driving in thailand

Driving in Thailand – International Driver’s Licence for Thailand – Thai Driver’s Licence

Driving in Thailand

Every year loads of tourists in Thailand hire motorbikes and cars but not many know that Thailand has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world. In 2015 – out of all the countries in the world – only Libya had a higher ‘road-death rate’ than Thailand (almost 80 lives  per day were lost on Thailand’s roads in 2014-2015). It’s not the roads in Thailand that are the problem though, it’s the drivers. Many local drivers in Thailand don’t have licences, and if they do, many of them have long forgotten the ‘Highway Code’.

The Thais drive on the left-hand side of the road (same-same as the UK), and road infrastructure – in general, in Thailand is good, especially in the South and Central provinces, but main roads and highways in Issan (the northeast of the country), and in the north are also good. That’s one of the reasons why there are so many deaths on Thailand’s roads, because the roads are good and many of the drivers are not.

If you are a tourist in Thailand and wish to drive then you are required to have a valid foreign driving licence with a photograph (an International Driver’s Licence/Permit is also valid in Thailand). If you are a resident in Thailand, then you should have a ‘Thai Driving Licence’: you can obtain a Thai Driver’s Licence without taking a practical test as long as you have a valid foreign driving licence when applying.



When hiring a motorbike especially, the vendor may decide to over-look the licence side of things; if you do decide to hire a motorbike without a licence and are in an accident, then – without the correct documentation – you may experience the full force of the law, and/or a hefty financial and legal situation that will have you wishing you hadn’t hired the bike in the first place. It is also important to be aware of scams that are perpetrated against tourists in Thailand when hiring motorbikes/cars/jet skis.
See my blogpost on Thailand Scams

In Thailand, it is illegal to drive a motorbike without wearing a helmet. In most provinces, the pillion passenger must also wear a helmet; it is illegal to carry more than one pillion passenger on a motorbike, and that (single) pillion passenger should NOT ride side-saddle by law.

Anyone familiar with Thailand, however – especially rural Thailand, will have witnessed whole (‘hair-blowing-in-the-wind’) families piled aboard a single motorbike with not a helmet in sight. Riding side-saddle is another common illegal sight to see in Thailand, especially in the urban areas, where there are lots of skirt-wearing ladies.

The best advice for driving in Thailand is to always keep a (significant) safe distance from the car in front.

In rural Thailand – with agricultural vehicles on the road – overtaking is very common. Never follow an over-taking vehicle, many Thai drivers take big risks on the road; the driver you follow may have timed his manoeuvre just right (albeit – a risky manoeuvre), and will have time to pull in to avoid any oncoming traffic; you – on the other hand, in the following car, may not be so lucky.

Also, be wary of directional changes by Thai drivers; Thai drivers may indicate that they are about to turn right, and then at the last minute they change their minds and turn left.

Thai drivers also have a habit of running from the authorities if:

  • the required documentation for driving is not in place
  • they are helmetless
  • are carrying too many passengers
  • are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Always be aware of ‘last-minute’ u-turning motorbikes and cars when approaching police roadblocks or checkpoints.

Finally, the statistics on road fatalities in Thailand may be a bit off-putting for many, but – provided you have the correct documentation in place, and you exercise good basic road sense and rules, then driving in Thailand should only add to your overall Thailand experience.

Chok dee (Good luck)…

Driving in Thailand

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Only Raising Dust On The Road
The first Part of my book/novel (novella – approx. 25,000 words in Part 1) is available for download at Amazon in Kindle format.

only raising dust on the road, part 1 - buckfast, lager & Fags
only raising dust on the road, part 1 – buckfast, lager & Fags

Only Raising Dust On The Road
By Raymond Carroll
A novel set in Thailand

Part 1 – ‘Buckfast, Lager, & Fags’

‘Only Raising Dust On The Road’ is a novel set in Thailand. The book has been serialised into 4 novella length books.

Part 1 – Buckfast, Lager & Fags (approx. 26,000 words), follows a group of friends from around the globe as they embark on a money-making enterprise to Thailand.

Micky, is a heavy-drinking, drug-using Scotsman who has been hired by his friend ‘Slim’ to manage a bar on a tropical island on Thailand’s eastern gulf coast. Slim’s business partners: Sanjit – a South African-born Indian, and Connie – a white, Afrikaner Durbanite and Sanjit’s girlfriend, have recruited Winston (Sanjit’s South African Indian – ‘hood-rat’ – cousin) to be bartender. Can the mismatched motley-crew make this venture work? Nothing in Thailand is ever as it seems and dangers abound along the way.

The story is told from a multiple character first person point of view and takes place in the late 1990’s.

‘Only Raising Dust On The Road’ is a work of fiction.

Lots of profanity throughout. 18+

Part 2 – ‘Same-Same But Different’ on sale at Amazon

Buy Part 1 of Only Raising Dust On The Road on Kindle and paperback at Amazon

‘In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.’

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22 thoughts on “Driving in Thailand – International Driver’s Licence for Thailand – Thai Driver’s Licence”

  1. This is why I always say to people you need travel insurance when you go to Thailand. Especially if you want to hire a scooter. You might be ok but other drivers might not be so good!

  2. Oh how I wish I’d read this a year ago! I tried to hire a car as I was a bit apprehensive about a scooter (never driven one before) but I had forgotten my licence and a digital copy wouldn’t cut it. So we hired scooters…Didn’t ask to see any documentation! He didn’t even show us to the bikes, give us helmets or show us how to drive them! What followed was a comedy or errors! Lucky for us a lovely German man helped out teaching us how to start the engine and drive the things…never again!

    1. I once had an accident in a hired car in Thailand; thankfully all the correct documentation was in place and the insurance covered it – could’ve been a different story if I was licence-less. Better to stay within the law in places like Thailand, coz if sh#t does hit the fan then it can potentially get very messy. Thanks for commenting, and good luck on your travels!

  3. I hired a motorbike when I was in Pai. It was the first time I had driven one and it was scary. Though I never made it about 20km per hour!!! I did seem many people who had accidents though!!

  4. Nice, I’m actually hoping to visit Thailand this Spring! I personally don’t think that I will end up driving on my own while i’m there, but this is definitely some helpful info!! 🙂

  5. Lots of great info I didn’t know. I didn’t even know Thais drive on the left side. And definitely didn’t know about the helmet rule or that you can’t ride side saddle. All very useful things to know since I’m going to Thailand in a couple of months. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I had no idea that driving in Thailand could be so dangerous! I’ve never traveled to Thailand before, but I’ve always thought about it and would most likely rent a car if I went, so this is great info. Thanks so much for explaining everything to us, especially the requirements to be able to drive!

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