So, I can drive now! Legally!
Okay, technically I have been legal all along but now there is no question.
The rules here are not real clear, or perhaps the rules themselves are clear, it's just that no one seems to know exactly what those rules are.
I have asked many times over the years we have lived here what ARE the rules to drive legally here?
The consensus, and what my field leaders finally told me was, as long as you had both a valid driver license from the USA, AND a valid visa to be in Guatemala, that was legal.
It must be correct because I have been stopped many, many times at random police checks where they check your papers etc and they have always been happy with my passport and my Washington State driver license.
However, it seems to have changed once I received my Permanent Resident Visa and now have a cédula de vecindad. A cédula is basically your Guatemalan identity papers. More or less a passport for use within the country. Every adult has a cédula and you pretty much need one to do any type of business here.
But, once you have a cédula, they expect you to also have a Guatemala Driver License, which you can only get if you have a cédula. I found this out a few months ago when I got stopped at another random check and was hassled pretty good about having a cédula and driving with a USA driver license.
So, I finally had / took the time to go and see if I could get a driver license. Our good friend Oscar went with me, he was sure I would need some help! Of course at all of our various stops they would only allow me to go in, so he spent a lot of time waiting! It went pretty well, they have different types of licenses, "C" license which is the only license you can get as your first license, only allows you to drive cars. There is a "B" license which allows you to also drive vans and trucks, then there are a couple of levels of commercial type licenses. They also told me your first license can only be for one year.
So, I made one stop for a vision test at an authorized agency. Then I got a certificate at another authorized agency that verifies I know how to drive and the rules etc. Then I had the checks to see if there are any tickets etc on my record.
Then you pay at the bank for your license and wait in several lines etc.
So, in the end, as I have found before, many times all you need to do is ask, so I asked if I could get a "B" license, and also asked for the maximum of 4 years.
Well, that is exactly what they gave me!
So, finally, I have my license, I will be able to drive vans and trucks etc which I often need to do for groups, and I don't need to hassle with any of this for almost another 5 years! It expires in November of 2014, so almost 5 years they gave me!
God was very gracious, everything went smooth and all the various people I had to deal with were kind and helpful!