Getting your Thailand drivers license

Rule number one is get to the Land Transport office at 8:00AM. They may turn
 you away if you get there at 8:30.

I drove my motorbike around Pattaya for about three years plus, on just my passport and California drivers license and never had a problem. I did This back in the day when, thirty day visa runs were common practice and you could pretty much get away without a Thai driving license. I was fifty percent legal as long as nothing happened. When I got my retirement visa I decided to get a Thai drivers license at the same time. The process is really pretty simple and much of the paper work involved in getting a retirement visa is the same as with getting a Thai drivers license. To me it made perfect sense to get both retirement visa and drivers license at the same time.

Firstly why would you want to get your own Thai drivers license? Well now days it will cost you 1,000B if you are stopped and don't have one. If you are just in Thailand on a tourist visa, you are better off getting an international license. You should at the very least have an international drivers license. Here is the bad if you are involved in an accident and you don’t have a Thai driving license the blame will be pinned on you and you stand a chance of being jailed. By having a Thai drivers license your chance of getting a fair shake by the police when involved in accidents in Pattaya are much better. Furthermore some insurance companies won’t accept liability if the vehicle wasn't operated by someone with a valid Thai or international drivers license. That means if the accident is your fault as it most likely will be then you could be held one hundred percent responsible for that accident. You could also be thrown in jail while the police sort out who is at fault and who is going to pay. This process of sorting out who is at fault and who is going to pay could take a month or even longer to complete. Some other benefits of possessing a Thai license are that it establishes you as not just a mere tourist. Having a Thai license sometimes gets you a non tourist price at many tourist destinations in Thailand, not all of them but most.

You will need the following.

  1. Your passport showing your non immigrant visa, or work permit, you cannot apply with just a tourist visa*** or a thirty day stamp in your passport. This is where you may want to get a retirement visa at the same time.

    *** The rule has either changed or they are just allowing anyone to apply as long as they are legally in Thailand and they are at least 18. You will need to show your passport.
  2. A health report from a doctor stating you are in good enough health to operate a motor vehicle, on renewals this is not needed. These can be obtained for about 100 to 200 baht, at any of the hundreds of neighborhood clinics scattered around Pattaya. Don’t worry basically if you can walk into the clinic you will pass the exam. If applying for both motorcycle and car you will need two certificates the department of motor vehicles will accept a copy for the second one.
  3. Certificate from immigration showing your address in Thailand. This sometimes takes two days so  do this in advance, but not more than 30 days in advance. The cost is 300 Bahts for each and you need one for each license you are applying for.
  4. A valid driving license from your home country if you have one, bring it along, you may not have to take any test at all, driving or written, if you show it to them. Note they will not accept an expired driving card from your home country.

Check out these weird three wheeled motor scooters no helmet required

Here is the process

  1. To apply for the license(s) First obtain your certificate of address and medical certificate as described.
  2. Drive or get a ride out to the department of motor vehicles just ten minutes outside of town (see map).
  3. Go across the street to one of the many copy shops. tell them what you are applying for and they will make any copies you will need as follows. Passport photo page, latest visa page, entry stamp and departure card, your current license.. You need copies for each license applying for cost is 3 Baht per copy.
  4. When you walk into the front door of the motor vehicles office there is a number que dispenser take a number and wait for your number to be called
  5. Go upstairs when called and go to desk 11 there the person will put all your paperwork in order.
  6. If this is your first license in Thailand and you do not have a valid license from your home country then you will need to take a driving test and a written test.
  7. You will be given a color blindness test, a reaction test, and a depth perception test, pretty easy to pass.
  8. You will then be instructed to watch a video on highway safety while you wait for your name to be called.
  9. Next step is to pay the fees, get your photo taken and receive your license on the spot.

Some helpful tips

  1. Go early 8:00AM, dress casual.
  2. Bring a Thai friend there is very little English spoken but you can still get by on your own.
  3. If you need additional photos or copies there are vendors across the street that can assist you. You may even want to start off there because they know of all the paper work and copies you need to get your license, and they don't cost very much, only 3 Baht per copy, well worth it..
  4. This is Thailand have patience they don’t do things the same as your country.

Getting to the Pattaya Department of Motor Vehicles

Head north on Sukhumvit Hwy until you get to a highway interchange for Highway 7,as pictured left, there is a bridge there, go up on the bridge to the right. This will be Highway 7 stay on this highway for 8.5K then you will come to another interchange stay all the way to the left (left fork two times). Now you are on Highway 36, you should see a big red, round, brick building on you left that is the Regents school. Travel another 500 meters past this and you will see a small road to the left, there are no signs and it is a sharp left so slow down before you get there, turn onto that road. Go along that for 300 meters and the road will curve to the left, just after that, the Department on Motor Vehicles building on the right. There are some small shops on the left that do photos and copies. I usually go into the motor vehicles office get my number then go across get my number

Renewing your drivers license

Your first Thai driving license will be good for only one year. Your second license will be good for five years, plus however long it is till your birthday that year. However if you renew your one year license before it expires you will only be given another one year license. The reason is they want you to have at least one year driving experience before issuing a five year permanent license. There for go sometime after it expires to get the five year license. If you have already the five year license you can renew up to 90 days before it expires or even up to a year after it expires. I know that all sounds weird but that is the way it is here, remember just go with the flow.

Because Your 5 year license expires on your fifth birthday from the time you get your license. You can renew your 5 year license just after it expires and get almost six years.

You will need most of the same documents as before. Renewing doesn't take as long but it may still be a good idea to get there in the morning.

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