Getting your Thai Driving License is a must if you're living in Thailand.
If you haven't done it yet, I can't blame you as it took me almost 4 years to do it.
But I would not recommend you wait that long.
In fact, by the law, when you live for more than 6 months in Thailand you're supposed to have a local driving license.
That's the only way to drive legally in Thailand and to have a Thai insurance to really cover you in case of an accident.
So if you're thinking about getting your Thai driving license and you're about to book an appointment, here's everything you need to know to get your Thai driving license in Bangkok.
Let's get into it.
- Why You Need a Thai Driving License
- How to Get your Thai Driving License ?
- How Much Does it Cost ?
- How to Renew your Thai Driving License ?
- International Driving License
- Other Benefits of Having a Thai Driving License
- Now go Get your Thai Drivers License
Why You Need a Thai Driving License
I know it's a stupid question but I've heard it many times so let me answer it quickly.
In short, if you're an expat living in Thailand, your driving license from home isn't really valid here (even if sometimes the police are fine with it) and your international driving license isn't valid forever.
As I said above, if you live for more than 6 months in Thailand, you're legally required to have a Thai driving license.
It is the only way to drive legally in Thailand and to be fully covered by your car or motorbike insurance.
On top of that, if you drive in Thailand a lot, you've probably seen a ton of roadblocks already and you might want to cut down on the fines you pay each year.
So let's get to it, shall we?
How to Get your Thai Driving License ?
The process isn't really complicated but it's better to know what you're getting into beforehand.
Note that having a driving license from your home country isn't mandatory but it will make the process a lot easier and faster as you won't be required to take the theory and practical test again.
And if you're going to do your Thai driving licence I would recommend that you do the car and motorbike at the same time.
Why? Because they require the same documents.
You only have to take the theory and physical tests once and you can renew them at the same time.
Now for your application, here are all the documents you will need and the things you will have to do.
What Documents do you Need ?
A certified translation of your original driving license (if you have one)
If you have a driving license back home you will need it to get translated and certified by your embassy.
First, you need to make a copy of it (both sides or all pages) and get it certified by the embassy.
The price varies from one embassy to the other but at the French Embassy, it is about 500฿.
Then you need to get it translated by a service certified by the embassy. That's another 500 to 1000฿ depending on where you go.
Then you need to go back to the embassy with the translation to get it certified too.
A residence certificate or work permit
You will also need a residence certificate or a work permit.
To get a residence certificate in Thailand you can either go to the immigration with your rental agreement or get one from your embassy.
We did the proof of residence for my girlfriend at the French Embassy and it was free.
But be careful. If you get it from your embassy, make sure they put the district and sub-district in the address. Otherwise, the Department of Land Transport will refuse it.
Now if you decide to use your work permit, double-check that they put the address of your office at the end.
I had the address in my work permit but my girlfriend didn't have one. Apparently they don't always put it with the new version of the work permit.
So double-check or you will waste half a day and have to go back to the embassy or immigration to get a certificate of residency.
That's what happened to us.
A Medical Certificate
The usual. You can get it in any clinic. It usually costs about 200฿.
A copy of your passport and Non-Immigrant Visa
From what I've read, you need to be on a non-immigrant visa to get your Thai driving license (Family, retirement, work, student, elite...).
Some services say they can get you a Thai driving license on a tourist visa but I don't know anyone who did.
So I got no idea if it's true or not.
To get your Thai driving license you will need :
- Your driving licence (Original, original certified copy and a certified translation)
- A certificate of residency or work permit (with the address inside)
- A medical certificate
- Your passport (the original and a copy of the front page and your visa)
If you do your motorbike and car driving license at the same time, you will need 2 copies of each.
One for each license.
In Bangkok, you can apply for your driving license at the Department of Land Transport in Bang Chak.
It's 5 minutes walk from the BTS Station of the same name.
It's a government building so make sure you dress correctly. And as always, arrive early if you don't want to spend your day in the queue.
When you get there, you need to fill in the form with all your information as well as provide all the documents listed above.
You can't download the form online (yet) but it looks something like that.
You can use an agency to help you with all the processes (which we did) or do it by yourself.
I think that all the forms are in Thai and English but I would recommend bringing someone that speaks and read Thai to help or you might do a lot of back and forth with the reception.
Once you have all your documents, someone will verify that everything is in order and you will get a number to pass the physical tests.
The tests are pretty easy and it shouldn't be an issue for anyone.
There are 3 physical tests that you need to pass.
It only takes a few minutes to do them and if you fail you get back in the queue and try again.
- Depth perception test. There are 2 pins that you need to align. You can move one by pressing buttons that push it forward and backward. You raise your hand when you think the 2 pins are aligned.
- Reflex test. You sit on a chair and have a gas and brake pedal. When the green light comes on you need to press the gas pedal and to keep pressing until a red light shows up. When you see the red light you need to press the brake as fast as possible.
- Peripheral vision test. You need to look straight as they show you lights on your left and right. You need to tell what color (green, red or yellow) the light is without turning your head or eyes.
They give explanations only in Thai but the employees speak a little bit of English.
And if you got any doubt, just look at what people do and do the same.
If you don't have a driving license or at least not for cars or motorbikes, you will need to take the Thai driving theory test.
It's a simple test with 50 questions. You have 1 hour to complete it and you need to have at least 45 correct answers (90%) to pass.
The questions are pretty basics but you will need to practice to get used to the way they phrase them and the answers.
There are also some questions that don't make sense at all, so just learn the answers.
There are multiple websites like thaidriving.info that reproduce the test online.
A few hours of training the week before the test should be enough.
Traffic Safety Video
How do you learn the traffic safety rules in Thailand?
You watch a 1-hour long video with actors that explain to you how to behave on the road.
All you have to do is sit there for 1 hour.
In the end, they will sign your form and you can move on to the next part.
I guess you just need to see the numbers of death on the road in Thailand to get how effective it is.
But we're not gonna talk about that here.
Motorbike driving test
The practical driving test is only for people who don't have a valid driving license already.
I have a car driving license from France so I didn't have to take the practical test for the car driving license but I had to do it to have the motorbike license.
For that, you usually come the day after you passed the physical and theory tests.
For motorcycles, the test is on a small track outside (see the picture below) and only takes a few minutes.
All you have to do is drive on the track and stop every time you see a STOP sign or red light. And then zig-zag around cones without touching them or putting a foot on the floor.
To do the driving test you can either rent a bike there to do it or bring your own.
It's a bit tricky with the bike they rent there but doable. But I almost failed the cone part because I wasn't used to their bike that was in a pretty bad condition.
So if you can I would recommend you rent a motorbike or borrow one from a friend instead.
Apparently they don't mind if you drive without a license to go pass a test to get your driving license.
Grab your Thai Driving Licence
If you only come for the car driving license or if you already have both licenses from home, you can do it in a day.
You fill in the forms, take the physical tests, watch the video, and go to get your licenses right away.
In my case, because I only had the car driving license, I had to go there twice.
On the first morning, I did the physical tests, watched the video, and get my car driving license.
Then I went upstairs to take the theory test.
And I came back the next morning to do the motorbike driving test and get the motorbike driving license.
In short, once you did the tests, all the hard work is done.
Then you wait in a room until they call your number, they take a picture of you, you paye and you get your Thai Driving Licence(s) right there on the spot.
How Much Does it Cost ?
It depends if you do it by yourself or with an agency.
If you go by yourself, I think it looks something like that :
- 1,000฿ (more or less) for the legalization of the original copy of the driving license and its translation at the embassy
- 1,000฿ (more or less) for the certified translation
- 305฿ for the car driving license
- 50฿ for the theory test
- 105฿ for the motorbike driving license
- Total : 2,460฿
I used Fatboy Motorbike driving license service this time and it cost 1,900฿ for the car driving license and 3,500฿ for the car and motorbike driving license.
That price includes the medical certificate and everything you need to pay at the Department of Land Transport.
So all included it cost me :
- 1,000฿ for the certified translation
- 1,000฿ for the legalization of the original copy of my driving license and its translation at the embassy
- 3,500฿ for the car and motorbike driving license through Fatboy service
- Total: 5,500฿*
It's definitely cheaper if you do it by yourself but if like me you hate to deal with paperwork, you can't read Thai and you're tired just thinking about it, pay someone to take care of it.
For me, I feel like it's worth the extra money to have someone to fill in all the forms and take you by the hand through all the steps.
*not including the time and money to go to each place...
How to Renew your Thai Driving License ?
When you apply for the first time you get a temporary driving license that is valid for 2 years.
After 2 years you need to go back to the Department of Land Transport to renew it.
This time, you only need your temporary driving license, a residence certificate, your passport with a non-immigrant visa, and a medical certificate.
For the renewal of your Thai Driving Licence, you only need to go through the physical tests and watch the safety video again and they give you another Thai Driving License that is valid for 5 years this time.
Then 5 years later you go through the same process again to renew it.
International Driving License
You can use your Thai driving license to drive in the Kingdom but also in all the countries of the ASEAN.
But for that, you need to get your 5 years Thai driving license first then go to the Department of Land Transport to ask to get an international driving license.
That international driving license is valid for 1 year.
Other Benefits of Having a Thai Driving License
On top of not having to pay a fine every time you see the police, there are more benefits to have a Thai driver's license.
You can now travel in Thailand and take domestic flights with your driving license, you don't always need to use your passport anymore.
You can also use it as an ID when you go out.
This way you don't take the risk of losing your passport or driving license from home that would be a lot more expensive to renew.
You need to apply for it in the Department of Land Transport in your city. You will need to bring all the documents necessary and go through physical tests and watch a 1-hour video to obtain it.
If you don't have a driving license from your home country you will also need to do a theory and practical driving test.
The temporary Thai Driving License cost 305฿ for the car license and 105฿ for the motorbike driving license. The 5 year Thai Driving License cost 505฿.
Yes with an international driving license. But if they stay for more than 6 months in Thailand they're required to get a Thai Driving License from the Department of Land and Transport.
Some agencies claim they can get you a Thai driving license on a tourist visa but the website of the Department of Land and Transport say that you need a non-immigrant visa to apply for one.
If you drive without a valid driving license in Thailand you can have a fine of up to 1,000฿ and/or 1 month in jail.
Now go Get your Thai Drivers License
Now if you made it here, I hope you got all the information you need to get or renew your driving license as a foreigner living in Bangkok.
Of course, everything above is subject to change so check the website of the Department of Land Transport for up to date information.
If you want to know more about life as an expat in Thailand you can find more information and stories related to my life as an expat in Bangkok.
And as always, if you have any questions or comments, let me know below.