I guess I'm revealing my age a little in this post by saying that I've had a drivers licence for more than half my life now. So imagine my surprise when I learned that in order to exchange my current licence, I would have to re-take the practical exam.
That's right. When my wait for a test is finally over (it's currently two months here in Stavanger), I get to hop behind the wheel of a double-pedaled, double-mirror vehicle and show the assessor my on-road moves. I got my first drivers licence in the United States, where we furnish our own vehicles for such a test, so I've never actually driven one of those before. I understand that it's so that the person conducting the test can stop the vehicle at any time. Let's hope it doesn't come to that!
Norwegian law allows foreigners one year after their arrival to complete the exchange of their licences to the Norwegian variant. They can actually only drive on those old licences for three months from the date they touched down in Norway. The process to initiate the exchange is quite simple: head down to the Statens vegvesen (Norwegian Public Roads Administration), fill out a simple one-page form and surrender your old licence. Then a letter arrives in the mail telling you want to do next.
In my case, Australia is on their list of countries for which it is relatively easy for the respective licence-holders to transfer the document. I need only pass the practical test. Of course, as with many things in Norway, this sounds a bit simpler than it is. The letter instructed me to contact an authorized driving school for further assistance, namely the rental of the appropriate vehicle in which to take the test. So I emailed a few different schools about it. I know from talking to other expats what the deal is going to be. They want you to take some driving lessons before they will rent you the car.
Of three schools contacted, only two replied to my emails. The price difference was significant: 650 kr per lesson + 1,900 kr for the car rental vs. 950 kr per lesson + 2,700 kr for the rental. After various mistakes in this country with choosing service providers, I think my radar and selection process has improved a bit. Choosing the cheapest option can be perilous, but in this case, I could not see the point in spending more money. But we'll see what kind of car they show up with for the difference! My one stipulation is that it be automatic, which I understand will forever doom me to driving an automatic vehicle in Norway. But although I know how to drive a stick-shift (thank you first hand-me-down car from Grandpa), it's been awhile and I'm not keen to deal with that hassle during such a crucial test as this.
And why is it crucial that I pass this practical test? Because if I fail, I'm going to have to bend over for a very painful spanking. My letter from the roads administration states that I will be required to take 11 lessons in the subjects of driving in the dark, first aid and something called "safety course and skid pad driving." And in addition to this I also have to pass both the theory test and a practical driving test before I can ever drive again (failing the test will result in my temporary licence being revoked). Talk about pressure! I wonder if at that point I could just cancel it all and ask for my Aussie licence back? When I exchanged my New York licence for a Western Australian one they just did it on the spot for a fee.
So I'm actually a bit grateful that they are forcing me to take a couple of lessons before the test. Because all of this is getting quite pricey. Just the two lessons, car rental, test fee and licence fee come to 4,385 kr (over US$750). If I have to do everything again, it will be that amount plus the cost of the required lessons. My test is in mid-October so wish me luck!
Disclaimer: I do realize that driving is a serious matter and I'm really not trying to take the piss. But when searching for photos using the keyword "driving lessons" all these photos of dogs and babies driving came up and I couldn't resist.