Getting a driver’s licence is much easier said than done. You’ll have to pay thousands of dollars for hours of practice – and even that won’t guarantee you’ll get one. Here’s how it works:
How to apply
Once you turn 18, you can apply for a learner’s licence for a fee of HK$548, which allows you to drive, as long as you are supervised by a licensed driving instructor. You can then sign up for the driving tests, which include a written test and practical road (driving) test. The application fee for the driving tests is HK$510, and the average waiting time for the road test ranges from six to nine months.
The Hong Kong driving test is notoriously difficult to pass, as any small error can result in an “instant fail”. If you do fail, you can pay around HK$5,000 to enter a “pool” of applicants, which means that if someone else cancels their test, you can possibly retake your test in one to two months, but there are no guarantees.
If you don’t enter the pool, you will have to wait the entire six- to nine-month waiting period to retake your test.
To make things worse, new drivers cannot legally drive without paying for expensive lessons. In countries like the US, Britain and Australia, people with a learner’s licence can drive as long as someone with a driver’s licence – like their parents – are in the car too.
“We highly recommend that new drivers take at least 30 hours of driving lessons, otherwise it will be extremely difficult for them to pass,” said Sora Wong, a representative from the Hong Kong School of Motoring’s Hong Kong Island Centre.
Just for reference, 30 hours’ worth of lessons at the Hong Kong School of Motoring would cost around HK$30,000, which is a lot of money to prepare for a driving test.
Fourth time’s a charm?
Unfortunately, taking lessons does not guarantee you’ll pass the test; Alejo Rodriguez Lo, Young Post’s videographer, has failed three times. “I know how to drive. I’ve taken so many lessons and my instructors have all told me I’m a good driver; every time I failed my test it was because of something small,” Rodriguez Lo, 26, said.
“The second time I took my test, the parking, and all the difficult stuff I did well, I just didn’t make it obvious enough that I was looking at my blind spot when I overtook a car.”
“The third time I failed, I was so sure I did everything right. My driving instructor even told me he was surprised that I failed. He told me that it was because I didn’t check my blind spot again, even though I’m sure that I did, he just didn’t see me do it.”
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Rodriguez Lo started to get emotional recalling his experiences. “It was so frustrating because my instructor would have passed me – he and I both know I’m a good driver,” he said. “Instead, I have to wait at least six months and spend more money on lessons just because my instructor thought I did something wrong when I didn’t.”
Rodriguez Lo, who did his tests at the Ap Lei Chau test centre, said he is considering trying a different test centre and just hope they won’t be “as ridiculously strict”.
“It’s quite disheartening, I don’t know what else to do,” he said.
This is part one of a three-part series on getting a drivers’ licence in Hong Kong. In parts two and three, we will give you some tips to help you get through the process as easily as possible.