Doing your driver’s license in Latvia as a foreigner

Because of my constant travels and – let’s face it – laziness I didn’t do driver’s license till very recent. Yes, I have lived in various places for past few years and yes, it wasn’t really possible to take a driver’s course not knowing how much time I will spend there, but few months ago I made up my mind: now or never. 

I’m not Latvian and I don’t speak neither Latvian nor Russian so I was wondering if it will be possible to do it in English.

The answer is: YES.

If you are here to find out how getting your divers license looks like in Latvia step by step – continue reading. 

Driving school

Let’s face the truth – there are not too many autoskolas which provide English services from A to Z but in Riga I know there are 3 for sure: DBS (Drošas Braukšana Skola), Presto and Einšteins. I chose DBS, because start of the course suited me better and also because I’ve heard a lot of good opinions about them. Prices are higher than pretty much any other driving school but in overall I was happy with my choice.

How to start

Best is to keep track on the next course in the school you’re interested in. They usually have this info on their website. Just contact them and they will contact you back with all info about upcoming English course and ask you to fill in short form. You also need to make a decision if you wish to drive manual or automatic gear box. If you decide to go for automatic, your driver’s license will also be issued only for automatic cars and you won’t be allowed to drive manual.

As soon as you’ve gone thought first theory lesson and you know the basics, you may schedule your driving. There are just few things you need to do beforehand:

  • Undergo a medical examination (around 30 euro)
  • Obtain learner’s permit (6,16 euro)

Medical examination is a requirement and it will determine whether you are fit for driving or not. It doesn’t take much time, doctors will check your health, ask you few general questions, examine your sight and do short interview about your mental health. You can do medical examination, among others, in CSDD or in Veselibas Centrs 4 (this was my choice).

After you get positive response you can go to CSDD to issue your learner’s permit. It only takes 15-20 min and you have your learner’s permit in your hands. Since now you are allowed to drive. See you on the road!

Learner’s permit which is mandatory for you to start driving. Image credit: www.csdd.lv

Theory

Classes in theory are taught in English by one of the instructors. For my course it was 11 (or 12?) theory lessons, 4 hours each (18-22), 2 times per week. You cannot skip a single lesson, otherwise you’d have to wait for another English course to attend the same topic (it could be in months!). Better keep that in mind. 

At the end of your theory course you will have to write school exam (60 questions, 2 mistakes allowed). As soon as you pass school exam you may take theory exam at CSDD. You have 3 years to complete your drivers license after you finished your course – otherwise you’d have to repeat it.

During your theory course you also need to take first aid course. It is extra paid and it will most likely take place during weekend. First aid course I attended was in English and only handful of people from my theory class were participating because the rest were med students (they didn’t have to do first aid course, only provide DBS with their certificate they obtained at school) who didn’t have to be there. At the end of that course there will be exam and you will receive your certificate – do not lose it! You will need that certificate for your theory exam.

Driving

Driving at school: you can schedule your driving lesson as soon as you obtain learner’s permit and you must always have it with you when you’re driving. Required number of driven hours by law is 20 academic hours (45 min). If you feel like your driving skills are good enough, you may take school exam. I don’t really know how it looks like in other autoskolas but in DBS you have to pass not only driving around the city but also all 5 figures which you can get on your CSDD exam (paralel parking, garage parking, starting the car uphill, U-turn, ticket machine). 

Driving outside the school:

1) You can also drive a car outside of driving school, with your friends or family or just someone who has a car and drivers license for at least 3 years. In order to do that you must purchase 2 stickers (for front and back window) with letter “M” (M stands for mācību which means “learner”). I was driving with N. and it gave me extra confidence, although I wouldn’t recommend to do it right on the beginning of your driving journey as you may learn some bad habits. I’m not saying that N. Is a bad driver – it’s on the contrary – but he’s been driving for 10 years and his driving habits are slightly different then the ones which are required on CSDD’s exam :).

2) You do not have to stick with your driving instructor from autoskola through out the entire learning process – there are numbers of licensed instructors who can teach you how to drive even though they do not belong to one school in particular. I won’t write now how it works because tbh I don’t know, but they have all rights to teach you and learning with them gives you same outcome as driving with instructor from your driving school. You can also do “school driving exam” with them and it will matter the same. For few months I was driving with 2 instructors from DBS (Gatis and Helmuts) which I can recommend but it was really difficult to schedule driving little in advance. I always had to call DBS’ office on 15th each month to sign up for driving next month otherwise I wouldn’t get hours which suit me. It became tiring after few months so I scheduled few lessons, before my exam, with instructor from outside the school – Pavels. I’ve came to known that few of my theory course mates were driving with him and recommend him and now so do I.

Good schools usually have new cars for their students, just like DBS. Image credit: https://dbs.lv

Exams

You’d have to pass 4 exams before you get your drivers license.

  1. School theory (60 questions, 2 mistakes allowed). If you don’t pass it at first attempt, you may retake it till you do.
  2. School driving. If you don’t pass it at first attempt, you may retake it until you do.
  3. State theory at CSDD: 30 questions, 3 mistakes allowed. You can check out here to see what it’s like: http://csnt.csdd.lv/. When you go to CSDD you need to take your first aid certificate. I don’t really know why because it should have been in the system. My Latvian friends didn’t have to show it but all my course mates (including me) did. So better have it with you. You have 30 minutes to complete 30 questions which will evaluate your theory knowledge. Theory in CSDD is also in English.
  4. State driving exam at CSDD. Well, one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to go through 😀

State driving exam contains of 3 parts: question, figures, driving in the traffic.

  • Technical questions: I found this website really helpful when I was preparing for my exam: https://burnickis.lv/csdd-brauksanas-eksamena-tehniskie-jautajumi/ I know that this website is in Latvian but I opened it in Chrome and used translating plug-in. On the exam I was asked to say current temperature of the engine. 
  • Figures: you will have 2 figures out of 5 (paralel parking, garage parking, U-turn, starting car uphill, ticket machine) you learned to perform. You will always have paralel parking and 1 randomly generated. You will be asked which figure you wish to perform as 1st one – whichever you chose you will get 3 attempts while 2nd figure will have 2. 
  • Driving within traffic: takes around 40 min (although it can be less than that or longer if needed); you can drive around the city or your examiner can take you outside of the city. The examiner will tell you “next junction turn left” or “next regulated intersection turn right” or even “make a u-turn in next possible place” (my personal favourite one :D).

Let’s say you pass 1 and 2nd part (question and figures) but you fail driving within traffic. Next time you take your exam you won’t have to repeat question and figures but you will just start driving in the traffic (and you’ll also pay less for 2nd attempt in this case).

My driving exam at CSDD was a nightmare. I failed 1st attempt so I was really stressed out during 2nd. Not kidding – even corners of my lips were shaking. Unfortunately my examiner was very unpleasant person and made me feel even more stressed out as he undermined the fact of me passing state theory exam because, according to what he said on the way to the car “there’s no such thing as English theory exam at CSDD”. Honestly, I thought he was joking at first but then he said it again and it made me doubt if I want this person to evaluate my driving skills as he obviously has lack of knowledge about the institution he works for. Long story short I decided to do the exam despite tremendous amount of stress (and anger at that point) and I passed it. I still don’t know if this examiner actually didn’t know that there’s English theory at CSDD or tried to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible so I will fail the exam. I guess I will never know.

After I finished the exam I went to pay for my driver’s license right there, at CSDD, and after 20 minutes I already had it in my hands.

There are 3 different cars you can get when taking your driving exam with manual gear box. Volkswagen Golf 7, Audi A3 Sportback or BMW 218 XDrive Active Tourer. If you’re doing automatic license, you will only get BMW. Photo credit: https://www.csdd.lv

Summary

Anyway, so these are all things I wish I’d known before I even signed up to driving school. I hope you will find it helpful. 

For those who doesn’t like to read long text, please check out short summary below:

Drivers license in Latvia step by step

  1. Chose your driving school
  2. Start theory class (11-12 lessons)
  3. Undergo medical exam 
  4. Obtain your learner’s permit
  5. Start driving lessons with your school instructor (minimum 20×45 min)
  6. First aid course
  7. Finish theory and pass school exam
  8. Take state theory at CSDD
  9. Pass school driving exam
  10. Pass state driving exam at CSDD
  11. Get your drivers license

Costs you need to account for:

  • Medical: around 30 euro
  • Learner’s permit: 6,16 euro
  • Theory course: depends on the school
  • Driving with instructor: depends on the school / instructor 
  • First aid: depends on the school 
  • Theory exam CSDD: 12.63 eur
  • Driving exam CSDD: 38.52 eur
  • Driving exam if you passed figures: 33.63 eur
  • Drivers license: 22.05 eur
Image credit: https://presto.lv/en/

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