Do you need a South African driver’s license? This guide explains who needs to apply for a driver’s license in South Africa, take the South African driving test, or apply for a driver’s license renewal in South Africa.
If you’re moving to South Africa, most nationalities can drive using a valid foreign license. This is generally good news, as applying for a South African driver’s license 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 typically must apply for a driver’s license in South Africa.
This guide explains the validity of your international driving license in South Africa, plus the conditions for getting a driver’s license in South Africa or exchanging a foreign license, how to apply for a South African driver’s license and advice on taking the South African driving test.
Who needs a South African driver’s license?
To drive in South Africa, you’ll need to have a valid driving license from your country of residence. If the language on your current driving license 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 license 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 license one within a year of receiving your residence permit in South Africa.
If your license is in a foreign language, you may need to obtain a letter of translation. You can then have your license converted, provided it is still valid and is partnered with a letter of validity from the relevant international embassy.
Getting a driver’s license in South Africa
Follow these steps to exchange your driving license for a South African one:
- Attend a driving test center in the province where you are registered as a citizen
- Complete the DL1 South African driving license 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 center will issue your South African driving license
- You won’t need to take a driving test, but you may have to undergo an eye examination
- When your new South African license arrives, you’ll need to return your old foreign license.
To exchange your license, 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 license
- Proof of your residential address
How long it takes to receive your license, 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 license into a South African driving license.
South African driving test
Applying for a learner’s license in South Africa
Learners can apply for a special South African learner’s license 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 license. If you pass this test, you’ll receive your learner’s license on the same day.
South African driver’s license test
The South African driving test features both a written exam and a practical exam. You must take these at a registered test center.
The written exam comes much earlier in the process, when you apply for your learner’s license. It takes into account 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 center by providing some identification documents and your learner’s license 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 license 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 center. If you pass this without any issues, you’ll be issued with a temporary license at the driving center, which will then be replaced by a permanent card within four to six weeks.
Once your full license is ready, visit the test center to collect it. Visit the South African government website for information on applying for a driver’s license in South Africa.
Driver’s license renewal in South Africa
Whether you need to apply for a driver’s license 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 license, you must apply four weeks before the expiry date. If applying for a replacement or your South African driver’s license has already expired, you’ll typically need to apply for a temporary license first and pay an additional charge while you wait for your new license to arrive.
Before you get your replacement or renewed license, you need to undergo an eye test and have your fingerprints taken. You can either have an eye-test administered by the driving test center, or have your own optician conduct this and submit the form at the test center. You do not need to take a South African driving test.
To apply for a replacement license, you should visit the test center 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 at the driving test office.
The driver’s license costs in South Africa and how long it’ll take varies from province to province. Four to six weeks is a rough estimate.
South African driver’s license 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 licenses 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 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 license cost in South Africa
The exact nature of how driving tests and licenses are administered varies depending on where you live. This also applies to the cost of a driver’s license in South Africa.
You can contact the driving authority in your area to ask about the regional driver’s license costs and conditions: