Driving in Thailand?
Until now tourists could easily rent a motorcycle by just showing a passport, but a new proposal would require that tourists have a valid driving licence when they rent. The proposal was among a swathe of new standards being considered over the next 30 days by various committees ahead of recommendations to the transport minister Saksayam Chidchob. With Thai licences for “big bikes” also likely to come in before the end of the year tourists who may be able to rent a small bike may be prohibited from renting a larger machine. That is if they can rent one at all. The changes could all be in place as Thailand enters the high season for tourism over the next couple of months.
It remains to be seen (a) whether this legislation will actually be passed; (b) whether this legislation will actually be enforced (c) whether this legislation will actually apply to locals, who are currently allowed to drive scooters if, when seated, their feet touch the ground!
Drive Slowly if Drunk
A Thai road sign that said: Mao Khap Cha-chaa – If you’re drunk, drive slowly. (Japan has very strict drink driving laws while Thailand is sometimes seen as a joke in this regard). The media claimed to have confronted officials in Nakorn Ratchasima about it only to be told that it was impossible to stop DUI – so they were just appealing for drunks to drive slowly at New Year. Sanook reported on the story with part of a headline that stated “Media from the land of sushi absolutely confused”.
Chris’ update on getting a Chiang Mai Drivers License:
“The Chiang Mai Provincial Land & Transportation office gave me the seal of approval today. Two licenses–one car, one bike–in one hit, within 2 hours, for the grand sum of 310 baht. I am chuffed. Added bonus: no tests, written or practical. Just get your paperwork in order, look at a board of coloured dots, watch a 60 min. (English) video then pay your money, have the photo op. and you are done. The ladies at the Transport Office are really keen to help and are not there to turn you away ‘cos they don’t like the look of you. If you don’t approach this bureaucratic hurdle with care and due diligence then it will be your own fault for not getting a licence on the day. Here are the tricks:
- Bring you Certificate of Residency (TM30) and
- Medical Certificate plus
- the photo copies of your passport and visa.
- Download the Licence Application form, Download, fill in the top section and tick ‘bike’ or ‘car’.
- If you want both you must make out separate forms for each.
- Your home licence with a translation of the various categories (car, bike) in Thai attached.
- A photocopy plus
- Your original International Driving licence that MUST carry the date ‘1949’ on the front cover and MUST be stamped to match your licence category (eg car, bike).
- The whole “no test” thing hinges on you having an International Driving Licence marked with the date of 1949 on the front …odd but true.
By the way, I did not go there at 8:30 in the morning – I rolled up after lunch and left two hours later sporting two brand new licenses. Oh, and they are valid for two years, not one.
David’s Excellent License Adventure
David writes: “I got my Thailand drivers license and my Thailand motorcycle license a few days ago and learned that folks from Germany and other non-English-speaking countries must bring a translation from their embassy! You do not needan international drivers license as long as your license from your country is valid. I got my car license and motorcycle license in about three hours. I needed copies of my passport and visa and reentry stamps and copies of my proof of residency, TM-30, form, my Missouri drivers license and of my health form. And, yes, to get to licenses car/motorcycle I needed double copies. So much information was correct. If you need any further assistance please message David by responding to this newsletter and he’ll be glad to help you out. P.S. Jeejee and I have bought a house in Orinsirn 3 and we have also bought a restaurant Paris Chiangmai in JedYod Neighborhood
New Concierge Service:
We’re constantly dreaming up new ways to take the worry out of moving to Chiang Mai and here’s another: car rentals. We now offer rental cars with daily, weekly, and monthly rates for everything from hatchbacks all the way up to 7-seater SUVs. But why, you ask? Aren’t there already plenty of car rental places in Chiang Mai? Lots. But this is the only one staffed by expats (so everyone speaks perfect English) and that has the correct insurance (most don’t–which you discover after your accident) and a workshop so clean you can eat off the floor.
After having tried scooters for three years, I reached the same conclusions as everyone else (duh!): you’re much too vulnerable in an accident–and accidents are much too frequent. So we asked our car guys (from whom we buy our cars) to offer rentals and, presto! here they are. Hatchbacks from 17,000 Baht/mo with unlimited mileage. Let us know when you make your Concierge reservation and we’ll have one waiting for you.
What you need to know about driving in Thailand:
- Everyone in Thailand (including me) drives everywhere, just like you.
- Thailand the most dangerous place in the world to drive. The death toll on the jumped dramatically last year after previously being named as number two in the world for road deaths – now it looks like being number one as road safety campaigns have failed to have any effect on the carnage.
- The death toll jumped from 19,479 in 2015 to 22,356 in 2016. That’s 61 people killed EVERY DAY (compared to 40,000 in the USA, with five times the population.
- The most dangerous place to drive in Thailand is in the east of the country. Rayong is the worst province.
- Three out of four deaths are male and the group most likely to perish on the roads are young men aged 15-29.
- The safest place to drive is Bangkok where you would have a quarter of the chance of death compared to Rayong.
- The most dangerous provinces are Rayong 72 deaths per 100,000; Sa Kaew 69; Chonburi 58; Chantaburi 57; Nakorn Nayok 56; and Prachinburi 55.
- Forty-five percent of deaths involve motorcycles, 5% are pedestrians and 1% cyclists.
- A million people suffer injuries or handicapped by road accidents and annual damages are a staggering 500 billion baht.
Law breaking and lack of law enforcement is routine on Thailand’s roads. Tens of millions openly flout the law and, when officials propose safety measures–like making riding in the back of pickups illegal–the public resists stubbornly.
Not enough is spent, there are insufficient funds available and there is not enough technology employed to help with the situation, said TNA.
via GIPHY. Source: http://www.tnamcot.com/view/5a092853e3f8e40ae18e55e1
If you have a current drivers license you can get a shiny, new Thai drivers license and you won’t have to take a driving test. Just take your current license, medical certificate, Residency Application Form Download and License Application Form Download to the Land Transport Office and they’ll give you an eyesight test (I flunked it so the examiner simply moved the test card closer to me), a reaction time test and vision test before issuing your license. If you have to take the test you’ll find that it’s written in Tinglish – a baffling form of English which Thai bureaucrats refuse to correct – and which is the chief obstacle to your success. Happily, 80 percent of regulations are the same world wide, so re-read your native Rules of the Road if you’re rusty. After you pass the written test you’ll take a driving test that’s pretty simple and looks like this:
The written drivers test is computerized, you can take it as often as you wish and you don’t need an appointment. Just show up early, mentally prepared to take the test four times. On your first attempt spend only 10 seconds on each question: there’s a 25% chance you’ll pass and, if you don’t, you’ll know what to expect because the test comes with a review that shows you where you went wrong. After a few attempts you’ll get the hang of it. If you want to limber up, here are some typical test questions to amuse you. Here’s musician Darin Dunn’s self help guide to getting a Thai driver’s license: Getting a Thai drivers license would test the patience of saints. Drivers licenses for cars and motorbikes are separate documents and processes. You will need a stack of forms, tests and fees for each. This is a guide for the perplexed. [Note: you can make life easier for yourself if, before you leave home, you obtain an International Driving Permit ($20 from AAA Travel in the U.S.). Then you will be allowed to opt out of the written test and the safety video]. While the process is pretty much the same throughout Thailand, I’ve localized it to Chiang Mai to make it less generic. So before you head to the drivers license office (Koin-Song in Thai) you will need six items:
- An Affidavit of Residence from your Consulate or the Thai Residency Form Office. (1050Bt at the Consulate or 100Bt tip at the Thai Immigration Office) or a Work Permit in your name. If you have a Work Permit you can skip #1 & #2 and proceed to #3]
- Your Passport with a valid Thai Visa
- Medical Certificate (physical) no more than a month old. (100 Baht at any hospital)
- A valid drivers license from your home country
- An explanation of the class (truck, car, motorcycle) listed on your license
- Money. The fees for your licenses will be 505 baht for the car and 255 baht for the motorcycle. This brings the totals fees for your License adventure to 1810 baht, or $US60.
Affidavit of Residence: It’s best case to obtain this form from the Thai Residency Office. If you have a one year visa you should be able to obtain this form from that office at no charge, though a 100 Bt tip will be welcomed. [Remember, the office staff live on 15,000 Bt/mo – $500 – yet pay the same for cars and housing as you do]. If your visa is less than one year you will need to go to your Embassy or Consulate. The office is located across from the Promenda Mall here. You will need
- a copy of your home lease contract or a letter from your landlord stating you live in a certain house,
- a copy of your landlord’s government ID and
- two passport sized photos.
Take these documents to the Residency Office. Turn in your paperwork and they’ll give you a reminder slip to come back one week later. You should be in and out quickly as this office only does the residency certificates and you can do this without your spouse being present. Upon your return you will receive the document confirming that you live at your address. The driver’s license Dept will honor this if it is less than one month old. If you cannot obtain this form from the Residency Office you will need to go to your embassy or consulate to obtain a notarized copy of this form.
The U.S. consulate in Chiang Mai is now handling U.S. citizen services by appointment only. You will need to visit the following site to make an appointment. The United States Consulate is at 387 Wichayanont Road, T. Changmoi, A. Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50300. Tel (053) 252-629, Fax (053) 234-472 or (053) 252-633. The road along the river is a one way street so you will need start north of the consulate and work your way down until you see a large white chedi used as a traffic circle. There on the corner you will see the large, cream-colored, prison-like walls of the consulate. All it lacks is (visible) gun turrets. The fee for the notarized form is 1050 Bt., $US35.
Once you’re out on the road, remember that Thai roads are among the most dangerous on earth, especially for farangs: we’re used to playing by different rules. Don’t believe me? Watch this video:
Here are a few tips that will help you avoid trouble:
1. Breath Tests: A Bangkok court imposed an 8,500 baht fine and a 2 year suspended jail term for refusing a breath test. The court cited the guilty plea of Chutima Kanthang, 28, as ground for leniency. Thai police can prosecute a case as DUI if the driver refuses to the road side breath analyser. The incident happened at a police checkpoint in Bangkok. Police towed the vehicle with the driver inside to the police station. The next morning, Chutima stepped out of the vehicle and acknowledged her test refusal. She appeared before the judge in the afternoon and pleaded guilty. Breath test refusal is punishable by 12 months’ jail and a fine of 10,000 – 20,000 baht. If you plan to drink and drive carry 20,000 Baht cash and, if you fail the test, immediately hand your keys and 20K to the officer and ask politely where you can collect your car in the morning (or carry a get-out-of-jail card like our clients).
Thais have their own road rules, regardless of what the law prescribes. Understand them and you’re more likely to avoid fender-benders:
- Everyone runs red lights. So everyone waits when their light turns green until all the red light runners have cleared the intersection.
- Everyone knows where everyone else is around them and leaves room for them to do things we would’t do, like scooter drivers who turn inside you when you turn left. Do likewise.
- Most Thai drivers got their automobile licenses in their 30s and may never have driven a car before that. Allow for the fact that they’re unaccustomed to the size, momentum and power of those huge SUVs.
You’ll need a medical certificate or physical from any local hospital. These physicals are quick and painless. The doctor listens to your heart and lungs, measures your height and weight, checks your blood pressure and temperature, and tests for color blindness. Any hospital will do your physical for 100 baht. People suffering from 10 medical conditions must bring a medical certificate. Why? If you have a major claim your insurer will demand your entire lifetime medical record in hope of invalidating your claim because you didn’t declare your pre-existing condition when you applied for your license. Here are the 10:
- Intermittent loss of consciousness,
- Heart- and blood-related diseases,
- Visual impairment,
- Mental disorders,
- Sleep disorders
- Drug addiction.
Valid License From Your Home Country and Explanation of Class of License
You need a valid drivers license from your home country and to show the Drivers’ License Office what the class listing on your license means. Here are some links that may help you find this information in the USA. It can be tricky. Class A. Class B. Class C. Class D. Print this information out and bring it with you. If you cannot find these items your Embassy/Consulate can issue you a form guaranteeing your license. If your license is not in English you will also need your Embassy/Consulate to translate it and issue you a form with an explanation in Thai script.
The Transportation Office (Koin-Song)
You will need two copies of each of each form, including
- your passport’s main page,
- your visa and
- the immigration stamp you received upon entering the country.
You can make copies at the Chiang Mai Traffic Bureau Office on the first floor all the way to the end. Here’s the checklist again:
- An Affidavit of Residence from your Embassy, Consulate or the Immigration Office.
- Your Passport with valid visa
- Medical Certificate (physical) no more than a month old.
- A valid drivers license from your home country
- An explanation of the class listed on your license
The Chiang Mai Transportation Office, Koin-Song, is located on Hang Dong Road approximately 3 KM south of airport plaza immediately before you cross under a large overhead arch/pedestrian walk way. It’s a large purple building with purple fences just before Big C. You will want to get started no later than 8:30 am because the various tests and safety classes are tightly scheduled.
Go straight up to the second floor information desk. Smile and hand in your forms to the attendant. After each of your papers is stamped – at least twice – you will be directed to take your documents to window 28. When called you will step across the hall for a series of tests that will involve pulling strings, stepping on pedals and reading charts. It’s lots of fun. If you’re failing a particular test the officer will usually make it easier for you. Thais hate to see others embarrassed.
Next, you will watch a one hour safety video on a computer. It is completely baffling. After that. the written test – equally baffling – will consist of 30 questions. You will be given one hour but you can get through it in 15 mins. They will give you a booklet to study if you request it but you should be able to pass it in one or two tries without studying. They let you take it multiple times. Testing is open 10 –12.
After passing your test proceed to a building in the far north east corner of the property for your motorcycle driving test. It’s invisblle to the naked farang eye, so stand facing the entrance of the building where you just took your tests. The road test area is to your left. Wander over 400 M in that direction and eventually you will run into it. Tests begins at 1pm and end at 3:00pm. You will be required to drive along a narrow 2X4 board for 10 meters which is a bit of a challenge but they will give you a few tries. After that you will be asked to signal, turn right, weave through cones, observe a stop sign and return to base.
After you complete your driving test gather your results from the test along with your results from the written test and return to the information booth on the 2nd floor of the main building – where your day began – and take a number. Pay the 210 Bt and 150 Bt fees and they will take your photo, process and print your license on the spot. Next, hold your new licenses high above your head and exit the building yelling for joy.
Keep Driving in Thailand: Renewing a Thai Driver’s License
If your current 1 year license is due to expire you will need to renew it within 60 days before its expiration date. After your 1 year license expires you will then be issued 5 year licenses from then on. Go to the office M-F 8:30am-15:30pm. You shouldn’t be required to take any further tests.
If you going from a 1 year to a 5 year license you will need:
- Your passport and visa
- Affidavit of Residence Certificate or Work Permit or Residence Book (yellow book).
- Your current Thai Driver’s License (60 days before expiration date)
- Medical Certificate no more than 30 days old
- Money: Car: 505 baht, Motorcycle: 305 baht, Smart Card license: 100 baht. Change of address: 50 baht
- Copies of each document for each license (car and motorbike) as well as your originals.
If you going from a 5 year to another 5 year license you will need:
- Passport and visa
- Affidavit of Residence orr Work Permit or Residence Book (yellow book).
- Current Thai Driver’s License (90 days before expiration date)
- Medical Certificate no more than 30 days old
- Money: Car 505 baht, Motorcycle 305 baht, Smart Card license 100 baht/each
- Change of address 50 baht
- Copies of each document for each license (car and motorbike) as well as your originals.
You will be required to take an eye exam, reaction test and watch a 1 hour training video (in English). The eye exam is a color blindness test, the reaction test measures your ability to operate a gas pedal when you see a green light and then hit the brake pedal when you see a red light. The video is shown at 9:30am and 1:00pm.
Now you know how to get a Thai drivers license. Just do it! [© Darin Dunn, [email protected].
Now, because you’ve read all this information, here’s an amusing video of the process of getting a license in Thailand:
Getting a Thai Driver’s License the Hard Way – Taking the Test. by Greg.
“After living here for over 7 years now, I’m familiar enough with the rules and nuances of Bangkok traffic to know that I never, ever want to drive in it. It’s not so much that it’s bad – traffic in India or Vietnam makes Bangkok traffic look like a driver’s ed training course – but rather that my skill sets aren’t useful here. I’m Canadian, so if you want me drive at 80km/h on an icy road with well-defined traffic rules that are strictly enforced and adhered to – no problem. But driving through go-kart-style traffic dodging tuk-tuk’s, bug vendors, stray dogs, motorcycles and pedestrians – and with the wheel on the wrong (right) side – well, maybe I better take a taxi. Bangkok has several million of them anyway – if I think of them as my own personal limo service, it’s not so bad at all. But despite this, I recently had to get a Thai driver’s license. This is normally accomplished by showing your license from your own country to the Department of Land Transport, at which point they’ll just transfer it over. But due to an unfortunate case of stupidity, I let my Canadian license lapse, which means it’s even less useful than the fake ones you can buy on Khao San Road. The only option I had was to go through the rigmarole as if I was a 16-year old Thai teenager. So – what does it take to be allowed to legally drive on Thai roads? The day started at 8am at the Department of Land Transport, Read more of Greg’s adventures on gregtodiffer.com..
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