Learning Uruguay

Every day brings ????

Archive for June 14th, 2007

Trying to get a Maldonado Driver’s License

Posted by urufish on June 14, 2007


Got up bright and early this morning to get everything ready to take to the driver’s license office in Maldonado.  Deadline was today because my wife’s Ontario driver’s license expired on May 15.  We thought you have to renew before 30 days after expiry.  We found out that’s not true.. plus a lot of other things we wish we hadn’t.  

Photocopied our cedulas (2 copies) and my passport (2 copies) just to be safe.  Photocopied (2 copies) of a legal document we have from when I started the immigration process, that proves we are married to each other.  Why do I need that?  Because my wife is Uruguayan and her cedula is from near birth (she got it at 6 months old) and it carries her maiden name.  She never changed it.  Here, when a woman marries a man, she adds the man’s last name to the end of her name.  There’s no connection between her name and mine.  So why does that matter?  Well, you have to prove where you live when you apply for a driver’s license.  Just like back home.  You need an address in the state you apply for a license in. 

Uruguayans require proof of address for many things.  For instance, if you want a cellphone on contract, you need to show your Antel bill – in your name.  If it’s in the other spouse’s name, the other spouse has to sign the contract.  Most Urugyans carry a utility bill, like an UTE, OSE or Antel bill with them at all times.  The driver’s license office will want to see your name and your address and then they believe you live where you say you live.  Maldonado is where our house in Piriapolis is so we’re cool getting a license there but when we got our utilities, many suns ago, it was all in my wife’s name.  She’s the one who can prove she lives there.  Me, I’m a gypsy, a hobo, a person with no fixed address as far as they’re concerned.  That all changes if I can prove I’m her husband…  I’m supposed to live with her.  So I can get my license in Maldonado if she shows a utility bill in her name and I prove I’m married to her.  Simple enough? 

After I got everything prepared, we left for the 90 minute trip to the Maldonado driver’s license office.  We didn’t know where it was and we didn’t feel like playing pilot/navigator, so we drove to her brother’s house in Maldonado (town of), and picked him up to guide us in.  That’s when I realized I left the driver’s license translations back in Montevideo… Yo burro.

Well, this is Uruguay and sometimes knowing someone gets you around obstacles.  My nephew knows the girl in the license office so we figured we’ll go there, do all the paperwork and courier the translations to her tomorrow.  It was a good plan.  Heck, anything was better than turning around and heading back.  And even if it didn’t work, at least we’d get a bit further in the process.

The municipal offices in Maldonado are impressive.  Mucho dinero went into that place.  You can see the Argentino, Euro and American property taxes  being well spent.  Everyone is smiling there.   What hit me the most when I walked in was the smell.  There’s no musk.. kind of like a very light, more or less, pleasant odour of mould that I expected from other municipal offices.  I guess that’s what happens when you can build new offices with expensive materials.  I wonder if the place is insulated???

We went down to the driver’s license office and of course, took a number.  It was around 1pm.  There was a note on the door that said Medico 15-6-07, 12pm.  I believe that means the doctor leaves at noon tomorrow.  The place is open to 14:45.  We had plenty of time.  Our number was 37.  36 was on the LED screen.  Good news.  But unfortunately, that was the end of the good news.  It was all downhill from there…  but read on… good stuff here for everyone..

There was one person working on the desk.  She knew my nephew  and was very, very nice to all of us.  We told her we didn’t have the translations and she said that was a problem.  She had to follow the rules and the rules clearly state you need those translations.

Time out for a tangent…  There’s a sign at the front that details requirements for licenses in a more thorough way than those I could find on the internet.  There is a specific point that states if you’re from another pais (country), you need to show your driver’s license.  It doesn’t state you need official translations, but that’s pretty much common sense.   How could a Uruguayan clerk know how to read a Chinese or Russian driver’s license.  If it isn’t in Spanish, they’ll need an official translation and photocopies, stamped officially.  But the good news is that they state right up front they’ll accept foreign licenses.  But dont get your hopes up.  Accepting them and good news are two different things.. unless you’re a hair splitter.. Read on…

Back to the girl in the office.  She says she must have translations so let’s go upstairs to the information desk and ask them if there’s an official translator of English to Spanish close by and free (in the temporal sense of the word).  We find an official translator in PDE who will charge $800 per driver’s license.  But time to get there and back will be over an hour and the doctor will be gone by then.  Oh well, sigh.. see you tomorrow…  But that’s not the end of it. It gets much better.

We dejectedly walk out of the office and as we reach the stairs, the nice lady rushes out after us with the ‘Manual del Conductor’ in her hand.  She says to make sure we study this before we come back tomorrow.  WHAT!!!!  Yesterday, we were told that all we had to do was show our driver’s licenses, pass the medical and we got our Maldonado license.  NO!!!  You have to write the theory and take the road test.  So why do we need to show our foreign driver’s license?  Well, that ‘may’ save us from having to take the 90 minute safety seminar/tape/whatever.  But more importantly, our license will be good for 5 years (or was that 10–I was kind of zoned out at the point).  Without showing a previous license, the Maldonado license would be for only 2 years.

Oh, and one more twist.  If you come more than 10 days before your birthday, the license you get (assuming you pass the tests), is only good until your date of expiry.  My birthdate is in November.  Even though my foreign license is good until 2008, my new, Maldonado license would expire this November.

Monday, we are going to the Montevideo driver’s license office and see what the deal is there.  Who knows, maybe we can talk someone there into bypassing the theory and written.  If that fails, we go to Canelones.  We own a small house there too, (my wife bought for her mother years ago). We dont have utility bills but by jove… we have the titulo WHICH IS IN BOTH OF OUR NAMES. 

Trivia… the driver’s handbook that Brazzie posted in the comments section of http://uruguaydreaming.com/2007/06/11/car-and-driving-glossary/#more-190 is apparently used by all the municipaliteis that belong to ‘el Congreso Nacional de Intendentes’, which in a small country like Uruguay is probably all of them.  The signs in the manual appear to be a subset of the signs provided to us in Maldonado, so it’s possible you may have to memorize your local signs if you take your test elsewhere.  One other point about signs, the stop (Pare) and yield (ceda el paso) appear on the test as OUTLINES only.  I guess that’s because if they showed the text, you’d know the answer 🙂

Unlike Ontario, where we provide theory test in every language on the planet, (hmmmm.. I’m still doing ‘we’..hmm), here they do it differently.  Maldonado will let you have a translator with you.  Going to find out if Montevideo and/or Canelones does that too. 

Wish us luck on Monday…  this is not the quest for the Golden Fleece, but it’s taking on some of the attributes. 

Posted in Driving | 3 Comments »