Monday, September 26, 2011

Oman Driving License - Have You ‘Been There’?

At all times, driving is a great mode to experience new places, new country.   So much to see, high quality roads condition, less traffic (measure up to Kuala Lumpur) definitely make driving such a pleasure in this capital of Sultanate of Oman. Even the roundabouts are magnetism by themselves.  Basically, Muscat is a straightforward city to find your way! 
Anyway, the beauty of so much to see has got nothing to do with what I am going to put in the picture here … he! he!.  Clearly, to drive freely and (happily ever after), whether we like it or not, in every corner of this modern world, we have to have a valid driving license.  Am I right?  Oh come on! Of course, I am right!
Malaysian driving license is not valid in Sultanate of Oman.  The International Driving Permit issued in Malaysia also does not comprise this country.  To make things shoddier, you are then forced to sign up for driving lessons and then the driving test, even if you have been driving all your life or ever since you were born! (so ‘expressive’ eh!)   We may think driving lessons and a driving test may sound ‘peanuts’ for ‘tested’ drivers.  Well think again!  You have no idea when you will still have to face with the challenges of numerous failures regardless of your superb driving skills.  And, I guarantee you this definitely involves a great deal of time wasted and not to reveal the money spent.  I was informed that apparently, one Malaysian guy even considered returning to Malaysia as he has failed his test seven times.  Worst case scenario, he was an excellent driver!  I truly aware of his ‘disturb’ emotion as this can be a degrading experience if not, intolerable.  
Ahaa.. warmer, warmer… can you feel the lose hope?
To start the driving lessons, you must get a ‘no-objection’ letter from your ‘sponsor’ (meaning the company your spouse or you attach to).   You have to deal with your ‘sponsor’ anyway, as the form that you have to fill in is all in  Arabic! Not a single English word, dude! Apart from that you have to attach two photographs, copy of your Resident Card, copy of passport, pay the 3 Omani Rial fee and pass a vision test at the Police Station. 
Then, please pay 60 Omani Rial for ten lessons (equivalent to ten hours), 5 Omani Rial for test.  After ten lessons, if you are still ‘not qualified’ to take the test (this will be determined by the instructor) and your ten-hour lessons are expended, please add another 60 Omani Rial.  Keep in mind, the lessons will start with ‘drum’, then ‘slope’ and only after you have passed the drum and slope test, you are allowed to carry on with on the road lessons and road test.  If you failed either the drum or slope or road test, again, please pay the instructor additional 20 Omani Rial  and 5 Omani Rial (booking for next test).    And this will go on and on until you succeed.  Three, four, ten and even more than 20 times tests are actually normal, though.
On top of that, my word of advice to anyone planning to register for driving lessons, do not bother to tell anyone!  Know why? People just have a great ‘affection’ to keep on asking – “Dah dapat lesen?” (Got your license?), “Bila nak dapat lesen nih?” (When are you getting your license?), “Berapa kali fail?” (How many times you fail?), “Macamana boleh fail?” (How do you fail?) and that, my friend, trust me, actually put you under another tremendous pressure.  How interesting, huh?  To tell you the truth, your friends just want to know how many times you fail.  Know why? Because they have the same experience! What else can I sum up on this subject?  Ahaks!
Okay, now let me tell you the precious experience of my driving lessons …
While some of my friends experience ‘price increase’ in lessons and other crux of the matter, I consider myself fortunate to have such a hilarious and enlightening instructor, Mr Yasser (didn’t  know his full name but he called himself Yasser Arafat! Even his friends called him Yasser Arafat! Ouuih!).  Mr Yasser speaks fluent Arabic, English, French and Swahili.  Originated from Burundi, Africa, he is a big fan of Diet Pepsi (ha! ha!) but not a big fan of Football World Cup!
Be taught things that I already knew over and over again, could definitely slay me!  O how I hate that!  Thus, I have no choice but to make it fun!  Therefore, every time during my one-hour lesson, I turned it into his ‘story telling’ time and he proudly nourished information on everything that seriously, I will never ever discovered in any of Omani history book!  Really, most of my first hand general knowledge on Omani culture (especially on interior and East Africa) was from this experienced instructor.  That was when I learned simple fascinating Arabic, Swahili, Hindi and French vocabulary (By the way, French is widely spoken in Burundi, Africa, though). 
My lessons took many months to accomplish (Huh! Tell me about it!).  The delays would be either I was on holiday for weeks or I was back in Malaysia for weeks or the weather was scorching hot or I did not want to miss my favorite Korean drama which happened to be at the same time (which of course, I had to create white lies) or my instructor’s uncle passed away (and he told me he granted himself one week compassionate leave! O ya! of course, he is the owner of this driving school!) or  he was on instructor driving course for weeks or when it rained in Sultanate everything was on standstill (meaning you are to stay at home) or when the weather was gloomy or cyclone was to hit on this country (which according to the weather forecast will be like another two days), my instructor asked me to stay at home to recite the Holy Quran …
Okay, forget about that many tales and reasons.  Let’s focus on the driving skills …
My 'drum' lessons (is actually, reverse parking into the four drums arranged side by side).  
I hate this drum lessons.  Boring!  The instructions are (ahh.. just for fun to tell you) - third quarter of the second drum turn half steering, then check small window, then straight, then check the left mirror, then straight and then check right mirror, then straight.  Trust me, each time I followed this ‘obscure instructions’, I hit on either left or right drum.  Until my instructor comment, “My student.  I thought you have been driving for 20 years, how come this simple thing become so difficult for you?”.   I took a deep breath and answered him, “Aishh…Teacher,  if the car can go in one time, why must I turn two three times?  Let me do it my way (lah)!”  Suddenly the word ‘lah’ came out! Haha.. that’s the true color of one Malaysian gets annoyed! Then he answered, “Hahaha.  You always like to argue.  But don’t do that to Police, okay!. If  easy for you, then go ahead!”. Thank God! Next, I passed my drum test!
Then, come my 'road' lessons ….
During the road lessons, again, I learned few more ‘amusing instructions’ - Traffic light, come back, roundabout, come back is actually means a u-turn!  No waiting-waiting means speed up! At a junction and the many cars were like 500 meters away, he said "Here you can wait for three months!" meaning be patient!  (haha.. I like this one, actually!).  At every bend or corner, you must give indicator although it’s a one way street!  Always use the honk but only honk once.  If you honk once meaning you are alert but if you honk more than once – you are rude, dude!  O! ... aren’t these amusing?
For record, road test is about 15 minutes.   The police will sit next to you (giving instructions which will only be - left, right, straight, roundabout left, roundabout right, full roundabout, comeback & parking) and the instructor will sit behind (just be a spectator - not a word).  Now, for you to pass, listen to the instructions very carefully and use the common sense.  Definitely, one very tiny, silly, ridiculous mistake, you will be disappointed. 
To cut the long story short, I took the road test twice to obtain my license.  First failed was because of I was ‘accused’ for not being alert at the roundabout  (Come on – no cars! Don’t you think I should go straight?).  Second failed because of the instruction was "traffic light left" and I was on the left lane but it was actually a u-turn lane. Ouch!  But, I must admit that all the Policemen that I took the tests were kind and gentlemen (again, may be it’s the culture here… respectful towards ladies in any kind of situation … :)
When I failed for the first time Mr Yasser just laughed at me and said, “Hehe.. my student, here in Oman, if you pass first time, is actually a mistake! Don’t worry.  Continue your lessons and more stories to tell”.  Sheesh!  I was bitterly disappointed  and yet he can still be jovial?    
But when I failed for the second time, he was upset, “I don’t know what happened to you today, my student, Masha Allah! Your driving is very good but you don’t listen to instructions!  I told you to go to Carrefour to buy Brazil Nuts.  Eat Brazil Nuts and you will have good memory.  Next time if you fail again, you will spend your weekend in jail!” Hey.. don’t you think, it’s way too late for Brazil nuts?!  I should be more upset than him?  But before I go nuts, look at the bright side, I got more stories to enjoy, at least for another two weeks!  For record again, here in Sultanate, if you fail, you have to wait for another two weeks before you can take another test.
So, again to cut the long story short, in conclusion, on 30th June, 2010, the Royal Oman Police granted me my precious Sultanate of Oman driving license that valid until 30th June, 2020 with serial number 78978842! With this license I have the permit to drive anywhere in the Gulf countries (and don’t have to go to jail.. hahaha). 
Frankly, it is good for me to ‘revive’ my driving skills after a while.  Do I gain something useful from this?  Honestly, yes, I did! It does add advisability on my driving skills.  So that, I will never take my driving for granted.   Although, some instructions are humorous, weird or you think it may not make any sense but in actual fact is … it does make sense.  Really.
I do not complain for having to take the tests again and again.  I do not complain on how much money I have spent to get this license.  But I really hope that something can be done by our beloved government for at least make our International Driving License valid automatically in this country (to include in the List Of The Contracting States) for one year.  I guess enough time for Malaysians here to ‘sit’ for the tests by one year!  Rather than driving with no peace of mind thinking is our International Driving License valid or not ... ? Truthfully, if the public transport is exceptional then may be there is nothing to carp!
Nay! Nay! I don't need this anymore.
Well, at least for another ten years living in any
part of Gulf countries ... :)))
It would be helpful if Malaysia is in the list,
for the benefit of future Malaysians coming
and reside in Sultanate of Oman.
Anyway, those who has valid driving license from United States of America and Brunei Darussalam for instance can easily convert their license to Sultanate of Oman driving license. It is really up to each country’s link, bond or connection (whatever you may call it), I suppose!  
My driving instructor, Mr Yasser and the car that I have
been driving for almost from one summer season to another
summer season! hehe..
Again, I do not complain.  Instead, I discovered that I am fortunate to have to go through all this especially with my good-humored instructor – so that I have so much to learn and many more stories to tell my friends!

21 comments:

  1. Wow, what a truly difficult way to get a driving licence eh? Do they have separate licence i.e manual and auto transmission vehicle in Oman?

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  2. Unfortunately, yes! he-he! Yes, they have separate license. First, you have to determine - which type of driving license you would like to obtain. If you choose auto, then the driving lessons (the car) will be with an auto transmission one and your license will indicate its 'auto'. And even though you have obtained the auto license you are not allowed to drive manual. So, the best is you decide which type you want before you go through all the hassle ... ;))

    Have a nice day!

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  3. maybe I'll have Mr Yasser to be my instructor then... do you happen to have his contact?

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  4. Phew... I have my test tommorrow.. Pray It will be good news for me!!

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  5. He He!! Very entertaining read!! I've just landed in Muscat and got my little green book. So I am about to embark on the adventure you just described!!
    Only problem is that I live in the Mawaleh area and cannot find a good trainer who won't rip you off!! All my friends here had horrible trainers!
    Do you have the contact numbers for any good trainers in the Seeb/Muscat City Centre area?

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  6. Ya! His contact number is 99653562.
    Wish you all the best ya!

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  7. Hi Beena! Hope to hear good news from you today!

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  8. Hi Dr George, thank you and welcome to Muscat!

    No problem! as I think my previous driving instructor, Mr Yasser is staying somewhere in Seeb area. So far, feedback from my friends and through my own experience, he is good. Maybe you can give a try and call him at 99653562.

    I wish you all the best and don't forget to stay cool, ok!

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  9. A good and funny take on the dreaded task of getting a license in Oman. Few things I wish to add. For men I suppose you do not have the luxury of choosing your transmission unless you are physically challenged(only manual!!!! bah humbug)and if you notice people from countries such as UK, Austrailia, New Zealand can transfer their license to get an Omani license whereas people from the Asian countries such Indonesia,Malaysia, India, Singapore etc cannot convert their licenses(wish I could get a valid reason for that). You are lucky indeed to get a good instructor as many face the trivial challenge of getting one :P
    Solution to all this: This country should encourage the use of public transport(which sadly doesn't exist)

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    Replies
    1. Hi,
      Ya.. few countries have such privilege may be (may be) due to the 'connection' between the govt. I understand the hassle that you have to go through! Been there.. phew!! But, if we look at the bright side... maybe we can learn something new ... although we have been driving from umpteeeeen years! :))

      Delete
  10. This was a good read.......

    Hi, I am a lady with a valid Indian Driving License that expires in 2026.

    I looking forward to getting an Omani Driving License.
    My Husband had a valid Omani License which he took nearly 15 years back.

    Is there a provision for my Husband to teach me ?
    He said his father taught his mother a long time back (15 yrs ago) and also taught him.
    He used the services of a Learning Instructor only to take the test.

    Is this possible now?

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    Replies
    1. Hello there!

      I am not sure of that, though! But, I am pretty sure nowadays, everybody has to go through an instructor (and you have to have few lessons with him/her) before the tests (drum and road). Don't worry.. you can do it!... :))

      Delete
  11. Hi, I am a lady with a valid Indian Driving License that expires in 2026.

    I looking forward to getting an Omani Driving License.
    My Husband had a valid Omani License which he took nearly 15 years back.

    Is there a provision for my Husband to teach me ?
    He said his father taught his mother a long time back (15 yrs ago) and also taught him.
    He used the services of a Learning Instructor only to take the test.

    Is this possible now?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi there! I am not sure about that but to obtain the license I guess we still have to go through an instructor, though.. May be you can check it out with my previous instructor @ 9965 3562 (Yasser)

    ReplyDelete
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  14. Wow thats an adventure for sure... I am a lady who is striving hard ,waiting patiently so that my trainer would take me for the test but this guy seems to have high standards in terms of driving...Drum is indeed boring and can't wait to get this off my back... He wants it perfect... Hope I get to experience giving atleast one test lol... Its been a week now and still slogging it out on the drum... Wish me luck and I am sure God will be on my side!

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    Replies
    1. Its gonna be fun! Its boring, indeed (he-he) but take it easy & I wish you the best!

      Delete
  15. If you are legal or permanent resident and country does not issue the international driving license you should be aware of the following: Consumers cannot legally drive in most countries without obtaining a temporary or permanent driver's license from the country in which he or she plans to drive; and Our unofficial international translation of driver's license does not confer any driving privileges on consumers whose home countries do not issue International Driving Permits.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Loved reading your blog. I am an Indian and have failed 3 driving tests. I consider myself a good driver and my trainer says so as well but that's not something police guys believe. I had a lazy, least bothered trainer who shouts when he is not on phone! I pay him 35 omr every time I fail and obviously pay him 6 rials for every hour of lesson. I will try and get in touch with Yassir and I hope to clear the test the next time. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
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