I just passed my California driving test today – Yay! It was my first attempt so I am really happy. I’ve been dragging my heels with the whole driving thing. I live in a really centrally located apartment with amazing public transport (or ‘transit’ as they call it here) links, and I have been buying monthly transit passes (which now cost $70 per month) that allow me unlimited travel on buses, trains (MUNI Metro), trams and cable cars in the city. I can also walk to Fisherman’s Wharf and downtown. All this has made me really lazy about getting a license. I did get the US version of a provisional license soon after getting here, in a fit of energy, but it’s taken me a year to buckle down and do the practical test.

To get the provisional license, I had to turn up at my local DMV office, fill in various forms, have my photo taken (word of warning to those who are going to do this: make sure you look good as this is the photo which is going to be on your license when you get it!) and  do a multiple choice written test. If you’re getting your provisional permit, make sure you swot up on all the rules and regulations in the  California Drivers Handbook (which has a message from Governer Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed to ‘My Fellow Californians’ which made me giggle when I first read it). You can also try out practice tests online or in a book such as this one or any other one you might find on amazon.com.

In all this (the theory test part) took a few hours (there was A LOT of waiting). You have three (yes, THREE) shots at passing the test and if you fail all three times, you have to pay the deposit and book another test session. It is pretty easy to pass the test if you do your homework, I think you’ve allowed to get a certain number of questions wrong.

In case any of my blog readers need to get a California Drivers License, here are some hints and tips. – – Be prepared to spend a few hours at you local DMV! Word of warning: the DMV is not a fun or nice place. Both my visits to the DMV have involved a lot of waiting, so take a book or magazine and don’t make any plans for the rest of the afternoon. There are some dodgy people around, so don’t flash your iPhone or any fancy mp3 player.
– Start first by booking a written test at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – once you pass this, you will be issued a provisional permit. You can do this online here and request an instruction permit
– It’s worth getting in some practice before doing the ‘behind-the-wheel’ test. If you’re British, don’t even attempt to use their automated phone system – it doesn’t understand our accent and if you’re really unlucky, as I was TWICE, you will get an operator who doesn’t understand you and whom you don’t understand!

Good luck!

POSTSCRIPT: I would advise everyone to get themselves a Drivers License as son as possible. In addition to allowing you to drive, a license is also a form of ID – the sort that is most commonly used as requested!

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