Expats planning to drive a car in Thailand should apply for a Thai driving license. This is the only way to ensure that you can drive legally in the country and are fully covered by a car insurance policy. It can also serve as an ID card issued by the government. In addition, a Thai driving license can be done in a single day, costs a few hundred baht, and is valid in 10 ASEAN countries.
In order to qualify for a Thai driving license, applicants must be at least 18 years old, in good physical and mental health and hold a valid non-immigration visa. Although applicants must show that they are either living and working in the country or are living in Thailand on a retirement visa, some people reported that they can make a Thai driving license with a tourist visa.
The driving license can be issued at any Department of Land Transport offices in Thailand. Details of the major test centers in Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and other prominent areas of the country can be found here.
Although the forms that applicants need to fill out and process are mainly in Thai, officers of the Department of Land Transport are able to communicate in basic English and explain the necessary steps for making a driving license. If you do not understand Thai at all, it is still possible to go there alone and make the license. Otherwise, bringing a translator with you is also an option.
Since the required documents are subject to change from time to time, it is best to check with the Department of Land Transport again before going to apply for the license. The documents that are currently required are:
- A valid passport along with a valid non-immigrant visa.
- Signed copies of the first page of the passport, as well as the page containing the valid non-immigrant visa, and the page containing the last entry stamp for Thailand and the arrival card.
- A letter of address in Thailand certified from the Immigration Bureau from the applicant’s embassy and dated within thirty days of application or a work permit with a signed copy.
- A doctor’s certificate confirming that the applicant is in good physical and mental health, dated within thirty days of the application. The certificate can be issued at any clinic for as low as 50 THB.
- Optional – Valid international driver’s license with a signed copy or regular driver’s license from the applicant’s home country that has been translated into English and certified by the embassy or consulate.
Applying for a Thai Driving License
The Thai driving license is issued by the Department of Land Transport, which can be found throughout Thailand, with at least one in each major town and several in big cities. Applicants need to take the completed application form to the testing station and state that they are applying for a one year temporary Thai driving license.
Since the Department of Land Transport is a government organization, applicants are required to wear polite dress: shirts must have sleeves and shorts/skirts must be below the knees. The operating hours of the Department of Land Transport are 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- Submit documents
- Color blindness, peripheral, reflex, and depth perception test
- Five-hour theoretical class
- Theory test
- Practical driving test
- Obtain license
Once the documents have been approved and stamped, applicants will need to complete and pass all the tests. It should be noted that applicants who already hold a driver’s license for their own country or an international driver’s license do not need to take the theory and practical driving test in order to receive their Thai driving license.
If you do not have a driving license from your home country, it is recommended to go to the Department of Land Transport early in the morning (before 8 a.m.). Most processes will be done on that day. Then, you need to, hopefully, go back again on a next day for the driving test.
In case you already have a driving license from your home country, it is still important to go to the Department of Land Transport early in the morning to make sure that everything can be finished within a single day.
Acquiring a Thai driving license without the theory and practical driving test can be seen in this video published by Jonny, from minute 1:00 – 5:30.
One of the officials at the testing station will point to different colored dots on a poster. Applicants need to state the name of each color that they see, usually in Thai, although the staff at testing stations understand and accept answers in English. It is also common that some test stations just completely skip the color blindness test.
Applicants need to put their head on a test station, pointing their eyes ahead to an official. Then, they are required tell the exact traffic color shown on their left and right side for a few times without moving the eyes. If answer incorrectly, a tester still give a chance to retest again for one or two more times.
Applicants take a seat behind a simulated brake pedal and gas pedal and push the accelerator until the green led lights on the panel in front of them start to light up. It is essential to make sure that you hit the brake pedal before the led lights enter the red zone. Similar to the peripheral test, a test still give one or two more chances to applicants who fail the reflex test.
Depth Perception Test
This test can be rather tricky and requires a steady hand as applicants must use special forward and back buttons in order to align a moving pin with one that is fixed in a small box that is set around ten meters away. If applicants fail the test, they can still try it for a few more times.
Applicants must take the time to study the rules of the road in Thailand, as they can be quite different from those in their home countries. Before taking a theory test, applicants need to take a five-hour theoretical class, which is normally a video with English subtitles teaching traffic rules and regulations in Thailand.
Applicants who are unable to read and write in Thai can apply to take the English version of the written part of the test online and submit their test by email. The test consists of a total of fifty questions and applicants must answer at least 45 questions correctly in order to pass the test.
Those who fail the theory test can make an appointment to retest again on the next day without having to retake a theoretical class.
The Thai driver’s test can be read in advance in English online at http://thaidriving.info/ and it is presented as a multiple choice test. The great thing about this practice test is that the correct answers are supplied instantly, which allows users to practice and, if possible, memorize the answers to dramatically increase their chances of passing the test.
Practical Driving Test
Motorists will be asked to drive a vehicle around a small track outside the test center. A tester will be watching at a distance to make sure that the motorist completes the track correctly. This is an easy practical test, as the motorist is alone in the vehicle and there are no tricky maneuvers to perform such as hill starts or parallel parking. However, the motorist will be expected to demonstrate their depth perception skills be reversing between a set of poles and pulling up as close to the curb as possible.
The practical driving test is easy compared to other countries. The testers are mainly watching drivers to make sure that they are able to drive, reverse, and park close to the curb and stay within sets of traffic cones. Although motorists are not permitted to knock over traffic cones during their test, they might still pass the test based on a tester decision.
A car is available for rent at the Department of Transportation for the purpose of a driving test, 100 THB per time. It might not come in good condition. Some cars are even missing rear-view mirrors, making it more difficult to pass the test.
In case applicants fail the practical driving test, they can retake it again after three business days and redo only the test that they fail. Applicants need to pass all practical driving tests within 90 days. Otherwise, they need to redo the whole process again.
Being Granted the License
Although the process may seem complicated for non-Thai people, the good news is that the cost of obtaining a Thai driving license is extremely low. Applicants who have passed all of the tests will have their documents signed and returned to them. The documents will be checked one last time by another officer, who will then grant them a two-year temporary Thai driving license.
After a year, you can get a five-year driving license which can be renewed every five years. The temporary license need to be extended before it is expired. Failing to do so, an applicant is required to redo the whole procedure to make a driving license again.
For the five-year license, it can be renewed three months prior to the expiry date with a color blindness, peripheral, reflex, and depth perception test. If the license is expired for more than a year, the theory test is required. If more than 3 years, an applicant need to provide a medical certificate and do the practical driving test. Necessary documents and procedure can be read at the Department of Land Transport website.
The expiry date of the Thai driving license is always the applicant’s birthday, no matter what the issued date is.
The entire fee for taking the test and receiving a Thai driving license is just 305 THB for a two-year temporary license and 605 THB for a five-year license. Embassies usually charge a fee of between 300 and 500 THB for certifying the applicant’s letter of address in Thailand. The standard fee for the doctor’s certificate from a clinic confirming that the applicant is in good physical and mental health is 50-200 THB.
There is also a service like Chiangmai Buddy helping expats to get a driver’s license by paying an additional fee of around 300 THB to have all of the details taken care of. If applicants do not know how to drive yet, taking a driving course from any driving school in Thailand can be a good option. It usually costs 3,500 – 4,000 THB per 10 hours. At the end of the course, the school will help prepare all necessary documents and take applicants to the Department of Land Transport to apply for the Thai driving license.