How And Why To Get A Cambodian Driving Licence

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Ever wondered if you should get a Cambodian driving licence? We break it down for you, so that you can make an informed decision.

You might need a local driving licence more than you think. According to the Land Traffic Law, if you are driving any vehicle in the Kingdom, you are required to carry with you a Cambodian licence. However, this doesn’t apply to smaller bikes, after Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on January 7 last year that drivers of motorcycles under 125cc are exempt from this obligation.

Even if you only drive a scooter, getting a local licence might still be worth considering. A driving licence, for example, is a widely accepted form of identification in the Kingdom.

Before we continue, take a look at this chart we’ve put together with all the non-industrial driving permits that exist in the Kingdom. You will find the price of transferring your national driving licence (“Transfer”), as well as the price of getting the licence from scratch (“New”). We’ve included the cost of obtaining them directly at the Department of Public Works and Transport (DPWT) and going through an agent:

Cambodian-Drivers-Licence-Fees-Sheet1

Note that the prices specified are based solely on official fees. Other expenses, like the cost of buying the driver’s handbook or obtaining a health certificate, are not taken into account.

This is the address of the DPWT, where you will need to go if you are not using an agent:

The Department of Public Works and Transport, #106 Preah Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh – Tel: 023 427 845 / 023 427 862, mpwt.gov.kh

There are other offices scattered around the city that can process your permit, like The Department of Public Works and Transport on St. 598 (Chea Sophara Street) in Sangkat Chrang Chamreh Pir, to the north of the city in Russei Keo district. Outside of Phnom Penh, each major urban centre normally has its own Department of Transportation where citizens can obtain driving permits.

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Many agents come to the Department of Public Works and Transport (pictured) in Russei Keo district to apply for the driving permits on behalf of their clients.

Why get a Cambodian driving licence?

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. By law, you are obliged to have a Cambodian licence if you are driving any type of motorised vehicle, except motorcycles under 125cc. Your national driving licence is not valid here, and neither is the International Driving Permit.

As a Cambodian driving licence also serves as a form of identification, you can use it, for example, to check into hotels when you travel around the country, which allows you to leave your precious passport safely stashed away back home.

Think of it also in insurance terms: most insurers will not cover you in case of an accident if you are not in possession of a local permit. Finally, take into consideration that under the 1985 Agreement on the Recognition of Domestic Driving License Issued by ASEAN countries – which the Kingdom acceded in 1999 – a Cambodian driving licence allows you to drive legally in Thailand, Malaysia, and any other ASEAN nation.

Transferring your licence

If you already possess a driving licence from your home country – or any other country where you have resided – you can “transfer” it to get a local licence, which will allow you to skip the written and the driving tests you would normally have to do. The downside of this option? Your licence will only be valid for one year.

To transfer your national driving licence into a Cambodian licence, head to the DPWT with the following documents:

  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of visa – must be a year-long “ordinary” visa with at least six months left
  • Copy of national driving licence – if it is not in English or French, you will also need to supply a translation of the document
  • Proof of residency – this can be a copy of your lease agreement, signed by your landlord
  • 5 pictures with white background in the following dimensions: 4cm x 6cm or 3cm x 4cm

A fresh licence

If you don’t have a valid driving licence from your home country, getting a Cambodian licence will involve a lengthier process, as you will be required to take a written and a driving test. However, the licence you get is valid for 10 years. The process is roughly the same whether you are applying for an A2 or a B licence. Also note that this option is only available for people under 60.

To get your 10-year Cambodian licence, head to the DPWT with the following documents:

  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of visa – must be a year-long “ordinary” visa with at least six months left
  • 5 pictures with white background in the following dimensions: 4cm x 6cm or 3cm x 4cm

At the counter of the DPWT, you will be asked to fill a form with your personal information and pay the fee. The staff will then help you set up an appointment for a medical check up, which will cost you around $2.50. This health check up consists mostly of an eye test.

Health certificate in hand, you can now go back to the DPWT to arrange an appointment for the written test. After passing the written test, you will make a new appointment, this time for the driving test. You will receive your licence shortly after having passed this last test.

To pass the written test, you will need to study the driver’s handbook, which can be purchased from a driving school, such as 23 To La Driving School (which has several offices around town) or Dai Chamnan Driving School on St. 128. The written test can be taken in Khmer or English.

Most people say the driving test is easy. Reportedly, if you are testing for a B licence, the instructor will only ask you to perform a couple of maneuvers, including driving the vehicle up a slope, stopping before you reach the zenith, and starting back again. You will also be required to parallel park.

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You have the option of using a stick-shift or an automatic car during the driving test at the DPWT.

It’s been noted by our sources that the whole process can be done in one day if you have enough energy and determination. In other words, if you are willing to be a little pushy with the staff at the DPWT.

Unofficial fees

Some of our sources have pointed out that you can speed things up with administration and even tip the balance in your favour during the test by paying “unofficial fees”. For example, during the written test, small payments to the test administrator are expected – usually ranging from $1 to $5 – as a token of gratitude for his work. If you make a big enough contribution, he or she might help you by adding a few points to your final score if you need them to pass the exam. This practice is deeply entrenched in the local culture, and many Cambodians do not see it as corruption.

Renewing your cambodian licence

Licence renewals can be done at the DPWT. Additionally, a dedicated driving licence renewal centre opened at Phnom Penh’s Aeon Mall in June last year. This is the first and only centre of its kind in Cambodia, with its only purpose being to replace and renew car and motorcycle licences. Car licences renewals are $10, while motos’ are just $7.50. The whole process should take less than 20 minutes, and you will need to bring a form of identification, your current licence and a health certificate.

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Since June last year, drivers can renew their permits at a dedicated centre inside Aeon Mall.

The online process

If you are interested in the 10-year licence, part of the process can now be carried online at the Khmer language website driverlicense.mpwt.gov.kh.

You will be able to fill the personal information form, take the written test and pay the fee via this site. Once you’ve passed the written test, you will need to print the receipt and go to the DPWT to take the driving test.

Do I need an agent?

Using an agent to help you obtain your driving licence is highly advisable if you don’t speak the local language. The staff at the DPWT do not usually have a conversational level of English, which slows things down significantly for non-Khmer speakers. Going through an agent is always the best option if time is a concern.

These are some of the most popular agents in town:

  • Call Kim: 092 256 388
  • Lucky Lucky: 023 220 988
  • Mon Sinet: 085 540 450
  • Mr. Sna: 089 472 386

Becoming street legal

Securing your driving permit is not the only thing you need to worry about to be on the right side of the law. There is also a road tax that needs to be paid every year. How much this tax amounts to depends on the type of car you are driving, but usually it is in the $50-250 range. For example, a Toyota Camry is subject to a $56.25 levy, but you can pay as much as $250 for a luxury vehicle. Payments can be done at the DPWT or at some financial institutions like ACLEDA Bank. After you pay, you’ll receive a sticker that you must display on the inside of your windshield. This tax does not apply to motorcycles.

Finally, your car will also need to pass an inspection. This should be done every other year, and will cost you around $15. You can go the DPWT for this inspection, which should take around 30 minutes.