If you have ever been stuck in Bogotá’s dense and polluted traffic, you understand why having a scooter seems like an attractive way to get around. With Pico y Placa blocking every other day of driving, and cabs difficult to call at peak hours, owning a ‘moto’ gives you freedom of transportation any hour of the day.
Unlike many countries where foreigners can drive a scooter with their home country license, Bogotá has strict laws that require one from Colombia, and many moto owners agree that police are more likely to pull over a foreigner on a scooter than in a car.
Not sure you know how to drive a moto? You’d be surprised to hear that nearly no one else in the city does either. A recent article states that a mere 5 percent of motorcycle or scooter owners actually took the required class to attain a motorcycle license in Bogotá. The rest (95 percent) simply bypassed the 42-hour driving course, and motos will soon equal – if not bypass – the number of cars on Bogotá streets. For some $250.000 pesos you can take the written driving test and pay cash for a fake record of hours you allegedly spent in a classroom.
But before you sign up for the driving class (which you don’t actually take, you must first check that your cédula number is in the Colombian driving database at www.runt.com.co. If you have a Colombian driving license you’re most likely already checked. If not, bring your cédula (and copy of it) to any SIM (www.simbogota.com.co) office and you can officially sign up for your RUNT – National Transport Registry.
Once in RUNT, the next step is to find a school that will offer you a driving class or will simply trade cash for the hours and certificate, joining the rest of the 95% of drivers that do so. The written portion of the test if the only required part, which is literally your signature signed next to each item on the list of things you have, or haven’t, learned in class.
After the signature test, you’ll need to answer a few multiple questions on theory, which include, “What might occur if you ride with two people on a scooter? Spoiler alert: The answer is “your reaction time will be different,” even though it makes no sense at all. When we tried explaining that the driver’s reaction time would always be the same, and that the moto’s reaction time may be slower with the weight of two people, the woman behind the desk snarkly explained that we were simply wrong because motos don’t have minds. Therefore, the reaction of the driver would be as slow as the moto. We dropped it and circled option A. (Driving School -1 hour: $250.000)
Unlike Colombian cédulas, the cédulas of foreigners don’t have fingerprints. This means one extra step between you and your motorcycle license, which is a stop at the notary to get your fingerprint notarized. It’s as simple as writing a short letter stating that your finger print is in fact your own, and then inking your print at the notary for an official stamp of approval. (Notary – 30 minutes: $5.000)
With that precious notarized paw print in hand, the next, and possibly longest step, is the medical exam. Many clinics are located next door to the SIM offices where you completed your RUNT, and you can simply walk in and start your appointment. The eye and ear exam are pretty straightforward. What numbers do you see, and raise your hand when you hear a sound in your left or right ear. The best part of the day is the psychological test, in which you will sit in front of a computer and answer over 50 questions like, “Do you often hear voices in your head?” Or better, “Do you regularly see things that others don’t?” (Medical Exam 2-3 hours: $110.000)
At the medical exam they will also check that you’ve been registered at a driving school. Thankfully our school had begun registering our hours right after we had paid them in full for the class. Once you clear this pit stop your golden! Now wait 10 business days for your driving school to register all of your hours so you can return to the same SIM to issue your license.
Runt.com.co will be your best ally during this entire process. With your cedula number you can check that your driving class and medical exam are complete and uploaded to the system. You will then have 60 days after completion of the medical exam to sign up for your official motorcycle license. (License 1-2 hours: $113.500)
It seems that anyone will sell you a scooter or motorcycle if you have a Runt, and of course, cash. You also have to also ask yourself how badly you want the freedom of having wheels in exchange for braving Colombia’s bureaucracy. As a foreigner, Colombians constantly ask me how I like Bogotá, my response this week has been, “please ask me next week, I’m currently in the process of getting my motorcycle license.” Plan to spend around $500.000 for everything listed above plus the cost of your scooter, helmet, insurance, ownership paperwork, mechanical revision, and lastly, the official government check out on the license plate to make sure the scooter hasn’t been stolen or killed anyone. Happy scooting!