Scooting Around the Cook Islands - How Bryce and I got our Scooter License in Rarotonga
If you ever come to the Cook Islands, I highly suggest that you get your Scooter License!
Having a scooter provides you with a lot more freedom to explore the Island, is a lot cheaper than taking the bus ($5 per person one-way), and you get an official license which is a great souvenir to take home! But the only way to rent a scooter is if you have a Cook Islands scooter license. A smart tourism tactic for the Island and a pretty fun experience for the tourist.
Getting your Cook Islands scooter license really isn’t that hard. If I can get one, anyone can - seriously! However, there are a couple of things you have to do before your are granted that white plastic card to scooter freedom. First, you have to pass a theory and then a practical exam which costs $40 NZD (New Zealand Dollars) or $20 NZD for each exam. Both the theory and practical exams take place at the police station at Avarua (a town in Rarotonga). Apparently, the line-ups are out the door during their busy months, but luckily it was just Bryce and I on this day.
Because I stress out easily, and don’t like to fail, I was so nervous for both exams. The theory exam has 25 questions and you can only get a maximum of 2 questions wrong. The questions are very similar to basic driving questions back home, except for a few tricky questions that really made Bryce and I think, because people in the Cook Islands drive on the left (what we would consider the wrong) side of the road.
I swear that the lady gave me the wrong exam booklet though, because I had different questions compared to Bryce, and a ton of the questions related to towing. If anyone knows “what the maximum distance in meters that you can tow another vehicle” then let me know! Bryce got only 1 question wrong (smarty pants) and I ended up getting 5 (I blame all the weird towing questions) and the lady still passed me. Thank you nice Cook Island lady!
Now came the stressful practical exam part. You have to drive to the end of a road, yield, signal and make a right turn, and then swerve through a set amount of cones back to the beginning. If you fail to signal while turning, or put your foot on the ground at any time, you fail. Instantly.
You must first rent a scooter to use for the exam as they don’t have any available for you to use at the police station. Once you find a place to rent your scooter, you must walk it to the police station and then do your test. There is only one company that will allow you to “practice” on the scooter before having your official scooter license, and that happens to be the most expensive rental company on the Island as well, but for me, it was worth to rent from them so that I could practice. Especially since I have never driven a scooter before, so I didn’t really know how to start one, brake, signal, any of that! The company that allows you to do this is called Polynesian Rentals. They also happen to be located right beside the police station, so there was the convenience factor as well.
Bryce and I rented our scooters from Polynesian Rentals ($123 CAN for 7-days for two drivers) and they took them to a field for us to practice. They showed us how to start the scooter, where the brakes were, tips on keeping your balance, where the signal lights were located, etc. That was super helpful and it was also a lot of fun to cruise around on the grass! I then found some rocks and pretended that they were cones so that we could get the feel of swerving in and out of an object. I really did not want to fail. After about 15 minutes, Bryce and I felt confident to take the test. Also, dark clouds were rolling in and they won’t conduct the tests if it is raining outside, so we knew we better go give the test a try.
We walked our scooters over to the police station, and a super smiley police office greeted us. His friendly demeanour definitely helped to settle my nerves a little bit. I asked Bryce if he could go first and he breezed through the course like a pro in under 60 seconds! Now it was my turn. I put on my helmet, turned on my bike, and waited for the go signal. And then I went! If you call moving at turtle speed a go I mean. I putted through that course SO SLOWLY because I did not want to screw up. Bryce filmed me (video below) and it is actually quite funny how slow I went. But I remembered to signal and didn’t put my foot down, and I passed! Whoohoo! Look out Rarotonga, these two Canadians are scooting on your streets now!
Wasn't that painful to watch!? Lol. I think the guy that climbs the fence is more entertaining than me.
We finished our exam just in time too, because literally 2-minutes later it down poured! It rained and rained for over 45 minutes. During this time, Bryce and I got our photos taken for our license, but they were all out of their official plastic license cards. We were given a paper license and told to keep this on us at all times when driving, and to come back before we leave to see if their plastic cards have come in. O I was hoping that they would because I really wanted that license as a little souvenir to take home.
Once the rain stopped, it was time for Bryce and I to hit the road on our scooter. It was definitely a little scary at first, as we had to be very conscious of which side of the road we were driving on, which lane to choose when turning, and to properly signal in-and-out of all the traffic circles. But luckily, we both got the hang of it, and after 7-days of exploring and driving, I felt like we were pros!
If you already have a motorcycle license from your home country, bring it with you and you can get a Cook Islands license for a small fee without having to do any of the tests.
Unfortunately, by the end of our trip, they never did get their plastic cards in, but it was definitely a memorable experience that I won’t ever forget.
Want to know what other activities you can do on the Cook Islands? Check out my Top 5 Must-Do Activities in the Cook Islands here.
Brittany & Bryce