Friday, 1 June 2007


I just finished the process for converting my English licence to a local one. Its worth briefly outlining the process as it's a good example of local bureaucracy. I can get a Singaporean license but first need to pass the Basic Theory Test (BTT), which is a 50-question, computer-based, multiple-choice exam, pass mark is 45 (90%).

At an approved centre (there's 3 of them), apply for BTT with Passport and EP (employment pass), pay $6, select a PIN, receive ID card (for website and service kiosks) and a test date 2 months hence. The test dates are always 2 months hence, even though subsequent checks show empty places as close as next week, these are reserved for students of the (commercial) school which operates the BTT. With a bit of hassle, you can change the test date to be closer, but this is best done in person.

The school operates a vast system of learner cars (white Honda Civics) being run around a closed course and the local roads. In my case, I can just wait for the BTT and swot up on the Highway Code ($4). Judging by the pages being studied at the last minute, it's the Arm Signals given by Traffic Officer that are most confusing although I thought the right-of-way at junctions a tad odd as well. The rest seem pretty close to UK signs and rules.

Come test day, I need my Passport and EP again (to ensure the identity of the student) and I'm allocated a computer terminal in a room with 40 others. It's multiple-choice (A, B, C) with occasional video clip animations. The touch-screens respond best to nails (not finger tips).

Q: If you hear the sirens of an ambulance approaching but cannot determine their location, do you:
a) Move into left lane and slow down
b) Pull over and stop
c) Continue driving in current lane

The test is not that hard, but many questions are tricky - it is worth having a bit of a think as there's plenty of time. When you're done (or bored), press finish and either Pass or Fail on the spot.

When you have passed the test, get a printout of the result at a special machine and apply for the license. It's more ID checks, EP checks, photocopies plus originals of license, photograph and $50. It seems to take ages to process the form but then I get a confirmation slip which says I can now drive and the license will arrive in 2 weeks. Eight days later, a neat photo-card license arrives by recorded mail.

It's all terribly civilised, efficient and predictable, like all Singaporean bureaucracy. I am on driving probation for a year - I mustn't clock up more than 12 demerit points. It doesn't explain how I would get a demerit point but I imagine I will find out.