plus cedula and proof of address (I took my rental contract) and that was fine. Then I had to go into a room for various tests. The first one was a reaction test where I had to step on a brake as soon as a light came on. At first he said I was going to fail so I had to improve. I think you are supposed to hold your foot over the accelerator and then move to the brake when the light comes on rather than hold over the brake. The next 2 people after me also got told they were going to fail if they didn't up their game.
After that I had to move an object with a pencil in the end to follow a certain line or shape testing I have a steady hand and then some optical tests of looking through an eye piece into a thing that was like a telescope or binoculars with some letters in it. It was like a mini version of going to the opticians. Then finally the last part was talking to a doctor and answering some questions (I can't remember what).
Step 3: Theory Test
This was done on the same day as the medical.
A multiple choice test where you have to get 33 points out of 38. There are 35 questions but three are double points. I read the Libro del Nuevo Conductor before the test (skim read some sections). I failed: 31 points. I probably have just passed the first time had I taken the test in English because there was one question I literally could not make sense of and one other question I got wrong because I got wrong the meaning of one word. However I knew this might happen but I wanted to take the test in Spanish as I am trying to improve my level and I thought it would be a good experience in that sense.
A few questions are hopelessly subjective and quite debatable. One question for example, it said a child's football falls into a residential street and I selected the choice to stop the car and remove the ball from the road, but the correct answer was not to stop, but to slow down. Another one was whether or not you should help people out of their vehicle at the scene of an accident. I said no, leave them in the car, since you don't want people staggering about dazed in the road as other cars come from behind and make things worse, but the correct answer was to help them out of the vehicle. But surely it depends on the specifics of the situation, as would the question about the child's ball. With such subjective questions, it becomes beneficial to read the Libro del Nuevo Conductor (available from Conaset website) and just memorise all the "right" answers.
Another reason to study in advance is because you are expected to know the specific stopping distances, breaking distances and reaction times and distances for any given speed, which for most people I think will require study. So I decided to spend some hours studying the book and taking notes (most or all of the questions in the test can be answered if you have memorised the whole book) and also I got hold of some sample questions from someone and studied hundreds of these samples which is helpful because some will be exactly the same as the test. I was just given a print out so I don't know where you get them, but they are worth getting.
On the second go I got 36 out of 38 and passed.
Step 4: Practical Test
This had to be scheduled for a different day. I did the test in my own car and I think this is the norm. I never found out if they can provide a car if you don't own one at the time you do the test. I never saw one at the site.
Again I made the same decision to do no preparation and try and wing it to save time, and again this didn't work. The instructor kept up a running commentary of criticisms and advice. Here's what I did wrong.
i) Drove at slightly above 40km/h in a 30km/hr zone. OOPS. Did not see the sign.
ii) Did not completely stop at a stop sign (the car was still moving at 1mph or something).
iii) Entered a roundabout and drove on the right land for about 10 metres before crossing to the left lane (should cross to the left lane immediately and only use the right lane when exiting.) Pretty funny and ironic that a Brit should fail a driving test for this, given that England is full of roundabouts which freak out foreigners and there are probably as many roundabouts in some small town in England as the whole of Santiago.
iv) Not looking at my mirrors enough, and checking blind spots. I think he was wrong on this one. I was checking the mirrors a lot, and he didn't realize I would check the mirrors while sweeping my head around to check the blind spots. Basically he hated me looking at blind spots and claimed that if you look at the mirrors enough times that will cover the blind spots as things move around.
v) Did not leave enough space to the vehicle in front when traffic in front of me stopped and I had to stop momentarily - he said I should be able to see the tyres of the vehicle in front and the road between us. He gave the rather odd and illogical reason that the car in front might spontaneously burst into flame while stopped and he wanted to have more space to run out of the car. Which seems nonsense, but if your driving instructor is even considering the thought of opening the door and running out during a test when you stop, this cannot be a good sign about your driving prowess. Maybe he was just looking for any excuse.
Part of the route can be chosen by the person doing the test from a short list of options, and before repeating the test again I walked that part of the route and drove up and down several times memorising every sign and speed limit. I would have passed first time had I done this earlier. I noticed while walking the route that virtually every other driver would have failed the test for the same reasons as me. I stood and watched 50 cars in a row drive past the stop sign (at the train tracks) without fully stopping. (Although note police in Chile do sometimes fine people or suspend their license for not stopping FULLY at a stop sign, I have heard this story several times from people who claimed they were doing 1mph while looking arond and there was no danger and no-one else anywhere near.)
No-one really pays any attention to the 30km/h limit, which, even after studying it carefully on foot, I couldn't think of a single reason why on earth it was 30. It was actually far safer than the previous section, with no shops, entrances, far less pedestrians, it is barely even still in the urban area and probably should be 40, 50 or 60.
When I came to park for the second, repeat test I parked about 30 yards from the municipality building but he asked me to move the car and start the test precisely at the municipality building even though there was no parking space and I had to wait in the road stopped in the middle of traffic for him to get in. This time I tried to minimize looking at blind spots and do it discreetly by moving my eye while looking at the mirror rather than moving my head. I think what he was really looking for was to only look out the front windscreen or the mirrors, and nowhere else. I passed easily the second time and his only criticism was that I went around a parked car on a residential street without indicating.
After that I got my license (class B). https://www.chileatiende.gob.cl/fichas/ ... al-clase-b
I think they need to review this education certificate requirement and accept foreign documents without certification or translation or remove the requirement for foreigners or even for everyone. At times the whole process did not feel like a good use of my time. I didn't learn much if anything that truly made me a better driver and it felt like I was jumping through hoops most notably on the education certificate part but even on the theory and practical test at times.
Before doing the tests I had to pay something like 9000 or thereabouts and before getting the license I had to pay 1050 for a check of records to see if I have any fines or offences etc.