Living in Peru has been quite the experience, to say the least. After managing to live without wheels for over a year, well I decided to get myself a vehicle. A small, economical, comfortable and modern one. The experience of driving, however, was quite different than using our public transportation system…
The Peruvian license I had gotten many years ago when I lived here before I decided to venture into the land of Uncle Sam had become obsolete. I had obtained this when I was a teenager, even my picture didn’t look like me anymore.
So, I asked a few people around to guide me through the process and I got some mixed signals. Some told me that I needed to go to the Touring & Automobile Club of Peru. Others told me of people who can expedite this process but of course at a nominal fee.
There were some fees to be paid, a driving school to attend (to get familiarized with the transit rules) and a doctor’s certificate of good health to be obtained. For the actual driving test, I needed to schedule an appointment and bring a few current photos of myself. Also for the day of the test, I was recommended to take some driving lessons around the testing area to get comfortable with the route. Note, I was also told that you cannot bring your own car, you must rent one there.
After hearing all of this, I started to wonder if there was a need to get driving lessons. After all, I had been driving since I was 15-years-old.
The day of the driving test finally came (by the way, the place is south of Lima by Conchan beach). It is a big place constantly full of people coming in and out. Right before you enter, there are people outside offering all types of different services. Some even offer to get you a license without you even entering (two hundred soles was the fee). I was kind of expecting this since unfortunately, our system still works this way.
Upon entering, I went through an orientation process and then was sent to pay for the rental and wait for my turn to be called. There were at least 100 people in front of me. All of them had paid for a rental car as well. At 50 soles per car, I thought to myself … what a great business.
There is a fee one has to pay to take the test as well. It’s good for three tries. If you fail all three you can retake the test but you must pay the fee again. My turn finally came up and as I was getting closer I heard people around me commenting about how many times they have all failed the test.
The anxiety intensified as I watched those who had already completed the test exiting the cars with mostly disappointed faces, knowing they had also failed. As I got into this little Hyundai I thought to myself, just relax, take a deep breath and get it done. After going through the course and arriving at the final part of parallel parking, I tried and truth be told, I hit a cone. I could not believe it.
Shucks, I thought, I may need to get driving lessons after all. So I did. I went to this guy’s place where I was recommended and yes, there is a little trick and technique one has to get used to, to pass the test.
At this time, I wondered about the purpose of the strictness of the test. Because of a simple reason, nobody in Peru follows a single one of these transit rules. It made no sense to me whatsoever. But after the second try, I obtained my license and honestly, it felt pretty good.
So now, to be honest, I try not to drive a lot for many reasons. The unbearable traffic which is a common occurrence anywhere in this city. Also, the way people drive here, it just gets me so anxious, angry and puts me in a bad mood.
I like going for a drive when I’m not in a hurry to be somewhere. For fun, a joy ride. Also, parking is such a problem. Some people have taken over the streets claiming them as their property when you park. They demand to be paid or else. I love it when they guide me in and out of the parking space. It’s all part of our melting pot Peruvian culture in this big city of Kings.
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