For many people driving a car in Thailand isn’t the first option that comes to mind, when traveling around the country. There are a lot risks related to it, and so many affordable other options to choose from. Living in Bangkok, you really don’t need a car, at least as a single person or as a couple without kids, because of the convenience of BTS and MRT. But every now and then, it would be nice to jump on a car and drive away for the weekend. As most rental car services require a local license, it makes renting a car a whole lot easier to have one. Here’s how it’s done.
If you have a license issued from your country, you don’t have to do the license from scratch. If you have an international license, or license from any English speaking country, you just need to contact your Embassy in Thailand, and ask for a magical thing called “embassy stamp” that clears almost everything in Thailand. But, if your license was issued in a non-English speaking country, you need to get a transcript from your country explaining what the driver’s license is for and what vehicles you can drive. After that the embassy stamp is still needed, so once you receive the documents, you still need to get them stamped at your embassy.
In addition you need to get a health certificate from any small clinic for a 100 THB (3 USD). No need to go to a proper hospital for this purpose, as the document from any certified clinic is enough.
Then finally you need to bring with you the yellow book (house registration), work permit or notarized copy of rental agreement. The last can be done at your embassy or Thai Immigration office. You should also bring along your Passport and TM.6 form that is given when you enter Thailand. (I also brought two photos with me, just in case, but they were not needed.)
Where it’s done
Thailand Ministry of Transport is local authority that issues driver’s licenses. They have various locations, but for those living in Bangkok, one near Punnawithi BTS station, is easy to access. Most locals of course drive there to get their first license… The office is located about 10 min walk from Bangchak BTS stations, just past Sukhumvit Soi 99. See the map below.
How it’s done
When you enter the building there is an information counter on the left hand side. They speak English, and are somewhat friendly to assist. They will give you an application form at the counter for the type of license that you are applying for. You need to take copies of some of the documents mentioned above. Better to take one copy of each just in case. The copy counter is located on the right when you enter the building.
After you have the copies done go to queue number 9, wait your turn and present the documents at the counter. You will get a number in a colored piece of paper. The color is a group, and the number is your queue.
You then wait your color to be called to take four tests as a group in a test room.
The first one checks whether you can tell the difference between green, red and yellow. You see traffic lights and the instructor is flashing the three lights in a different order and position and your job is to tell what the color is.
The second is to test your vision. You place your face in a machine that shows lights on the far right and far left of your vision. Your job is to again tell the color of the light.
The last two are done together on the same spot. In the first one you are sitting about 3 meters away from a small box. You see two pens inside a box through a small hole. One of the pens can be moved through a remote control and the other stands still. Your job is to line up the moving pen with the other one. This one can be a bit tricky, but you get 3 attempts.
In the last one, you have two pedals: steer and brake. You start by steering up. Once you do that you see green light soon turning red. Once it turns red you must quickly press the brake pedal.
The tests aren’t actually that difficult to pass, and the instructors are somewhat flexible. They usually let you try as many times as it takes to get the tricky ones right.
Picking up the license
Once you have passed the tests, you can pick up the license right away, as it’s done on the spot. You go to counter 8 and get a queue number and wait. The queues can be quite long, so bringing along a book or other entertainment is not a bad idea. Once it’s your turn, you sit down at the officer’s desk and wait your license to be printed. The license is first granted for one year, as a temporary license and can be extended after that. The cost for the license is around 250 THB.
If you have any questions about getting a drivers license in Thailand, please leave a comment below. Drive safe!
Update: 23 March 2017
How to Renew your Thai Driver’s Licence
Renewing the Licence is a very straight forward process. You go to the same location with the following documents:
– Driver’s Licence
– Original Passport
– Original Work Permit (or address proof in Thailand)
– Medical Certificate
I, of course, forgot the Medical certificate, but luckily there is a clinic right next to Bang Chak BTS station, which sorted it out in 10 minutes.
So, you walk in and hand all the documents to the counter on the left. They will then tell you to take copies of your passport front page and Visa pages, and Work Permit front page and the employer address page. You can of course take these yourself before hand, but it can easily be done on the spot for the copy fee of 1 THB per page.
You then walk into counter number 8 (or 9 if it’s open) and get a queue number for vision/reaction tests (same you had to do when applying the first time).
First test: you have to align two sticks to show that your depth vision is in order.
Second test: you press gas pedal and wait for the red light. Once the red light appears you have to break as fast as you can.
Third test: you see colours (green, yellow and red) appearing on your right and left. Just identify the colour and you’ll pass.
Then back to counter 8 to get a printed queue number for collecting your 5-year licence. That’s it. It costs 605 THB.
Note: the office lunch hour is 12-13.00pm and basically nothing happens during this time, so time your visit accordingly.