Do It Legally!

Many of our readers ask questions about some specific legal issues that need to be considered when living in Thailand. To answer these questions our expert partners, Siam Consulting Hua Hin assists to provide the answers. This time the question is: 

What sort of driving license is needed to legally drive in Thailand?

A. International Driving Licence

Any foreigner wishing to drive in Thailand must hold a valid international license issued by the authorities of a country that has signed a bilateral agreement with Thailand or acceded to an international treaty to which Thailand is a signatory. In our experience it is most likely that foreigners from the ‘usual’ countries travelling to Thailand will be included.   For a full list of countries that have agreed to accept the 1949 United Nations Convention on road traffic covering acceptance of the International Driving Permit visit this link:


Be aware that an international driving licence has a validity of 1 to 10 years but allows you to drive for a maximum of 3 months per trip.

B. Thailand Driving Licence

With an international licence or your home country licence, it is easier for a foreigner to obtain a Thai driving license with the following documents:

1. A valid passport.

2. A non-immigrant visa (a Tourist Visa is not acceptable)

3. Proof of residence (a home booklet known in Thai as the “Tabian baan”) or a residence permit issued by Immigration.

4. A medical certificate (in Thai)

6. An original driver’s license and a copy and translation certified by the embassy of the country of origin or international driving license original and its copy.

An application for a Thailand Driving Licence is submitted to the Department of Transportation office within each Province. The applicant may also be required to pass some visual and reflex tests. The license is then awarded depending on the category of license obtained in their country of origin.  The initial licence will be for a period of one year and subsequently for five years.

Some Anecdotal Stories and Suggestions

As with many legal requirements in Thailand it often seems like everyone has a different story to tell about how they managed to negotiate the ‘system’.  Here are some variations on the requirements described above!  Of course these comments should not be considered as legal advice; but offered without prejudice or responsibility.  If you have legal questions about your individual circumstances please seek advice from a lawyer.

  • Proof of residence has been obtained from the Police (apart from Immigration) with the necessary paperwork provided.
  • A medical certificate may be obtained easily from a local doctor, just tell them what it is for.
  • The need for a translated copy of your International or home country licence may not be required to obtain a Thai licence in ‘tourist friendly’ locations.
  • A multi choice theory test will be available in English but not necessarily in your own language.
  • Recent changes include a requirement to sit through a presentation (in Thai) of safety issues when driving.
  • A practical (driving) test is not usually required for a licence of a similar class of vehicle described on your international or home country licence.  If you do not have a motor bike licence you are likely to need (and pass) a driving test which may be on a ‘test track’ near the Departmental facilities.  We know of one case when an unprepared applicant did not arrive with a motor cycle to use and the Departmental staff kindly provided one to use, but don’t count on it!
  • Be prepared with multiple passport style photos and copies of all the documents required; a real time saver.
  • Be aware that reminders or notification of the expiry dates are not given.  This also applies to vehicle licences.  A diary is always useful!
  • Apart from driving legally, a Thai Driving Licence also has benefits when you need to show your ID, reducing the need to carry your passport.

The costs for the various requirements are not high but each one will have a price.  It may seem like a prolonged and sometimes frustrating process but if you persist with a sense of humour and patience it’s not really too hard.

Our advice; hang in there so that the next time you come across a Police check at the roadside you can proudly show your Thai licence with a smile!