When we left the States 4 years ago, I knew my driving license would soon expire. “That’s okay, I’ll either get an international driving license or get a local license if I need to.”
I didn’t know it, but I was in for a surprise.
For our first year or two here in Prague, found little need for driving. we
In fact, my job position offered a company car and I declined it. (the alternative being ~$500/month additional salary)
In any case, the city transportation is just that good. Buses, trams, the underground metro – schedules are all integrated online. Smart, user-friendly system.
The Need for a License
By our third year, we have flown a lot throughout Europe, but haven’t seen much of the Czech Republic itself. Options are train or renting a car. We enjoy trains, but a car offers more much more freedom to explore. I thought “Time to get that driving license!”
I called up a few driving schools and got friendly with their managers. My immediate goal was to see “How much schooling can I avoid?” (hey, I’m 20 years older than the average driving school student.)
My logic was, I can save them instruction costs if I can prove how capable a driver I already am.
The “winning school” offered me this: I bypass all in-house classes AND my mandatory on-road practice is cut from 20 hours to 4 (of course, depending on my ability). SOLD.
Legally, of course, they had to document that I completed it all.
Oh, and they’ll throw in a translator for free. (tests are in Czech) Scared? No worries- read on.
Practice driving turned out to be a great idea. I learned “right of way” the Czech/European way. The difference is, for American drivers at an intersection, the car on the right has “right of way” or priority.
That’s not so in Europe. Priority is declared by signs. You learn (quickly) to watch for signs. After a few hours of practice, it became second nature to me.
Three Exams (Written, Oral & Practical)
Yeah, there are three.
After 4 hours spent over 3 days of driving with a Prague city policeman as my co-pilot, I got the green light to take the tests. Yes, tests – a written test and an oral test.
For an actual test question regarding “right of way” — check out the picture of a one of my driving test questions. (first answer is correct)
First came the computerized written exam. All Czech. Remember, my Czech is ‘rough’.
How we did it was this: the translator read and translated all 25 questions and their multiple choice answers to me. Took us just under 30 minutes to do so. We missed none. Proved a great team effort. (wink, wink)
Then came the dreaded oral exam. This means the district’s magistrate comes to visit and asks each student a few questions, ranging from car maintenance knowledge, first aid, to road regulations.
Again, I relied on the translator for the meeting with the local official. Smart idea.
The magistrate’s asked “What are the 7 mandatory items to be found in every car?”
I responded (unintelligible garbage) and the Translator rattled off “Spare bulbs, spare fuses, spare tire, tire wrench, a jack, first aid kit and a road triangle!” The magistrate replied with a firm nod and an even firmer rubber stamp to my paper. I love Translator guy now.
By the way, I tipped Translator guy a 500 crown note (~$30) at the conclusion of our meeting.
Point of the Post:
Nothing in this world is unobtainable without a little corruptible influence.
And I can drive again.
Good luck to you. If you want to learn more about Czech driving (tips & tricks) and me – put your name and e-mail address in the top of the page.