How to Get a Colombian Drivers License in Medellín

Colombia Drivers License

After living in Medellín for over six years I finally decided to obtain a Colombian drivers license recently.

While I don’t have a car I decided to get a Colombian drivers license.  I have family visiting later this year and I want to rent a car to visit nearby pueblos.

Also my U.S. driver’s license expires next year and I can’t renew it, as I no longer have a residence in the U.S. But I can use a Colombian drivers license while in the U.S. since I’m no longer a U.S. resident.

A neighbor in Sabaneta went for his Colombian drivers license recently. He told me about the process when we met for lunch. The process sounded straightforward so I went to do it last week.

Several readers in our Medellín Living Reader survey asked us to cover Colombian drivers licenses. I also have seen a number of inaccurate and outdated posts on the Internet about Colombian drivers licenses.

Note the above photo is courtesy of Colombia’s Ministerio de Transporte.

Do You Need a Colombian Drivers License?

If you are a tourist visiting Colombia without a visa you can use your valid driver’s license from your home country with your passport to drive in Colombia. There is no need for getting a Colombian drivers license.

But if you have a visa and a cedula extranjería like I do, you reportedly cannot drive legally in Colombia with a driver’s license from another country.

According to three managers I talked to at Tránsito de Sabaneta, Tránsito de Medellín and Ministerio de Transporte, if you have a visa and cedula you need to get a Colombian drivers license to drive legally in Colombia.

Many expats living in Medellín don’t have cars. In our recent Medellín Living reader survey, we found the majority of expats living in Medellín do not have a car. A total of 81.6% of expats living in Medellín we surveyed responded that they do not have a car.

It is possible to live in Medellín without a car due to the low cost Metro and buses as well as low cost taxis.  I personally have lived in Medellín for over six years without a car.

Requirements and Types of Colombian Drivers Licenses

According to the National Traffic Code in Colombia the requirements for having a Colombian drivers license include:

  • Minimum of 16 years old.
  • Pass a theoretical-practical exam in a driver’s school approved by Ministerio de Transporte.
  • Receive a certificate of physical, mental and motor driving coordination from a Centro de Reconocimiento del Conductor (CRC). A list of CRC locations in Colombia is found here.

Colombia has eight different categories of driver’s licenses. Of most interest to foreigners would be the A1 and A2 for motorcycles and the B1 for cars and SUVs.

  • A1: for motorcycles of 125 c.c. or less.
  • A2: for motorcycles and moto tricycles of more than 125 c.c.
  • B1: for cars, SUVs, vans and minibuses.
  • B2: for trucks, vans and buses.
  • B3: for tractor-trailers or articulated vehicles.
  • C1: (Commercial) for cars, three wheelers, quad, SUV’s, vans and minibuses for public service.
  • C2: (Commercial) for trucks (rigid) and buses.
  • C3: (Commercial) for articulated vehicles.

A Colombian category A or B driver’s license is good for 10 years (or five years if aged 60 to 80, or one year if over 80). A category C license is good for three years. At expiration the licenses can be renewed.

Autoescuela Educar driver's school in Sabaneta

Autoescuela Educar driver’s school in Sabaneta

The Process to Get a Driver’s License in Medellín

The first step in getting a Colombian drivers license in Medellín is to find a driver’s training school or testing center approved by the Ministerio de Transporte. If you haven’t driven before you will need to take some classes. I won’t cover the driving classes, as I didn’t have to take classes.

There are driver’s training schools located all around the Medellín metro area.  For example, in El Poblado there is one located in Santafé mall, School Center. You can find them listed in the Yellow pages under Educación Escuelas de Automovilismo.

I checked the prices for getting a driver’s license from several drivers’ schools in the metro and they vary. The most expensive I found was the School Center in Santafé mall in El Poblado that quoted a price of 530,000 pesos ($182). Near where I live in Sabaneta is Autoescuela Educar that has a price of only 370,000 pesos ($127).

If you have driven before and have a driver’s license from another country you may be able to take a written exam without the need to take any classes.  This is what I did.  Another expat in Medellín reported that in Estadio he had to take a road test and a test about road signs.

I went to the Autoescuela Educar in Sabaneta near where I live, which is located less than a block from the Exito at the Aves Maria mall at Carrera 45 #75 Sur-46.

The first thing this school did was to walk with me across the street to the Secretaría de Tránsito de Sabaneta office to get registered in the Registro Único Nacional de Tránsito (RUNT) system.

Secretaría de Tránsito in Sabaneta

Secretaría de Tránsito in Sabaneta

Colombia’s RUNT System

The RUNT system is national database used Colombia.  It is used to manage data about a driver and their driving history as well as owners of cars. There is no cost involved in getting registered in the RUNT system.

The RUNT records information about your driver’s license such as type and class license, date of issue, expiration date and temporary or partial suspensions. Information about driver’s medical exams are also included.

The RUNT system also keeps track of fines, subpoenas or other traffic violations committed by drivers. It also keeps track of a number of other things including whether tax payments for your vehicle are up to date.

To get registered in the RUNT system I needed to get a number and wait for my number to be called on a monitor. This took me about 10 minutes. I provided my cedula and they scanned my fingerprints and took my photo and I was done – a very simple process.

Taking the Written Exam

After getting registered in the RUNT system, I returned to the driver’s school across the street. I filled out a few pages of paperwork and paid a total of 370,000 pesos for the driver’s license, which included the cost for the written exam and a required medical exam.

Since I didn’t have a required photo, I had to pay an extra 2,000 pesos for a digital photo. They also didn’t ask to see my driver license from the U.S.

Next I took the written exam. The exam is available in English or Spanish.  It has 40 questions covering a number of topics including road signs in Colombia, some of the possible fines and the regulations of the National Highway Code in Colombia.

The school provides you with a book (in Spanish) with Colombian driving regulations that you can use while taking the test. The exam wasn’t that difficult but I had to look up a few things in the book about Colombian driving regulations.

After passing the exam, the driver’s school will upload a certificado de aptitudes en conducción into the RUNT system.

The entire process at Autoescuela Educar and Tránsito de Sabaneta getting registered in the RUNT system, filling out paperwork and taking the written exam took me about 1.5 hours.

After passing this written exam, the next step was to go for a required medical exam. The school said I could go to a CRC in Sabaneta and it would take 15 days to receive my driver’s license.

Or I could go to a CRC near the Floresta metro station and it would take 10 days to get my license. I chose the shorter time duration in Floresta and the driver’s school provided me a note to give to CRC so I wouldn’t have to pay for the medical exam.

I.P.S Condufiable in Floresta

I.P.S Condufiable near the Floresta Metro station for the required Medical Exam

The Required Medical Exam

Instead of the simple eye test used in the U.S. for driver’s license, Colombia has a more comprehensive medical exam required for driver’s licenses.

Before going to the CRC for the medical exam I had to stop at a notary. The driving school told me that since my cedula doesn’t have my fingerprint on it I would have to get a statement from a notary with my fingerprints notarized before I went for the medical exam.

The cost for getting a notarized statement with my fingerprints was 5,700 pesos.

At the CRC (I.P.S Condufiable located at Calle 48 #78A-20) I provided my cedula, the note from the driver’s school and the notarized copy of my fingerprints. They had me fill out a form with my identification and address information as well as answers to several medical questions.

I didn’t have to pay anything at the CRC as the fee I paid at Autoescuela Educar included the medical exam.  The normal cost for this medical exam separately would be 120,000 pesos.

They use biometrics and took my fingerprint digitally and took my photo. After this there was a wait for about one hour as there was a queue of about six people in front of me.

Next was the four step medical exam. For each step in the medical exam you have to get your fingerprint scanned digitally as they use biometric security to ensure nobody takes the medical exam for someone else.

I speak Spanish at the intermediate level.  The medical exam only required a limited number of basic Spanish words for the first three steps, which included numbers; right and left; and some colors (red, green, yellow, blue).

First was a vision test, which is similar to a vision test in the U.S. using a testing machine.

Second was a hearing test. For the hearing test they place you in a soundproof booth with headphones. You need to quickly raise your right or left hand each time you hear a sound on each side.

Third was a motor driving coordination test. This tests your manual dexterity with a number of tests. For example, in one of the tests you have to follow instructions to push quickly buttons with your hands or press pedals with your feet depending on what you see or hear.

The fourth step was a simple medical exam by a doctor who asked some questions.  He also checked a few things including my blood pressure, heart and lungs with a stethoscope, and height and weight. The doctor spoke English as he previously lived in the U.S.

And finally was another doctor who spoke some English and summed up the results and printed out an approval certificate. This is for your records; as they also upload the approval certificate into the RUNT system.

The entire process for the medical exam required for a Colombian drivers license took me about two hours.

The Bottom Line

I passed the written test and medical exam on January 20.  And I received my Colombian drivers license on February 1.  To receive the license I had to return to the drivers school and walk across the street to get my photo taken at the Tránsito office and received the license.

The total time I spent was 3.5 hours at the Tránsito office, the driver’s school, a notary, and the CRC for the required medical exam. Add in transport time between offices and the total time I spent was only about five hours.

With this Colombian drivers license that is good for 10 years I will be able to legally drive in Colombia and many other countries, including the U.S.

Good luck and please let us know if you follow this process or encounter any differences.

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About Jeff

Jeff first discovered Colombia back in 2006 and has traveled to all the major cities in Colombia. He is fortunate to have a job in the U.S. with location flexibility, which has allowed him to spend over six years living in Medellín. He is also studying Spanish to become fluent.

Comments

  1. Jeff, the Colombian license will allow you to drive in most countries, but you’ll still have problems renting a car as a lot of rental companies require you have an IDP (International Driver Permit) along with the license. Any idea how to apply for a Colombian IDP now that you have your license?

    • Hi Glen,

      Yes, you can get an IDP (international Driver Permit), which is called an Permiso Internacional de Conducir (PIC) in Colombia, from Automóvil Club de Colombia – http://acc.com.co/p/acc-comercial-internacional. Cost is 260,000 pesos but it is only good for one year. They have offices in Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cartagena and Pereira. Unfortunately no office in Medellín. An IDP is basically a multi-language translation of the driver’s license from the issuing nation.

      An IDP is supposed to be used along with a license for countries that don’t have a bilateral car license agreement with Colombia. Supposedly Colombia has agreements with several countries but I couldn’t find a list. I have met several expats that haven’t encountered a problem renting cars in the US with just their Colombian drivers licenses.

  2. Why do US driving licences expire? In the UK they last for ever whether you are a resident or not.
    Now I can understand over a certain age you might need a retest but not why before you are 60+
    (One thing to bear in mind that your Doctor might report you if your health deteriorates).

    • It varies by state in the US as to how long a driver’s license is valid before it expires. The expiration in states in the US is typically in four to eight years. In Texas where I’m from it’s five years and you can renew online once. But the next time you need to renew in-person with a new photo and eye test. I can’t renew in Texas as they require proof of residence, which I no longer have.

      Why do driver’s licenses in the US expire? Eyesight declines over time and appearance changes as one ages so photos on the driver’s license get updated by requiring renewal. Plus a steady stream of renewals ensures a predictable source of revenue for the state.

      • I am surprised that the UK government hasn’t thought about the money aspect.
        In the UK we only relatively recently started having photos on driving licences – a lot people still have the old ones without.
        Of course if they let renew without proof of residence, they would still get the money – so they are a missing a trick there.
        I know Colombians and they all say it is much harder in UK than in Colombia – they only difference is medical which is useless here, you might be able to pass it with one eye. (I know someone with a Colombian licence who needed lots of lessons to pass here).

        • The requirement for proof of residence in the US is because these US driver’s license IDs can be used for travel in the US. They definitely require proof of residence in the US as part of Homeland Security’s REAL ID act regulations established after 9/11.

          • @”The requirement for proof of residence in the US is because these US driver’s license IDs can be used for travel in the US.”
            That makes sense – we use passports a lot more. You probably couldn’t get on a plane with just your driver’s licence in the UK.

  3. ‘The first step in getting a Colombian drivers license in Medellín is to find a driver’s training school.’

    Actually that isn’t true. It’s perfectly possible to go to the test center (making booking first) without going through a driving school. They’ll add in a quick road test (effectively driving around the block) and then you just do all of the tests in the rest of the piece. Got all mine done in one morning. Much cheaper.

    • What test center and where is this located? And when did you do this and how much did it cost?

      I asked everywhere including Transito when I got my Colombian driver’s license in Envigado and they all said you have to take an exam in a drivers school. The process in the above article is exactly the process I followed in Envigado for my driver’s license – the only differences being a different Transito office, different driver’s school and different CRC. A good friend in Poblado also followed this same process with a driver’s school in Poblado.

      I also saw that the Sura insurance company has this listed in their requirements to get a driver’s license which matches the above article.- see: https://www.sura.com/blogs/autos/lo-que-todo-conductor-debe-saber-sobre-licencia-conduccion.aspx.

      • Kate, that Sura article is for locals not foreigners who already have a license from other countries.

        Look around a little further on the net and you’ll find plenty of other expats who avoided the driving school route.

        Interested how on several of my posts you always jump to Jeff’s defense if I disagree with him.

        • I looks to me like Kate was just explaining that her experience mirrors mine and many other expats I have talked to. I see you didn’t answer her questions about your experience.

          That Sura article references Article 19 of the National Code of Transit, which I understand applies to everyone including foreigners.

          I looked on the Internet and found lots of inconsistencies and inaccuracies, such as this blog post that said he paid 700,000 pesos in Cali – http://caliadventurer.com/how-to-get-a-colombian-drivers-license/. He avoided needing to take drivers classes like I did. But he still needed to get a Certificado de Aptitud en Conducción from a driver’s school authorized by the Colombian Ministry of Transportation.

          I confirmed what I wrote with the Secretaría de Tránsito office in Sabaneta and also in Medellín. They both told me you are required to get a Certificado de Aptitud en Conducción issued by a registered driver’s school to get a license. I took a written exam at the driver’s school across the street from the Sabaneta Transito office to get this certificado. That expat in Cali didn’t have to take a written exam – so looks like this depends on the driver’s school.

          I asked you to please share your details if you had a different experience. If you had a different experience it benefits everyone to share the details.

    • Please share details if you had a different experience. Can you provide an online link for this test center or the address? How much did you pay?

  4. I didn’t answer your questions Jeff because as you know you delete answers you don’t like. In a recent post you edited my response before allowing it on the site. Still you’ve helped your friends at the driving school make a few pesos haven’t you

    • We reserve the right to delete comments, either parts of them or in their entirety, that we feel are not constructive toward the mission at Medellín Living, and that’s a key point.

      Constructive criticism? We welcome it. Personal attacks? Unacceptable.

      See our editorial policy here: http://medellinliving.com/editorial-policy/.

      I have no friends at the driving school. This post documents my experience. And I even took the extra step to confirm the process to get a driver’s license described in this post with the Secretaría de Tránsito offices in two cities (Sabaneta and Medellín).

      If you had a different experience we are interested in finding out details.

    • Brit, using this channel to berate Jeff is really not helpful or appropriate! If you have information that could benefit your fellow expats you should share it. After all, you’re not helping Jeff, he already has his Colombian license.

      • And I have a license too.. and didn’t use a driving school. Colombian license and didn’t have to surrender my US one either.

        This site deletes and edits responses and it’s not because they are inappropriate. It’s more than frustrating to spend time providing an alternative viewpoint either to have it deleted or edited to remove key portions of your argument.

        • Brit, I recognise your disappointment at having your previous posts deleted or edited… However, I sincerely don’t understand why you still won’t share the specifics of how you obtained your Colombian license? If you share the info requested (by Kate, Jeff, myself), it is extremely unlikely that your post would be modified in anyway…

          • I also don’t understand why Brit won’t provide the details. If there is another viable option that I can validate, I’d be very happy to even edit the article above with the details to help other expats.

            Other editors and I have deleted comments, either parts of them or in their entirety on this site that we felt were not constructive. We reserve the right to do this.

  5. Hi,
    I would be curious to know where it says “if you have a visa and a cedula extranjería, you cannot drive legally in Colombia with a driver’s license from another country.”
    I have lived in Colombia for six years, with visas and cedulas, I drive most days and I have my UK licence plus UK IDP which I renew for £5.50 (about $7 US) each year. I know in the US you can get an IDP valid for up to 10 years.
    As most drivers here will know, stops by transito are quite common and while my IDP raises a few eyebrows once in a while, it has never been an issue and they have always been satisfied with my two licences and my cedula.
    To me this has always seemed to be a much simpler and more economic way to manange my driving, not only here with a visa and cedula but also in any of the other countries I visit that are part of the IDP group of countries.

    • Transito officers on the street may not know the laws about licenses from other countries that’s why the raised eyebrows.

      Contrary to what many foreigners may think, if you have a cedula you are not really allowed to drive a car, bus, truck or motorcycle in Colombia with your foreign drivers license. It’s possible you may get away with it but at some point you may not if you encounter a more knowledgeable transito officer. The expat in Cali in my comment above found out when he was pulled over by a knowledgeable transito officer.

      Technically a foreigner with a cedula is supposed to get a Colombian driver’s license to legally drive in Colombia. According to the Ministry of Transportation “The National Code of transit in article 25 establishes that driver’s licenses, issued in another country, which are in force and that are used by tourists or people in transit in the national territory shall be valid and supported for driving in Colombia” – see: https://www.mintransporte.gov.co/loader.php?lServicio=FAQ&lFuncion=viewPreguntas&id=58. Basically licenses from other countries can only be used if you are a “tourist” – not a resident with a cedula.

      Also an IDP isn’t a license – it’s a permit which is basically a translation of your license to use in other countries and must be accompanied by the license.

      • Hi Jeff,
        Not wanting to be confrontational at all (there’s enough of that already in this thread) but I am still curious to know where it says that the international convention with regard to IDP’s does not apply to foreigners with visas and cedulas in Colombia. By the way, I did not say I am a resident, but even if I were, surely the same IDP convention, which Colombia officially recognises and honours, would apply.

        You have said again “Technically a foreigner with a cedula is supposed to get a Colombian driver’s license to legally drive in Colombia” but where does it say that?

        The link you have supplied simply reinforces the fact that people entering the country as tourists may drive with their own country’s licence but nowhere (to my knowledge) does any Colombian legislation revoke the IDP convention rules for people with a visa and cedula. The IDP is indeed a permit, only valid when accompanied by the holder’s driving licence, but it is NOT simply a translation of my own licence at all – it is an official document that is recognised and honoured by the Colombian government.

        I believe you would be doing your readers a diservice to say that I am “getting away” with something and that an IDP is not valid here for people with visas and cedulas, without offering a source for this ‘fact’. To my mind, I have followed both local and international rules to the letter and the raised eyebrows from transito are simply because they don’t see them very often. To say that the knowledge of every transito officer I have ever encountered in the last 6 years is less than your knowledge is a little ingenuous don’t you think?

        Certainly, obtaining an IDP is a much simpler and economic way to deal with the issue, rather than going through the process of obtaining a foreign driving licenece which, at best, is uncertain depending on who you listen to?

        If I am wrong, and you really do have a source for your assertions that “a foreigner with a cedula is supposed to get a Colombian driver’s license to legally drive in Colombia” and that an IDP with licence from any country party to the IDP convention does not meet the requirements of the Colombian government, I will be more than willing to stand corrected if such a source can be shown to exist.

        If not, I would hope, as my original post was intended, you would share the fact / edit your article to show that obtaining an IDP is a valid alternative to obtaining a Colombian driving licence?

        I sincerely hope I am not coming off as confrontational – I genuinely believe that the IDP option is one foreigners should be aware of rather than feeling obliged to go down the route designed for nationals of Colombia.

        • Happy for any constructive comments.

          My source for the article was two managers I talked to at the Secretaría de Tránsito offices in two cities (Sabaneta and Medellín). Both told me that foreigners with cedulas are absolutely required to get a Colombian driver’s license. I’ll look to see if I can find written confirmation of this in the national transit code or I’ll contact the main Minsterio de Transporte office in Bogotá.

          If I get confirmation or find out anything different I’ll update the article with the source.

          Regarding using a foreign driver’s license with an IDP for foreigners with cedulas in Colombia. Look at other countries for examples. I know that won’t work for foreign residents in the U.S. and in some countries in Europe. For example, here’s Germany where foreign licenses with IDP are only good for temporary visitors: http://www.bmvi.de/SharedDocs/EN/Articles/LA/validity-foreign-driving-licences-in-germany.html. And here’s the UK where 12 months after you become a foreigner resident you need to get a local UK license: https://www.gov.uk/driving-nongb-licence/y/a-resident-of-great-britain/full-car-and-or-motorcycle/any-other-country. Also in the US if you are a foreigner resident you are required to get a local U.S. driver’s license. Why would Colombia be different?

          Also, getting an IDP for a driver’s license in another country may not be an option for everyone. For example, I can’t renew my license in the U.S. since I’m no longer a resident there. Getting a driver’s license in Colombia was my only option.

          I never thought this would become such a controversial post – readers requested we cover driver’s licenses and I covered my experience that I even took the extra step to validate what I wrote with the managers at two Transito offices.

          • Aldrin Leal says:

            Jeff,

            I’ve got a written statement from MinTransporte stating just what you wrote. The only situation of convalidation (thus the ministry issuing a relevant permit) allowed happens only if you’re a Spanish national.

            I did just the test center and as said by others, it went faster.

            Thank you

  6. And Jeff look at the internations site…test drive and medical.. and not just one person

    • I saw that when researching this article. They look to be inconsistencies at the driver’s school/testing places. Some needed just a test drive, while others needed a written exam like I did. Or the expat in Cali in my previous comment above who didn’t need a test drive or written exam.

      Bottom line is inconsistencies are common in Colombia. You will also find them at Notaries.

      • I think the inconsistency isn’t with the centers it is who you talk to. The reality is in Colombia that there aren’t a lot of foreigners, or at least those who are truly resident. Therefore it isn’t uncommon to come across people who don’t know the rules as they apply to foreigners. Therefore the answer you get is often the default local answer, and locals aren’t looking to ‘exchange’ a foreign license for a local one. It’s like that Sura article. Yes it reflects the law in Colombia which of course applies to foreigners but it doesn’t deal with whether there is any exception or different process for foreigners with licenses. Why not? Well because it would apply to a tiny fraction of those reading the article. If you think about it ‘exchanging’ a license is more like a renewal – and for a renewal you don’t need a school certificate.

        My wife called the center (which is in Estadio) explained the situation and they gave an appointment. There I had a short road test, a test on road signs, fingerprints (a quick trip to a nearby notary) photos and then all of the medical tests. I was complemented by the tester on my driving skills (which has never happened on any other driving test I have taken).

        I don’t think this is a center specific thing. I think it’s finding someone who understands that you don’t have to go back to ground zero if you have a current foreign license.

        And of course driving schools have no financial interest in letting you know that.

  7. Brit, many thanks for sharing your experience of obtaining a Colombian license.

    GM, you raise some interesting points about the IDP. I too have a UK license, and if there’s any way to use it in conjunction with an IDP to drive (legally) in Colombia with a Cedula… this should be explored!

    Jeff, thanks for your effort and diligence in preparing this article. It’s not a controversial post, however there seems to be a lack of clarity surrounding the procedures, and this appears to be the source of the confusion. I hope your investigations prove fruitful and I very much look forward to reading your updates.

    • I agree, I don’t think anyone is criticising the fact that Jeff wrote the article and, if it did not include the assertion that what I, and many others, do is illegal, without anything ‘checkable’ to back up that statement, I would have said nothing. Jeff says himself that there are many inaccurate and outdated posts on the internet about this subject, so I’m sure it’s in everyone’s interest to clear this up.
      I think too, the omision of any reference to the option for foreigners to ‘validate’ their home licence, without the need to take any tests is probably something that should have been included too. If you already hold a valid licence in your home country you can validate that licence (Convalidación de Licencia de Conducción Extranjera) in Colombia, if you wish. I chose not to as the IDP route seemed simpler to me but if anyone wants to they can.

      Extract from colcarros.com – my translation, so beware of errors !
      “If you come from another country, you have a driver’s licence in your country of origin and you want to drive in Colombia, you may validate your foreign driving licence with the transit authorities of our country. To carry out this process you will require the following:

      Original receipt of payment of processing fees. For a car licence it costs $120,900 pesos and for motorcycles $104,700 pesos.
      Fill out the form ‘Hoja de datos licencia de conducción’ (available from Transito I imagine)
      Colour photo 3 x 4 cm, blue background, with your cedula number on the back.
      Blood group and factor (RH) (will be on your cedula)
      Photocopy of your cedula
      Photocopy of your valid foreign driving licence
      Translation into Spanish of the driving licence by the diplomatic representatives of the country of origin or of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, unless a copy of the driver’s licence with apostille of the country of origin is presented, except for Spain.

      Maybe Jeff will confirm this option with his contacts and include it in the article to save people a few pesos and the hassle of taking the various tests (assuming they don’t like my option of an IDP).

      • I have an answer about the IDP. I called the main Minsterio de Transporte office in Bogotá and was told by a manger there the same as the two mangers at the Sabaneta and Medellín Tranisto offices told me. He said an IDP with a foreign driver’s license is only good if you are a tourist. Now three different managers have told me is once you have a cédula de extranjeria you need a Colombian driver’s license to drive legally in Colombia. This manager in Bogotá said the only exception for driving legally with a foreigner license in Colombia is if you are a tourist.

        I also found this article from late last year that says the same – http://www.revistadelexpatriado.com/2016/10/10/licencia-conducir-colombia/. Quickly translated – “Many foreigners are not legally authorized to drive cars, buses or motorcycles in Colombia with a license from another country if their stay is to be permanent. With a tourist visa, the situation is different. The moment you get a cedula extranjería in Colombia, you need to get Colombian documentation to legally drive”.

        So it looks like Colombia is like other countries such as the U.S. and Germany that require you to get a local drivers license once you become a resident.

        I’ll next investigate the Convalidación de Licencia de Conducción Extranjera option.

        • I’d like to be able to say that a third manager’s verbal statement over the phone would convince me, but I’m afraid not. Nor another expat website, making the same sweeping statement, also with nothing to back it up. So I did some fact checking for myself just to be sure I wasn’t doing anything illegal, as you still seem to be maintaining….

          1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic
          CHAPTER V. DRIVERS OF MOTOR VEHICLES IN INTERNATIONAL TRAFFIC
          Article 24
          “The international driving permit shall, after the driver has given proof of his competence, be delivered by the competent authority of a Contracting State or subdivision thereof, or by a duly authorised Association, and sealed or stamped by such authority or Association. The holder shall be entitled to drive in all Contracting States WITHOUT FURTHER EXAMINATION motor vehicles coming within the categories for which the permit has been issued.”

          Although Colombia had observers at the convention, it was not a contracting state at the time but has since agreed to accept and honour the 1949 United Nations Convention on road traffic covering acceptance of the International Driving Permit (https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpapplc.html)

          All I would suggest is that you remove the statement “If you have a visa and cedula you need to get a Colombian drivers license to drive legally in Colombia” as, on it’s own, it is inaccurate and misleading. Even if you did not accept the IDP facts quoted above, anyone can simply get their own country’s licence validated here in Colombia without having to get a Colombian one.

          Thanks for your time.

          • It looks like you are missing the purpose of an IDP. An IDP appears to be intended to enable a temporary foreign VISITOR to a country to use a foreign driver’s license in the country. This looks like it is for foreign visitors and is not for foreign residents.

            I suggest Google-ing “foreign driver’s license -country name-“. I did this for 11 different countries and found that every one looks like it requires a foreigner to get a local driver’s license once they become a resident. Some look to be immediately and some in 3 months or in 6 months or in 1 year. I looked at the U.S., UK, Germany, France, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Australia, Ireland and Thailand. Why would Colombia be different?

          • In reply to Jeff’s comment: “It looks like you are missing the purpose of an IDP. An IDP appears to be intended to enable a temporary foreign VISITOR to a country to use a foreign driver’s license in the country.”

            According to the Dutch issuer of IDP’s the Dutch drivers licence is valid in Colombia and that an IDP might only be needed when you rent a car. https://www.anwb.nl/vakantie/colombia/informatie/reisdocumenten#rijbewijs. They don’t saying anything however about a temporary or permanent stay

  8. Jeff, Neither you in your article nor I in my comments have said anything about RESIDENTS must get a Colombian licence. You say “if you have a visa and a cedula extranjería like I do, you reportedly cannot drive legally in Colombia with a driver’s license from another country” Yet the article and this whole discussion is about the vast majority of expats here in Colombia with a visa and a cedula, most of which are not residents.

    Then you go do it again and make another sweeping statement “An IDP is intended to enable a temporary foreign VISITOR to a country to use a foreign driver’s license in the country.” Where does it say that in the Articles of the 1949 Convention? It doesn’t – it is your interpretation, nothing more.

    And what does Google-ing “foreign driver’s license -country name-“ for 11 different countries have to do with anything?

    I’m happy to agree to disagree about IDP’s, the facts are now out there for people to make their own decision, but at least have the decency to retract and edit your article to let people know they can simply validate their own licence with the Ministry of Transport here and do not need to get a Colombian licence to drive legally here as your article currently asserts.

    Thats all, a simple edit, so as not to lead everyone down a totally unecessary path.

    • We agree to disagree.

      Three different managers at Transito and Minsterio de Transporte clearly told me that once you get a cédula de extranjeria you need to get a Colombian driver’s license to legally drive in Colombia as you are no longer a tourist.

      The transit code in Colombia also clearly states that foreign licenses are only valid for tourists, see:

      ARTÍCULO 25. LICENCIAS EXTRANJERAS. Las licencias de conducción, expedidas en otro país, que se encuentren vigentes y que sean utilizadas por turistas o personas en tránsito en el territorio nacional, serán válidas y admitidas para conducir en Colombia durante la permanencia autorizada a su titular, conforme a las disposiciones internacionales sobre la materia.

      Here’s a quick translation. ARTICLE 25. FOREIGN LICENSES. Driving licenses, issued in another country, that are in force and used by tourists or persons in transit in the national territory, will be valid and admitted to drive in Colombia during the stay authorized to its holder, in accordance with international provisions on the subject.

      My statement in my comment “An IDP appears to be intended to enable a temporary foreign VISITOR to a country to use a foreign driver’s license in the country” is my interpretation based on looking at foreign driver’s license requirements in 11 countries. Every country I looked at appears to only accept an IDP with a foreign license for tourist visitors.

      • So, just to be clear, you stand by your assertion that if you have a visa and a cedula extranjería, you cannot drive legally in Colombia with a driver’s license from another country”.

        Not only do you not accept that a visitor to this country with a visa and cedula can use an IDP, but validating a licence from your own counntry is not an option either?

        • Three managers at the appropriate authorities in Colombia all told me that once you get a cédula de extranjeria you need to get a Colombian driver’s license to legally drive in Colombia as you are no longer a tourist. So it would be irresponsible for me to write anything differently.

          I also know two expats in Medellín with cedulas that told me they were stopped when they were driving with their US drivers licenses. They were both told they would have to pay a fine or get a Colombian driver’s license.

  9. Hey Jeff,

    Just wondering with all the backwards and forwarding (concerning the IDP), if you managed to confirm if the “Convalidación de Licencia de Conducción Extranjera” is a viable option for PERMANENT residents?

    Many thanks in advance

    • Hi Robz,

      I asked at the Sabaneta Transito office late yesterday and showed them a printout of the Convalidación de Licencia de Conducción Extranjera post from the colcarros.com site (http://www.colcarros.com/comunidad/%C2%BFcomo-convalidar-la-licencia-de-conduccion.html). They said they are not aware of this. They said the current process to get a Colombian license requires a certificado medico and certificado de aptitudes en conducción loaded in the RUNT system, which is essentially documented in my article above.

      That post from the colcarros.com site is dated from way beck in 2011 so it looks out-of-date. I can’t find anything recent about this in the past year or two.

      • Jeff, when you asked did you discuss the process that I followed?

        Seems to me that road test I took at the center plus the test on the road signs would provide the basis for the certificado de aptitudes en conduccion plus of course the medical I took there would satisfy the second part. Both then loaded at the center into the Runt system.

        Or are you still saying that you have to go to and pay a driving school for the certificado de aptitudes?

        • Yes, I asked and they said a place authorized to issue a certificado de aptitudes en conducción must be approved by the Ministerio de Transporte. They said these places are typically named something like “driver’s school” but you indicate you went to a “testing center”. I updated the above article to say driver’s school or testing center approved by the Ministerio de Transporte. I also added your experience of taking a road test and test about road signs.

    • Hi Robz,
      For info about validating your home licence
      Convalidación de Licencia de Conducción Extranjera
      http://portel.bogota.gov.co/portel/libreria/php/frame_detalle_scv.php?h_id=25703

      • I saw that post – which is dated from way back in 2012 and updated in 2014 – so it may be out-of-date.

        And that info is more than validating your foreign driver’s license. It’s to certify a foreign driver’s license to get a new Colombian license with the same category. So this is info about another possible process for a foreigner to get a Colombian driver’s license.

        But in 6+ years I have yet to meet an expat that has followed that Convalidación de Licencia de Conducción Extranjera process to get a Colombian driver’s license.

        Any expat that has experience with the Convalidación de Licencia de Conducción Extranjera process to get a Colombian driver’s license please let us know.

        • Jeff, its not way back from 2012, it says quite clearly it was last updated 2014-09-22 and it is a current government website.

          But true to form you have chosen to select any titbit that suits your purpose and totally ignore facts, preferring to rely on unsubstantiated conversations you have had with un-named officials and your 6+ years experience.

          It’s clear that what ever I put forward you will dispute and I get it, it’s your website to say whatever you want, so I give up.

          • I believe it would be irresponsible to include anything in the above article that isn’t confirmed by the appropriate authorities in Colombia and/or the experiences of expats. The above article documents my experience, which is similar to many other expats I have talked to.

            And I’m happy to update this article if other expats have different experiences or if I can confirm other options.

            In my comment above I asked any expat that has experience with the Convalidación de Licencia de Conducción Extranjera process to get a Colombian driver’s license – please let us know.

            I also contacted the Ministerio de Transporte in Bogotá on Friday via email asking them to provide a written statement about driver’s licenses for foreigners in Colombia that answers all the questions raised in the comments above. If I don’t get this I’ll try to meet with Ministerio de Transporte in Bogotá when I’m there in late February to get definitive answers.

            The bottom line is that clearly Colombia needs to better document driver’s licenses for foreigners in Colombia.

  10. Well, this has been an extremely popular thread… hasn’t it 🙂
    GM, thank you for providing me with that link!
    Jeff, thanks again for your sincere endeavours to clarify the situation.

    I also investigated the Convalidación de Licencia de Conducción Extranjera process, but regrettably, my search only found references from 2011/12. GM, whilst I recognise your frustration with the backward and forwarding concerning the legality of using an IDP as well as other options… I also understand Jeff’s perspective and his reluctance to embrace these sparsely documented alternatives. I don’t feel that he has an agenda or is being rigid and inflexible. In this ‘post-truth’ era it is important to publish clear decisive and verifiable information. I believe that this is Jeff’s only intention. The simple fact is that there is a real lack of documentation and clarity surrounding this subject, and those faults are solely the responsibility of the Colombian authorities.

    I hope this clarifies…

  11. I concur with Robz. I find Jeff’s writing to be as accurate as possible without any bias. It is irresponsible to write unverifiable information. I will be in Medellin soon and hopefully I will be able to clear everything up.
    As always I would like to thank Jeff and everyone else for taking the time to share information. Time is precious and life is fleeting. So lets all remember that and try to make use of every moment to lift each other up and educate each other. No website is going to give you the free information that you get for on medellin living. That is why I am a proud sponsor of this site for years.
    Lt. Marc Porter Retired

  12. Harold L Shirley says:

    Went today to the Sabaneta driving school described by Jeff … the process went as described in the article …. 1:15 total time … the staff could not have been more helpful. I did not have an option for the medical exam … Floresta office only ….. my Spanish is not that great and did not understand why only the one option but not a problem. I had problems understanding what to do in some tests … failed them … no problem .. we redid them until I passed / understood…. 2 hours for the medical. I should be getting my license in 10 days. Thanks for the information !!!

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