Getting a Driver's License
Ok, so you want to drive a car in Taiwan legally - you need to have a driver's license. There are two ways that you can legally drive in Taiwan. If you have an IDL (International Driver's License) you are legally allowed to drive for the first 60 days upon arrival in Taiwan. After which, your IDL must be stamped with a Driving Visa (國際駕駛執照簽證). If you don't have an IDL, getting a local driver's license is quite simple. Like the motorcycle license there are 3 steps: Learner's permit, Written Test, Practical Test. If you hold a driver's license from a country that has a reciprocal agreement with Taiwan, you may be granted a local license without having to do the above. If not, don't worry, your foreign driver's license my allow you to bypass the first step.
After staying in Taiwan for more that 60 days, you need to get your IDP stamped with a Driving Visa. This process is simple and free. Just take your IDL, foreign driver's license, one passport sized photo and your passport to the Department of Motor Vehicles. They will give you a driving visa valid for the duration of your ARC or visitor's visa, or IDL (whichever expires first).
There are a few prerequisites to obtaining a driver's license:
- An ARC with at least 1 year validity. By validity I mean that your Alien Residence Certificate must be valid for 1 year, not 1 year left in its validity.
- An official health exam report issued explicitly for driving a car. This can be done at most hospitals. I forgot to do mine, but was able to use a 'shop' around the corner from the testing facility. The cost was under NT$200 and took about 5 minutes. Staff will record your height, weight, eyesight, etc. Then the doctor takes over; he will check that you are not color-blind, you have two hands that work and you are able to squat/stand. That's it.
- Your passport
- Your foreign driver's license, if you have one.
- Three (3) passport sized photos in color or black and white.
In order to get a driver's license, you must first have at least 3 months of driving experience. If you don't have a driver's license from your home country, you need to go the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a Learner's License. With the Learner's License, you are only permitted to drive on driving courses and special streets. You can also enroll in driving school, but this can be quite expensive and time consuming.
The written test is really easy; an assortment of 40 true/false, multiple choice and sign recognition questions. By easy, I mean easy in theory. The truth is, be prepared to fail a few times before you achieve a passing score of 85%. The test is originally in Chinese and although you have a choice of language, the language on the test is improperly translated. My advice - learn the improper translations! The Ministry of Driving and Motor Vehicles claims that there are study manuals available in English but in reality, there aren't. It took my over 5 years to track down a homemade study guide. The registration fee, including your first attempt is NT$450. All subsequent attempts will cost you NT$225. Once you have passed the test, you need to register for the practical portion of the test.
This is the last part of the process - driving the car. If you just passed the written portion, you need to go back to register for the practical test. The fee is NT$84. If you are retesting you must pay a retesting fee of NT$225 and, if necessary, a car rental fee of NT$120.
On a closed course, you will need to navigate the car through a number of obstacles. The instructor will explain to you the expectations (in Chinese) and then he will take you for a drive - pay attention as this is the only time you will get to actually see how it's done. The obstacles are as follows:
- Forward and Reverse 'S' Curve - Drive the car forward on an 'S' curve without touching the sensor strips on the side or the black and yellow curb. Repeat on the ay out. If you hit the sensor it is a 16 point deduction. If you hit the curb, come back in 7 days to try again.
- Reverse into Parking Space - Back the car into a parking space stopping only when your front tires are behind the white line. Again, be aware of the sensor strips and curbs.
- Parallel Park - Back your car into a parking spot parallel to the curb. This is not the same as parallel parking on the street as the only requirement here is to fit the entire car inside the white box. You simply back in, stop, and then pull out.
- Stop at Traffic Light - Red means stop. Green means go. Make sure to stop before the white line.
- Driving Up and Stopping on an Incline - During this phase of the test, you must maneuver the car up a hill while keeping your tires within the sensor strips. Stop with your front tires on the red area. Apply hand brake. Release hand brake and then continue.
- Railroad Crossing - A train is coming, what do you do...what do you do?
- Pedestrian Crossing - Stop at crossing and wait for the flashing light to stop.
- Controlled Driving - This is kind of like the motorcycle license: you must drive your car straight for a short distance while keeping the tires within the sensor strips.
If you fail the practical portion of the test, you must wait 7 days before retesting.