Although many long term residents use an International Driving Licence in Thailand Thai law only recognises such a licence as an alternative to a Thai Licence for a temporary period. Which is ideal for a tourist visit but not for expats wishing to drive lawfully in the country. It is therefore recommended that longer term residents obtain a Thai Drivers Licence from their Local Department of Land Transport
In order to complete this procedure you will need certain documents.
Required Documents for Obtaining a Thai Drivers Licence
- A valid International Driving Licence, issued in your own country, plus photocopy. Ordinary home country domestic driving licences may also be accepted.
- Your passport and a copy of the main page, current visa, which must be a non-immigrant, visa and not a Tourist Visa, plus a copy of your departure card
- A medical certificate from a doctor stating your fitness to drive.
- Proof of the address where you reside. To do this get either a letter from your local Thai Immigration(usually charged at 500 Baht) or a letter from your embassy in Thailand(UK Embassy charges around 2000Baht). Alternatively if you have a work permit this will suffice in place of the letter. Provide a photocopy of whichever document too.
- A fee of 380 Baht each for car and motorcycle(if you want both). Thailand now issues a photo card licence in Thai and English. One plastic card for a car, one for a motorcycle. It is machine generated.
Sign all documents including photocopies at the bottom. The doctors letter and proof of address must not be more than 30 days old or they will not be accepted by the DLT.
The licence you receive is temporary and valid for one year.
Procedure at the Department of Land Transport
- Present your documents at an unoccupied window. If you want two licences i.e. car and motorcycle present two packs. You may use a photocopy of the doctors and immigration letters on the second application.
- The clerk will attach a blank form to the front of your documents-this is for official use and records your test results
- When your name is called, take 3 tests for eyesight(2) and reaction, you are instructed in Thai.So it helps if you have a Thai speaker with you if your Thai is not so good.
- Take a multi choice test on highway code/rules of road. This is in English and is on a machine.
75% is required to pass. Don’t be surprised by the wording of some of the questions, which might indicate there is no right answer!
- After successfully completing the tests you wait to have your photograph taken and licence produced on a machine operated by a member of staff.
What happens in the tests for a Thai drivers licence?
The first test checks for colour vision, you are required to identify red, yellow and green dots pointed out at random by a tester on a large chart. You stand about 10′ away. Its handy if you know the Thai word for green (see kheoo) red (see dang) and yellow(see luang) although most testers understand green, red and yellow, since these are the only colours tested!
A depth perception test is next, here you are required to line up two posts electronically in a small box using forward and back buttons. One post is stationary you simply line up the other next to it. You sit about 10′ from the box.
A reaction test is next, at the same desk you press an accelerator pedal lighting up green lights on a display and hit the brake when a red light illuminates.
Finally you take the theory test on a machine that provides multi-choice questions, you simply indicate which answer you think is correct.
Providing you pass all the tests that’s it since there is no practical test for people already holding a valid driving licence although you may have to watch a video about safe driving!
This article is based on my personal experience of obtaining Thai Drivers Licence, please be aware that procedures may vary slightly from place to place. The same could apply to the documents required and the need to pass a theory test.
The entire cost of the process including obtaining the relevant documents was 1200 Baht, which included a letter from Immigration(500 Baht) and a doctors letter (100 Baht) plus the fee for a car and motorcycle licence.
Because the your first Thai Drivers Licence is only valid for one year so you must return a year later to obtain a five year licence. Paperwork required for obtaining a Thai five year licence is the same but there is no requirement to re-take the tests. You might find this table useful Driving in Thailand Vocabulary.
Update July 2014: a New Thai driving test has been introdced. Procedures reman the same but the pass mark in the theory test is now 85%.