Driving in Cambodia

In Cambodia, all foreigners must renew their transferred driver’s license annually. This costs approximately $100/person. It has been a year since we transferred our Hawaiian driver’s license to Cambodian license so we had to renew it this month. Andrew got his renewed with no problem but they won’t renew mine because my Hawaiian driver’s license had expired this past March. I tried to argue saying my Cambodian driver’s license is still active till the end of August but they won’t hear of it. All foreigners must have active driver’s license from their home country.
This meant that I had to drive without a license until I returned to Hawaii to renew my expired license! Many people in Cambodia drive illegally without a driver’s license and just pay off the cops if they get pulled over but that just isn’t me.
Then I was told I could take a Cambodian written and driving test and when I pass, I could get a driver’s license that’s good for 10 years!! Considering I pay about $100/yr to renew my transferred driver’s license, I’ll be saving hundreds of dollars!! Then I found out that if I go through a driver’s school, which is highly recommended for foreigners, it’ll cost me about $300-$400. Well, I decided against going through a driving school and bought myself a $5 booklet for the written test which I could take in English. I studied hard and went to take the test the very next day. I passed the written test with flying colors (only given in the mornings) and had to return at 2:00 for a driving test. I had driven since I was 16 years old so I knew I’ll pass without a doubt. Oh boy was I wrong.
In Cambodia, they have a set course that I had to pass and one tiny mistake meant I failed. It was all or nothing. I didn’t know the course so I paid VERY close attention to what others were doing. I just had to pass through an S-course, reverse park in a stall in one move, parallel park, and obey all the street signs along the course. Well, to cut the long story short, I failed. I didn’t realize how tiny the parking stall was and couldn’t reverse park in one move. There were about 20 people taking the driving test and most of them came with an instructor from their driving school but still two-thirds of them failed. I was glad I wasn’t the only one.
Well, I’m not the one to give up. So I returned the very next day (went to the office in the morning to sign up for the driving test) and took the test again in the afternoon. I went early and practiced very hard to learn “the rule” to reverse parking in one move. Then it was time for the actual test. I saw that many people who didn’t pass the day before returned only to fail again. The examiners watch you like a hawk for ANY mistake you could possibly make. I felt discouraged when my name was called. I took a deep breath and prayed that I would pass because I wanted to be a law abiding citizen.
I didn’t have much hope but went through the course at just the right speed, making sure I took care to obey all the street signs, and even reversed park in one move!!! Then parallel parking came and I neglected to turn the wheel sooner and was VERY close to the curb. I looked at the examiner and gave him the biggest smile I could give. The examiner looked at me and said…PASS!!
Lessons learned:
  1. I want to thank my daughters for staying with me through this process in the heat and Andrew for his support. Family support rocks!
  2. Though there is corruption in Cambodia, you can still get things done the legitimate way.
  3. Instead of complaining about corruption in Cambodia, foreigners should make every attempt possible to do things legitimately and serve as role models.
  4. Even when things go against your plan, trust in God and continue to follow God’s guidance. (I was turned down for a one year driver’s license that cost about $100/yr but got a 10-year license for a total of $30!!! What a deal!!)
So, I’m good for 10 years to drive in Cambodia and go anywhere I want!! Now only if I had a sense of direction…
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