Driving lessons in Singapore

Hi Mom, Dad, lil brother Thadd and the internet!

I’ve been meaning to write a lot more but I’ve had a list of priorities to sort out first and these driving lessons are really sucking my time (as well as my money) out of me. Yup, I shared with a few friends that I started learning driving not long ago (I know I know, I’m slow!!), and most of my friends already know how to drive – even if they don’t own a car (which is about 2-3 times the price compared to the US/Australia and is also highly taxed in Singapore).

Bored of going out to party on weekends? Want to enhance your skill set? Or just tired of the new SMRT ‘train is coming’ jingle?

Thinking of taking up driving lessons in Singapore?

If you agree and it is a ‘yes’ to more than one or all of the above, then this may be somewhat useful FYI. Being a new driver myself, and having researched and first-handedly experienced the available options, I thought it might be helpful if I wrote down some tips I have heard or that I have learnt… before I forget it all.

Learning to drive 101: School VS Private?

I don’t know where you come from but in Singapore, you have 2 basic choices –

#1 SCHOOL
For my analysis, I will use the ‘official’ driving school ComfortDelGro Driving Centre – click here for the learner’s page

#2 PRIVATE
This second choice is a bit tricky – from what I understand there is no ‘official website’ to find a private driving instructor? (Someone correct me if I’m wrong! I might be!)
Of course, you can google and read up the ‘he-said she-said’ on the many forums around Singapore – after all, we all know how much Singaporeans love to talk. Word goes around and comes around. But in honesty, this is all a bit underground to me, and I had quite an easy job as someone merely recommended me the name and of a reputed private instructor (which is better I think, having someone you actually know vouch for an instructor they have used/word-of-mouth referrals).

… And no, you cannot learn by driving around your Dad’s car when he’s sleeping!

Learning driving from CDC driving centre/school:

+ The instructors are more professionally trained, which may or may not translate into being a better teacher (depends who you get)
+ I find they tend to be nicer
+ With the account that you have set up for your driving lessons, you can deposit a chunk of money of $XXX dollars such that everytime you book a test/lesson, the system just deducts the cost from what is left in your account. – More convenient for some/me
+ As part of your course of learning, you will need to use the driving ‘circuit’ in the school for parking practice and ‘S’ course etc. If you are learning with the school, usage of the circuit is free.
*Significant savings $$$*
+ Before each theory test, using the school’s “E-trial” tests (Electronic trial test that you can practice on the school’s computer facilities) is free for the first 4 times
– Your instructors will (usually) change from each lesson to each lesson
Every lesson, they might need you to update them on what you have learnt so far. Some instructors can roughly keep track of this in your little driving booklet.

COST
^The standard $45 per 1 hr lesson costs more compared to private instructors (mine charges me $32 per hour)

BOOKING FOR LESSONS
It is VERY hard to book dates for lessons and test dates as you are competing with army boys who have 3 months to do nothing but to learn driving, Poly or Uni students who have more time than you, and then of course there’s the rest of Singapore.
Lessons:
^The slots for lessons for the following month technically open up on the 17th of every month.
^This means that at midnight on the 16th itself, learners everywhere in Singapore stake out on the school website to book their slots for lessons. NOT exaggerating.
^By the time you access the school website on the morning of the 17th of whichever month you are in, there are perhaps 3-8 lesson slots left for the whole month – most of which will be commonly inconvenient timings such as 8.30am or 8pm. NOT joking.
^Booking for the following month also means that you need to plan your lessons well in advance and should you cancel any of your lessons for whatsoever reason, you will not be surcharged for any amount (yet) until you exceed your cancellation count – which is 11 cancellations allowed over the entire course of your relationship with the driving school.

*Dealbreaker for me! This is where I have a problem and made a big switch from learning through the school and into the underground world of private instructors!*

Learning driving from private driving instructors:

These instructors can operate as a team and own anywhere from 2-8 cars/instructors.
+ More flexible lesson timings, can make plans for lessons a week before or even a day before sometimes
+ Some have more experience, and can even cut to the chase and just teach you what you need to know to pass your practical driving exam
– You are also likely to have one or three different instructors teach you, unless you use an instructor who is a one-man team. Which I honestly would not even recommend. (Who is he? What are his credentials?)
– Make sure you withdraw money from the ATM before every lesson as you need to make payment for every lesson in cash – less convenient for some/me
– Have to pay if you want to use the school’s computer facility E-trial test before your tests
– Have to pay for your driving instructor fee AND the school circuit fee once you start learning to park etc (Circuit fee varies from $19-33 depending on day and timing)
– Stereotyped as ‘less professional’
– Behave less professionally and WILL not hesitate to yell/scold/swear at you in languages you don’t understand.
– Many of them tend to not speak English that well so they can be a bit difficult to understand and communicate with (Note: This can also be a problem with instructors from the school, but i find the language and communication barrier is worse with the private instructors)

Tips from a noob:

Step 1) Go to a CDC Driving Centre near you (you need to do this whether or not you intend to learn from the school or a private instructor)
Step 2) Open an account – private or school? Make a choice!
Step 3) Book your Basic Theory Test date
Step 4) Study hard and go for E-trials if possible prior to the BTT test date – I reckon the questions are really not super easy
*Note: E-trials need to be booked in advance as well.
Step 5) Once you have passed your BTT (congratulations), book a date for your Final Theory Test and study for it.
Even before you sit for the FTT, you CAN actually already start doing driving lessons BUT you will be restricted to the circuit.
*In my excitement to sit behind the wheel and rev my accelerator, I did this. I do not recommend doing more than 3 lessons before passing your FTT.
Save your lesson money for when you actually have the PDL and greater knowledge of the Singaporean road code.*

Step 6) Once you have passed your FTT, you receive a PDL (Probation Driver’s License) which allows you to go for lessons and drive outside the circuit in the real world.
Step 7) Book a practical final test date and practice, practice, practice before your driving exam.
Step 8) Good luck!

Other notes:
*For FOREIGN NATIONALS – you can do it too. In order to convert your foreign license to a Singapore driving license, you are required to pass the Basic Theory Test (BTT). Book for a BTT in person at CDC driving centre and upon passing the BTT, apply for conversion at the Traffic Police Driving Test Center counter in person.
Do your due checks first on what relevant documents you are required to bring and have them ready when you go for your BTT.

*I currently use a private driving instructor who has been in the industry for 30 years. He operates a team of 8 instructors and seems to be rather highly spoken of. So far, my ego is quite bruised from getting yelled at left-right-center but other than that, I really enjoy driving and I hope I pass my exam eventually and become one of “THOSE WOMEN DRIVERS”!

********************************************************

Drive safe – not stupid…!

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14 thoughts on “Driving lessons in Singapore

  1. As we are all discussing Driving lessons in Singapore Estelle 101: Lessons in Love, Driving aggressively but with total control is the best style possible. Putting your car near its limit as long as possible and avoiding damage the car will be a great challenge. A driver’s consistency and smoothness are major concerns when tuning your car to the highest standards.

    • Hi kryz I use Mr Soh, hp: 97382550, he is very well known in the industry and think he has been teaching driving for more than 15 years.

      He runs a little trade with 7 or more instructors and cars and is SUPER busy – he’s always on the phone or busy with something! So you will not have him for every lesson, he will probably only take you for lessons closer to your exam date. Before that, he will assign another instructor to take you.

      Good luck! 😛

      • Currently Mr soh’s standard has fallen. On top of that this instructors are very bad. They have no patience. They expect you to get it right for the first time. It is almost impossible for you to take up driving if you cannot tolerate harsh scoldings with vulgarities.

      • Hi J, hmm there is some truth in what you are saying. I do agree that the private instructors I have had are full of verbal abuse. I never had that from instructors from CDC driving school (they wouldn’t dare since they are representing a company name), but the private instructors say horrible things sometimes to the point that it makes me want to give up – and I have a VERY high tolerance level! :S

  2. hey may i know if mr soh booked the test date for u or is it the instructor who taught you booked for you?and also how far in advance should i book the test date, like at which lesson? thanks!! 🙂

  3. hello, not sure if it was different for you, but i got my pdl right after i passed my btt. my ftt is in a few months, and i’ve been driving on the roads outside since my first lesson (under mr soh’s school too!).

    • Hello! Oh so cool! 😀 I failed my first practical exam… Got cold feet from failing and never tried again! I should try again right? I heard that sometimes it’s the tester that makes all the difference between 3 demerit points and 30 demerit points.

  4. More about Mr Soh…

    ! i thought he would be the one teaching but when i went for my first lesson, it was Lye. Lye was ok, his english was more or less fluent. When I checked with him if he or Soh B e n g Tee would be my instuctor, he turned vague and asked me to check with his boss (Soh).

    Second lesson onwards, my instructor was Siou. I felt like killing him for the first few weeks cos he was just so annoying,crude and not encouraging in the slightest. After that, i got into the habit of ignoring his less helpful comments. However, he got slacker as my driving got better. e.g. even after I had arrived and got into the car, he would continue chatting with the other instructors, thus shortening my lesson time. He would also “rest his eyes” while we were on the road, and when he woke up and realised I had driven past the red light/turned into the wrong lane, he would yell at me.

    I can more or less close one eye to the incidents above, but what really irks me is their cancellation policy (at least 24 hours in advance). I don’t know what the market rule is, but I have heard of many private instructors who allow last minute cancellations. Soh and his gang don’t, for whatever reason. To be fair, I once managed to wrangle one out of him during one of the MRT breakdowns, but it was painful.

    Subsequently, I tried to cancel my lesson the night before my lesson as I was having a terrible flu. But Siou not only refused, he even said that I couldn’t be that sick if I could call him. Can you imagine how furious I was? So I went and spread my germs to him, his car, and unlucky students who had lessons after me.

    This time around, I made sure I called 48 hours in advance to cancel. And guess what? He called me half an hour after the lesson was supposed to have started and asked me where I was. I told him I had already called 2 days ago to cancel and he gave me a cock-and-bull story about how my call wasn’t valid because he a) thought I was calling abt my TP (i have no idea why he would do tt) b) not in Singapore and c) did not have his organiser with all his lessons pencilled in when I called.

    And I was supposed to know about b) and c) because ????. I called, he picked up and acknowledged what I said. End of story. But now he wants me to pay half of the lesson fees (he wanted me to pay in full at first). There is no way I’m going to.

    I’ve booked my next lesson though, and I’ll see how things go.

  5. More about Mr Soh…

    ! i thought he would be the one teaching but when i went for my first lesson, it was Lye. Lye was ok, his english was more or less fluent. When I checked with him if he or Soh would be my instuctor, he turned vague and asked me to check with his boss (Soh).

    Second lesson onwards, my instructor was Siou. I felt like killing him for the first few weeks cos he was just so annoying,crude and not encouraging in the slightest. After that, i got into the habit of ignoring his less helpful comments. However, he got slacker as my driving got better. e.g. even after I had arrived and got into the car, he would continue chatting with the other instructors, thus shortening my lesson time. He would also “rest his eyes” while we were on the road, and when he woke up and realised I had driven past the red light/turned into the wrong lane, he would yell at me.

    I can more or less close one eye to the incidents above, but what really irks me is their cancellation policy (at least 24 hours in advance). I don’t know what the market rule is, but I have heard of many private instructors who allow last minute cancellations. Soh and his gang don’t, for whatever reason. To be fair, I once managed to wrangle one out of him during one of the MRT breakdowns, but it was painful.

    Subsequently, I tried to cancel my lesson the night before my lesson as I was having a terrible flu. But Siou not only refused, he even said that I couldn’t be that sick if I could call him. Can you imagine how furious I was? So I went and spread my germs to him, his car, and unlucky students who had lessons after me.

    This time around, I made sure I called 48 hours in advance to cancel. And guess what? He called me half an hour after the lesson was supposed to have started and asked me where I was. I told him I had already called 2 days ago to cancel and he gave me a cock-and-bull story about how my call wasn’t valid because he a) thought I was calling abt my TP (i have no idea why he would do tt) b) not in Singapore and c) did not have his organiser with all his lessons pencilled in when I called.

    And I was supposed to know about b) and c) because ????. I called, he picked up and acknowledged what I said. End of story. But now he wants me to pay half of the lesson fees (he wanted me to pay in full at first). There is no way I’m going to.

    I’ve booked my next lesson though, and I’ll see how things go.

  6. Thanks for your post, I actually manage this business- Le Driving Instructors , that matches students with their ideal Instructors! Sorry you didn’t hear of us before you started! I could have hooked you up with the best of the best at CDC hahaha.

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