An Expat’s Guide to Driving in The Philippines

Whether you’ve decided to stay here for whole or just stopping by many foreigners want to know how a foreigner can get a driver’s license in The Philippines. This guide will answer most of your questions about driving and getting a license in The Philippines.

Should You Drive in The Philippines?

In Puerto Princessa Palawan I rented a scooter to go around the city. As I waited at a red light everyone began honking at me and yelling obscenities. After that I decided to never drive again. Whether or not you want to drive depends on your tolerance for 3rd world driving conditions. Driving here is a totally different animal from the way you drove back home.

  • In The Philippines red lights become yield signs
  • Motorcyclists will drive on the sidewalk in heavy traffic
  • Foreigners are often the target of Philippine ‘hit-and-demand payment’ scams.
  • Traffic police demanding bribes from drivers is not rare
  • Road conditions are often terrible
  • The Philippines was rated the worst place to be a driver in the world

I have lived in this country for years now and just haven’t found it necessary to drive. Thanks to Grab, tricycles, and jeepnys there just isn’t a need to drive. Plus, I consider being driven around anywhere I want to go to be one of the perks of living here. Driving would just add additional costs and stress to my life.

Related: Living in The Philippines Hacks

Drivers License in The Philippines Overview

All driving license procedures are handled through the Land & Transportation Office (LTO). They have numerous field offices throughout the country where you can have anything the average expat would need taken care of.

Below I have provided the official answers to common questions of foreigners. The thing is though driving in The Philippines is pretty lax–outside of Manila. In the province, I’ve seen people who have been driving for years without ever bothering to even get a license. I do recommend you get one though. As a foreigner if you choose to drive here you will undoubtedly be the target of some unscrupulous locals who cause accidents for money. It’s not worth the risk of getting arrested.

Can I Get A Philippines Driver’s License if I’m on a Tourist Visa?

There seems to be some debate on this. Officially the answer is no because your visa needs to be valid for at least one year to get a license. Since a tourist visa can only be extended for a maximum of 6 months it doesn’t qualify. However, in practice I’ve seen several people get a driver’s license on a tourist visa.

Do I Need an International Driving Permit to Drive in The Philippines?

If your native driving license is in English then you don’t need an international driving permit. I’ve seen other sites try to sell those things but they’re patently unnecessary. If your foreign license is not in English then you will need to get it officially translated into English. You can do that here.

Can a Foreigner Drive in The Philippines?

The Philippines has an international agreement with most western nations, including the US, which allows their residents to drive legally in the country for up to 90 days so long as the license is still valid. Please note that this is for a non-commercial vehicle. Even if you’re a semi-truck driver back home you must obtain a Philippine commercial license to drive one here.

Can an American Use His Driver’s License in The Philippines?

The United States is part of the international treaty mentioned above, which means whether your license is from California, New York, or any US state you may drive in The Philippines for up to 90 days. The only caveat is that your license must be valid.

Can You Convert a Foreign License to a Philippine License?

Yes, you can. So long as your foreign license is valid you can go to your nearest Land and Transportation Office (LTO) and follow the procedures listed below. The good news is that you don’t have to take any written or driving exam!

Here is the process:

1. Duly Accomplished Application for Driver’s License (ADL);

2 Valid SP (student permit) issued at least thirty (30) days from date of application;

3. Medical Certificate issued by any licensed practicing physician stating that the applicant is physically and mentally fit to operate a motor vehicle or otherwise stating his/her impairment; and

4. In addition, for foreigners, original and photocopy of passport with entry of at least one (1) month and visa duration of at least one (1) year from date of application, or if born in the Philippines, present original and photocopy of birth certificate duly authenticated by the NSO.

In the event that the applicant is a holder of a valid Foreign Driver’s License, the applicant may present the original and photocopy of Foreign Driver’s License, if not in English language, original and photocopy of official English translation from Embassy of the issuing country instead of an SP.

Philippine LTO Website

How long does it take to convert a foreign driver’s license?

Provided you meet the requirements it shouldn’t take more than a few hours to convert your foreign driver’s license to a Philippine license.

If My Foreign License is Expired Can I Use it in The Philippines?

No. Your license must be valid in your home country to be valid in The Philippines. But it’s not hard to get a new license. Just go to your local LTO office with your passport, ARC card, and fill out the forms.

Where Can I find an LTO Office?

The Land & Transportation Office (LTO) has various offices throughout the country. You can go to their website to locate the office nearest you. They even have the option to book an appointment online.

How Long is a Philippine Drivers License Good For?

A standard non-commercial drivers license issued in The Philippines is good for 5 years. You may apply for renewal one month prior to expiration. They even allow you to renew up to 2 years after expiration.

What are the Fees for a Filipino Drivers License?

Here’s a breakdown on the fees per LTO’s website:

Fees & Charges Amount (php)
License Fee 350
Computer Fee 67.53
Total 417.53
Penalty Fee (for expired licenses) Amount (php)
1-day to 1 year expired 75
1 Year & 1 Day to 2 Years 150
More than 2 years 225

What are the Minimum & Maximum ages to drive in The Philippines?

The Philippines raised the driving age last year. Now, you must be at least 18 years of age in order to drive legally. There is no maximum age to drive, however, if you’ve been reported for numerous accidents the LTO may require you to come in for additional examinations.

How Much Does it Cost to Drive & Own a Car in The Philippines?

Of course, this depends on many factors but if you are in Manila or another major city you can expect to shell out approximately 105,000 php per year. The biggest expense is, of course, your fuel. After that, you have parking, insurance, repairs, and finally LTO registration fees which need to be paid every year. Now, this is assuming you buy a car with cash and don’t have any loan interest payments.

Here is a breakdown of the costs:

Item Annual Costs in Php
Fuel 42,000
Insurance 20,000
Repairs 5,000
Parking 36,000
LTO Registration Fees 3,336
Total 106,336
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5 years ago

In your extract from the LTO site, the abbreviation SP appears, viz. “2 Valid SP issued at least thirty (30) days from date of application;” Worth noting that SP refers to a Student Permit, aka learners’ license.

4 years ago

If you have a tourist visa, what kind of documents do you need to being? Will a public, notarized confirmation of a driver’s License do, or do you actually need to get the whole driver’s License translated into English?