How to get your driving license in Singapore

Ready to wave public transport goodbye? Here’s what you need to know about getting or exchanging a driving license in Singapore.

Busy intersection with traffic in Singapore.

By Benjamin Tree

Updated 26-3-2024

Singapore may be renowned for its public transport, but it’s also home to some very scenic drives. And if you want to explore the island by road, you’ll need a valid driver’s permit. This involves multiple exams, including two theory, a practical, and a medical test.

Find out what you need to know about driving licenses in Singapore, including costs, requirements, and how to apply:

Overview of driving licenses in Singapore

A driver’s license is an official permit that allows holders to drive in Singapore and all other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Known as a Qualified Driving License (QDL), it’s also valid proof of identification in most places in Singapore.

The license comes in a credit card size and states your personal details and what vehicles you’re allowed to drive. If you are a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore, your driver’s permit has no expiration date. It’s valid until your 65th birthday, after which you must undergo mandatory medical tests and renew your license every three years. Driving permits for expats are valid for five years.

Example of a Singaporean driving license.

The front of your license lists the following:

  • Photograph
  • License number
  • Name
  • Birth date
  • Issue Date
  • Expiry date, if applicable
  • Barcode that is linked to your Foreign Identification Number (FIN) or Identity Card (IC)

The back of the card has the vehicle classes you can legally drive with the date you obtained that license. Singapore has five main permit classes, including:

License classVehicle type
1Invalid carriages (issued to those living with physical disabilities)
2Mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles
3Cars, tractors, and small busses that carry no more than seven people (excluding the driver)
4Heavy transport vehicles (goods/people) not exceeding 2,500 kg
5Heavy transport vehicles (goods/people) not exceeding 7,500 kg

Driving licenses are issued by the Singapore Police Force (SPF). Residents can also link their driver’s permit to SingPass (the country’s official digital ID service) so they can hold and use a digital version.

Depending on their nationality and residency status, expats with a foreign license can drive in Singapore for up to one year. After that, they must convert their foreign driver’s permit to a Singaporean one.

What is the demerit point system?

Singapore uses the Driver Improvement Points System (DIPS) to curb traffic offenses.

Each driver starts with 0 points on their license. Depending on the severity of the violation, the driver will get three to 12 demerit points and be offered a composition fine. This fine is a chance to settle the issue without going to court. If the traffic offense is more severe, you may accumulate more than 12 demerit points, be prosecuted in court, and face harsher penalties, including a license suspension.

A police officer checks vehicles before they pass through a checkpoint. It is night.
Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The only way to lose your accumulated demerit points is by not committing any traffic violations within 12 months of your last offense. If you steer clear of traffic infractions within 24 months of your last violation, all your previous suspensions will be wiped from your record.

You can check your accumulated demerit points on the SPF’s e-Services page.

How to get a Singapore driving license?

To get a Singaporean driver’s license, you must be a resident or citizen and at least 18 years old. You’ll need to pass a series of theory and practical driving tests to qualify. 

After passing the relevant exams, you can apply online via the Singapore Police Force. The application costs S$50 and requires the following:

  • Passport photo taken at a test center
  • Eyesight and color tests taken at a driving center (to prove you can see traffic and recognize colors)
  • Proof of driving proficiency, which you get on passing the theory and practical tests
  • SingPass ID or National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) if you are a citizen or permanent resident
  • Foreign Identification Number (FIN) and date of birth if you are a foreigner

Your driver’s permit will be posted within seven working days.

New drivers will be under a one-year probation period, regardless of their age. During this time, you cannot accumulate more than 12 demerit points, or your license will be revoked.

Driving schools vs private instructors

You can take driving lessons at a school or with a certified private instructor. However, regardless of your choice, you must also register with a driving center, as this is where you’ll be taking all theory and practical tests. There are three official driving schools in Singapore:

You can find a list of certified driving instructors on the SPF website. Popular private tutors include:

Many novice drivers will choose to go down the route of a driving center, where lessons and testing blend seamlessly into one syllabus. Schools often require students to pass mandatory pre-testing before they can take the real exam. This explains why test rates are generally higher at driving centers than elsewhere.

Friends highfiving in a bar, celebrating they passed their driving test.
Photo: JimmyFam/Getty Images

In 2022-2023, an average of 46.4% of all driving center students going for their car license passed their practical test on the first or second try, compared to 35.3% of all privately taught students.

Still, private instructors can be helpful when you’re first learning to drive. They are often cheaper than schools that follow lesson limits. For instance, ComfortDelGro requires students to take 24-29 lessons before booking a practical exam. There is no such restriction with private tutors. Moreover, instructors are generally more flexible with timing and can pick you up from home. 

In terms of fees, driving lessons at a center cost around S$70-80 per lesson. They also charge additional fees for enrollment and internal evaluation. By comparison, private classes cost S$40-50 an hour, plus added charges like enrolment and booking the driving circuit. 

Depending on your skills and your instructor’s teaching abilities, you can expect to pay an average of around S$2,650 (driving center) to S$2,080 (private instructor).

What is the Basic Theory Test?

Whether applying for a new driving license or exchanging a foreign permit, you must first pass the Basic Theory Test (BTT). 

This multiple-choice exam tests your knowledge of Singapore traffic rules, regulations, signs, and signals. It is available in the four official languages of Singapore (i.e., English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil). The exam costs $6.50, and you must answer 90% correctly to pass. The passing result is valid for a lifetime unless revoked, suspended, or disqualified by the Traffic Police. If you fail, you can book a re-exam the next working day.

There are numerous online tools that can help you study for the big day, including the official SPF guidebook (PDF).

After passing the BTT, you can apply for a Provision Driving License (PDL – costs S$25) and start your driving lessons.

Driving lessons in Singapore

Before you can get into a real car, you’re required to do at least three simulator lessons. These take about 15-20 minutes. After that, you can practice driving on the road.

High angle view of an intersection in Singapore.
Photo: Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon/Getty Images

A certified instructor must be present at all times when learning to drive. Other rules and restrictions for learner drivers include:

  • You must have your Provision Driving License (PDL) with you at all times
  • The vehicle must have L plates attached to the front and rear
  • You cannot practice driving on busy main roads like Orchard Road or Chinatown
  • You are not allowed on expressways

On average, students need 20-30 lessons before they’re ready for the practical driving exam.

What is tested in Singapore’s driving exams?

There are several driving exams to complete before you can submit a valid QDL application. They are administered by the Singapore Traffic Police.

Final Theory Test (FTT)

Aside from the BTT, new drivers must successfully pass a Final Theory Test (FTT) to get a full license. This exam tests your knowledge of proper driving techniques and road safety over 50 multiple-choice questions.

Like the BTT, it is available in four languages (i.e., English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil). The FTT costs $6.50, and you must answer 90% correctly to pass. Passing results are valid for two years. If you fail, you can book a re-exam the next working day.

Theory passing rates are relatively high in Singapore, with most driving schools recording success rates over 90%. You can prepare for your exam with mock tests that can be found online.

Practical driving test

After clearing the theory tests, you can take the practical exam at one of the three driving centers. It costs $33, but schools often charge you for renting a test car and a warm-up session as well (S$250-300). 

You’ll have to bring the following:

  • NRIC or passport if you are a citizen or permanent resident
  • Valid passport, immigration visa, and work pass or permit if you are a foreigner
  • Valid PDL
  • Valid driver’s license if you already have one
  • Student Booklet

Copies of NRICs or temporary NRIC replacement slips will not be accepted. Pregnant testees must also have a doctor’s letter to certify that they are fit to take on all aspects of the test. All wanna-be drivers must be on time (no latecomers) and in proper attire (no slippers, sandals, or open-back shoes).

Young man in formal wear running down a lane with trees while looking at his watch. He's late for something.
Photo: PeopleImages/Getty Images

The final practical driving test takes around two hours and 15 minutes. It’ll test your skills at parking, maneuvering, operating a vehicle, and interacting safely with other road users in a controlled circuit and on the public road.

The scoring system consists of demerit points; less than 19 points means a pass, and 20 points or more is a fail. While it would be recommended to take more lessons if you fail, you can book a re-exam the next working day.

Each driving school records its test pass rates, with first-time practical rates hovering at around 50% overall.

Before getting on the road

You must take out third-party liability car insurance before you can drive in Singapore. Additional insurance that covers you for damage, accidents, and theft is optional.

You can find affordable insurance quotes in the Expatica Directory or on a comparison site, such as MoneySmart or SingSaver. The best insurance companies in Singapore that cater to expats include:

Driving with a disability in Singapore

If you live with a medical condition or physical disability that could affect your driving in Singapore, you must apply for a certificate of fitness from a registered medical practitioner. Depending on your situation, you may need to undergo further assessment to ensure that you are fit to drive.

Your license may be restricted to a disability-accessible vehicle. However, drivers with mobility impairments can benefit from free and accessible parking spaces.

Can you drive with a foreign license in Singapore?

ASEAN nationals can continue driving in Singapore using their existing driver’s permits. Those from outside the region must have an International Driving Permit (IDP) or an English translation of their existing license.

Young man is adjusting his rear view mirror as his mother, in the passenger seat, is pointing at something.
Photo: AJ_Watt/Getty Images

You must exchange your foreign license for a Singaporean one within three months of your first year in Singapore or your becoming a permanent resident.

How to exchange a foreign driving license

You must first pass the BTT to be able to convert your foreign driver’s permit to a Singaporean one. After that, you can submit an application online or at a local police station. You’ll need to provide the following:

  • Passport-size photo taken within the last three months
  • Your Foreign Identification Number (FIN) or National Registration Identity Card (NRIC)
  • Other identification documents, which may include your Long-Term Visit Pass, passport, entry permit, and work pass
  • Your IDP or English translation of your license
  • Your existing driver’s permit
  • An extract of your driving record if your foreign license does not display the first issuing date
  • A letter of endorsement on your driving permit from the country of issuance
  • S$50 application fee
  • Additional documents if you drive something other than a car (e.g., motorcycle)

Traffic Police will post your new Singapore driving license within seven working days. It’ll be valid:

  • Until your 65th birthday, if you are a permanent resident
  • For five years, if you are a non-permanent resident foreigner

After exchanging your permit, you’ll be considered a novice driver and have a one-year probation period.

Renewing a driving license in Singapore

Drivers over 65 must be medically certified by a Singapore-registered medical practitioner to renew their licenses. The medical test must take place within two months before your birthday, and results must be submitted within four weeks before your birthday.

Foreign residents can start the renewal process one month before their driver’s permit expires to avoid license suspension. It’s important to note that your application will be rejected if your Singapore driving license expired more than three years ago. Likewise, you’ll be denied when the expiry date of your visa is less than one month from the date of the application.

Reminder letters are not sent out, so you’ll need to keep track of your current license’s expiration yourself. 

Rear view of elderly couple laughing and driving, while the driver is using her phone as satnav.
Photo: Edwin Tan/Getty Images

Renewing your license can be done online through the SPF e-Service portal or a local driving center. You’ll need to provide:

  • An updated passport-size photo
  • Your FIN number or NRIC
  • If applicable, the results of the medical report
  • S$50 application fee

What to do when your permit is lost or stolen

If you lose or damage your original driving permit, you can order a replacement at the SPF’s e-Service portal for $25. There is no additional penalty for losing or damaging a license.

You must return the original to the Traffic Police Headquarters within seven days of receiving your replacement license or finding your lost permit.

Other driving licenses in Singapore

You can also get a driver’s permit for the following vehicle classes:

Vehicle classVehicle typeRequirements
1Invalid carriages– Minimum age 18
– Medically certified physical disabilities
2Motorcycles > 400cc
Electric motorcycles > 25kW
– Minimum age 20
– Possession of Class 2A for at least one year
2AMotorcycles between 201cc and 400cc
Electric motorcycles between 15.1kW and 25kW
– Minimum age 19
– Possession of Class 2B for at least one year
2BMotorcycles < 200cc
Electric motorcycles < 15kW
– Minimum age 18
3Motor cars < 3,000 kg with not more than seven passengers, excluding the driver
Tractors and other motor vehicles < 2,500 kg
Ambulances and Medical transport vehicles < 3,000 kg with not more than seven passengers, excluding the driver
– Minimum age 18
3AVehicles under class 3 with auto-transmission– Minimum age 18
3CMotor cars < 3,000 kg with not more than seven passengers, excluding the driver
Tractors and other motor vehicles < 2,500 kg

These exclude Light Goods Vehicles, Mini Vans, and Small Buses
– Minimum age 18
3CAMotor cars < 3,000 kg with not more than seven passengers, excluding the driver
Automatic tractors and other motor vehicles < 2,500 kg

These exclude Light Goods Vehicles, Mini Vans, and Small Buses
– Minimum age 18
4Heavy transport vehicles (goods/people) not exceeding 2,500 kg– Minimum age 21
– Possession of Class 3 license
4APublic buses and omnibuses– Minimum age 21
– Licence holder must be working for a public bus company. License will be revoked when you leave the company.
5Heavy transport vehicles (goods/people) not exceeding 7,500 kg– Minimum age 21
– Possession of Class 4 license

Useful resources