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Driving in Thailand – What licence is required?

by Kim

Whilst the traffic in Bangkok might appear chaotic and dangerous, driving in Thailand is not that bad especially when you head out onto the wide-open roads of the countryside. The roads are good, the major road signs are in English and there is relatively little traffic. Naturally there are some peculiarities! In Thailand they drive on the Left, so the driver sits on the right of the car! If you are not used to this, it does take a little time but you will soon settle in! It may appear that there are few rules, but there is a full highway code and a lot of laws that can catch you out. The worst, is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the rest are relatively minor and if caught will be settled with a small fine! All signs and speed limits are indicated in Kilometres

Driving a Motor Bike in Thailand

Motorbikes are an extremely popular mode of transport in Thailand and can be rented economically in most major cities and tourist areas. It is a simple procedure to rent generally requiring a copy of your Passport, a deposit payment and the payment. You may notice that there is no mention of a Driving Licence! Currently this is not the responsibility of the person renting out the bike, only the person renting it! There are changes in the air and I will report should the regulations change. Please note that the law states that the driver of a bike and the passenger must wear a helmet. In the past many have ignored this rule but now the police are cracking down, so a helmet is recommended at all times!

Renting a Car in Thailand

Rental cars are available throughout Thailand with a vast range of quality and prices. Most of the major International Companies are now represented in addition to a vast range of local companies, especially in the tourism regions. Cars can be collected at all of the domestic airports though in some of the smaller, the vehicle will have to be delivered. I recommend that you book in advance and can highly recommend RentalCars.com for price, quality and clarity. To collect your rental car you will require your Driving Licence, Passport and Credit Card (not Debit Card). Even new cars in Thailand seem to have a lot of small marks on them and I recommend that you carefully inspect the car before taking possession. Rent economic cars here

What Licence do you need to drive in Thailand 

 Technically the law states that a tourist on a tourist visa or exemption of visa, visiting Thailand as a non-resident must be able to produce a Driving Licence from their home country. If stopped and asked for an International Driving Licence, you must show that you are not a resident (i.e. that you are on a tourist visa). If you are on a long-term or Residential visa or extension, recent checks have indicated that the police and now carefully controlling aliens on residential/long term visas who must have either an International Licence or a Thai licence. There appears to be more checks on licences with fines ranging from THB.400-500 if unable to produce the International Permit or a Thai licence. 

Should you commit an offence, you may be able to pay the fine on the spot, if not you will be required to go to the police station the next day to pay the fine and reclaim your licence.

Drive sensibly, stay polite and treat some Thai driving peculiarities with a smile and you will have a great driving experience.

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Kim Waddoup


Kim Waddoup enjoyed a lifetime in the tourism business and is an active ‘Silver-Ager” living in Thailand. He writes for his age group with high varied articles covering subjects relevant to retirees living in, or visiting Thailand. Any questions or comments on this post? Please do feel free to contact me through our ‘Contact Form’ or directly [email protected]

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