Sunday, August 14, 2011

How to get a Zambian Driving License. Easy!

So yesterday due to considerable annoyance from the various Police roadblocks along the way from the Kafue to Lusaka, who informed me that a British driving license 'doesi not work' here in Zambia and after paying far too much in fines I set off on a mission to get my Zambian license. It all started in the morning when I picked up my friend Godfrey and headed to the vehicle licensing offices for what I had been told would be a simple conversion of a British license to a Zambian license, a few forms, a few thousand Kwacha and Bob's your aunty... We got to the offices at opening, 08h30, plenty of time to fill in a form and head back to the Kafue with my new license, or so we thought... I spent the first hour in a cue which did not move, my friend Godfrey found his 'friend' (of which I was to find out he had many of in Lusaka) and I was able to finally give him my license conversion form. He stapled the form to another form and gave it back to me, saying something about a Hospital. Godfrey enlightened me and said that for the conversion you must go and undertake a full medical examination, oh and at a Zambian Government run and owned clinic in Lusaka, oh and there is only 1 certified doctor who can carry out this form of examination, ha! So off I headed, determined to get all this sorted before lunch, to Kamwala Clinic. For those of you not familiar with Lusaka, Kamwala is not exactly the 'posh' end of Lusaka, and as I was about to find out the level of medical practicing was pitiful, in fact it was outrageously bad! I was not very happy with the idea of having a blood test in this clinic and so we decided to find our doctor, Dr. Julius Zulu to be exact, hopefully he could see I was strong enough to stand on my own 2 feet and could see further than a foot in front of me, it was apparent after 20 seconds in Dr. Zulu's presence that he was neither of these himself! It was 10h30 on a Friday morning and the head doctor for this clinic was battered! He could hardly see me let alone fill in my form, I decided it was actually safer to give him some money to just sign the form, (I told him I would fill it in for him), than have him actually try and give me an examination. Oh and by the way we had to physically ask people in the street if they had seen him, we hunted him down and found him slumped up against a brick-built shack, not a stone’s throw from the entrance to the clinic. Amazing. So I ticked the boxes, guessed my blood type and laughed at how the doctor’s signature went at a 90degree angle from the dotted line and finished with a certain drunken flourish…. Back to the licensing offices again. I presented my drunken medical examination certificate, which they didn’t hesitate to question, and was directed to the photo booth room, after a quick snap of my face for the Provisional license and 46,500 kwacha later I had a piece of paper allowing me to drive for the next 3 months legally in Zambia, I looked at my watch and it was mid day. I asked Godfrey what to do next as I wanted my full license not just the provisional, he said he was not sure so I cued up for another hour to see the big boss! I entered his ‘office’ and tried to explain my situation over some gospel music which he had blaring out next to his head. He was a nice chap actually and told me straight that he could arrange for me a driving test in 2 hours, and then I could get my license. I tried to explain that a driving test in the UK is not exactly a breeze and assured him that after almost 7 years with a real driving license this was all a bit unnecessary. He agreed, and as such he booked me in for only 1 test, as it turns out in Zambia you have to take 2 different tests before being licensed. So I headed with Godfrey to a parking lot on the other side of town, it was a scrap yard with hundreds of wrecked vehicles and confiscated motors, oh and a driving test centre. I was early but hoped they would just test me quickly and let me be on my way. Godfrey went and spoke to his ‘friend’, one of the examiners and was told in no uncertain terms to wait our turn as it was now lunch. We spent the next hour or so watching the coming and goings of various prospective drivers. One notable test failed after about 10 seconds when the lady in question decided to reverse straight into another vehicle in the yard. She got out of the vehicle, was confronted by the owner of the vehicle she drove into and was not unexpectedly told she had failed, not before however she broke down in some strange fitting trance and refused to get out from under her vehicle. The Police were called now as she was delaying the other testers with her antics; she was picked up, popped in the back of the Police vehicle and whisked off, just like nothing had happened. Madness. So 14h00 came and Godfrey had let me in to a few tricks of the trade for these examiners, ‘they will leave their door slightly open and will not put on their seat belt’, he told me to make sure I correct him otherwise I will fail in quicker time than the mental lady! More important than these 2 bits of advice from Godfrey was that this examiner will fail me regardless of how I drive. I was confused with this but Godfrey went on to explain that he would just leave ‘some food’ on the passenger’s seat for the examiner, I didn’t ask… So the examiner came over to the vehicle, jumped in, said nothing and proceeded to not put on his seat belt, nor close his door, haha! I knew that one was coming! I then corrected him, which he seemed impressed with. Off we headed in the company automatic Toyota Prado to get my manual driving license (!?), after stopping to get the examiner an ice cream we drove around the block talking about football, kids, how he is a teacher and is studying at the University of Bolton, he then presented me with his student card in case I didn’t believe him, as I took a look at it he told me to keep my ‘eyes on the road’, I laughed slightly nervously. In about 2 minutes we were turning back into the scrap yard and the test was finished. We continued to sit for longer than the test took, talking about his graduation and how he want to work for the UN to help needy people, what a nice chap! He then spotted the ‘food’ Godfrey had left for him on the seat, he opened the envelope, mumbled something like ‘is that it?’, popped it in to his sock, told me I had passed and signed my test certificate. Job done! I got out of the vehicle, thanked Godfrey for ‘feeding’ the examiner for me. Godfrey then told me to look in the windscreen of the vehicle; I did, and found that both our road tax and road fitness had expired about a month ago, oops! Ironic really as the test yard was also the road tax and fitness test centre… I headed with my test pass certificate back to the licensing offices, it was now 15h00, to try and get the card license itself, I found the big boss once again, he congratulated me on passing, I explained again that I was not new to driving… he then told me to come back in 2 months to pick up the license. Not long now then…


  1. just obliterated any hope I might have had in getting one.

  2. Great tips!
    I have been trying to convert my license but no can do as I don't have a certificate from UK Consulate or DVLA, so have to go through the whole process. Exactly as you have described!!! Complete nightmare! Spend two days just doing theory. Now practical. Fingers crossed.