How-to Get a Thai Driving License

If you ever rent a motorbike in Thailand it’s actually incredibly rare that you’ll ever be asked to produce any documentation that states you are capable of driving the thing. Nobody seems to care that much about driving licenses. Amongst Chiang Mai circles I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to produce one – and even if they did then it’s not something a couple of hundred baht wouldn’t solve. The Thai Driving License for the most part is a formality that many locals and foreigners alike seem to avoid despite the obvious pitfalls of potentially invalidating any insurance cover they might possess by not having one. There is a period of grace when driving in a foreign country with an International Driving Permit. That period is usually 3 months. If you intend to stay in a foreign country longer than that and intend to drive then you really should be investigating local licenses.

I’ve had a Thai Driving License for a few months now and it was relatively easy to obtain. They are valid for one year with me becoming eligible to apply for a license with a 5 year term once it expires. Not only does it make me completely road legal and properly insured for my motorbike, it also gets me special discount when visiting temples, parks and other local attractions. There’s nothing like being asked to pay the foreigner price to enter somewhere before whipping out your Thai driving license and getting in for the local price. I’ve seen ‘foreigner’ prices that are 200% more than the Thai equivalents!

If you too want to avoid the ‘white man’ premium whilst also becoming road legal, here’s what you should do:

  • Get a medical certificate declaring that you are fit and healthy from a doctor. This only cost me 20฿ (email me for directions if in Chiang Mai) but should be no more than 100฿.
  • Ready your passport and take a copy of the photo page, your visa and TM6 departure card.
  • Take photocopies of the front and back (photo and stamp) pages preferably of your International Driving Permit or your home country license if you don’t have one.
  • Get a Certificate of Residence from immigration.

Now you’re good to head on down to your local Department of Land Transport. In Chiang Mai this is a 10-15 minute drive down Hang Dong Road past the airport. Despite fears that getting a Thai license could well be an all day affair, I was actually stunned with the efficiency that I was dealt with despite choosing to arrive on a Friday afternoon.

Walking up to the front desk I was asked which license I wanted to apply for a car or motorbike license. After opting for both I was given two English application forms (the ones floating around online are generally out of date by the way). To apply for two licenses you need two complete sets of documents. Fortunately – the second set can be photocopies and in the case of Chiang Mai there is a photocopying service situated towards the rear of the new hall which can take care of this for you.

Here is where it pays to have an International Driving Permit. If you have both an IDP and a license from your own country then keep your home license out of the equation. Home licenses can confuse matters and lead to you needing to road theory and road tests. With an IDP you don’t shouldn’t need to do any tests other than a simple reaction / colour test! This is exactly what happened to me.

After being handed a ticket and waiting a few minutes I was summoned to a desk to take my reaction test where a man pointed towards a set of mock traffic lights in front of me. The light turned red and it soon became clear I was being asked to name colours as I saw them. “Red. Orange. Green. Orange. Red. Green.” That was it. It seemed I passed with flying colours.

After being given back my paperwork I set off back towards the main desk. I would then need to visit another window to have my application verified and pay. After parting with around 350฿ it was time to have my picture taken in a booth operated by a woman a few metres away. I immediately walked in, got snapped and then waited while my two driving license cards were printed before my eyes. I was back on the road an hour later a proud, legal motorcyclist and wondering how long it would have taken me to achieve the same in the UK!?

Feeling a bit more part of the community!
Feeling a bit more part of the community!

Comments

Christine |GRRRL TRAVELER
Reply

Congrats! So you didn’t have to take a road test? I dunno but I keep feeling like because Thailand… Chiang Mai in particular, is so rampant with motorbikes that you’d probably need to do a motorbike driving test. In the states you’d have to take one for a motorcycle.

Chris
Reply

If you have the correct stamp on your International Driving Permit then you shouldn’t need to do any road tests. You’re just converting to a local license essentially.

I only have CTB (Compulsory Basic Training) in the UK so I’m not sure whether I should have the motorcycle stamp or not. However – for whatever reason I do – and that means no questions asked. :)

Nick
Reply

I know a black guy that gets pulled over at least once a week – he’s ex LAPD so likes to flash that ID gives the local Bill something to think about while they scurry away with tails between their legs… they should be figuring out how 15 year old students are flying about with no helmet / license / insurance or clue how to drive :-)

Chris
Reply

Haha! That’s brilliant Nick.

Chris W
Reply

I got my Thai Driving License a couple of days ago. Just wanted to say thanks for outlining the procedure. Got my certificate of residence from Chiang Mai Immigration for which I gave a 100baht tip (no official fee) which took a week to wait for. Fortunately was provided with a 5 year License even though the one year one had expired years ago.
Many thanks for your informative blog.

jim heiden
Reply

Here in Pattaya …..
They are stopping all moto bike drivers
Not for not wearing a Helmut
But
For not having an international driving license .
400 baht must be paid immediately or bike impounded .
.
INTERNATION Moto bike licenses CONVIENIENTY
ARE NOT TO BE GOTTEN IN THAILAND
!!!! BUT BACK IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY !!!!
.
A aged AUSSIE working g behind the POLICE complaint desk
Along Pattaya Beach stated that I could vet a Thai drivers license
For riding this moto …….. but …….
!!!!! ITS WAY OUTSIDE OF TOWN !!!!
.
!!!!! MAI PEN RAI !!!!!

.

George
Reply

Hey,
Great post. Very useful and informative.

You mention in the post you could tell me where you got your med certificate? That would be really great mate, please email me if you can :)

Thanks very much,
George

henriette
Reply

hi there i’ve just arrived in chiangmai. can you tell me where you got your med certificate? That would be really great. please email me if you can i know you go ti last year but it stil might be a valid address. thx a alot for taking the time to put all useful info together…cheers! henriette

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