Once you have enjoyed your Thai temporary driver's license for a year, you need to get a "real" driving licence. If you are a foreigner in Thailand, these real driving licenses come in 1 and 5 year versions.
There seems to be quite a bit confusion about what license to apply for and when. We can only speak from personal experience and from a few statements as they were made by the friendly officials at the Department of Land Transportation, in Bangkhuntian district in Bangkok. It is possible that the rules may differ slightly in other provinces away from the capital, although it's said to be unlikely.
According to a number of web boards and "all about Thailand" booklets the only way to get a 5 year driving permit is to let the old licence expire first and report to the DLT a day late. "Nonsense!", we've been told and proven. There is another fable that talks about having to apply for a regular 1 year driving permit first, before you can get the pink 5 year driver's licence in Thailand. We believed this to be logical and very likely to be true, but we were proven wrong and were told to change the application form and apply for a driver's license that is valid for 5 years.
How easy it is to get a driver's license that is valid for five years:
- enter the DLT building at any time during the opening hours, although it's probably wise to avoid the lunch hour and the early morning's queues for first time applicants. It's advisable to bring a translator, but it is not required.
- Go to the driving license application window and request a driving license application form
- ask your translator to fill out the form while you get your pictures taken (70 bath for 6 pictures at the Bangkhuntian location).
- After verifying this information with the person at the application window, make copies of following pages in your passport: the first page, the visa stamp page, the last entry stamp page and the page with the last visa extension, if any.
If you have a work permit book which you'd like to use as address verification, copy the first and second page, the page with the address of the employer and, if you had a new address listed in your workbook, page 23, where the change of address is listed.
- Hand over all documents persons behind the application window, whom, if all found to be in order, will hand you back the documents with a queue number.
- Wait for your number to be called or shown and hand over your stack of documents, together with your passport and possibly work permit. After this final check you will get back your passport and you will be allowed to pay the 505 baht fee (5 years validity @ 100 baht plus 5 baht for the "paper"), for which you will get a receipt.
- Take a seat and wait for your name to be called.
- Sign the back of the driving license and the receipt and take your brand new licence to the laminating shop.
- While walking you will probably notice that the expiry date is not just 5 years from the current date, but longer: until your first birthday following today's date plus 5 years! An excellent way not to forget the date.
- 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 with a five year validity:
- temporary Thai driving license.
- Valid Passport with Valid Non-immigrant Visa
- A certified letter of address from the applicant's embassy, or from the Immigration Bureau (document can not be older than 30 days).
If you are working in Thailand: Your work permit, can replace either of these documents and serve as address verification!
- 2 photos, 1 x 1 inch and not older than 6 months (use the photo service on the premises, so there won't be an issue about how old the pictures are. Using last year's pictures will definitely not be accepted).