HOW TO ACQUIRE A DRIVING LICENSE IN BUENOS AIRES – THE EASY WAY
It’s worth pointing out first that I managed to acquire my initial A2 license up to 300cc without taking a test, but I had to hold that category for 2 years before upgrading.
The first thing I did was to go online, book an available time (turno) and was then reminded that the process cannot go ahead if I have any outstanding tickets for motoring offences. I was then directed to two different sites and to my delight I found that I was clean both nationally, provincially and in the Fed capital (a different country in its own right apparently). I then proceeded to book the appointment to change the address on my license and also to upgrade the category from A2.2 (up to 300c) to A3 in order to ride any size bike. Then a balloon came up to say that I had outstanding offences that don’t show up on the net and they’re so secret that I have to visit another office before I can make the booking.
I am not in the least surprised by this and head off next day to some anonymous office in Olivos, queue up for half an hour with others who had no idea why they were there. I was expecting to discover that I had committed some heinous crime whilst sleep walking, only to discover that it was related to some minor traffic offence that I had sorted out eight years since, but someone had forgotten to tick the relevant box on some distant computer. And to think that my life may hang in the balance, all for the lack of some forgotten tick. Can’t life be cruel sometimes?
I then had to print out certificates to show I was clean of any outstanding traffic offences, pay for that small pleasure (around $120 each plus $200 for the admin fee) and then report for duty at the licensing centre.
Oh, before I continue, it’s worth pointing out that I committed the fatal error of NOT photocopying every single form of ID that I possess and on arriving at the licensing centre, this was pointed out to me as if I were a Golden Retriever, requiring a short hop to a nearby cafeteria, which is pretty much par for the course for anyone who has ever carried out a paper-chase in this country. I was then given a number at reception on my return, went to office number one, then reported to the ominously named Clinical Examination office which prompted visions of doctors wearing yellow gloves asking me to bend over.
Fortunately, and to my relief, I was only asked to take an eye test. Back to office number one, who then directed me to office number five where Sra Sparrow (I kid you not) asked me some rudimentary questions, fingerprinted me, photographed me and told me to go to the cashier to pay some more money. Yes, you guessed it, every change requires a fee to be charged and in my case I was changing the address and the category. Believe me, they know how to suck the $$ out of us, but little else, as this kind of bureaucracy is a well oiled machine with zero grey areas.
I then return to office number one and am directed to office number eight, upstairs, for a written exam. When I arrive, I feel like I’m back in primary school. Minuscule playschool writing desks are scattered around the room occupied by men writing and concentrating hard with their tongues hanging out, lifting their heads occasionally towards the wall board with road signs on it. It has to be said that the invigilator looked positively suicidal, so I thought it best not to cross him.
The written test was multiple choice, about 50 questions with road signs up on the wall as a guide. This was trickier than the practical I took later because some of the questions were a tad ambiguous, but anyway I passed more by luck than judgement and it tested my knowledge of Spanish to the limit. Back to office number one with my growing ream of paperwork, where I’m told to report to the new riverside boulevard between 10.00 and 13.00 any weekday, no appointment required, so Just in case,I spent an hour beforehand in an empty car park, weaving around imaginary cones and traffic inspectors.
At this juncture I needed to enlist the help of a friend with an A3 license, since my bike is over 300cc and so I rode pillion on my bike with him driving us to the ‘test centre’ and we arrived at the rather ad hoc set up, where I was asked to present the following documents:
National ID card
Driving license (I have A2.2 for bikes and full for cars)
Cedular/carnet for bike
License/admin payment receipts
My ever growing ream of papers
My friend’s driving license and ID ( which he didn’t have with him and luckily they didn’t ask about.)
I then joined three or four other bikers and in the space of less than five minutes, one by one we weaved through eight traffic cones and one bollard at which point the officious and bored-out-of-his-skull traffic inspector indicated that the test was over. The examiner then asked me into the office, congratulated me on passing the gruelling test and told me to collect my license in five working days. Congratulations sir!
I am now legal to ride whatever size bike I like and am left with the lasting impression that, yet again, having your documents in order clearly has priority over any notion of proficiency at handling powerful machinery. I’d even go as far as to say that, documentation-obsession is the tail that wags the dog in this country and whilst I’m happy that the test was a no-brainer, it certainly left me scratching my head.
It’s also worth pointing out that, at least from what I’ve heard anyway that the test in other states is more difficult, in that the weaving through cones is timed to 30 seconds and in others it’s even more rudimentary.
I can’t comment on initial motorcycle tests, ie from zero, but I’m told that they involve a psychiatric test and that the practical is a little more rigorous. Either way, the key here is to have ALL your documentation in order or you don’t even leave the starting grid.
To say that the UK driving test is more rigorous would an understatement in the extreme.