Learning to drive in Singapore can drive you crazy

Getting your driver’s license in Singapore is a long and arduous process. Not many students learn how to drive here as there is no need because Singapore has an abundance of public transport. However, after living in the States for so long, learning how to drive has always seemed to me to be a rite of passage. I watched both my sister and brother get their permits and then their licenses. I couldn’t wait until I could drive myself around, but then my family moved to Singapore and that was that.

A couple months ago I began the process of getting my license in Singapore, where the minimum age for a driving license is 18. I probably should’ve started a little earlier because the average time it take to get your license in Singapore is four to six months. However, senioritis isn’t something that just applies to school but every single aspect of life that requires effort.

The 9789812501561first time I went to the Singapore Safety Driving Center (SSDC), I received two books: Basic Theory and Final Theory. It was overwhelming at first because it felt as though there was so much I had to learn in such little time. However, as I began to look at the books, I discovered that most of the information consisted of road signs and lane patterns that I’d always subconsciously seen.
testengine2The complicated thing about getting your license in Singapore is booking the test dates. For the Basic Theory Test (BTT) and the Final Theory Test (FTT), there was a practice test I had to pass before each of them. You had to pass the basic theory trial test in order to book the BTT, and then you had to pass the BTT in order to take the FTT. Again, there was a prerequisite of the final theory trial test to book the FTT. All of this sounds much more complicated than it actually is, but this is how it felt to me at first. It was just a swirl of BTT, FTT, practices and trial tests. It used to give me a headache thinking about it.

After multiple trips to the SSDC, I passed all four of my tests and was extremely relieved leaving the center on that final test day. All I had left was to pass my practical which my private driving instructor, Mr. Soon, would give me the OK for (still haven’t gotten the OK).

L_plate_in_SingaporeI’ve spent a lot of time after school driving with Mr. Soon and I’ve gotten to know him a little bit (even though he knows me as “student 729”), as one would if you spent an hour and a half in a car with them five times a month. Every day we meet at the 718A HDB by the Admiralty MRT which is the bee’s nest of learner drivers.

Mr. Soon is a quirky guy who sometimes FaceTimes his wife (not as distracting as you might think!) when we are driving around Woodlands. However, she only speaks Mandarin and “nihao” is about as far as we can get. My favorite thing Mr. Soon has ever said to me came at the end of a lesson we had a couple weeks ago when he said, “Sometime your driving good, sometime not so good.”


Some would question the value of learning to drive in Singapore and whether or not it is worth it. Even though I most likely won’t drive in Singapore when I get my license, I can still drive in the United States for up to a year until I have to take an American driving test. This will be extremely useful to me as there is a lack of public transportation in my home of Cincinnati, Ohio. Other options some may take is to convert their license to an international license, which only takes a couple days to do.

Because Singapore is famous for its strict regulations and order, learning to drive in Singapore can teach drivers to be safer and more alert.

If you’re interested in getting started, here is the link to the SSDC.

Wondering if you’re ready to start driving? Take this quiz to see how well you know Singapore’s road rules!

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