Although you can technically drive in Thailand on an international driver’s license, there are some reasons why you should be getting a driver’s license in Thailand. International driver’s licenses are intended for temporary use–when you are visiting somewhere. If you are an expat living in Thailand for more than a few months, you need a Thai driver’s license because insurance companies require it. Additionally, when you have a Thai license, you can show it at any of the national parks and tourist attractions and avoid paying the tourist prices. You can do the same with a Thai work permit but if you are living here on a retirement visa, you will not have one of those. The final reason is because if you get stopped by a police officer there is a chance that he will not accept your international driver’s license. Here is the basic procedure you will go through when obtaining your driver’s license in Thailand.
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Proof of Address
The first document you will need when getting a driver’s license in Thailand is a letter from either your embassy or Thai immigration that states your address in country. Going to Thai immigration to get this letter is probably the easiest route. The immigration officer will give you a form to fill out, charge about 200 THB, and then send the letter to you in the mail. Some sources say that an immigration officer will come to visit you at your residence but this rarely happens in busy places like Bangkok. Make sure you make a copy of the picture page on your passport and your current visa page for the immigration officer.
Another document needed will be the medical check. You only have to visit any hospital or street clinic and the staff there will know what to do. The check only involves making a determination if you are reasonably healthy and of sound mind. The cost for this check varies however it is minimal.
Make sure that you take your international driver’s license or license from your home country before getting a driver’s license in Thailand. If you have this, and it’s valid, you will not have to take a written or driving test. The other forms necessary include copies of your passport picture page, TM card that was stamped when you entered the country, and current visa. Keep in mind that you need a non-immigrant class visa in order to get a license. Make sure that you take your passport as well.
Going to the Department of Land Transport
This is the agency that you will see when getting a driver’s license in Thailand. It would be a good idea to take someone with you who can speak, read, and write Thai however this is not an absolute necessity. You will hand over all of your documentation at the front desk and then be directed to another station where they have you fill out another form. It is best to get to the department early because the line gets quite long. In Bangkok, the Department of Land Transport office located across from Sukumvit 62 opens at 8:00 A.M. however lines form around 7:00 A.M.
For those who do not have a current international license or license from their home country, they may have to take both a written and driving test. The written test is in Thai and it is okay to have a Thai-speaking person assist you. For the driving theory test, you will be shown a video (which will be in Thai language) and then given a 30-question computer test. You will need to score at least 23 on it.
The second, for those without a current foreign or international license, will be a driving test where you will be provided with an automobile from the department. You will need to prove that you can effectively and safely maneuver a vehicle by doing things like backing straight, making turns, and parallel parking.
Everyone, when getting a driver’s license in Thailand, takes these three tests: color blindness, peripheral vision, and reaction time. The color blindness test involves basic recognition of colors. The peripheral vision test requires that you place your chin on a machine and then the operator will ask you to respond when you see flashes of light at your side. And the reaction test puts you on a machine with an accelerator and brake pedal. You accelerate and respond by braking when the signal indicates to do such.
When you have all of the required forms submitted and passed all of your tests, you will finally go to get your picture taken for the actual license. The fee is 105 THB. Your first license is considered temporary and only good for 1 year. After that, you can get a 5-year license.
Keep in mind that different branches of the Department of Land Transport may do things slightly different. For example, you might have an expired foreign license which would theoretically mean that you would have to take the written and driving test but on occasion, officials at the department have been known to overlook it. Like with anything in this country, always smile and be cooperative and you will be surprised at just how easy getting a driver’s license in Thailand is.