This is a quick set of notes about my experience getting a Uganda Drivers License while using one of my foreign drivers licenses (a Florida, USA license in this case). Although the instructions on the government web site seem simple there are some unlisted steps that are a pain if not known in advance.
Start by visiting official UDLS (Uganda Drivers License System) site and the page specifically for exchanging a foreign license for a local one (note that they do not take your foreign license, they just use it as qualification). The page is very clear and provides links to online payment (which must be done in advance because the licensing sites DO NOT take payments) and the pdf application form.
All clear so far?
Now the hidden bumps in the process.
1. You need an eye exam and medical exam to complete the pdf application form. I did this at a local optometrist in Muyenga. He completed both sections (eye and medical), signed the form and stamped it. Make sure you tell them that you are doing the eye exam for both purposes. I paid 55,000 Uganda Shillings for the visit and paperwork.
2. Next I logged into the Florida secure website and downloaded my official “Letter of Clearance”. Free in Florida (but this official form did not work, see below for a workaround). Note also, that my license and driving records are in English. If they are in a non-English language you will have to have them translated at a local university (see UDLS site for translation locations).
3. I paid the fee online and printed the receipt.
4. I visited the UDLS office (the trains station) in central Kampala.
5. My papers were inspected (passport, application pdf, payment, original foreign drivers license) before entering the property.
6. My application was then rejected at the second paperwork check (outside waiting area). The girl asked if I had paid for my Letter of Clearance from the state of Florida. I said no. She then pulled me aside and began to Google the FLHSMV (Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) site. And at the bottom of the FLHSMV site there is a disclaimer, basically “FLHSMV does not warrant that the information and materials are free from error.”
The Uganda official told me to hire a US agency to get me an official record.
I went home and hired Florida MVR Services, Inc. and paid $30 for a drivers record because their sample report showed their letterhead and their website had no disclaimer. Note that you fill out the order form, download it, print and sign it and then email it back. Quite an antiquated approach to online payment, but it is what it is.
I then got a drivers record from Florida MVR with the FLHSMV letterhead (that had previously been rejected). I then emailed Florida MVR and explained my situation and that I had paid for their service based on the sample report and wanted my record in that format. They seemed baffled but agreed and sent me a record on their letterhead, which they did the next day.
I then printed my payment receipt (very important step) and headed back to the Uganda DL location.
This time the process worked and I got my new drivers license within an hour. HOWEVER, at multiple times the Florida drivers record document was examined and the lack of official stamps was raised. In each case I showed the payment receipt and that seemed to make the issue go away. They believe that you have to pay for something for it to be valid. Free does not carry any weight.
Pay for your Letter of Clearance or Driving Records in your home country before leaving if possible. Alternatively, if your official record is free and if your government site has a disclaimer at the bottom of the home page, then create your own agency letterhead with Photoshop, affix an official red stamp (Google provides many examples) and create a payment receipt. The payment receipt is gold it seems.
Also check out How to Buy, Sell & Overland with a Malawi Car (for Expats)
Visit Malawi Outdoors on a Shoestring for the adventures.