Getting a Driver’s License in Iloilo, Philippines

Share the joy

Experiences of a foreigner getting a driver’s license in Iloilo City.  With one hiccup, I had a rather pleasant experience with the LTO (Philippine Land Transportation Office) over the last couple of days.  I know, surprising, but true.  Indeed, with certain minor allowances, it is probably ranks equal to my experience with the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts. Both experiences were probably longer and more bureaucratic than needed but it could have been, and I feared would be, so much worse.

Tax ID number

The hiccup was getting the tax ID number.  After finding out that it was required, I headed straight to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.  A mistake.  I should have asked at LTO.  I needed a letter from the LTO before getting a tax ID number from the BIR.  Why?  I can only speculate, and since you can do the same, I won’t bother here.

The foreign license official

The next step is that I went back to the LTO with the ID number.  I was first sent upstairs to see a very nice man who is in charge of foreign driver’s license conversions.  He looked at my documents and told me what I needed exactly (copies of various documents and passport pages, med exam, and drug test).  I went across the street, xeroxed, peed, and was asked questions by a doctor.  An hour later I was back upstairs with all my documents in order.  Everything was inspected, signed, and given back to me to take downstairs. Downstairs I went and was told that there was no time left in the day (I had gotten to the LTO at 2p) and I should come back the next day.

Written but no driving test

The next day, I returned, just after 1:00p.  I filed the paperwork, had my photograph taken, twice, and paid a 167.63p fee.  I then waited for the written exam.  When called, I entered the exam room. They asked me if I wanted to review and I said yes because I didn’t know what special rules there might be for the Philippines (i.e. 80 KPH speed limit outside the cities). They gave me a 7 page list of questions and their correct answers.  After reading it through, I returned the booklet and picked up the 40 question, multiple choice, optical scan test, specially printed for me with my name on it.  I answered it, left the room and after waiting yet again, I was asked to pay about 517.63p and was handed my non-professional driver’s license.

I passed the exam, obviously, but I don’t know how many questions I got wrong. Drat.  The questions were pretty straight forward. I didn’t need the review and some questions were missing on the review.   Some of the English was confusing for this American English speaker and at least two questions I took an informed guess one (i.e. a red flag is needed when the load sticks out how far from the back?).

From the website I thought I would have to take a practical test since my Massachusetts license had expired.  That is not the case, as the foreign license official told me, since I have a conversion.

Various websites talk about the LTO having cars to use for the practical exam.  If that’s the case, it’s not true in Iloilo, at least according to a sign on the wall which says that you need to bring your own car for the practical exam.  This of course implies that in the past they had their own vehicle.  The sign was also in the far corner and I would not have seen it if it wasn’t for the waiting I did.

This second day took me about two hours.

I did not go with anyone — no Filipino or anyone else.  I am not sure whether that helps. I always think that it does because then they are limited in what they can ask me.  They cannot ask me subtly for a bribe.

I have heard horror stories about LTO offices, including about the Iloilo office, which is located in Jaro, but my experience is of a efficient, professional and well-run office, though still a government bureaucracy and so maybe I am judging on a curve.

Bruce in Iloilo

Comments (4) Write a comment

  1. or maybe, they “put their best foot forward” when they’re dealing with no-nonsense foreigners, esp americans.

    last week, i had to stop by the local DMV (NJ) to replace a misplaced license. it took a little more than an hour!! (remember the “six points/documents?)they go through one’s documents 3x now!! i know immigrants’ get a closer scrutiny..another 9/11 end-result.

    they try so hard to make the process organized, but the crowd!! small offices have been closed within a couple of years (also post offices in smaller towns). with the tons of daily revenue, you’d think there’d be better service..employees were too harassed to smile, or they just couldn’t care less. you need them

    i paid $11 for my carelessness. never again..(sigh) just venting…


    • Yes this is true. Aside from foreigners, it also applies to people who are well dressed and appear to be men or women of stature. You and your friend just happened to be lucky. Fixers everywhere, even some of their employees accept illegal transactions for a cost. That is a fact. Ask the cashier on window 11.


  2. Hi Natie,

    This account was written by my friend Bruce. As a matter of principle, Bruce absolutely refuses to be a party to any kind of corruption or bribery. I also had no problems at the Iloilo LTO office. Everything was very professional. Maybe things are getting better!



  3. oh boy!! my filipino friend told me that there are many “fixers” outside to greet and ask you if you want the process “expedited”—a very commom practice–i wonder how much u would have saved money and time-wise…’sigh’


Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.