Updated: Mar 11
Can’t decide whether to get your scuba certification while on holiday or at home before you travel? With a PADI® Open Water referral, you don’t have to choose.
A PADI referral allows you to complete most of your scuba training at home and finish your certification dives anywhere in the world. Avoid studying during your vacation and support your local dive shop at the same time. Here’s what you need to know:
Becoming a certified diver has three phases (listed below). If you’d like more info on each phase, watch the video below or read this detailed article about how to become a scuba diver.
Phase one: knowledge development Phase two: confined water Phase three: open water.
What is a PADI Referral Course?
With an open water referral, you’ll complete some or all of the two phases (knowledge development and confined water) before leaving home. You can finish the final part of your scuba course, the open water dives (aka “check out dives”), anywhere in the world.
To put it another way, instead of spending 4-5 days on your holiday studying and practicing skills in a pool, you’ll arrive with the majority of your open water course done. The final portion of the course typically takes a day and a half to complete. Once certified, you can spend the rest of your time exploring with your dive buddy and gaining additional dive experience.
Open Water Referral FAQs
How long do I have to finish the course? An open water referral is valid for up to 12 months, but it’s better to complete your training as soon as possible (while your knowledge and skills are still fresh).
What if I run out of time before I travel? No problem. Your local PADI Instructor will fill out an official student referral form and check off which skills you’ve completed and the date. You can give this form to any PADI Instructor worldwide and pick up where you left off.
Is PADI eLearning® the same as a referral? PADI eLearning allows you to start your knowledge development online, whether you plan to do a referral or complete your course from start to finish in the same place. PADI eLearning is the most popular option for knowledge development, but you can also study with a book and DVD and attend classroom sessions instead.
Will I have time to practice before going in the ocean? Yes. The instructor at the receiving dive shop will have you gear up and review scuba skills in a pool (or pool-like environment) before taking you to open water. If you have any questions or aren’t feeling comfortable, let the instructor know.
What are the advantages of an open water referral? With a PADI referral course, you can take as much time as you need to complete your knowledge development and pool work. You won’t feel rushed or like you’re “cramming” for a test. You’ll also support the nice people at your local dive shop and become part of your local diving community.
What are the disadvantages of an open water referral? Sometimes students allow too much time to pass before finishing their course. You can take up to a year to complete your certification, but it’s better to complete your knowledge development and pool training as close to your holiday as possible.
Also, you’ll probably end up using different brands of diving gear. If you’ve gotten comfortable with a certain gear configuration, using different gear can be an adjustment – just like riding someone else’s bike or borrowing someone’s car. It’s basically the same, but the handling and placement of certain things will be unfamiliar at first.
Owning your own scuba gear is a great way to increase your comfort underwater. If you’re not ready to invest in everything at once, consider purchasing a few pieces at a time.
What else do I need to know? It’s a good idea to contact the store where you’d like to finish your course in advance. Confirm schedule availability and the price to finish your course including training, certification fees, any rental gear and boat dives (if applicable). Also, if your local dive shop asked you to obtain medical clearance from a doctor, bring a copy of your doctor’s sign off for the referring dive shop as well.
Get started on the PADI Open Water course here.
Take a look at the skills you’ll be developing during the confined water training: