A tale of the long wait…..swapping a foreign licence for an Irish one

No more driving the road hoping not to get stopped, I finally have an Irish driving licence! It only took 7 week and a lot of stress but it’s finally here. Here is all you need to know about swapping a foreign licence over to an Irish one.

What do I need to do?

  1. You need to make sure that your country has an agreement with Ireland. You can check on the NDLS wesbite, https://www.ndls.ie/holders-of-foreign-licences.html#holders-of-licences-issued-by-recognised-states
  2. Go to the embassy of that country and get a translation. This cost me 3 euro in the South Korean embassy in Dublin. It was a painless process that just involved showing my Korean license, filling out some forms, presenting my i.d. and I had it within 20 minutes.
  3. Go for an eyesight exam. Print the eye test page from the NDLS website, take it along with you and get your eyes tested. Then get it signed and stamped. As a student, this cost me 20 euro. * Be aware that in some towns, it can take 2 weeks to get an eye test.
  4. Fill out the application form. You can find this on the NDLS website.
  5.  Gather the following documents Passport, Birth certificate, bank statement, Public Services card. This covers the requirements to prove photographic identity, evidence of residency, evidence of address and evidence of PPSN. You can find the acceptable forms of documents here, https://www.ndls.ie/images/Documents/DrivingLicence/driver-licensing-in-ireland-a-guide.pdf
  6. Go to the nearest NDLS centre and hand in these documents. It is advisable to book an appointment online to avoid long delays. The payment fee is 55 euro.
  7. In the case of people swapping a South Korean driving licence you need to decide if you wish to keep the D categories on your licence. If you do, you need to print the medical check forms and complete that. If you don’t, you need to fill out the Surrender forms. You can find this on the NDLS website.

My story:

I applied for my Irish licence on the 4th September. I walked in off the street with everything you could possibly need and sat with the lady. She had never swapped over a South Korean one and was thoroughly confused by the entire thing. She rang everyone and their neighbour and even though I had all the required documents, it took 2 hours to complete the application!!!! I didn’t mind too much as she kept apologising. She warned me that it would probably be sent back as she really didn’t know what to include with the application and she gave me a number to call in three weeks to check up on the progress.

Almost 3 weeks later, I receive an email from NDLS stating that their was an issue and could I possibly send on the original translation from the embassy. Understandable. As it was my only copy, I sent it by registered post which added a cost of 6 euro to the bill. I thought this was the only issue and expected my licence in a week or two.

Two weeks later, I receive another email from NDLS asking if I want to keep the D categories on my licence. If I do, then I need to get a medical check. If I don’t I need to fill out the surrender form. By this stage, I had had enough. It was a vicious cycle of no one knowing anything. So I called them to voice my opinions. It takes about 5 minutes to be connected while they go through every option under the sun. Then I was put through to a lady and I explained the situation. Was it too much to be told of all the issues in the one go? I don’t have the time or money to be filling out and posting additional forms. She was not at all sympathetic so I decided to write a complaint via their website but surprise surprise, I still haven’t received a reply.

I had no choice but to send the surrender form and finally today, after 7 weeks of waiting and 85 euro out of my pocket, I have the licence!!!!!

My tips:

  1. Don’t be in a rush for it because this is a long process.
  2. Don’t expect people to know what their doing, because clearly they don’t.
  3. Be ready to send on additional forms.
  4. Send the original of the embassy form but keep a copy yourself.
  5. Walk in off the street at a random time and you might be lucky enough to find a space. It worked for me even though I had been told that there weren’t spaces for 2 weeks.

Feel free to comment on your experiences or ask any questions!

What I’ve learned from driving in Korea.

Every time I drive in Korea, I morph into my alter ego.  It’s one that only comes out when I drive.  It gives me special powers.  I notice everything, I’m hyper alert, extra vigilant and have a serious anger issue.  I can’t help it, it’s my alter ego and dissipates when I get out of the car.

After just two months of daily driving in Korea I have learned the following;

1. Anything goes; You can just about do anything while driving here. Ah late for work.  It’s ok, I’ll put on my make up while driving.  I’ll talk on my phone, while driving.  I’ll watch that t.v. drama I missed last night…..while driving.  So while I’m sitting like a loser, just driving, my fellow drivers are doing whatever it is that they feel like doing. 

2. There are no rules; There are no rules here, merely suggestions.  What are those strange lights I see? Must be a suggestion to stop and go.  Red light? I’m in a rush, just as well it’s a suggestion to stop or I’d be in some serious trouble. Green light? I was going to drive on anyway so this is a bit of a waste of electricity. And that orange like must mean go a little faster through this junction. 

The white lines on the road are also just mere decorations to keep some poor soul busy.  They definitely don’t guide the car along the correct path when turning left.  No, no.You should ignore the white decorations when turning left and instead drive as close to the car on the side to which your turning as possible.  This might scare that driver, but its ok, keeps them on their toes.  Every man for himself, surely they know this? 

And those white lines that seem to divide the road into lanes are sort of useless.  Waste of taxpayers money really.  Drivers should feel comfortable driving as close to the white line as possible and score extra points if they drive on the line.

Let’s talk about those random numberS that we seem to see marked all over the road.  60? 70? what????? What’s going on here?  Surely a mere suggestion that that is the minimum speed at which I should drive? Don’t these people know that I have somewhere to be and to be an efficient Korean, I should strive to get there as fast as possible. 

3. Indicators are not necessary and possibly come as some random extra in Korea cars; Thankfully my car comes with indicators so I feel it necessary to show my wealth by using them all the time.  However, it seems like all Korean drivers are not fortunate enough to have them.  So I’ve learned that to make all road users feel equal, we should not use our indicators and that’s it’s perfectly fine to just cut in front of other cars, over 2 or 3 lanes, whenever you feel the need.  It’s also ok to cut in between two cars where there isn’t really a space for a car.  It’s ok, no problem! The mind reader in the car behind you will see your move coming and adjust their speed accordingly.   Anyone who actually uses their indicators is just showing off.  In my case, it’s ok because I’m foreign. 

4. There is always something blocking the way; If you’re unfortunate enough to be driving in the Paju/ Ilsan area, the chances are the foreigner driving the yellow car is blocking your progress.  If not, then it’s those damn pedestrians strolling across the street.  Don’t they know that we all have somewhere to be?????? GET OFF THE ROAD!!!!!!! Other times its other drivers.  Just because their light is green……….they think they’re all that……………

5. You can  stop and park anywhere; It’s a true story.  In Korea, it’s perfectly fine to take over 2 spaces, park in front of other cars (they’ll call me if they need to get out).  In fact, you can stop anywhere to pick up passangers or drop them off.  Busy intersection? It’s ok, I’ll just stop for 30 seconds to pick up my friend.  The mind readers behind me already know what I’m doing, no need for any warning. 

My alter ego, I feel, is just having problems adjusting to the sheer brilliance and uniqueness of Korean driving.  I’m sure in a few more months, my alter ego and Maggie ( my GPS) will be calmly bombing around Paju. 

While we’re on the subject of GPS systems, let’s talk about mine.  Her name is Maggie and to say that our relationship is tumultuous, would be an understatement.  She’s always so calm.  ” In 300 metres, turn right”. Ok first, how far is 300 metres???? There are about 12 right turns in the next 2 minutes of driving, which one is it????????????? I can’t afford to take my eyes off the road because the great drivers all around me may make a move that I’m trying to anticipate.  So I usually take the wrong turn.  Then Maggie makes me feel all kinds of stupid by saying ” re calculating”.  Re calculate all you like.  Next time, be more specific.  Something like “After the Home Plus, turn right” There I would get places faster. 

But it’s ok.  Now I drive minus Maggie for the common routes (school, emart, etc) and try to actually listen to her and occasionally glance in her direction for the routes I don’t know. 

In one word, I would describe my experience of driving in Korea……………………entertaining.