Once you have been in Thailand for a period extending 3 months, you will need an Thai driving licence, even though international drivers licenses are legally accepted. Several insurance companies have a fine print stating that the driver should hold a valid Thai driving licence to be fully covered. Besides that: You'll offer the local law enforcement great opportunities by continuing to drive with an international license.
On the positive site: a domestic thai drivers license can, sometimes, be used to avoid paying the typical "farang prices"***. A Thai driver's license is then accepted as sort of proof that the holder is not a tourist.
Having a thai drivers license may sometimes also make police slightly more lenient towards the fact that expats can not carry their passport at all times.
Applicants for a Thai (international) drivers license need to meet the following requirements:
- Being of sound mind and good health (not having physical or mental handicap(s) that will prevent them from operating a vehicle safely) - being at least 18 years of age
- If the applicant is not Thai national, the applicant must hold a valid Non-Immigrant Visa (tourists can not apply).
What you will need when applying for your thai drivers license:
- If you can not read and / nor understand the Thai language, you are allowed to bring a interpreter to fill the forms and translate the possible instruction class and tests.
- Valid Passport with Valid Non-immigrant Visa
- Signed copies of the passport's first page, the page with the current non-immigrant visa, the page with the last entry stamp and the TM-card.
- A certified letter of address from the applicant's embassy, or from the Immigration Bureau (document can not be older than 30 days).
Tip: The letter from the embassy is the fastest option, but the immigration office will provide this service for free. However, it will take them 3-6 weeks to complete and an officer from your local police station will visit your place of residence for verification.
If you are working in Thailand: the blue workbook, better known as your work permit, can replace either of these documents and serve as address verification!
- A doctor's certificate stating that the applicant is in good health, both physically and mentally (standard forms are available from most clinics and should not be more than 30 days old)
- 2 photos, 1 x 1 inch and not older than 6 months (photo service is available on the premises).
- Valid international driver's license plus signed photocopy or translated regular driving licence from the applicant's home country, certified by Embassy or consulate. (if available).
- Note that 1 set of these documents is required per licence applications. However, when applying for both a car and a motorcycle license, an extra copy of the doctor's certificate and the letter of address will suffice for the second application.
The application procedure:**
- Take the Thai language application form from the room behind window # 35 and fill out the form, applying for the 1 year temporary driving licence.
- If you did not bring any pictures, you can have them taken at the booth in the application room, while your translator waits in the queue for windows #35.
- Hand in all above listed documents and move over to the left window and wait a couple of minutes.
- The documents will be handed back and you will be told to head over to window #20 for another verification of the documents. Once you receive their approval stamp, you can go back to window #35.
- After another administrative action they will direct you towards the test area on the 3rd floor, where you will need to pass 3 tests:
- Color Blindness Test: One of the officials will point to colored dots on a poster and you should responds by stating the dot's color. Answers in Thai are preferred but generally english words are understood as well.
- Reflex Test: Be seated behind an alternative gas and brake pedal and push the accelerator until the green led's start to light up. Hit the brake pedal before the led's reach the red zone. You will have to repeat this test twice.
- Depth Perception Test: Use forward and back buttons to align a moving pin with a fixed one, in a small box at app. 10 meters distance. Initially it looks more confusing than it actually is, but if you, like me, have a problem with 3D vision, you can click here to learn how to pass this test without without any risks. You will need to repeat this test twice.
- If you have passed all of these tests, your documents will be signed and handed back to you, at this point. Then it's back down to the window where it all started out, where, if everything is in order, you will receive a queue number. Move over to the windows on your left (1 thru 6, I believe it was) and wait until your number comes up on the board. Handover your documents and your passport (and work permit, if that was used for address verification). After they have been checked for a very last time you will be allowed to pay the 105 Baht fee. A few minutes later your name will be called (best to react to anything that starts with Mr.) and 2 signatures later you will be the proud owner of a 1 year temporary Thai driver's license.
- Behind the main building, in between the food stalls and the toilets you will find a small shop that will cut and laminate your license for a minimal fee.
- get in your car and drive off with a smile, pleasantly surprised at the excellent service you have just received.
** room numbers and other locations within the building are specific to the Hua Krabu branch in Bangkhuntian district in south bangkok.
*** a common practice, where foreigners are charged a multiple of what Thai nationals pay for entering typical tourist places like nature parks, certain temples and palaces.