People from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are allowed to drive in Brazil using their UK driving license for 80 days, counting from the day they enter the country, as far as they have their original passport and original valid driving licence with them.
I’ve now been in Brazil for 8 years, around 2,920 days, give or take a leap year, and so I thought it might be prudent to get the appropriate permission to burn fossil fuels in a speeding hunk of metal, legally.
To be fair to myself, I had started the process a couple of years ago by getting my driving license translated into Portuguese by a notarised translator, as opposed to a notorious translator like Ronnie Biggs.
I did very little with the notarised translation except occasionally take it out of the envelope to admire it so, six months ago, I decided to do something about it and went along to DETRAN, the Sao Paulo department of transport, to put an end to this business once and for all.
Unfortunately, as I had just moved house, I had no proof of address and, they said, I would need either a toxicology report or a declaration to say I only wanted to drive category B vehicles – cars.
I spent six months searching the DETRAN website for a declaration template. This is not true, I actually spent six months doing nothing until my next holiday and then, following a brief and unsuccessful search of the site, I decided to try and create my own, or rather ask my wife to create one.
This proved unnecessary because, when I arrived for my new appointment at DETRAN, the clerk immediately handed me two forms which, had they been handed to me on my previous visit six months earlier, would have resolved my immediate issues and allowed me to proceed with my application.
Nevertheless, I had proceeded to the next square on the great DETRAN board game. The next steps were to supply my face and fingers for photo and fingerprint records and then pay the fee R$92 ($23). All that remained was a medical exam and Bob would be my uncle.
There are many medical exam suppliers surrounding DETRAN so I went to the nearest, parted with another $23 (R$92) and waited to be called. The doctor, being a bright spark, spotted I had a pair of glasses hanging around my neck and asked me what they were for. I told him I used them for reading so he asked me to sit on a chair at one side of the room and read three lines of letters on a poster on the other side. I always hesitate during this kind of exams, not because I can see the letters, but because I can’t remember what they are called in Portuguese.
He seemed satisfied with my answers and I glanced around the room at a variety of medical apparatus which he was presumably going to deploy in the duration of the exam. What actually happened was that he thanked me for coming and his assistant printed off a medical report complete with blood pressure measurements he hadn’t taken but nevertheless pronounced me healthier than I probably am.
I thought that was it, but apparently, I had to go for a ‘psicotecnico’ test and should go to the medical exam place on the next corner. I asked them whether they were sure I needed this but they seemed insistent. The place on the corner said they had reached their limit for these kinds of tests at the moment and that I should try another place across the road and down a side street.
I was about to cross the road, thinking I shouldn’t have my phone out texting on the street, when a man rushed up to me and asked if I could help him. As he talked, I assumed he was just after commission from the testing centre for having taken me there. I agreed to be shown the way but always had the nagging fear in the back of my mind that he was leading me down a side street to mug me. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded and R$100 ($25) later I was sat in an exam room with a peculiar intelligence test in front of me.
The test had 40 multiple-choice questions. Question one, above, seems pretty simple, right? But, question 40 was beyond even my enormous intelligence. If anyone has the answer, please let me know.
In the second test, we had a limited amount of time to go through a sheet, similar to that above, and cross off every time a symbol in the little box at the top appeared.
The third test involved marking little…marks on a piece of paper until the examiner gave a signal at which point I was supposed to make a dash and then continue to make little marks. The most disturbing part of this test was the sound of the pencil of the woman next to me which was moving much faster than mine. Maybe that makes me a careful driver.
As far as I could tell, none of the tests was actually marked. I got the impression that as long as I could walk into the test centre, not make a complete fool of myself, and walk out again, then I had passed.
I returned to DETRAN with the completed test certificates and was told my license would be ready within 30 to 60 days.
I plan to go back at easter and see if it’s ready. Keeps me busy when I would only otherwise be writing.