How to Get a Thai Driver’s License – And Why You Should

thai drivers licenseThere have been many reports recently of traffic police in Chiang Mai targeting foreign motorists for not having a Thai driver’s license. In the past, the traffic cops would usually only stop motorbike riders not wearing helmets in order to line their pockets with cash “fines” paid on the spot. But it seems they’ve now realized that foreigners are easy pickings when it comes to lacking the proper documents to be driving on Thai roads. Not wanting to find myself contributing to their whiskey fund, I decided it was about time to get myself an official Thai driving license.

There are a few steps you have to go through, but it’s not expensive, and when you see just how easy the testing procedure is you’ll realize why there are so many dangerous Thai drivers on the roads. The first license that you apply for is called a temporary license. It’s valid for one year. When you have less than a month before it expires, you can then apply for a regular license, which is valid for 5 years. However, if you’re here on a tourist visa you will only be able to get one year at a time.

What You Need to Take to the Department of Land Transportation (DLT)


  • Certificate of Residence
  • Certificate of Health from a doctor
  • Home country driving license or international driving permit (if you have one)
  • Passport
  • Photocopies* of the front and back of current license or all the pages of international driving permit, and of your passport: info page, current visa, latest entry stamp, & embarkment card.

*If applying for both auto and motorcycle licenses at the same time, prepare two sets of all documents using photocopies of the residence and health certificates for the second set.

Getting the Documents Needed for a Thai Driving License

Certificate of Residence

You can get a residence certificate from your local Immigration Office. In Chiang Mai, the Immigration Office is located right before the airport, you’re no doubt familiar with it if you’ve been living here for a while. A Certificate of Residence is now issued for free, although it takes a week to process. At Chiang Mai, they’ve recently opened a special room around the back side of the Immigration building just for processing these (as of January 2014). In the past, they were charging 500 baht to make them, even though it was supposed to be a free service. Someone in charge straightened out the situation, and they’re now going out of their way to let you know that it’s a free service. You even have to sign a slip of paper affirming that you did not pay anything when you pick up your certificate. You’ll need to bring the following:

  • copy of your rental agreement or some other proof of address
  • copy of all important pages in your passport: info page, current visa, latest entry stamp, embarkment card, 90-day reporting card
  • 2 passport photos

Bring all the documents to Immigration before noon. You can pick up your certificate a week later in the afternoon between 1-4 pm. If you’re in the country on a tourist visa, and you find that Immigration won’t give you a Residence Certificate without a non-immigrant visa, you should be able to get one from your consulate, but it may cost a bit depending on which country you’re from.

***UPDATE***

As of June 2014 the Immigration Office is no longer issuing certificates of residence. The office for residence certificates has been moved to an inconvenient location on the far east side of town across the street from Promenada Mall. According to reports, they have also gone back to pressuring everyone to pay 500 baht for what is supposed to be a free service.

Certificate of Health

This doctor’s certificate is a big joke. The doctor will basically check that you still have a pulse and then sign off on the form. If you want it done cheaply, don’t go to a big fancy private hospital. I got mine at Changpuek Hospital for just 50 baht.

Home Country License or International Driving Permit

If you have an international driving permit or a valid English-language license from your home country, you won’t need to take the test for the class of vehicle listed on your current license. In my case, my driver’s license from Wisconsin is a Class D permit, which allows me to drive autos. So that meant I only had to take the test for motorcycles at the Thai DLT.

Photocopies

If you forget any photocopies don’t worry about it, as there’s a place to get cheap copies done inside the DLT.

In Chiang Mai, the Department of Land Transportation is located on Hang Dong Road. If you head south past Central Airport Plaza shopping center you’ll first pass Tesco Lotus, and then a little further on, the DLT is on your left just before Big C. It’s the place with the white and purple painted fence railings. You’ll want to try to get there around 8 in the morning. Be prepared for it to take all day, but in my case I was out before noon because they didn’t make me sit through the class.


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Steps for Getting a Thai Driving License at the Department of Land Transport

1. Show all your documents to the information counter on the 2nd floor.

2. They’ll send you to counter 21, and your documents will be checked again.

3. Go to counter 28 and take color-blindness and reaction tests, receive a queue number, and report to the correct counter when your number is called.

4. Here I paid 205 baht for my auto license, went to another booth to take the digital photo and receive the license, then came back to the original counter. I needed to take written and driving tests for the motorcycle license.

5. At this point many people have said that they had to sit in through a long and very boring 3-4 hour series of lectures and videos about the rules of the road and driver safety—all in Thai. Luckily for me, the officer just told me to go to the testing room after it opened at 10 am. In the meantime I could study from a booklet that they keep behind the counter, which needs to be returned before you can enter the testing room. When you study from the book, try to remember the distances that you’re allowed to park from things such as fire hydrants, pedestrian crossings, and railroad tracks because you’ll probably have one or more of these questions on the test.


The written test is given on a computer. It’s 30 questions long, each question is multiple-choice with four possible answers, and you have up to an hour to complete it. The English translated version of the test is horrible. It’s full of spelling mistakes, mistranslated words, and a few questions that just don’t make any sense whatsoever. It’s really quite inexcusable that an official government exam was translated so poorly. You may also see several repeat questions or questions that are nearly identical.

You need a score of at least 23 correct to pass. However, if you fail you can take the test once more. But if you fail again then you’ll have to come back to retake it the next day. If you fail the first time (as I did) you’ll get to see the correct answers for the questions you missed. Based on my two turns taking the test, I think your chances of passing will be high if you can remember the following:

U-turns are not allowed on a bridge or at an intersection. Variations on the U-turn question accounted for about 20% of the test. (Maybe they’re trying to stress this in the test because Thai drivers like to U-turn absolutely anywhere?)

At a 4-way intersection, the car on the left has the right-of-way.

For any questions about what kind of vehicle is not allowed on the road, the answer is always the car with something broken or missing (brake light, headlight, windshield, invalid plates).

For any question about when you’re not supposed to drive, the answer is always the situation where you’re physically or mentally impaired (drinking alcohol, about to have a heart attack, etc.) Take a gander at this actual question from the test:

Q: If you’re driving and find yourself feeling drowsy, you should…
A. Slow down
B. Drink coffee
C. Take an amphetamine pill
D. Pull over and rest until you feel ready to continue driving

6. After passing the written test, head outside and drive your vehicle over to the test driving area. For motorcycles, I had to drive around a very short course, stopping and turning just a few times. Then I had to weave around half a dozen cones—easy. Then there is a thin beam, about 8 inches wide 30 feet long and raised up about 1 inch that you need to drive across. It was also quite easy to pass. I imagine it would only be difficult if you’ve never driven before.

7. After passing the driving test, then I went back to the second floor information counter and got another queue number. When called up to the booth, I paid another 155 baht for the motorbike license. Go to take another picture, and this time pay another 10 baht. And done!

Total damage was 420 baht, which includes the doctor certificate (not counting the price of making copies or the two photos for the residence certificate). All-in-all it was much easier than I’d anticipated.

***UPDATE***

The written driving test was extended to 50 questions in June 2014. You are also now required to get 90% correct (or no more than 5 wrong) to pass. Apparently, they have not bothered to fix the horrible translation and mistakes in the English version of the test. If you want to study the questions beforehand, you can find them here.

Benefits of Having a Thai Driving License

Driving legally in Thailand

The obvious benefit is that you’re now fully legal to drive in Thailand. If you get in an accident without having a proper license you could end up paying a lot more money. Plus now the traffic cops will have no reason to ask you for a bribe assuming that you’re wearing a helmet, have your bike properly registered, and have the yearly tax paid up.

Accepted in All ASEAN countries

The new Thailand driving license is valid for driving in not just Thailand, but also in the other 9 ASEAN member countries. So that means you don’t need a separate international driving permit to rent a motorbike in Bali or brave the streets of Saigon.

Get the Thai price

A Thai driving license is an accepted form of ID in Thailand, and it will usually allow you to pay the cheaper Thai price for entrance to national parks, museums, and other places that have a discriminatory dual-pricing system. If you visit just a couple national parks while you live here, the Thai license has already paid for itself with the hundreds of baht you’ll be saving.

If you’re living in a different part of Thailand, the basic procedure for getting a Thai driver’s license should be fairly similar. But if you have any different info based on your experience, please leave a comment.



Comments

How to Get a Thai Driver’s License – And Why You Should — 47 Comments

  1. Yeah, I’d been putting it off for a long time as well.

    And strangely, they don’t seem to care that you obviously drove yourself to the testing center without the proper license.

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  4. It makes things easier with the cop on the street having an international permit or thai licence, but it is completely legal to drive on an Australian licence there for up to 3 months. We have a reciprocal arrangement with many countries including thailand. Some other countries I would imagine have the same,it is worth checking if things go to shit and uthink u r unlicenced

  5. Just an update. They are no longer doing residency certificates at the immigration office by the airport. Now you have to go to the new office by Promenada. And, I got stuck with the 500 THB fee. I got the certificate the next day (same day might be possible if you go in the a.m.) and did also have to sign something which did say there was no fee. When I asked about it I was told that the fee was for expediting it, otherwise it will take 10 days. Well, they never told me that the day before when I applied and certainly didn’t give me an option. A friend of a friend works at the immigration office at the airport and said that this is not right, there should be no fee. Who the heck knows for sure, but be aware if you need to get one.

    • That really sucks because the location is very inconvenient for most people. And if they’re back to scamming 500 baht from everyone that’s also a raw deal. Maybe the good General needs to come and sort it out like he’s been doing with the taxi mafia in Phuket.

      I’ve also learned that the actual test has changed as well, or rather they just increased the number of questions to 50, and you now need 90% correct to pass.

    • Yes. I was on an Ed visa when I switched my bike to my name, so that’s what you’ll have to do.
      People with work permits can use those, but obviously you won’t have a wp if you’re on an Ed visa.

  6. Just an update, never written on any blog before so be gentle.live in phuket and went for motorbike and car license this week.have a uk license but they would not accept as it is the paper version,she said if it was the card she would Hmmmmm.Like to thank you as I found your website proved invaluable.I went through your exam questions and with a bit of common sense just scraped through.I won’t say it’s easy though ,now 50 questions have to get 90%correct.2 separate 1hour exams(roughly same questions mixed up)if you read exam papers on here should give you a good chance.I got 45 correct motorbike and 46 correct on car as you see just passed,2 other Farangs with me both failed,I did feel a slight animosity towards farangs from the people working there,not very helpful.Also if you have an international driving license from your home country which is a grey book(not one of the many copies like IAA they won’t accept)you won’t have to take the tests.Thanks again and good luck to all.

  7. Note that Thai licenses are NOT really accepted in all ASEAN countries, that’s just in theory or what ASEAN hopes to achieve one day. Vietnam won’t recognize a Thai license and besides since Vietnam refuses entry to Thai registered vehicles anyway there’s very little chance of driving a car yourself in Vietnam (whether as a Thai or third party foreigner) because self-drive car rental is basically also non-existent and in the rare case you find a place willing to rent you a car, only a Vietnamese license will be acceptable and in some cases only Vietnamese residents can rent. Previously it was a case of no license required for motorcycle rental in Vietnam, but nowadays they tend to ask to see one. An international or Vietnamese license is acceptable, nothing else is and most certainly NOT a Thai license.

    Cambodia is more flexible, but essentially you won’t get far trying to rent a vehicle in Cambodia with a Thai license either. You can use a Thai license as the basis for converting to a Cambodian license or use an international license to rent, but that’s about as good as a Thai license is.

    I would say a Thai license is best for insurance purposes, local car rental, ID for domestic flights and hotels, or to otherwise identify yourself (except when there is a need to check your visa status) or to get the Thai price at establishments with institutionalized dual pricing.

    • Thanks for your input. The agreement was made between the founding ASEAN members way back in 1985, so that’s pretty sad if some countries or individuals are not recognizing the agreement. Although technically, I believe the 1 year license is not supposed to qualify as it’s considered “temporary.” But the 5 year license is supposed to be valid in all ASEAN states.

      • Yes the Thai licence, and as you say it’s supposed to be only the 5-year one, should be valid in all ASEAN countries in theory. However, in practice only Malaysia, Singapore and Laos will readily accept it. These are also the only three countries Thai registered vehicles can readily enter without any special conditions or requirements.

        Perhaps AEC 2015 will change that, but for now Vietnam and Cambodia at least do not readily accept Thai licences.

  8. Can you provide a link to an official document. immigration regulation, police order, MFA document, that clearly states that the residence certificate is free?

    I doubt one exists and all of the confusion is caused by hearsay. My office charges 500 baht and I’m glad to pay as they are very pleasant, efficient and easy to work with. Some say “demand a receipt” and you won’t have to pay. I’d keep on their good side as you might have issues in the future that could cost you a lot more if they remember that you are the twit that demanded the receipt. If you want a receipt go to your Embassy, the US Embassy charges $50 but you will get a receipt!

    • The last time I had to get one, it was free and they made you sign a piece of paper acknowledging that you didn’t pay for it. If they’re going to charge 500 baht for it, you should be able to pick it up 5 minutes later, not the next day. All they have to do is write your address on a piece of paper and give it the official’s stamp, is that so hard to do?

  9. Hi!
    Great article, thanks for that!
    I’ve got one question. Is it possible to do the license for (motorbikes) if you don’t have visa (only a stamp in your passport as a tourist)?? I really need it because I want to go the whole way from Thailand to Europe on a motorbike but I don’t have license yet. Is there anybody who got the license on tourist visa (actually without visa, because I don’t need it for 30 days stay)

    • Since you’ll be passing through a bunch of countries, wouldn’t it make more sense to get an international driver’s permit before you head out on your trip?

      • Yes, I need Inernational Driving Permit as well. But to get it I need the national first. I just arrived to Chiang Mai and I will try to do it

  10. So does it look for a farang on a tourist visa(30day stamp)?
    Staying in a hotel for a month makes it possible to get certificate of residence?
    Is it possible to collect all the paperwork in Chiang Mai?
    Thanks for help!

    • You can get the equivalent at your embassy or consulate much more easily than at immigration. Although it may be more expensive and depending on where you live, more of a hassle, my embassy processes a certificate of residence (called a statutory declaration [of address]) for little more than the 500 Baht that Chiang Mai immigration charges. It depends on the exchange rate but currently is about 500 Baht; previously 560-580 Baht. You also get it immediately and don’t have to wait for a week. Might be worth going down that route even if you’re as a resident although it depends entirely on where you live. If you live in Bangkok I certainly wouldn’t bother with immigration. If in Chiang Mai, might be different.

  11. Hi, thanks for the information in your web it has really help me a lot. Just one important thing to add if you have a work permit you do not need to get a residence certificate, just copy page 24 of it where you will see your address in it.
    I hope it saves some of you the 500 baht!!

    • Yes, that’s true. I had a work permit when I went to get the 1-year license converted to a 5-year. And that’s all I needed. Saved me a big hassle.

  12. Hello! Now you can practice Thailand driving license test online here: http://thaidriving.info/. Will be awesome if you’ll add this link to your list.

    I made it from the official PDF on Phukets Provincial Land Transport Office website. Made it for myself, because didn’t find something like that and an old SWF version doesn’t work (404 error). My test is better because it’s made without Flash and you can practice the test on your Apple tablet or phone.

    Hope it’ll be useful for somebody. Good luck in passing the exam and on the roads!

  13. Hi Ryan, thanks for such a nice article. i have one question though –

    I heard that now a days you need to take queues in Bangkok L&T office for appearing in written test which is approx 1 month long. it means one physical test is done, a person need to wait for a month to appear in a written test.
    Is it true?? Thanks in advance

    • I can’t say for sure about the Bangkok office, but what you are describing sounds ridiculous to me.
      In the Chiang Mai office you do everything in one day.

  14. Hi. This article is very helpful. However, when I took the test, it was 50 questions and you are allowed only to miss 5. Just an update for you.

  15. Hello Mr. Ryan,your kind article really do help. I just have few questions that maybe you can help me at, I’m a far east national working here in Mid East with my Thai wife, I am planning to buy a motorcycle there in Thailand and yes I do want to know how to get a Thai motorcycle driving license. Every time we went for our vacation in Thailand I just used my international driving license issued here in Bahrain (workplace). Is it the same procedure as what I have read above if I will get a motorcycle license? Can I get the said license even if i’m on tourist visa?

  16. Hi, thank you for the post. I have only one doubt. Since I am Argentineaun I don’t need visa, I can get a visa on arrival for 90 days. But can I get a driving licence with this stamp or do I need to have a non immigrant visa?

  17. The link I put in inverted commas at the end of the following paragraph is outdated and returns a 404 error. Please update same thanks.

    ***UPDATE***

    The written driving test was extended to 50 questions in June 2014. You are also now required to get 90% correct (or no more than 5 wrong) to pass. Apparently, they have not bothered to fix the horrible translation and mistakes in the English version of the test. If you want to study the questions beforehand, “you can find them here”.

  18. Hi Ryan,
    If I have the address on my house registration in thailand (yellow book) ,I stil need to go to get this certificate of residence?

    • If you have your name in a tabian baan (house registration booklet), I believe that is already sufficient proof of residence.

  19. Hi Ryan, I purchased my Villa in a Resort. I come top Thailand for 90 day stints on a Non Immigrant B Multiple Entry. What do I need to do for my Certificate of Residence and can I drive on my Australian License at all. Thanks Jena

    • You’d have to take the ownership documents to Immigration I would assume. As for driving on an Australian license, I believe officially it is permitted up to a certain amount of time after you enter the country, so long as it is the correct license type (ex. automobile, motorcycle). But that said, the cops might still give you a fine if you’ve been here long and haven’t gotten a Thai license or International permit. They’ve been setting up road stops and checking people, but I’m always back on my way in under 10 seconds when I show my Thai license.

  20. Hello, I took my written test today for the motorbike license so I thought to post it on here to help other people out… It is a good idea to study the questions found at the website: thaidriving.info
    It is a very helpful website but it does not have all of the questions. On my test, there were about five of the 50 questions that were not on that website. So, it is still very helpful to study it. I’m in Chiang Mai, so I’m not sure about other cities in Thailand, but here you want to show up at about 7:30 to get in line for your queue number. They only give out 70 numbers per day, and today was full. Luckily I was number 19 so I was good to go. At 9:00 they will start in a room on the second floor of the building, and there are two computers on that floor that can be used to practice the test questions while you wait for 9 o’clock. At 9, they will have everybody say the colors on a chart to see if you are colorblind or not, I’m sorry to inform that if you are, they will not give you a license to drive here, so don’t waste your time going there. After the colorblind test, they have you sit in a chair and press on a gas pedal until you see a green light. As soon as you see the light you have to quickly move your foot to the brake. It is only a test to see how quick your response is.

    Next,they have a meeting in Thai from 10-12:00, a one hour break for lunch, then another meeting from 1-3:00. They give you a book to study in English and I studied the book during the meeting. The computer test is at 3:00 and this is when your queue number helps you. The test is 50 questions and you can only miss five. Also, you cannot take the driving test on the same day. You have to come back another day at 10 am, 1 pm, or 3:30 pm.

    One more thing, the residence certificate is now prepared at floor number 2 of the promenada mall, in the same building as the immigration office. It is acrossed from the Dukes restaurant. They open at 9 am, and you have to go there and make an appointment to return and actually begin the process for the certificate. After that appointment, the certificate will be ready for you in about 2 weeks, and it is free.

    I hope all of this is helpful to many people. This is current updated information as of today.

    • Thanks so much! I’m sure the updated info from your experience will help others.
      Interesting about the Residence Certificate. It was always technically supposed to be free. The 2 week turn-around is kind of ridiculous though, considering all they do is print out the address you gave them and stamp it as official. It’s not like they actually check if you live there.

  21. hello im from sweden im here on a turist visa i come to thailand every yer
    but i dont have license in my country can i still get at thai license?

    motorbike license

    • Yes, you can. I didn’t have a motorbike license from my country either. You will need to take the theory and practical(driving) exams at the Land Transportation Office.

  22. I want a Thai driving licence, but I don’t have a car of my own.
    I just want to be able to drive if I have to whether a rental car
    or someone else’s car until I buy one, which will be purchased in my wife’s name.

    • If you’re paying for the car, I strongly advise against putting it in your wife’s name. You can just as easily put it in your own name and be the actual owner of your asset.

    • You need to provide a car for the test, either rent or borrow one. You don’t already have a driver’s license from your home country? If you do, then there’s no need to take the driving test.

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