How to get your Thai driving license


Last edited: July 27, 2019 at 07:59:57

DO YOU NEED A THAI DRIVING LICENSE AT ALL?

Well, this question should be easy to answer because the international rules are clear, but the interpretation of a Thai officer of police may not always be.

Official rules, for who wants to know

According to the official rules (the UN Traffic Act of 1949 and the Thai traffic act of 1979), you do not need a local driving license when you are a tourist or visitor to Thailand and you have your national driving license with you in English with a photo. You can also have an international driving license that is normally obtainable from the local Automotive Assocation in your home country.

If you are a resident of Thailand, however, you do need a Thai driving license.

Mind you: the fact that nearly all motorcycle or car rental shops will be willing to rent a vehicle to you doesn't mean at all that you have the right papers, these businesses simply don't care whether you're driving legally or not, they just want to rent out their stuff to you.

The need for it on the streets

If you're on a tourist visa and you've got yourself covered with an English version of your national driving license or an international driving license, you should be okay. But if you're on a non-immigrant visa, chances are that the officer who just pulled you over won't be satisfied and fines you 200 baht. You can either accept that as an inconvenience of living in Thailand, or you can choose to avoid the hassle for a next time and simply do things the way Thai authorities want: get the damn thing.

IMHO, it's a worthwhile investment to get your Thai driving license because nowadays there are many roadblocks everywhere so the chances of running into one are actually quite high if you stay here for more than a few months. Doing things right is just the smartest way to deal with Thai paper requirements and there are some side benefits to it too.

I find it unexplainably satisfying to present my driving licenses with a smile to the police officer who just pulled me over, perhaps hoping to write a fat bill for a foreigner.

Another benefit is that at some less official places like shops but even at banks which are familiar with you, sometimes you can use your Thai driving license as a proof of identity instead of your passport, but that's not a guarantee, it simply depends on the staff.

(Note that officially as a foreigner in Thailand nowadays you are obliged to show a passport to police officers on request, so it's a good idea to make a copy of it and keep it with you always.)
 

WHAT PAPERS DO YOU NEED TO APPLY FOR A THAI DRIVING LICENSE?

Well, regulations in Thailand are always changing and things also depend on your personal situation, what kind of visa you've got, but in general this is the procedure:

1. Get your residency certificate

Simply follow the steps as listed here: how to get your residence certificate.

NOTE:  you need a proof of long term rent (not a guesthouse) and Immigration usually needs about 3-4 weeks to issue it (but you can pay an agent to do it faster)

The residence certificate can only be used within 1 month.

2. Get a health declaration

Every hospital in town provides this quick and easy service, just walk in and tell them you need a health declaration for your driving license. Prices vary between perhaps THB 50 and 150, and most of the time you'll walk out within half an hour.
The doctor (or common hospital staff) officially has to check for 5 relevant diseases, but most of the time they will just measure your blood pressure and weight and not even ask you any further questions. Overall, it's probably a 2 minutes check up and you're out again.
Hospitals closer to the Driving License Office or smaller clinics may give you a cheaper rate, but it's hardly worth it looking for it.

The health declaration can only be used within 1 month.

3. Go to the Driving License Office

Officially, it's called the Provincial Land Transport office and it's on the way to Hang Dong coming from Airport Plaza. You have to be on the 2/F.

Bring the original document and 1 copy of everything with you: passport (make copies of photo page, visa page and departure card); residence certificate; health certificate; and if applicable: driving license from your home country and or international driving license.

If you need two licenses (one for a motorcycle and one for a car), you need to bring double copies of all that.

If you want to be sure that all documents are in order, the best thing is to go to the 2/F counter 27 on one day and have them checked, then come back the next day to apply. Open Monday - Friday from 8:30 - 15:30.

4. Driving license office training days

Whether you need to do this or not will depend on your papers (your current foreign or expiring Thai driving license). The process will take 2 days if you apply for 1 license and 3 days if you apply for 2 licenses. Check at counter 27 on the 2/F for what they need.

Programme Day 1:

  • Submit application and documents at 8:00 - 9:00hr.
  • Physical check up at 9:00 - 10:00hr.
  • Education process from 10:00 - 16:00hr: (watch video about traffic rules, English subtitles)

Programme Day 2:

  • Paper test at 10:00 - 12:00hr
  • Driving test at 13:00hr. This test is not so difficult if you've already been driving a motorcycle for some time, most important is that you can drive in a circle and can stop in time.
  • Get the license after passing the test

Programme Day 3:

  • Driving test at 13:00hr for another license
  • Get the license after passing the test.

Re-do the tests:

  • If you don't pass the paper test, you can re-do it the next day or within 90 days
  • If you don't pass the driving test, you can re-do it on the same day or within 90 days after passed the paper test

NOTE:

  • for the driving tests, you need to bring your own vehicle
     

ABOUT THE VIDEO AND THE TEST

Nowadays, everybody has to watch the traffic video that explains some of the basics of Thai traffic rules. It lasts 1 hour and it's a bit boring because it is designed from a legal rather than a customer perspective (for example, it's not interesting for us to know whether we can drive a tractor or a tank over a public road).

About the test, most of the time I hear foreigners complaining about it and how it doesn't make sense, which is true, but that's not the right mindset to get most out of it. The right mindset is to just see it as yet another cultural experience, to just do it in the way that you can pass smoothly, give them what they want and at the same time understand more about Thailand so that you can keep yourself safe on the road.

Yes, the test features incorrect English sentences and small, unclear pictures with low resolution, which makes it hard to understand what actually is the question, but the way to deal with this is just to prepare yourself well and memorize the kind of answers they want to hear. The best way to prepare for the test is by practicing on this site www.thaidriving.info. Although this online test was set up a few years ago, the questions you're likely to get nowadays are the same or very similar (I redid my tests in July 2019 and the questions were still similar).

TIP: finish all 90 questions in one row, as the questionnaire system doesn't keep track if where you were if you close your computer for a break.

In the driving license office, you have to do 50 questions and your minimum score to pass is 45 good answers.

TIP: As the test is a multiple choice (4 choices), you can often guess just based on the sentence. When the answer is to suggest you to speed, that's never right (there is only 1 question with a minimum speed of 30km/hr). When the answer is to stop and watch carefully and only proceed when it's safe, this is almost always the right answer.

Thai driving license test and how it doesn't make sense
Several questions in the test don't use proper English. Just memorize the right answer and pass. (The right answer is the 2nd one)

What you should learn from the test is not so much the traffic rules (if you already have a driving license from a developed country you should know most things already), but especially this:

  • How the real life practice of Thai traffic is actually different from your country. Sticking your arm out of the car to signal is probably much more common in Thailand than in your own country.
  • That all traffic offenses presented in the test are actually happening in real on the road all the time: making a U-turn on an intersection, overtaking with a hard line in the middle of the road, lack of signalling etc.
  • How everything in Thailand is actually a bit of a mess: even the test is kind of a joke, with it's errors and improper English translation, while the Thai authorities don't bother to correct it.
  • How poorly educated people actually are to still bother with the kind of tests.

If you do your homework, prepare for it and have the right mindset, you'll walk through it smoothly with a smile and you'll understand better how to keep yourself away from an accident.

NOTE: If you want 2 driving licenses (one for car, one for motorcycle), you need to do 2 tests after each other. Somehow the "smart card" system cannot figure out that you already passed 1 test, you have to do it all over again and it's not exactly the same test, questions appear randomly from a database.
 

FEES

There are modest fees of 205 baht for a motorcycle driving license and 305 baht for a car driving license. Renewal fees are a bit cheaper. Just bring a few hundred baht cash and you're fine.
 

VALIDITY AND RENEWAL

Your license will be printed it out for you in the form of a "smart card", a credit card sized plastic card (but there is nothing smart about it). Your first license is valid for 1 year, after that you can renew it for a number of years, the length of renewal depends on what visa you have. If you have a non-immigrant 1-year visa, you can renew it for 5 years, if you have another shorter-term visa, you can only renew it for 2 years.

TIP: Don't wait too long before renewing your driving license, if it has expired for more than a year, you risk having to do all the tests again. You can actually renew it 1-2 months before it expires.


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Some Guy Posted on October 08, 2019 at 05:35:10
The current waiting period to test for a motorcycle license is 45 days. October 2019.
Ian Scott Jenkin Posted on June 28, 2019 at 16:21:33
Hi I took my car and bike driving test on the same day in Chiang mai about 8 years ago and have renewed it once, my wife has just lost my licence so was wondering can I replace it....thanks
day Posted on January 19, 2019 at 08:21:31
I have both Thai driving license (car and motorcycle) over 1 year. Can I renew the both license to the 5 years license., but I had not thai residence and on tourist visa. Can you assist on that?

Amy Posted on September 18, 2018 at 08:56:42
hi Can I have a Thai driving license based on tourist visa? Can you assist on that? Besides, can I switch the one year temporary dirving license into a five year's driving license? Can you help on that. You can contact with me visa Email. Thanks
Jj Posted on August 25, 2018 at 12:09:37
My home country driving license is exipre since 5 years, can I obtain a thai driving license on tourist visa?

markandhappy Posted on July 03, 2018 at 08:08:09
markandhappy - 2018-07-03
I do not have an international Drivers Permit. My Canadian drivers license is expired. I will need 2 Thai drivers licences - 1 for my car and one for my scooter. I am 27 days into a 60-day tourist visa that I will extend an extra 30 days.
Tomorrow, July 4, I go to Immigration Promenada to apply for a Non-Imm "O-A" 1 year visa based on retirement. That may take a month to process. Can I get a Thai DL?
G-mail Posted on June 14, 2018 at 20:21:07
Can you still get a license on a tourist visa? I thought they discontinued that. Can I do it on an O Visa for 90 days?
Rorschach Posted on March 13, 2018 at 08:06:07
how should i contact with you if i want to apply the DL with the tourist visa??
Sylvia Posted on February 12, 2018 at 02:44:55
What will be the procedure of renewing the license (expired and has one year grace period), went to the Land Office and they gave me a list of things to do which is exactly like applying for a new driving license. Please help to advise. Thanks.
Lee Pui Wai Posted on December 18, 2017 at 23:26:39
Hi im interesting in using your service to get Thai Chiang mai driving license. Please contact me for more information in details. Many thanks
Claire Posted on October 15, 2017 at 14:48:32
If I have a work permit, do I still need a Residency Certificate?