So exactly 3 years ago (well, 3 years tomorrow), i wrote about finally getting my provisional Swiss Driver’s License. Read about it here. You can read about the other steps here and here.
TODAY, i am letting the world know that i have my PERMANENT Swiss Driver’s License! YAH!
Here in Switzerland, they really do make sure you are a safe driver and know everything you can know (without becoming a car mechanic) about cars and driving.
So after those 11 months of practical lessons, theory test, extra driver’s ed, i went for even more driver’s ed class in the last 3 years. Just 2 full day sessions but they did cost about CHF 800/. in total. Click here for total costs of getting a Swiss Driver’s License.
In the first session, which i took about 18 months ago, we learnt about stopping distances and other safe driving technics such as driving over slippery surfaces. We had to drive our cars through various situations and it was kinda sobering to see in real life the actual stopping distance of a car going at just 60km/h. It is further than i thought.
In the second session, which i only took a few weeks ago, we were asked to state how many kilometers we thought we had driven since getting our licenses and to give ourselves a grade from 1 to 5 of how well we thought we drove. Then we piled into the driving school’s cars and drove around the city. On our first go, we drove as we would normally drive. We were assessed by the instructor and by our peers in the car. Our mistakes were pointed out… or i should say, we were advised how we could improve our driving style. We talked a bit about driving in different situations which make us nervous and were shown a video about “Clever Driving”. Then we were shown by the instructor how to drive “clever” and were given another chance to drive, using the “clever driving” method. They had a special measurement device hooked up, which showed exactly how much fuel you were using. The comparison between the first and second drive was quite amazing.
What’s “clever driving”? It’s a way of driving which helps you to save fuel as well as be safer. One thing i learnt was that if i roll to a stop but hit the clutch too early, i am wasting fuel. i should roll to a stop in gear and only hit the clutch just before the car starts to shudder. Quite different from what i was taught before.
On Tuesday, 6th November 2012, at 9.15am (roughly), i shouted all over my Facebook page that i PASSED! That’s right Step 5 of getting my Swiss Driver’s License, the final step – DONE! i was so happy – still am!
i have not blogged about it till now because… well, life got in the way (so to speak) and i wanted to do an accurate total tally of the amount of time and money spent to be able to legally drive in Switzerland. (Read here for how all this started.)
So first let’s go back to Tuesday – Practical Test Day:
My test was 8am in the morning, which was good because then i would not have to spend the whole morning pacing and worrying. The day before i had my last driving lesson and on the morning of the test, we did a short review about half an hour before the test.
My tester (is that what you them?), Herr (Mr) Niederberger was friendly and greeted us (me and my driving instructor) with a nice warm handshake. i had a good feeling. ( i also had lots of people praying for me – thank you guys – you know who you are 😉 )
So we drove out of the parking lot, down some familiar roads, then into a 30km zone (Switzerland has lots of these, especially in residential areas) where i did parallel parking, which i did well due to good training with my instructor. (i was never so confident about parallel parking before.) Then we drove a little further and he asked me to stop and then reverse along the road (in German: fahren rückwärts entlang der Strasse). i wasn’t sure what he talking about, so i assume it was a 3-point turn (in German: wenden). He stopped the car and i gave him a confused look. He asked what i was doing wrong. More blank looks from me. He asked if i learnt this at my lessons. i said no. Then he heaved a great sigh and proceeded to teach me how to do it there and then. At this point, i thought i had failed the test.
It turned out that in Switzerland, if you have to reverse more than 10km on a stretch of road, you have to switch to the opposite side, so you are going in the right direction of the traffic, then reverse slowly. Now i know.
Anyhow, since i thought i failed, i said to myself, “Might as well enjoy the ride.” So i drove in a quite carefree manner but still keeping to all the rules though.
We got back to the test centre and my driving instructor was waiting for us in the carpark. i parked the car and then we sat in the car and talked. He asked my driving instructor about the reversing part. She said we did do that but only once and near the beginning of my lessons with her. Then he said that besides that incident, everything else was good and congratulated me! i could not believe my ears and you can imagine how my heart leapt.
Sigh! A huge relief!
My instructor was so happy too. And right here, i would like to publicly thank Ms Fiona Croci for being such a wonderful and patient teacher. If anyone living in my area needs a driving instructor, i highly recommend her. (Visit her website here – she has really helpful links and explains clearly all the steps needed to get your license, in German though. Plus she speaks English, High German and Swiss German.)
Now how long did it take me from beginning to end? (Read about the 5 steps here.)
It took me almost 11 months from the start of my first aid course to the day i passed the practical. But it can be done in a shorter time. My problem was that i had to wait till husband was around to look after the boy before i could go attend all the classes. And sometimes the class times just didn’t work out for me.
i’m actually still not quite done yet – i still have to do what they call, “Zweiphrasenausbildung”, second phrase training. You have to do 2 sessions within 3 years of passing the practical test (my current license is provisional and i only get the permanent one upon attending these sessions and of course not committing major offences in those 3 years.) My friend said it is basically like a practice session and they also teach you to be environmentally friendly and a few other emergency techniques. Sounds interesting but it is going to cost more money – sigh!
So how much did it costs in total?
First Aid Course = CHF 140
Eye Test = CHF 20
Theory Self-learning CD = CHF 59
Theory Test = CHF 30
Learner’s Permit = CHF 60
Verkehrskundenskur (Additional Theory Classes) = CHF 200
Practical Test (paid to Traffic Department) = CHF 120
Practical Test Day (paid to instructor for her time waiting & car usage) = CHF180
Provisional Driver’s Permit (valid for 3 years) = CHF 50
TOTAL COSTS to date = CHF 2219.80
This is not including the 2 sessions of the Zweiphrasenausbildung which can costs up to CHF 700.
So to get a final, permanent Swiss Driver’s License (after the 3 years provisional period) would cost me CHF 2919.80 (almost CHF 3000). And this is taking into account i already knew how to drive so did not have to start from scratch when taking practical lessons. If you are starting at the very beginning, i would most definitely add a few more practical lessons to that equation.
i hope this detailed account and costs breakdown helps someone.
On 5th July 2012, Thursday, i completed my 8 hours of Swiss Driver’s Education Classes 😀 (called Verkehrskundenskurs in German) … it took me 4 consecutive evenings of 2 hours to get it done and now i have a piece of paper which says i have fulfilled my obligation.
There was quite a fair bit which was from the self-study i did when preparing to take the theory test earlier. But i also learnt new things, such as from 2015 onwards, it will be mandatory to drive with headlights on – all the time. i learnt about tricky things to look for when driving into certain junctions, also strange (ok strange to me) recommendations such as the first thing you do when entering a tunnel is to take off your sunglasses (i can’t do that – i wear prescription sunglasses if i took them off, i most definitely won’t be a safe driver).
i had a fun time at the classes, even though it was conducted in Swiss German (which is different from High German – i learn High German in my language classes), plus the instructor came from a different part of Switzerland (i had to go to another city to do this as the ones in my city just didn’t work out in terms of timing) which means his accent in Swiss German is much different from the one i’m used to in our part of switzerland. (Oh the joys of language learning :p )
The other students were all teenagers/young adults eager to get their first ever driving license. They were of course Swiss and completely understood what was said and took part actively in answering questions. i tried my best but found it most beneficial to listen. Besides, they had interesting stories to tell, such as one girl nearly was involved in an accident during one of her practical lessons, another guy who is Italian (parents were immigrants) kept comparing the difference in driving laws and behaviour between Italy and Switzerland which finally led the instructor to sternly remind him that we are discussing Swiss laws not Italian ones.
There is one other thing i like to mention – i really liked the building the classes were conducted in – it is new, bright and colourful!! Here are some pictures to show off the building:
So step 3 done… have already started on step 4… another 1.5 steps to go to get my Swiss Driver’s License! Hurray! 😉 (See here for the list of all 5 steps).