How to get your driving licence in Singapore
Got a valid overseas driving licence? You can drive in Singapore for up to 12 months before you need to convert your licence. If you become a PR, you will need to convert your licence immediately. If your licence is not in English, you must have an International Driving Permit in addition to your licence.
To convert to a Singapore licence, you need to pass the Basic Theory Test (BTT); this involves learning local traffic rules. Your application must be made in person at a driving test centre. Note that current restrictions require you to make an e-Appointment before visiting a particular centre. (This may change; check the individual websites for details.)
- Singapore Safety Driving Centre: 3 Ang Mio Kio Street 62
- Bukit Batok Driving Centre: 815 Bukit Batok West Ave 5
- ComfortDelGro Driving Centre: 215 Ubi Ave 4
The processing fee for converting your licence is $50 and the test fee is $6.50 (payable with cash, CashCard or NETS only). Make sure you buy the basic theory book at a driving centre, bookshop or petrol station.
Editor’s tip: You do have to learn the information in the basic theory book, and there will be some trick questions in the test, so don’t be complacent. The failure rate is high!
Other need-to-know tips for driving in Singapore
# CashCards, the ERP and Parking Coupons
The grey box mounted above your dashboard is the CashCard-reading In-vehicle Unit, or IU. You need to buy a CashCard from a petrol station or convenience store, which can be topped up at the latter or at top-up machines in most car parks. The cards store value and are used to pay for car parks (the fee is debited automatically at the exit barrier) and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP). ERP is charged on expressways and in the central zones, and rates vary according to the location and time of day.
Singapore is in the process of getting rid of their parking coupon system, so you’re only likely to need them when street parking. CashCard systems and the Parking.sg app are replacing the older system. However, if you want to purchase some, they can be found at convenience stores islandwide.
Editor’s tip: If you accidently go through the ERP without enough money on your CashCard, go to onepay.onemotoring.com.sg and pay your fine online. Also, MotorPay is a system that allows you to pay ERP charges through your credit card, without the hassle of constantly stopping to top up the amount left on your CashCard. There’s a monthly fee of $1.07 (subject to changes). You can also renew your road tax online.
ERP updates: The government is in the process of updating the ERP system to charge by distance rather than using a flat fare, using GPS. This was originally to be rolled out in 2020, but transport ministers have since announced that the system is still a few years away from completion.
# Off-Peak Car Scheme
A red number plate means the driver is part of the Off Peak Car Scheme (OPCS), an initiative to encourage car owners to drive outside peak times. In return, they save on car registration and road taxes. (Off-peak drivers can drive all day on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays and on Mondays to Fridays 7pm to 7am). A $20 e-Day Licence is required for driving an off-peak car at any other time. This system has been in place since 2010, but there has been a significant decline in the numbers of off-peak cars on the road in the past couple of years.
# Dangerous Driving
If you’re found with more than the legal limit of 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath, or 80 milligrams per 100ml of blood (.08 as it’s commonly known), there are hefty fines, the possibility of a jail term, and lengthy disqualifications of driving licences. See the Road Traffic Act for more information.
# New & Notable
Driving around your neighbourhood and around Singapore, you’re likely to encounter quite a few road improvement projects in progress – the LTA is always working to improve their systems. Current projects include the North-South Corridor and new interchanges on the KJE.
What about owning your own car?
If you’re looking at how to get your driving licence in Singapore, then then chances are you might want to buy a car, too. A word of warning: this could be one of the more confusing and frustrating things you do! You first need to get to grips a wide range of acronyms that are used.
OMV – Open Market Value
this is roughly the base value of the car at the time of import. Singapore Customs places an OMV on each vehicle, and this determines many of the additional taxes.
ARF – Additional Registration Fee
On top of the $220 basic Registration Fee (RF), you also have to pay an ARF, which is 100 percent of the OMV and upward (the higher the OMV, the higher the ARF), plus a 20 percent excise duty. In addition, you need to pay a seven-percent Goods and Services Tax (GST), and road tax. Road tax is reduced if you purchase a hybrid or electric car, or a car that runs on natural gas.
COE – Certificate of Entitlement
To own a car, you need a document known as a COE, which is valid for ten years. The government uses the COE system to control the number of cars on the road, and only releases a limited number each year. You can bid for your own COE – tenders are called for twice each month – or you can leave it up to your dealer. The cost of a COE rises or falls according to demand; it can range from a dollar to $100,000!
Although the cost of buying a car in Singapore will initially seem much higher than at home, bear in mind that when you sell, export, or scrap your car, you will recoup the unused portion of the COE. If you sell your car after two years, for example, your COE will still be valid for eight years, and you will recoup 80 percent of its cost. You will also recoup between 50 and 75 percent of the ARF. Financing options can be surprisingly affordable, with typical interest rates between 2.25 percent and 2.75 percent per annum. Loans can be repaid over ten years with a low deposit, if any, required up front. All vehicles in Singapore must carry at least third-party insurance.
Editor’s tip: The current COE (as of August 2020) for a Category A vehicle is $35,710.
For more helpful tips, head to our Living in Singapore section.
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