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Rewards offset difficulties of getting a drivers’ license, say veteran drivers

05 November 2021

By The SUN 

The 'Learn to Drive' interview was watched by thousands of viewers

Only about 20% of Filipino domestic helpers who take Hong Kong’s driving test pass it, revealed the leaders of two of the biggest groups of drivers’ groups in the Filipino community.

But speaking in The SUN Interviews on Wednesday, Nov 3, the leaders of Radiant Organization of Amiable Drivers (RoadHK) and Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (Sikap) said the rewards of having a driver’s license far outweigh the difficulty of securing it.

RoadHK president Ma Theresa Aquino said the biggest benefit is the much higher salary given to FDHs with driving skills. 

But the leader of the all-female drivers group said those who are keen to get a license must also bear in mind that driving is skill upgrading that will be a lifelong asset.

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Rey Vital, founder and president of 34-year-old Sikap Association, a group of mostly male Filipino drivers in Hong Kong, agreed, saying that the going rate for FDHs with driving duties is at least $18,000 for those who live outside of their employers’ homes.

But he said many still earn only about half of this, especially if they live with their employers, offsetting the high cost of renting a room or a flat and paying for their own meals.

Aquino, who has been driving in Hong Kong for 16 years, said aspiring drivers will be better-placed to find good employers if they obtain a driving license. But she emphasized that FDHs who drive should also bear in mind that they were hired primarily as domestic workers, and driving is just an incidental duty.


Vital agreed to this, saying that even if he has been with his employers for a long time, he still helps with the housework, especially since his wife is the only other helper in the same household.

He recalled the time in the early 2000s when the Hong Kong government tried to ban driving duties for FDHs after local drivers complained that they were being edged out of their jobs by the migrant workers.

The move was averted when many of the Filipinos’ employers, who were mostly English-speaking business executives, fought to get FDHs back behind the wheel. Though it relented, the government inserted an “addendum” in the employment contract which restricted FDHs to driving only for the children and the elderly in the household.

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Vital said Hong Kong families tend to favor Filipino drivers over their local counterparts for some reasons, particularly because Filipinos are multi-taskers who do not shirk from doing household work when not on the road.

Another reason is that local drivers command a much higher pay, and work on fixed hours each day as they have their own families to go home to. FDHs, on the other hand, could be at the employer’s beck and call, especially those who are under a live-in arrangement.

Filipino drivers spend a lot of time and money getting their licenses in HK

Both drivers said a Philippine driver’s license cannot be swapped for a Hong Kong one, as this privilege is granted only to those holding licenses issued by countries listed down on the Transport Department’s website.


Thus, most Filipinos will find themselves going through a series of written and practical tests before they are issued a license allowing them to drive on Hong Kong’s streets.

To pass the rigorous tests, driving applicants should either go to a private instructor or enroll in the Hong Kong School of Motoring.

Aquino said the costs of going through driving lessons could be prohibitive, with a full course with a private instructor costing around $10,000. Paying full tuition with the HKSM, on the other hand, could set a learner back by around $15,000.


But she hastened to add that these amounts are not beyond the reach of most FDHs, especially those who are determined to acquire a new skill that will help boost their incomes.

All they have to do is to set aside some of their shopping money so they can save up for the chance of improving their lot, she said.

Anyone who wants to apply for a learner’s license must go to the Transport Department in Admiralty, Aquino said. She must show her HKID card and proof of address. If it’s an electricity bill, she must bring her contract, as it bears her employer’s name as on the bill.


The learner’s fee is $510. After paying, the applicant will be told to wait for a letter advising her of the written test date. The wait will take about three months.

The Transport Department says learner drivers without any driving experience should have at least 30 hours of training before taking the tests.

The tests are divided into three parts. Part A is written, Part B includes parallel parking and the 3-point turn, while Part C is a road test, or actual driving. Applicants must pass all three tests before they can be issued a driver’s licence.

Learning to drive in Hong Kong, however, is not an easy task, both Vital and Aquino warned. Aside from the high tuition, the driving tests and road rules are very strict, especially in parking, reading road signs, speed limit and crossing lanes.

Vital advised all those who are aspiring to drive to stay focused while on the road for their safety. He said many Filipino drivers with years of driving in the Philippines fail the test here because of their bad habits.

Aquino said driving in Hong Kong is very different from that in the Philippines because drivers here have road discipline, and the rules are strictly enforced.

For a start, she said aspiring drivers traveling on a bus or taxi should observe the road signs and get familiar with them, instead of spending their time texting or fiddling with their phones.

The online show hosted by The SUN editor Daisy Mandap attracted more than 13,000 views during the live airing. More than 400 viewers stayed glued to the show for much of its hour-long duration.

Most of those who posted comments expressed interest in enrolling in a driving school and obtaining a license, reflecting a strong desire of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong to level up and enhance their market value.

(Those who want to learn more about the hows and the whys of obtaining a driver’s license in Hong Kong could check the Facebook page of Radiant Organization of Amiable Drivers and Friends (RoadHK & Friends) for the schedule of their upcoming driving seminars).

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