Driver’s License in Peru?! What a Trip…!

(Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Getting a driver’s license in Peru is not too difficult, especially if you know the tricks of the trade.

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…

Getting a Peruvian driver’s license.

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.

I checked into the requirements and thought to myself, this should be a piece a cake, a walk in the park.

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.

Day of the driving test.

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.

I started to get anxious.

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.

I was shocked. So of course, I failed and I was told to leave the course at once.

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.

After about 4 hours of practicing, because there are two routes, A and B, I thought I was ready to go.

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.

After the test.

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.

Have you obtained a driver’s license in Peru? Please, share your story in the comments below to help inform others on the process.



Fernando Calle is a Peruvian-born, American citizen who has lived in the USA for over 25 years. He is a Cardiovascular Technologist and Sleep Disorder Specialist, having worked for Baptist Health Systems (Florida, USA) where he held the position as Chief Technologist of the Respiratory Disorders Department. After having worked for his own companies (Sleep Services of South Florida and Total Health Diagnostics, also in South Florida), he currently resides in Lima, Peru on a new quest as an English Teacher. Holds the ELT, FCE and ECPE (Cambridge-Michigan) international certificates. Also offers advanced English level courses for business, English Law, Technical English. Specialized in Medical English.

Discussion7 Comments

  1. Hello Fernando. Just thinking about my experience brings tears to my eyes. It was a major character building time in my life. First, I received my AI four years ago. I had an idea of what to expect. Due to changes in the law, my Hilux (Yellow plates) now required an AIIa license. If I was going to get an AIIa why not a AIIb? So this was my goal. Just as you noted, the medical exam and classes were the easy part. The practical exam was the challenge. I have well over 60k miles of experience on a motorcycle, hundreds of thousands driving cars and trucks. I once had a military license for driving Army vehicles with a special approval for driving on ice, think frozen Arctic conditions. I am a pilot also. Despite all of this, I flunked the AIIb practical five times! The standards are very strict. You’d think that 90% or more of all traffic fatalities in Peru were due to bad parallel parking. To the great credit of the MTC people, everything was done very professionally, no bribes were requested. They treated me straight up. I was impressed and told them so after I finally passed. We love Peru. My wife and I have lived here for over 17 years.

  2. I have lived in Lima for 6 years. Maintaining a US Residence as well. I have always just driven on my Pennsylvania Drivers License and carry an International Drivers License with me as well. Of course, I used to get pulled over all the time driving outside of the city. Check point police see gringo =$$$… Fortunately my fiance’ is Peruvian and generally gives the officer some straight talk about corruption and and I am on my way. Maybe someday I will pursue a Peru DL, but why fix what is not broken.

  3. kathleen lampen

    My son held a UK driving licence for over 20 years, applied to take the Peruvian driving test and failed. He did pass the second time, don’t know what hoops he had to jump through but the test was taken in a field, not on the road!! I live in Europe and just exchanged my UK for a european one after taking a medical. Perhaps in Peru the driving is that abismal that you need to learn to drive like they do

  4. Hey guys , this Fernando Calle. Thank for all of your comments and for sharing your experiences in this country. As far as I know the International License is no longer recognized as valid here in Peru, so it could be a problem. I still do have my Florida DL but it’s not a good idea to drive here with that type of license. As far as the system and they go about it in order to obtain a license ? I think is set to fail as many people as possible in order to just make the money. Thousands and thousands of people got to get a license every day. Just do the math.
    Nevertheless in order to take a driving test in the city? well it would have to take place in San Isidro or Miraflores where most drivers sort of try to follow some rules.

  5. I got my Peruvian DL about 8 years ago and only had to take the written exam and not the actual driving test. I presented a certificate of no driving infractions from the NY DMV and that was enough.