Planning to travel to Thailand – or settle in the ‘Land of Smiles’? If so, it’s highly advisable to obtain a valid Thai driving license to stay on the safe side of the law. As an experienced Phuket law firm, we understand that it’s easy for foreigners to feel overwhelmed or confused by the new traffic laws and regulations in Thailand. With this in mind, below are some of the reasons a Thai driving license might make your say seamless and enjoyable.
Are you a resident of Thailand? Are you visiting the country on a non-immigrant visa (retirement visa or marriage visa)? Or did you enter Thailand on a work permit/business visa? If you’re planning to stay in Thailand for a couple of months or more, getting a Thai driving license ensures you are fully legal to drive confidently in any region of the state. And keep in mind that an automobile license and a motorbike license are two distinct documents in Thailand.
Please note that the Thailand Traffic Department does not issue a driving license to foreigners with a Tourist Visa or those who entered the country on a Visa On Arrival (makes sense when your stay spans a few days or weeks). In this case, it’s prudent to carry around an International Driving Permit and a driver’s license from your home country.
Applicable in Other ASEAN Countries
If you are a holder of a valid Thai driving license, you are legally allowed to drive in all 10 ASEAN countries. A translated/interpreted version of Section 42-2 of the Motor Vehicle Act B.E. 2522 indicates that “In case there’s a treaty between the Thai government and a foreign government regarding mutual acceptance of driver’s license, an alien who doesn’t have an immigrant visa may drive a motor vehicle with a driver’s license issued by such a foreign government, or an automobile association authorized by such a foreign government.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is basically an intergovernmental organization established in 1967 to promote regional stability and economic growth among its members. It currently consists of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Brunei, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Simply put, getting a Thai driving license makes your stay easier and cheaper. Aside from helping you avoid legal repercussions, you also get to enjoy all the perks of a resident – i.e., the driving license is accepted as a form of ID. So if you’re planning to visit museums, national parks, and other places with discriminatory prices, you’ll pay the cheaper price awarded to locals.
Application is Relatively Easy
If you have a valid license from your home country, applying for a Thai driving license is relatively easy. All you have to do is visit a Land Transportation Office in any of the large cities with documents such as a medical certificate, passport, residences certificate or work permit, and your original valid driving license and/or international driving permit. You’ll want to arrive at the Land Transportation Office early in the morning because you might end up spending the better part of a day there depending on how things go. If you need to take the exams, there is also a very good chance you’ll be forced to spread them out over two days. The first Thai driver’s license is valid for two years, with next renewal of 5 years.
It’s clear that having a valid Thai driving license has several perks including the legal factor and convenience. But remember that the law is subject to change. For example, a new regulation in the Land Traffic Act allows the police to punish traffic offenders without seizing their driving license thanks to the enforcement of an e-policing plan. Therefore, feel free to consult a Phuket lawyer for professional legal advice regarding the Motor Vehicle Act, fine imprints on the conditions of insurance, and any other applicable information.