This is actually as exciting and notable as getting my first job here in Sydney. I’ve been driving for over a decade in the Philippines, but as a new permanent resident here in Australia, I had to convert my Philippine drivers license to a local one. Now I’ve already gotten my full car license issued by NSW. Feels like I’m as good as a real local now.
It’s not easy though. Takes a lot of effort, but it’s doable. The advice I got from other people as well as researching ahead really helped too. I’m sharing the most important tips that helped me get my license here:
You can drive here with the regular full (non-pro) license from the Philippines, and there is no need to convert it to an “international” license. If you’re on a temporary visa, there is no need to convert it to an Australian drivers license as long as its still valid. But for permanent residents, you are only allowed to use it for three months from the day you arrive (or the day you are granted a permanent resident visa if you’re already here). Afterwards, you need to have an Australian drivers license to drive.
If you’ve been driving for more than 5 years in the Philippines, better get a certification from LTO before you leave the country. They can issue a document that shows when you were issued your first drivers license, because that information that does not appear on your current license unless you still have your first one. Also, make sure your license is still valid, of course.
First thing to do here is sign up to do the Drivers Knowledge Test (DKT). It’s a computer-based multiple-choice test on road rules. You can easily do that at any NSW Service office. Make sure that you review for it though – and review includes reading the handbook, and doing their practice test online at least 10 times (no kidding). The practice test is almost the same as the actual test, but the questions vary and are generated from a pool of questions, and taking the practice test lets you see almost all of the questions and answers. They also have a mobile app version of the practice test.
For the DKT, make sure that you bring the following documents – proofs of identification, usually a Passport and other locally issued ID such as Medicare, your Philippine license, and a proof of residence in NSW, usually a bill or a bank statement that include your NSW home address. Check their website to check other forms of identification that they may accept.
If you pass the DKT, they will usually issue a learners license (an L). But if you’ve been driving a few years (this is where the LTO certification is useful) and can already qualify for a P license or a full license, and if you still have some time before you wont be allowed to use your country’s license (you haven’t reached the 3 months mark yet), they may not issue an a L for the time being. Assuming you don’t need an L, next thing you need to do is book a driving test.
One of the best tips I am glad I followed is to book a driving test as far you could from the city. I had mine at Blacktown. The less busy the area, the better. They also advised to get a schedule at around noontime, so you won’t have to worry about schoolzone speed limits.
DEFINITELY go for driving classes, at least to practice for the driving test. Best to do your practice driving with a driving instructor from the same area where you are taking the test, because they usually already know the driving test route. I think one of the best decisions I made was to get a driving instructor who was also Filipino, because I had no problem with language barriers and he also understood why I drove the way I do. Made it easier for him to correct my bad habits. I took just a few 1-hour classes to get used to the route and to correct my driving style for the test. I also did some practice on my own using a rental car, but that’s mostly to gain more confidence driving here.
Relax during the driving test. This really helps avoid any unnecessary mistakes that may make or break your test. Make sure you had enough sleep the night before, you’re not hungry, you’re hydrated enough, and you’ve gone to the toilet before your test. And by the way, I had another 2-hour practice just right before the test. I also used my driving instructor’s vehicle for the test. My instructor was very supportive and encouraging and I guess it helped keep me calm and confident for the test.
Since I’ve been driving for eons and have had my license since 2004 (as my LTO certification states), I get a full unrestricted car (C) license after the driving test. For others, you may get a P1 or P2 license depending on how long you’ve had your license before.
I did not intend to provide the complete step-by-step instructions on how to go about getting licensed, but rather just give tips that helped me get my NSW license on the first try. You have to DEFINTITELY read their website carefully and decide on the best strategy for your situation.
Hope this helps!