Hola! I’ve been going non-stop since we got back to Spain. So many evenings of tapas and cañas that we’ve missed during the year, so many sales to take a peek at, and the added pressure of finishing my Spanish driver’s license before we head off to the states and my training expires. I’ve been spending my mornings at driving school with my patient teacher who’s trying to iron out all my bad experienced driver habits…oh la la. Driving abroad is an experience. From new rules, manual cars, to so many tiny, old streets it’s a different world from my ten years of experience in the states. But, when you live abroad you eventually have to think about getting a foreign license.
In Spain, even if you are an experienced driver, you must take the practical and the written test if you want a Spanish license. I started the process learning to drive a manual, after ten years in an automatic, I will admit it was not easy and it didn’t bring out the best in me. Luckily, my husband is very patient and after about a year on and off of practice I finally signed up for driving school for a summer intensive course to take the written test. In one week I took the classes, spent a week of afternoons taking the multimedia test over and over a bazillion times and finally took the written test and passed! Then, we got the offer to move to France, and the practice test was put on hold.
Arriving to France, I needed to get my French license for my job. I went to the prefacture and found out that in France Michigan drivers simply have to do an exchange (17 states are included in the exchange convention, if your state isn’t one you have to follow the same process as in Spain and start from scratch at driving school). I filled out the paper work and got a temporary permit and started the wait. Nine months later I have had the temporary permit renewed and have no idea when my French permit will arrive…If I had received my French license I could drive all over Europe with no problem. Once you have one valid European license you can drive all over the EU.
Losing hope that my French license will ever arrive, I stopped by the Spanish driving school on Monday. My written test expires in August as does my matriculation and practical test payment. So, to not lose out on the money and opportunity, I signed up for the first available test (next week!) and started to take a few practice lessons to go back to driving like a beginner…yea, a little frustrating. Fingers crossed I can forget all my bad habits by then! If I pass I can forget about the French driver’s license, if not I’ll go back to waiting.
If you’re an American driver going abroad just for vacation you simply need to get an International License. I always got mine from AAA, with a few extra passport pics, a signed copy of your valid American license, and $15 you’re good to go. Do ask about how long it will take to issue before you apply. Mine was always ready the same day or the next day.
Do you drive abroad? Any tips or stories from your driving experiences abroad?