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Obtaining a Philippines driving licence

Visitors from the UK to the Philippines can officially use their UK driving licence for up to 90 days (although, if they are renting, a 1 year international driving licence is also recommended), however, because I am a permanent resident of the Philippines now it seemed sensible to obtain a local driving licence.

So I went with my wife to the local Land Trasportation Office (LTO). There are a number of these offices around the country so you should find whichever is the most convenient for you. I completed a short application form, selecting the box for transferring to what they call a non-professional driving licence, and stating my home address in the Philippines. I believe the idea of the non-professional classification is to distinguish me from someone who drives for a living like a coach driver.

The LTO was, as always, very crowded as it handles so many different things including vehicle registration and licence renewal. Probably because I was a foreigner, one of the counter staff caught our eye and beckoned us over, asking to see the licence application form and the different supporting documents. In my case this was my UK paper licence and accompanying photo ID card plus a copy of my passport and birth certificate. My ACR-I (Alien Certificate of Registration) smartcard had not yet been issued by the Bureau of Immigration but the other documents were apparently sufficient anyway. Then to our surprise he asked us to come through a side door into the office to complete other steps in the process.

There we sat by his desk while he again reviewed the different documents and started entering the information to their computer system which he described as being quite slow. To test my familiarity with local driving laws I was asked to complete a multiple choice question test. Some people have told me they are given the answers on a laminated card and simply copy them. This completed we paid over the required fee. I think the offical charge was around 650 pesos, but some people apparently pay a little extra when LTO staff are particularly helpful. We rejoined the majority seated on a long bench outside until I was called over for a drug test in a small building on the opposite side of the road. This involved providing a urine sample and having my photograph taken with a small web cam at the same time (for which there was again a small fee (I think it was about 200 pesos this time).

We then returned again across the road and sat for about half and hour until I was called to a window to have another photo taken, and then eventually to the original window again to collect the driving licence. This turned out to be a six month  temporary paper driving licence (bearing a faint photograph of me) which I am told will be replaced by a plastic card when I renew. If, like my wife, you have married (and are no longer using your maiden name) since obtaining your UK licence or are applying for a "student" (learner) licence, you will need to bring along your marriage certificate as proof of name change. Being a foreigner at the LTO is probably to your advantage although, if your grasp of Filipino is limited, I would strongly recommend you have the support of a native speaker.

Last update on 30 September 2009 22:03:59


  • Munchie
    Munchie 25 September 2013 06:32:29

    I went to our local LTO to get a licence, they told me come back when I have the 13a visa. Driving on my North Carolina license for now.

  • charlierock1957
    charlierock1957 16 April 2013 02:08:34

    Thanks friend. Good information...

  • Okieboy
    Okieboy 10 January 2013 05:55:00

    yes this is an update to drivers license in Davao City, now their is an agency next to the LTO you can go in there and they will do it all for you for P5000 you don\'t have to leave the office everything is taken care of drug test and what ever, they take your old license from your country and in a few hours you have your Philippine driver license i went with my American Brother in Law last week

  • Okieboy
    Okieboy 06 June 2012 21:14:16

    went to LTO with my wife and uncle he went and talked to an official came back i gave him P2500 in and hour i have license no drug test no test at all ,i am on my way my wifes cousin told me the same thing, uncle says with money nothing is impossable

  • jon1zc
    jon1zc 14 September 2011 03:10:15

    You can get the license the same day. Initially it will be a paper license and after 6 months you come back to the LTO for the plastic one (not sure what the deal is with that). I received my plastic one after 6 months and when I renewed mine (after 3 years) it was even easier. I had my new plastic one within 30 minutes of arriving at the LTO. I think Stanly3164 is being given the runaround so that he will pay extra for "express" service.

  • Guest 27 May 2011 07:01:00

    wait - they took a picture of you with a webcam while you were providing a urine sample?
    The, shouldn't they, have paid you?

  • stanley3164
    stanley3164 29 March 2011 08:35:41

    i have been there 2 times and the first was when i got here the told me to come back in 3 months and now they told me it is 5 month here before they will give you one i can still drive with my passport and driver licence for the USA. i will be going back this coming month to get my philippines licence.

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