Monday, November 15, 2010

Czech Driver's License - finally after many frustrating experiences

Let's just say it is not that easy to get a Czech driver's license if you are a foreigner. Here in Czech, once you get a long-term visa, you are no longer eligible to drive with the Inernational driver's license (according to one source, but according to another source, you are eligible to drive as long as the international driver's license is valid... who knows). And, if you only own an American driver's license, you need to take lessons and tests in order to get a Czech driver's license. Since I have a Japanese driver's license on top of my American driver's license, the process to get a Czech driver's license turned out to be much easier. I can simply "exchange" my Japanese driver's license with Czech driver's license. BUT, the process turned out to be not so straight forward as usual.

The required documents are:
1) Application form, passport
2) Valid Japanese driver's license with official translation (or you may get a certificate issued by Japanese embassy - you need to go there and show your passport and valid Japanese license in order to get this)
3) Czech visa
4) 1 photo

I decided to get a certificate through Japanese embassy in Prague instead of hassling around finding an official translator to translate my driver's license.  It was an easy process. I walked into the Japanese embassy (btw, unlike other embassies in Prague, Japanese embassy is located in the middle of very crowded area, and it is very small), handed in my application form, passport, and my valid Japanese driver's license. I waited about 25 mins, and the certificate was issued. The total fee was only 410 CZK (approx. $21).

I prepared other documents and went to the driver's license place. Someone from mu hubby's company kindly accompanied me, as we knew not too many people there speak English. We went in and submitted all the documents, but of course it didn't go smoothly (it never goes smoothly in the administrative offices in the Czech Republic).  They told me that the certificate from the Japanese embassy was not sufficient enough, as the category of vehicle described on the certificate did not match their standardized categories. Poor person who accompanied me... since I didn't give up (I never do, do I?), she had to keep translating what I was saying to the officials (by then there were at least 3 officials gathered around our booth). 

Finally after about 30 mins or so of debating, they decided to accept my application, but then they encountered another problem. They couldn't find me in the database of foreign police. Apparently the foreign police department forgot to register me in the database despite the fact that I wen there right after getting my visa 4 months ago and got my address stamped in my passport.  So, after our long attempt, we had to give up. The person kindly called the foreign police and the problem was fixed within a couple of days.  So, we went back again.  The same issue with the category, etc. It took us probably 20 mins this time, but they accepted my application. Whew!

Before getting your driver's license, you have to wait about a week. By then, I had to leave for Japan, so I decided to exchange my driver's license after coming back from Japan. I went in right after coming back from Japan, but somehow I knew that it will not go smoothly this time either. And, I was right. It didn't.  I submited my passport and Japanese driver's license, and this time the lady told me that my address in the database is different from the one stamped in my passport.  Of course!!  It is because we were in the process of moving, and we submitted a new address (to be) when we applied for our visa renewal before I went to Japan. I debated for about 20 mins again. More officials came again, but I was defeated. They told me that I needed to get a new address stamp at the foreign police first.  Sigh...

So, I went to the foreing police (btw, the police is only open on M, W, and F, and on Friday it is only open till noon). I needed to go there anyway to submit additional documents required by them to renew my visa. Some of the foreign police officers speak English, but this one didn't. I kept asking him to give me a new stamp in my passport, but he did not understand me.  I kept repeating like a broken record for at least 10 times, and he and his colleague thought I was crazy and started to laugh at me (I thought it was rude. I really think they should assign someone who can speak English!).  Anyway, finally he understood, and finally I got what I wanted - a stamp with my new address... sigh....but yay!

Now I had my correct address stamped, I went to the driver's license place again. It was crowded and had to wait for about 15 mins, but the lady this time was very professional and spoke good English.  I showed my passport and my Japanese license, and I explained that I got my new address stamped in the passport (so that it is different from the one on the application, etc), but the lady told me explicitly that it didn't matter. And within 2 mins, she gave me my Czech driver's license.  Well, why did they ask me to get a new address stamp to begin with then???  Anyway, I got it finally!  Next day, I went down to Hertz to rent a car to go pick up my hubby at the airport :-) 

1 comment:

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