How to get a South African driver's licence
Do you need a South African driver's licence? This guide explains who needs to apply for a driver's licence in South Africa, take the South African driving test, or apply for a driver's licence renewal in South Africa.
If you’re moving to South Africa, most nationalties can drive using a valid foreign licence. This is generally good news, as applying for a South African driver's licence can be a slow process for foreigners in some areas, who are required to submit various paperwork. However after one year of official residency, foreigners are typically required to apply for a driver's licence in South Africa.
This guide explains the validity of your international driving licence in South Africa, plus the conditions for getting a driver's licence in South Africa or exchanging a foreign licence, how to apply for a South African drivers licence and advice on taking the South African driving test.
Who needs a South African driver's licence?
To drive in South Africa, you’ll need to have a valid driving licence from your country of residence. If the language on your current driving licence is not English, you will need an International Driver's Permit (IDP) in South Africa; otherwise you are subject to a fine if the authorities require your documents. An IDP can be applied for at any driving authority in your home country or in South Africa, as well as online.
Provided your licence remains valid in your home country, you can continue to use it as visitor but you will need to convert it to a South African driver's licence one within a year of receiving your residence permit in South Africa.
If your licence is in a foreign language, you may need to obtain a letter of translation. You can then have your licence converted, provided it is still valid and is partnered with a letter of validity from the relevant international embassy.
Getting a driver's licence in South Africa
Follow these steps to exchange your driving licence for a South African one:
- Attend a driving test centre in the province where you are registered as a citizen
- Complete the DL1 South African driving licence application form
- Complete the change of address of particulars (NCP) form
- Submit a series of documents (outlined below) for checking by the authorities.
- The driving test centre will issue your South African driving licence
- You won’t need to take a driving test, but you may have to undergo an eye examination
- When your new South African licence arrives, you’ll need to return your old foreign licence.
To exchange your licence, you’ll also need to be in possession of the following:
- A form of ID such as a valid identification card, temporary ID card or South African passport
- Four black and white photographs
- Proof of your permanent residency in South Africa
- Confirmation from the issuing authority that you have a valid licence
- Proof of your residential address
How long it takes to receive your licence, and what fee you might need to pay, varies from province to province. Visit the South African government website for more information on converting your foreign driving licence into a South African driving licence.
South African driving test
Applying for a learner’s licence in South Africa
Learners can apply for a special South African learner's licence for up to two years while they learn to drive, which cannot be extended. Learners can only drive when supervised by a driver with a full licence, and can apply for a South African learner's licence (for cars) from the age of 17, or 16 for motorcycles.
As in some other countries, you’ll need to pass a written theoretical test to obtain a South African learner’s licence. If you pass this test, you’ll be issued with your learner’s licence on the same day.
South African driver's licence test
The South African driving test features both a written exam and a practical exam, which you’ll need to take at a registered test centre.
The written exam is taken much earlier in the process, when you apply for your learner’s licence, and will take in to account various theoretical aspects such as road signs, vehicle controls and rules of the road.
Once you’ve learned to drive through a registered driving school, you can book your practical test in advance at a local centre by providing some identification documents and your learner’s licence and paying a booking fee, which varies depending on your province.
On the day of the test, it helps to arrive a little early and to bring your receipt of booking. Your receipt and your learner’s licence will be verified before you meet your driving examiner.
If you pass, you’ll have your fingerprints taken and will undergo an eye test at the test centre. If you pass this without any issues, you’ll be issued with a temporary licence at the driving centre, which will then be replaced by a permanent card within four to six weeks.
Once your full licence is ready, you’ll be asked to visit the test centre to collect it. Visit the South African government website for information on applying for a driver's licence in South Africa.
Driver's licence renewal in South Africa
Whether you need to appy for a driver's licence renewal in South Africa, or your card has been lost, damaged or stolen, it’s possible to apply for a new card. If you are renewing your South African driver's licence, you must apply four weeks before the expiry date. If applying for a replacement or your South African driver's licence has already expired, you’ll typically need to apply for a temporary licence first and pay an additional charge while you wait for your new licence to arrive.
Before you get your replacement or renewed licence, you need to undergo an eye test and have your fingerprints taken. You can either have an eye-test administered by the driving test centre, or have your own optician conduct this and submit the form at the test centre. You do not need to take a South African driving test.
To apply for a replacement licence, you should visit the test centre with a copy of your ID, proof of your postal and residential address (such as a utility bill), and four identical black and white photos. You’ll also need to complete the DL1 form, which you can access on the eNatis website or find at the driving test office.
The driver's licence costs in South Africa South Africing drivers licence and how long it’ll take varies from province to province, although around four to six weeks is a rough estimate.
South African driver's licence types
You can drive a car from the age of 18, or a small motorcycle with an engine of less than 125cc at the age of 17.
Driving licences in South Africa come in various categories depending on the type of vehicle you’re learning to drive:
- Code A1: Motorcycles under 125cc. Minimum age 17
- Code A: Motorcycles above 125cc. Minimum age 18
- Code B: Vehicles with mass under 3,500kg. Minimum age 18.
- Code C1: Vehicles with mass between 3,500 and 16,000kg. Minimum age 18
Codes EB, EC and EC1 also exist, but are designed for people learning to drive heavy articulated vehicles.
Read Expatica's extensive guide for more information about road rules and driving in South Africa.
Driver's licence cost in South Africa
The exact nature of how driving tests and licences are administered varies depending on where you live, as does the driver's licence cost in South Africa.
You can contact the driving authority in your area to ask about the regional driver's licence costs and conditions:
- City of Johannesburg
- City of Tshwane
- City of Cape Town
- Nelson Mandela Bay
- Eastern Cape municipalities
- Free State municipalities
- Gauteng municipalities
- KwaZulu-Natal municipalities
- Limpopo municipalities
- Mpumalanga municipalities
- North West municipalities
- Northern Cape municipalities
- Western Cape municipalities
Click to the top of our guide to South African driver's licences.
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