Obtaining Or Renewing A Cambodian Driving Licence

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According to the Land Traffic Law, if you are driving any motorised 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 125cc and under are exempt from this obligation.

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

Even if you only drive such a scooter, getting a local licence is still advisable. 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 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.

The Ministry of Public Works & Transport now forces all foreigners to travel all the way out to the General Department Of Public Work and Transport (GDPWT) on St. 598 (Chea Sophara Street) in the northern outskirts of Phnom Penh to obtain a new driving licence, or to simply renew an existing one. You can opt to pay an agent to do this for you, at a significant surcharge. There are currently no other options of where to get driving licences for foreigners living outside of the capital. The department is open Monday to Friday, 8am-4pm.

DPWT-Chea-Sophara-web-image
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.

Transferring your licence

If you already possess a valid (ie. non-expired) 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:

  • your passport and a photocopy
  • a photocopy of your valid Cambodian visa – this must be a year-long “ordinary” E visa with at least six months left
  • your national driving licence and a photocopy – if it is not in English, you will also need to supply an officially stamped translation of the document through your Embassy or an authorised translation service
  • a residency letter from your local Sangkat – you should be able to ask your landlord to obtain this
  • 4 passport photos (4cm x 6cm) of yourself against a white background

The fee for this service is 31,000 riel ($7.75), but you must also pay 10,000 riel for a health check, in which an official merely measures your height and weight. Sometimes this information is gleaned from your passport. The whole process should take around an hour.

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 licence (motorbikes over 125cc) or a B licence (passenger vehicles under 9 people). Also note that a 10-year licence is only available for people under 60. Over-60s can only obtain a two-year licence.

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

  • your passport and a photocopy
  • a photocopy of your visa – must be a year-long “ordinary” E visa with at least six months left
  • 4 passport photos (4cm x 6cm) of yourself against a white background

At the counter of the GDPWT, you will be asked to fill a form with your personal information and pay the fee of 90,000 riel ($22.50). The staff will then help you set up an appointment for the $2.50 health check, which will also test your eyesight.

Health certificate in hand, you can now arrange an appointment for the theory test, which is done on computer. After passing the theory test, you will make a new appointment, this time for the practical driving test. You will receive your licence shortly after having passed this last test.

To pass the theory 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 theory test can be taken in Khmer or English.

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

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

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 GDPWT.

“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 theory 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 foreigners must now only be done at the GDPWT. A dedicated driving licence renewal centre was opened at Phnom Penh’s Aeon Mall in June 2016, but this is now only for Cambodian drivers.

UPDATE – An announcement made last week by the Transport Ministry states that all driving licence renewals must be made with a valid national driving licence from your own country. This new policy seemingly forces foreigners whose driving licences have now expired in their home country to apply for a new Cambodian licence (ie. take the tests).

Licence renewals follow the same fees as a new licence, ie. 31,000 riel and the $2.50 health check. The whole process should take less than 20 minutes, and you will need to bring the same documents as for transferring a foreign licence, along with your Cambodian licence.

aeon-mall-driving-licence
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 theory test and pay the fee via this site. Once you’ve passed the theory test, you will need to print the receipt and go to the GDPWT 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 GDPWT 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 GDPWT 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 GDPWT for this inspection, which should take around 30 minutes.