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Getting a Driver’s Licence in Belgium and Ghent

Need a driver’s licence? Do you live in Belgium, you are 18+ years old and and don’t have a licence from before? This guide, written in plain English, is for you!

If you need to convert your driver’s licence to a Belgian one, it’s a different process. A second post covers what this involves. You can access it here

Requirements for getting your driver’s licence

In order to obtain a Belgian licence, you need to fulfill these conditions:

  • Have a Belgian residence card (if you don’t have it yet, read how to get one here)
  • Be 17 years of age for the theoretical test, 18 for applying for your permanent driver’s licence.
  • Pass a theory examination
  • Pass a practical examination
  • Declare that you are not banned from driving, or that you have passed a reintegration test after a ban.
  • Declare that you have no physical disabilities or afflictions. This declaration may be replaced by a compulsory medical examination. The declarations are documents you receive and need to sign when taking the the theoretical and practical tests.

Licence category

This guide is for people who want to drive a normal car or van carrying max 8 passengers, the B-category licence. See more about different categories for other vehicles here.

Theoretical test

You need to pass the theoretical test to obtain your temporary licence for practicing driving. Later you do the practical test to get your full licence.

You may take the theoretical test from the age of 17. The theoretical test takes about 30 minutes. It is a multiple choice test with 50 questions about traffic signs, rules, speeding, safety etc. based on real situations that can occur in traffic.

You should make sure the exam fee has been paid before the exam. The exam costs €15.

Traffic rules on e.g speed limits are part of the theoretical test when taking a drivers licence.

This is an image of a car dash board illustrating speed as part of the theoretical part of taking a Belgian Drivers licence
Traffic rules on e.g speed limits are part of the theoretical test when taking a drivers licence.

There are tests organised with an English interpreter about once a month (for an extra fee of 50€) therefore you should call early to check when the next one is being organised and to book a spot. Sometimes the translation is not great, making the test more difficult to pass. The solution is to study hard for it.

You need to bring your residence card as ID.

You can either get lessons in a driving school or study yourself for the theoretical test. If you get lessons you don’t have a limit of times you can retake the test. If you self-study you can retake the test in case of failure only twice. After that you need to follow lessons to do the test again. Once you pass you get a brochure with details about your practical test. Your passed theoretical exam is valid for three years.

Self study

Temporary licence

After successfully passing the theoretical test, you can apply for a provisional driving licence. This you do by visiting the city hall to apply for a temporary licence (costs 26€) valid for either 18 months or 36 months:

  • 18 months: If you practice with minimum of 20 hrs of lessons in a recognised driving school you can apply for a temporary licence valid for 18 months at the city hall, then you can drive without an instructor.
  • 36 months: If you practice with a private instructor you can apply for a licence valid 36 months. An instructor can be your friend, mother or cousin, and doesn’t need to be the same person. However this person needs to be a Belgian resident in possession of a Belgian or European driving licence for at least 8 years. Private instructors are obliged to take a 3 hrs preparatory training with a driving school or certified instructor. This training is valid for 10 years. You can have one or two instructors appointed. One of them must always be present, seated in front of your vehicle, when you drive during the time of your temporary licence. You also need an extra rear view mirror. 

 

Note that you are not allowed to drive abroad with a temporary licence.

Preparatory training

If you want, you can take up a basic training programme of 6 hours at a driving school first.

In both cases you will have an L sticker in the rear window of your car.

After 9 months of driving with your temporary licence you can apply to take the practical test. 

Practical test

Appointment

You need to make an appointment for the test with your closest exam centre (see the end of this guide for contact details to SBAT).  If you are using a driving school, they will organise the appointment for you. You also need to pay the exam fee. See costs for obtaining the driver’s licences here (in Dutch).

You should make the appointment at least 6 weeks in advance, and be aware of extra time in case you fail the test and your temporary licence is not valid anymore when you can retake the test. Also note the test can be cancelled due to bad weather. You will get charged a cancellation fee if you cancel the test less than two full working days in advance.

What to bring

  • Your residence card
  • Temporary licence
  • Receipt of payment
  • In case you are retaking the exam after failing it twice you need to bring the proof that you took extra lessons. If you fail the practical test twice you’ll need to follow at least 6 hours of lessons in a driving school to be allowed to retake the test.
  • When using your own car, you need to additionally bring a valid inspection certificate of the vehicle, insurance certificate, the driver’s licence and residence car of your appointed instructor(s) who you do the exam with. Also, don’t forget the extra rear view mirror, in case it is not installed yet.

What will happen

The practical test has two parts, a risk perception test and a driving test on public roads.

The risk perception test are about watching short movies of traffic situations and answer multiple choice questions. This test is taken right before the drive.

You can take the driving test either with a vehicle from a driving school, or bring your own. 

Image displaying a real traffic situation in the practical exam for taking a driver's licence in Belgium
The practical exam includes driving in real traffic situations

A part of the driving test is to show skills of doing maneuvers, like drive in a small street or park the car. You will also drive independently for 10-15 minutes following a GPS or the examinator to get evaluated of your driving skills and following traffic rules.

To show your driving skills you will need to drive in traffic.

If you can’t do the test in Dutch there are French, German and English translators available. SBAT and many other centres in Flanders require exam candidates to arrange their own translator prior to the exam. Also, please consider that the risk perception test (GRPT-test) is done before the test on the road, SBAT requires the candidate and translator to be present at least 20-30 mins beforehand, as it takes longer than if a local Dutch-speaker takes it. Only a legally licensed and sworn-in translator (appointed by the court, NL: ’beëdigd‘) may be used, who is able to present a “Proces-verbaal van Eedaflegging”, which is the proof on paper. 

Once you pass you get a proof of passing the test successfully.

What next?

After passing the practical test you need to visit the city hall to apply for your full licence. To get the card you need to bring:

  • the proof of passing your practical exam
  • your temporary licence
  • your residence card
  • 26€ (you can pay by Bankcontact and cash)

Your card will arrive at the town hall and get a notification about it via mail. To pick up your card you need to visit the town hall again with your ID, the notification document and any other documents mentioned in it.

Note you can’t use your driver’s licence as an official ID card.

Where to take the test?

The exams are taken at an SBAT centre. This centre is also where car inspections are done. The closest centre for the exams to Ghent residents is SBAT in Sint-Denijs-Westrem.

Here are their contact details:

  • Address: Poortakkerstraat 131- 9051 Sint-Denijs-Westrem.
  • Phone: 09 221 42 66.
  • Email: examencentrum.sint-denijs-westrem@sbat.be

Other

Sworn-in translator Ruben Soens (rubensoens@hotmail.com, +32 487 023 453) provided TheSquare.Gent extra information about using translators and interpreters during the exam. 

If we stated something inaccurate, you think we should add a crucial piece of information, don’t hesitate to contact us on hello@thesquare.gent.


About the author:

Jenny BjorklofJenny is originally from Finland and moved to Ghent in 2009. Now she works as self-employed organising events, supporting businesses with marketing and helping people starting their own businesses by being a community manager of Entrepreneurs Anonymous & co-organiser of Freelance Business Day. Find out more and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Guest author
Guest authors are expats and Gentenaars who enjoy spreading the word about Gent to the world. If you'd like to join us, contact us at hello@thesquare.gent.

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