Before any of my fellow immigrants feel judged, I’ll offer that this column is as much meant to be informative for those not sure how to navigate various aspects of Icelandic bureaucracy as it is dressing down of myself for being really fucking lazy when it comes to ticking items off my institutional to-do list.
The first task to conquer? Trading in a foreign drivers licence for an Icelandic one. I know, I know, “but Catharine,” you’re saying. “That’s a really quick process.” Then why did it take me 13 years to do, huh?
Exchanging a foreign licence for an Icelandic drivers licence is a quick and painless process for those with licences issued in the EEA, U.K. and Japan. After six months of residency in Iceland, those lucky individuals simply have to visit island.is/erlend-oekurettindi and fill out the form available to download at the top of the page. Bring that completed form, a passport photo, your foreign-issues licence and a cool 8.600 ISK to the Syslumenn office and you’re in business.
Those of us who obtained a drivers licence outside the EEA, U.K. or Japan have to jump through a few more hoops before cruising Route 1. We have to do everything mentioned in that last paragraph — the form, photo and fee — plus take the written and practical tests.
It’s these extra steps that activated my own procrastination, but here’s what to do:
Buy the relevant test book from Frumherji. I bought a book titled “Driving in Iceland, Category B” by Guðni Karlsson and Gunnsteinn R. Sigfússon, but if you’re super cool and drive a motorcycle or heavy machinery then you’ll need the book outlining the regulations of your specific driving class.
Read the book, take notes, study and take the practice tests that are also available for purchase from Frumherji — there’s a lot to know. You can also take practice tests on an app called “Bílprófið.” Once you’re confident in your knowledge, book a time for the written exam with Frumherji and go pass it.
With the written exam in the rear view, it’s time to conquer the practical test. Find a driving instructor through sites like Netökuskólinn.is or Aka.is and explain your situation to them. If you’re an experienced driver, they’ll likely book your practical exam and run you through a single lesson immediately beforehand. If you’re less confident, you can book multiple sessions to prepare more thoroughly for the practical exam.
For the practical exam itself, you’ll use the instructor’s vehicle to chauffeur the Fumherji examiner, heeding their instructions to turn, pull over or park. Assuming that all goes to plan, they’ll hand you a signed and stamped paper you can use immediately as a temporary licence. You’ll receive your digital licence to your phone within a business day or two, and your official plastic licence will be available from Syslumenn after three weeks.
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