Learning Driving in S.Korea

Monday, 12 September 2016

As most Singaporeans know, it costs an absolute BOMB to learn and take the driving test in Singapore. Ranging from a total of $1500 to $2500 SGD, and even more depending on how many times you have to re-take your test. Well, in order to learn and take the driving test in Korea, a fellow Singaporean offered to teach me using his car as long as I fill up his tank for him. I agreed and off I went to Daejeon. I stayed over at his place for 2 nights where he was an amazing host and a very patient teacher. 

Took a bus down to Daejeon at night and he picked me up. Got a little supper since it was already late and headed to bed after, ready for some driving the next day. Went to KAIST to learn and drive around the campus because the speed limit was 20km/h and there were a lot of speed bumps in order to practice braking and acceleration. It was pretty fun, and I learned about the different functions of a car and all the other things you need to know before you can drive.

Spent the day driving around KAIST and then reading up for the written test that I would have to take for driving (basically learning all the highway codes and such) and then continued driving at night after dinner. Daejeon is quite a great place to be learning how to drive since there aren't much cars around if you're not driving during the peak hours, and there are huge roads which allow you to practice changing lanes, which is the part that really screws me up since it was difficult to gauge how far cars were from my side mirrors. 

On to the driving tests! Now, here in Korea there are a total of 5 stations: the safety video, the eye check up, the written test, the vocational licence test, and the final road test. There are a few driving centers in Seoul, and even more in other cities but I went to the Seobu Driving Center near the World Cup Station. I had a straight bus there and I heard that it wasn't as crowded as the other ones so it's better. If you're thinking of going, here's the address: 서울특별시 마포구 월드컵로42길 13 서부운전면허시험. I would assume you can read and speak Korean because everything is in Korean, even if the tests are done in English, but going through the administration and all would be in Korean.

Note: This is assuming you have gone for driving lessons in Korea where you have a licensed instructor teaching you, and also you learning the highway codes and driving rules within Korea before taking the test. 

Things that you need to bring when you're going to take your test:

- Alien Registration Card / Passport
- ID Photos
- Check/Debit/Credit Card
- Pen

Now first thing's first, you need to know what you're learning and what test you are taking. There are different types of cars, and there're licences for buses, trucks, manual and automatic cars. The type for personal cars is Type 2. So be sure to tell them you're taking Type 2. Before everything begins, go and pick up a registration form. You will be doing a lot of waiting and can fill up your form while you wait. You can get the form from the information counter in front where you first came in. Then, you need to sign up for a video on road safety on the 2nd floor. It's a 1 hour video course which has the following timings available below:

Note: You need to be there at least 30 minutes early to apply for the class and ensure you get a spot.
If there isn't a spot you would have to apply for the next one.

This is the place you apply and then you take the course on the door to your right.

If you're unsure about anything head to the information counter to ask.

Once you're done with the video you need to head all the way to the right end on the first floor where you'll be doing your eye test. At every station where you apply for a test or any administration matters, you will need to pay, so it would be good to keep your check card ready together with your alien registration card so that you won't be scrambling for it when they ask for it. Keep your registration form, alien card and check card in your hand at all times.

After you're done with your eye test, head over to counter 3 and pick a number. Wait for your number to be called and apply for the written test in ENGLISH. Or you can take it in Korean if you're more confident in the Korean Language. Anyway, after applying for this you would have to head upstairs to the 3rd floor and pick another number and wait to be called. 

Once your number is called, go into the examination hall and head to the computer they ask you to go to. Take the test and finish it within the time limit. You would know automatically whether you pass or fail. You need a total of 70/100 to pass the exam or else you would have to retake it. The questions are pretty straightforward and you would not need to think much about it. However, you should study it before taking the exam because there were some things that I did not know if I had not studied. If you're interested in studying for it and would like the PDF file you can email me and I'll send it to you!

After you're done with your test, you need to go to counter 3 again, to apply for the vocational licence test. They will assign you with a time slot which you will have to be at 30 minutes before the test starts. This is a good thing because there would be a video tutorial which you will watch and this really helps because all the tips are given in the video. Even if you don't know what to do during the vocational test, you would learn it and remember during the video so do your best not to be late. 

I had a two hour window till my vocational licence test after taking the written test so I went around to look for food to eat. Seriously, there's almost nothing around this area (nor wifi) so you should bring something to do lest you get bored waiting. This place sells pretty nice donkatsu for less than 8000won so it was pretty good. Portion was really large too. 

The vocational licence test is pretty simple, it's a course that's less than 200m and you need to do a few functions as per what the machine tells you. Again, watch the video before the test to know more. It's almost impossible to fail if you have tested driving before. Another thing is that the videos also have English subtitles if you're not that good in Korean like me.

After the vocational licence test you will be issued a vocational licence in which you are able to drive a vehicle with person who has a driver's licence in the car with you. Then after you've had enough practice, it's time to apply for the final road test. 

I had to apply and come for it on another day since there weren't any more slots. If you can see from the very first photo I posted up on this blog post, I failed twice for this stage, not because of the lack of points, but by disqualification. There are a few rules which you need to uphold while doing the test. This is the video that you will be watching (as usual, arrive 30 minutes before the test timing).

You need a total of 80/100 to pass and get your licence, and even though I was doing fine for both times, I actually made the mistake of thinking that it's okay to go as long as there were no cars, or no people along the way. The first mistake I made was turning right when there were no pedestrians while the green man was still on. I've taken many taxis in Korea and I can say for a fact that people in Korea do not really follow the rules sometimes. As such, I thought that it was okay too. So the first mistake I made was turning right when the green man was still up, which disqualified me.

The second time I took the test I got disqualified because I made a U-turn illegally. There are many different types of U-turns that are allowed on different roads. You would have to read the sign properly and DO NOT, I repeat, do not follow Korean drivers in front of you. Always make the effort to check before you do anything. I, for one, was behind another driver. When there were no cars and no pedestrians, he did the U-turn, albeit illegally. Thinking that it was time to go, I followed suit after checking that there were no oncoming cars nor pedestrians. Turns out it was an illegal one and I got disqualified. :\

Anyway, when you're taking the test, just make sure that you're always checking your mirrors and making the effort to check the signs and ensure that it's totally safe before going. Other than that it'll all be really fine. Seriously speaking, even failing twice and re-taking, I spent a whopping total of $182 (inclusive of me going to Daejeon and learning from my friend) for my driver's licence. Compare that to Singapore......

Anyway! I hope that this post helped you and good luck on your driving test!

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