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Thailand Driving Guide 2020

Drive in the heart of Southeast Asia with an international license. Thailand is popular for its people, culture, temples, and natural environment. Have your memorable trip through this guide.

Lisa Brown

January 27, 2020

INTRODUCTION

Numerous people will love to visit Thailand. Reasons abound paradisiacal beaches, parties, culture, safety, and tourist infrastructure. Aside from these, the local population is very receptive to tourists, and the climate is always happy. Festivals, the beauty of Buddhist temples, and their unique culture captivate and bring an exotic air to the environment. Stylish and modern fashion increases the urge to visit more places in the country. You can start your adventure from south to north, through its large forests, islands, and waterfalls. To add more excitement, these places serve as homes for elephants!

When setting up your account, the duration of your stay in Thailand will depend on your travel style and what you want to do. Some people planned to spend just one week in the country, which is hardly enough to explore the Bangkok capital and some amazing beaches.

The Kingdom of Thailand is known to be the “land of smiles”. It is almost impossible to be in a sad mood even when people can’t move freely due to the effect of rain or heavy sun. Pleasant landscapes, lively environment, clean beaches covered with fine white sand, friendly people, original culture, and ancient temples – all these and many other beautiful places make Thailand a worthy place to visit. Among other things, the price of goods and services in Thailand are relatively low. Among all Eastern destinations, Thailand is perhaps the most budget-friendly place to visit. 

Not surprisingly, Thailand has been sought after by travelers from around the world. Some even visit Thailand for their holidays, remote work, or develop startups. Thailand’s international airports are welcoming to new arrivals since the flow of tourists does not stop almost all year. You will need your own transport for what period and where you would arrive to enjoy all of these exciting adventures.

Another enjoyable place to visit is Bangkok. Bangkok is the frenetic capital of Thailand! It does not comment on the sin of “skipping” this fate. Instead, set aside at least three full days to explore it. Bangkok is a big, modern city full of attractions! To enjoy these exciting adventures, here’s the guide to help you.

Renting a car will allow you to explore not just the big cities but also those all-important towns, villages and landmarks in Thailand

WHERE TO STAY IN BANGKOK

Ensure you’re up early on the first day and visit the city’s main temples such as the Wat Pho temple of the Lying Buddha. Seeing the Grand Palace is an experience you wouldn’t want to miss! You should try to check out Wat Traimit in the afternoon, a famous sanctuary that house the largest solid gold statue in the world! This serves as one of Bangkok symbols. Wat Arun is a temple which is located at the banks of the Chao Phraya River that serves as a place suitable for beautiful pictures during sunset.

The night is the best time to explore in the city of Bangkok.Take the opportunity of the cool night to go around the city. Board a tuk-tuk and see some memorable points of the city! Another great pick is Chinatown, the quaint Chinese neighborhood where you can find jewelry stores, different stalls, and restaurants with bird’s nest soup and shark fin soup, sharing space with tourists and locals.

If you forget or make a last minute decision that you want to rent a car while you are in Thailand, it is possible to get an IDP through a premium fast track service, and it will be sent to you electronically in just a few hours.

HOW TO GET AROUND in THAILAND

Getting around the cities of Thailand is relatively easy. The country is served by several low-cost airlines, extensive rail network, comfortable travel buses, and public boats between the islands. In the capital, Bangkok, the traveler has a subway from the airport. In addition to these is taxi, that is colorful and very cheap.

Like tuk-tuks, taxi drivers may want to combine a closed price, which is often disadvantageous to the customer. In such cases, the convenience of the Grab application, a local version of Uber, is worthwhile. A recurring problem in Bangkok is traffic. To avoid getting stuck in congestion, give preference to subway systems (MRT/BTS). It is also possible to count on small boats that cross the canals of the city, although they have a limited operation and difficult for tourists to understand.

Trains are the local people’s favorite means of transportation for crossing long distances. Thai trains have different classes, with different travel times and prices. Some itineraries are very popular (e.g., Bangkok – Chiang Mai), and reservations are required in advance if you wish to secure a slot. Others, such as the short stretch between Bangkok and Ayutthaya, have constant departures, and you can shop directly at the station. In all cases, you can buy train tickets in Thailand at agencies or even online.

Several low-cost airlines operate in Thailand, offering domestic and neighboring flights at very attractive prices. It is generally not necessary to buy tickets far in advance except for holidays such as Songkran (Thai New Year) and Loy Krathong (Lantern Festival).

Travel buses are also available, some even “VIP” or “first-class” with reclining seats, meals, and on-board service. But be aware: Many operators, especially those operating at agencies near Khaosan Road, may have a dubious quality standard, colorful noisy buses, unprepared drivers, and little safety concern. Ideally, book buses from official companies leaving the bus terminals.

Driving in any foreign place takes a little time and energy to get used to, once you get out of the capital of Thailand, Bangkok and other more exposed cities—where there is high tailgaters, traffic, and trying to find your way around might be daunting —you’ll discover tropical Thailand in Southeast Asia is a comforting place to sit behind the wheel. You will meet new people and visit more beautiful places. Highways in Thailand are well maintained and serve most of the country, and road guides are not too difficult to understand.

Traffic signs and pedestrian crossings are available – and nice to have. In any case, the law of the strongest still seems to apply anyway. There are also some markings that are not available in Europe. For example, blue-painted lanes are reserved for cyclists, and green areas at the traffic lights are only taboo for moped drivers and for cars.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

CAR RENTAL

Renting a car in Thailand is not challenging. There are many rental points that are easily accessible on the internet. You can rent a car even at the airport upon arrival. But, because the influx of tourists is large, it is better to book a car in advance. Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world. In order to avoid disappointment, try to make your car booking ahead.

Some major rental car companies that operate in Thailand have offices in the airport and common tourist locations. There are also local car rental agencies. The cost varies depending on the area in Thailand, as well as the style and size of the car. Always specify if you’d like an automatic car if you are not comfortable driving a stick shift.

All drivers must have third-party insurance at a minimum, and It is advisable to have comprehensive insurance. Try to validate that your personal car insurance will be enough to cover for any damage or that could happen if driving in another country.

There have been frequent cases of tourists renting motorcycles or jet skis, and when they return to the leaser, the owner claims damage to the vehicles and charges large amounts for compensation. This type of problem can easily be avoided by renting your cars only from companies that seem respectable and solid. In case of disagreement, the Embassy recommends always evaluating the possibility of negotiation. Unresolved conflict may lead to the leaser’s complaint to the police, and the foreign tourist may be disadvantaged. Whenever possible, you should avoid leaving your passport as a guarantee when renting vehicles. You should check whether the fee charged for car rentals includes accident insurance.

DRIVING REQUIREMENTS

You may ask, “can I drive with USA license in Thailand?” The answer is, yes! This was the agreement with Thailand under the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic or the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic with most countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

You should definitely not drive a car unless you already have a lot of experience in Thai road traffic. The factors that should be considered are the roads’ traffic density, the quite remarkable driving style of the Thais add up for the non-Thai, people who drive on the wrong side, lack of local knowledge, and the inability to do Decipher traffic signs. Maybe a little too much?

The minimum age requirement for driving in Thailand is 18 years old. If your intention is to rent a car, the age requirement is 21. Although the age requirement varies by companies. You also need to have a driver’s license for a minimum of a year and go with your passport. Your country driver’s license will be just fine if it has an English translation. But because of the risk of not getting covered by insurance, you might need the International Driving Permit (IDP). This is to be gotten from the local automobile association. If your stay in Thailand will last more than six months, it is better to have an IDP or Thailand driver’s license to get covered by insurance. You should carry your passport and driver’s license always whenever you want to drive. If these documents are not present and you are stopped by the police, you would have to pay some fine. In order to drive confidently on Thailand roads, you need these documents:

  • Driver’s license(required)
  • Passport (required)
  • International Driving Permit(recommended)

DRIVER’S LICENSE

The responsibility of vehicle owners includes the organization and financing of measures related to the prevention of road traffic injuries, implementation measures for the development, operation, and maintenance of vehicles. A valid passport must always be in hand. After three months in the country must obtain the local qualification. Car rental companies in Thailand sometimes rent a car for a foreigner who only has a driver’s license from their home country, accompanied by an English translation, or an international license.

However, in the event of an accident, the fact that the driver was not carrying a valid driver’s license may result in invalidation of the vehicle’s insurance policy, and the driver may then have to pay high expenses and even be indicted for damages — illegal driving.

VIABILITY, DRIVING LICENSE

Thailand signed the 1949 Road Traffic Convention. It also signed the 1968 Convention, which has not yet been ratified, so the international license currently issued in Thailand is not officially recognized. A Thai document is required to drive in Thailand.

In addition to the international driving license, certified copies (from the Thai Embassy or Immigration Police) of the passport and the page of the passport itself in which there is the entry stamp in Thailand must be presented. The person concerned must go to the Department of Land Transport, or contact the following: Tel: +66 (0) 2 2723636 +66 (0) 2 2723618, Fax: +66 (0) 2 6717030.

Residents can apply and obtain a temporary Thailand driving license (valid for one year, renewable) at the Department of Land Transport, 1032 Phaholyothin Road, Ladyao, Jatujak, Bangkok 10900, Tel: 02 2723636 02 2723618 Fax: 02 6717030, presenting the following documents:

  1. Copy of your country driving license, with translation into Thai or English, legalized by the Embassy of your country. Or present the International driving license.
  2. Certified copy of passport
  3. Certified copy of work permit
  4. Certificate of residence, issued by your country Embassy
  5. 2 passport photos
  6. Medical certificate

How to Get an International Driving License in Thailand

The steps are very simple. First, you need to visit the https://internationaldriversassociation.com/ and start your application for an IDP. Second, make sure that you have your valid driver’s license and your details are encoded carefully. Lastly, pay and wait for them to email your digital IDP, if you need this urgent, or just wait for the physical card to be delivered in your shipping address.

BASIC TRAFFIC RULES AND DRIVING REQUIREMENTS

Driving in Thailand is different from other countries in the world. In Thailand, the driver’s seat is on the right, and you drive using the left side of the road.

Driving: Drive on the left side and overtake on the right side. Most Thai drivers are relatively polite. It’s hard enough to hear a car honking. Road signs follow international conventions and are in both Thai and English. Night driving is not recommended due to heavy truck traffic, which tends to be disrespectful to cars. Motorcycles can be a danger as they often travel in the opposite direction to traffic. Driving on major routes outside of Bangkok and around the resorts is quite safe and enjoyable.

Most roads and highways in Thailand are in good condition and have two or three lanes on either side. Some of the roads are quite dangerous, especially the Hat Rin Thong Sala Road on Ko Pha-Ngan. Drive with caution as accidents in this area are quite common (the number one cause of foreign deaths in Thailand). Road maintenance is quite problematic. Little has been done about road marking and maintenance, causing drivers to perform dangerous maneuvers to avoid collision with road works and workers.

Way: You need to be aware that the biggest vehicle has the right of way on Thai roads. So be prepared to give way to a truck if it is behind you.

Parking: Parking in big cities like Bangkok is difficult. It is advisable for you to find a place to park your car before you get to the city center and use public transportation to take you to your destination.

Many malls, shops, hotels, and restaurants offer space to park most of the time, and this service is rendered free, but not usually expensive if it comes with some fee. Drivers are required to leave their car in neutral so that they can be pushed when the driver is not available. Never park on rails or curbs that are painted red and white.

Fines: Police often establish checkpoints to enforce traffic rules as they rarely pursue offenders. These points focus on verifying vehicle registration and insurance, seat belt use. If you are stopped by the police, you may get a fine of about B400(12.76$), but if you are lucky, it will only be B200(6.38$). It is advisable to make the payment, and not to argue or lose patience as it may cost you more.

Fuel: 24-hour service stations are found on major highways and in major cities, with rural stations closing at night. Prices are about 12 baht(less than 1$) per liter, and most stations require cash to be paid.

Speed Limits: The maximum speed limit in cities and towns is 60 km / h (35 mph) and ranges from 90 to 120 km / h (52-60 km / h) on expressways and rural roads.

Toll Information: Most highways have no toll, as these are only applied on expressways or highways.

Insurance: Third-party insurance is required. If you drive a motorcycle, you must have a valid health insurance. All insurance is invalid if the driver exceeds the legal alcohol limit. In Thailand, the car is insured, but the driver is not. For this reason, insurance companies have little interest in improving drivers’ skills and attitudes.

Speed limits: The speed limit is usually 60 kilometers per hour (37 miles per hour) on Urban roads, 90 kph (56 mph) on the rural road, and 120 kph (75 mph) On the highway.

Seat belts: Everyone on the board is required to wear their seat belts. Failing to comply with this rule, will give you a fine to pay.

Children and car seats: Modern taxis or cars have car seats that are properly fitted. Unfortunately, most of the older car models do not have the correct set-up or rear seat belt for attachment of car seats.

Aggressive driving: Driving in Thailand is different from driving in another part of the world. You need to study the driving etiquette before getting to the driver seat. Cutting people off and Tailgating is very common and acceptable here.

Alcohol: In Thailand and China, drunk drivers are threatened with the death penalty. Yes, in Australia, the names of drunk drivers are printed in the local newspaper under the heading “He is drunk and in prison.” In Malaysia, if a drunk driver is married, he and his wife will go to prison. In Turkey, drunk drivers have driven 20 km from the city and forced to walk on foot under surveillance.

Under the new Chinese law, drunk drivers who caused the death of one or more people will be automatically deprived of their driving license, paid a fine, or may face the death penalty. The death penalty for traffic offenses, including fatalities, has also been applied to drunk drivers in Thailand and Malaysia.

Thai authorities have considered sending drivers caught drunk while driving to work in the morgue. It should be part of a punishment imposed in the form of mandatory community service. The idea is to make such drivers aware of the effects of drunk driving. Currently, violators are forced, for example, to deal with the felling of trees or cleaning streets. Some are referred to the hospital to look after the victims in an accident.

According to the official, the number of drunk drivers who are detained during any festive events continues to increase. The proposal for work in the morgue is currently under consideration by the government.

Thailand ranks first, highest in Asia, and second in the world in terms of road deaths. More than five percent of fatalities are traffic accidents. In this case, driving under the influence of alcohol causes 26% of road accidents with victims.

Cell phones: With the exception of using hands-free, the use of phones while driving is prohibited according to the Thailand law. There are a lot of damages to be caused by using the phone while driving. Drivers won’t have enough time to concentrate on the road and won’t be able to handle steering properly.

Petrol (gas) stations: Attendant will fill your tank, clean your windscreen if needed and make you pay. Credit or debit cards will be accepted, but gas stations in rural areas and small gas stations in cities only accept cash.

Toll roads: It is common to pay some toll fees in some expressways. These roads help you connect more quickly between different parts of the country. The fee is relatively small to the benefits derived.

Flashing lights: When drivers flash their lights in Thailand as it is in many other countries, it indicates that they are moving at their own comfortable speed, but you can overtake bunk/seak if you like to get to your destination quickly.

Honking: You won’t hear any crazy honking from road users in Thailand despite the high level of traffic in some areas other than some friendly beeps to call the attention of drivers to themselves. But, it is common to horn while passing in from of religious places and shrines.

In case of an emergency: Despite the rules guiding the use of roads in Thailand, road accident is not an uncommon thing. In case you witness any, dial 191 if to help the victim, or it is you but a slight accident. The national police call center is always available. You can dial 1554 to call the police and even an ambulance.

ROAD CHALLENGES

For foreigners, driving in Thailand can be very different from driving at home. Motorcyclists often drive the wrong side of the road, and cars do not always follow the Thai traffic rules. Beginners in the country should be very careful to avoid accidents.

Road use in Thailand is usually more different to what most foreigners are used to. Local roads are usually filled with unpredictable motorists and traffic patterns, especially in bigger cities where the population of road users is more than rural areas. Drivers in Thailand are always vigilant of their surroundings to prevent the crash.

Speed Change Caution: Make gear change slowly. It helps to maintain a safe use of the road. Sudden speed change can put the lives of other road users in danger.

Be alert for motorcycles and bicycles: While trying to change your lane on the road, be careful and keep an eye on other coming vehicles and motorcycles.

Dogs on the road: Stray dogs sometimes wander into the road (or sleep on the street), keep your eyes peeled to avoid the killing of animals.

Avoid night driving: If possible, avoid driving when it’s late at night, especially in the countryside, as more cars and trucks moving heavy goods usually travel at night. Additionally, it’s generally harder to see the obstacles in the road during this time.

Two-way and one-way road changes: Be on the lookout for roads that become one-way roads during certain hours of the day.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

WHAT TO DO AFTER AN ACCIDENT IN THAILAND?

Typically, the incident report should be completed at the local police department. Ask the other drivers involved in the incident all their details: ID, driver’s license, and car registration information (Lem Tabian). As well as insurance documents and remove the vehicle registration number. Provide the same information about yourself: your ID/ Passport, your driver’s license, your vehicle’s Lem Tabian, your insurance, and your vehicle’s registration number.

Call your insurance company and get medical help. Typically, insurance agents want to be present at the scene to collect all the information needed to process a claim.

There is no standard accident report form, but insurance companies usually provide a form when purchasing insurance. Some insurance companies have their own deadlines, during which documents should be submitted after an accident.

Note. Beware of people asking for financial compensation when they get into an accident. This is not a legal requirement, but it can appear to be a fast and easy way to complete everything. But, there is a possibility that the insurance company will process the claim later, despite your initial payment to the wrong officials.

In case of an accident in Thailand, try to remain calm. An argument with another driver usually aggravates the situation, and any clashes lead to police fines. The emergency number in Thailand – Tel: 191

SLIGHT CRASHES

Use the advice of our attorneys at Lawyer in Europe LLC as a guide:

  • Vehicles should be left where they were after the accident so that police and employees of insurance companies can establish the facts. 
  • If the movement of the vehicle is necessary, do so with the other driver’s agreement and photographs of the scene. 
  • Signed testimonials may also be helpful. 
  • It is best to wait for the police and / or insurance company to arrive before moving your car.
  • Call or ask someone to call an ambulance (if necessary).
  • Please let the police know.
  • Call 191 or contact the police

THE SPEED AND ITS REGULATIONS

Speed is one of the concepts that can have the greatest involvement in circulation due to the consequences that can be derived from it. However, in contrary to what it should be, it is one of those that least take into account and respects drivers.

SPEED ADAPTATION TO TRAFFIC CIRCUMSTANCES

The driver should move the vehicle at moderate speed, and if necessary, the vehicle should stop, when circumstances require, especially in the following cases:

  • When there are pedestrians or animals in the part of the road that is being used, or it can rationally foresee its emergence in it, especially if it involves children, the elderly, the blind, or other manifestly disabled people
  • When approaching circulating cycles
  • When approaching markets, schools or places where the presence of children is predictable
  • When approaching a bus in a stop situation, mainly if it is a school bus
  • Out of town, when approaching vehicles immobilized on the road and cycles that run through it or through its shoulder.
  • At the crossing with another vehicle, when the circumstances of one or both do not allow it to be carried out safely
  • In the case of glare to avoid the reach of vehicles or pedestrians traveling in the same direction
  • Speed adaptation to road circumstances

SPEED REDUCTION

Except in case of imminent danger, every driver, have to significantly reduce the speed of his vehicle. He must make sure that he can do so without risk to other drivers and will be obliged to warn him in advance as provided in the right signal without being able to do it abruptly so that it does not produce a risk of collision with the vehicles that circulate behind yours. The intention of slowing down the vehicle considerably, even if this fact is imposed by traffic circumstances, should be warned, whenever possible, by repeated use of the stoplights or moving the arm from bottom to top with fast and short movements.

COMPETITIONS

Speed competition on public roads is prohibited unless there is an exceptional case which requires they have been limited by the competent authority. The celebration of sports events which purpose is to compete in space or time for the roads or terrains object of the legislation on traffic, motor vehicle circulation and road safety, as well as the realization of cycling gears or other events, will require prior authorization that issued in accordance with the standards indicated by road management agency which will regulate these activities.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

RULES OF OVERTAKING

In Thailand, driving is on the left, and overtaking is done on the right. Before starting an overtaking that requires lateral displacement, the driver who intends to overtake must give sufficient notice in advance with the mandatory signs and verify that in the lane he intends to use for overtaking there is sufficient free space so that the maneuver does not put danger or hinder those who circulate in the opposite direction.

Drivers are prohibited from overtaking several vehicles if he does not have the total certainty of success. In the situation where a vehicle is coming from the opposite direction, he can turn to the right side without causing damage or put any of the advanced vehicles in danger.

You should also make sure that the driver of the vehicle that precedes you in the same lane has not indicated your purpose of moving to the same side; in that case, you must respect the preference that assists you. However, if after a reasonable time the driver of said vehicle do not exercise your priority right, you can start the overtaking maneuver by previously warning it with an acoustic or optical signal.

It is forbidden, in any case, to overtake vehicles that are already overtaking. You must also ensure that no driver who follows you on the same lane has started the maneuver to overtake your vehicle and that you have enough space to reintegrate into your lane when the overtaking is over.

SPEED LIMIT IN THAILAND

Drive on the left, overtaking on the right. The legal minimum age for driving cars is 18 years old. The legal minimum age to ride a motorcycle up to 110cc is 15 years old, and18 to ride a motorcycle over 110cc. It is mandatory for the driver to have a driving license valid in Thailand and a copy of the vehicle registration document. Each vehicle must have shown the mark of payment of the tax, which must be paid every year. Every vehicle must have civil liability insurance. The use of seat belts on the front seats of a car is mandatory.

SPEED LIMITS

  • 60 km/ h in inhabited centers, unless otherwise indicated.
  • 90 km/ h in the 2-carriageway roads outside the inhabited centers
  • 120 km/ h on the motorways

Vehicles with red registration plates are not allowed to move from sunset to sunrise.

Don’t believe everything you see in the movies. Thai drivers might have a few bad habits, but aggression is definitely not one of them, so drive with a smile on your face and enjoy the open road.