Getting a Driver’s License in Korea

This is not converting a driver’s license from your home country to an international license.  This is rather actually obtaining a driver’s license in Korea – I do not have my license back at home in America.

Story is my main school offered to help me get my driver’s license since they have a car that I may utilize for transportation to all 4 of my schools within this area – thank goodness I may add; one school is 1.5 hours or more out by an express bus, with a transfer!

The process is similar to how it is in America, but slightly different – it’s essentially a 3-step procedure.

  1. Written Exam
  2. Functional Test
  3. Road Test

The school sent me to an academy to prepare for all sections to get my license.  I sat for close to 5 hours reading poorly written English practice Q&As, and then went to the local DMV to take the written exam; not that the American written exam is difficult but I recall one or two questions that weren’t 100% clear – it was much worse here, but that comes with the territory.

The next step is where things deviate quite a bit.  Here you are tested on things such as turning on your lights, high beam included, wipers, signals, emergency brake, and suddenly stopping for hazards.  It’s a pretty straight-forward section but this time it was not in English.  I was panicking on the inside because it was too much Korean to memorize in such a short amount of time.  This time I had only 2 hours of practice before taking the test, but I got used to the procedure and managed to pull it off without a hitch.  We don’t have this section, and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt but it sort of is unnecessary – I guess they assume our parents teach us those small details.

The road test is very similar but the school has 4 routes that you practice on and you are actually tested on 1/4 routes of which is chosen at random.  You follow a computer-operated program telling you when to turn and such, but after 6 hours of practice you should already have memorized all 4 routes anyways.  I’m in a small town in the countryside and I turned out to be the only one out of five taking the road test for a car and not a truck so I went last.  Man, I was tired of waiting and anxious to getting it over with.  Luckily I didn’t rush through the test and all.

A couple of days later, I have the license in my hand! 🙂 This definitely opens up new doors for future travels!  Looking forward to converting this to an international driving license someday soon!  Here’s to a city-kid growing up!

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5 Bicycle Tips (Kyoto, Japan) Part 1

There’s no doubt that the best transportation option for getting around Kyoto is by a bicycle!

For that purpose, here are 5 tips to keep in mind.

  1. You obviously do not need a license to ride a bicycle, but what you do need is to register your bicycle when purchasing it either new or second-handedly.
  2. If there are no bicycle lanes on the sidewalks, ride on the side closest to the street.  Remember that the traffic is the opposite way so try to pass on the right.
  3. You are legally required to stay on the left side of the streets.  You may notice many Japanese do not exactly obey this, but I recommend trying your best to.
  4. Bicycles are legally treated as vehicles therefore the penalties are graver than you would imagine.  Thus, it’s best if you obeyed the lights and other traffic regulations.
  5. You cannot park your bicycle just anywhere you wish.  Bicycles are a huge part of the Kyoto lifestyle and therefore there are places to avoid parking your bicycle at so as to maximize traffic flow and minimize accidents.  These no parking or no standing spots are clearly marked by signs so be sure to double-check the area before deciding to park your bike there.  If you do happen to park in such a spot, the police may confiscate it and transport it elsewhere.  If you were that unlucky, check the nearest no parking sign to check where the location is and head there to pick it up.  You will be fined at least $20.  I heard that some places where you can rent bicycles from reimburse you, but you should re-confirm that before renting and relying on that piece of info.

And that’s it for now!  Look forward to the following 5 tips as I’m sure there will be at least 5 more!

In the meantime, what do you think about the bicycle registration regulation in Japan?  Do you think it’s ridiculous?  Let me know!