Guide to Driving In Thailand - Drive Safe in Thailand

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Thailand?

Thailand can be prone to political demonstrations so take extra care if travelling at sensitive times. In the cities, traffic is chaotic and in Bangkok itself, it's far better to park on the outskirts and get the aerial tram into the centre.

Outside of the cities and further north, roads aren't in such good condition and for seeing the 'real' Thailand, a 4 x 4 is an essential. 
 

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

In Thailand, everyone in the front seats of a moving car must wear a seat belt. If there  are  rear seat belts fitted we recommend that you use them.

Drinking and Driving

The drink driving laws in Thailand state that you must have no more than 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. This is less than the UK and means that even one drink can take you over the limit. If you are caught with excess alcohol in your body you will face a stiff fine and possible imprisonment. If you have driven for less than five years then the limit drops to 20mg per 100ml of blood.

Must Have Documents

You should have both parts of your driving licence; paper and card but you won’t need an international driving licence if you’re from the UK but you must carry your registration document. You should also have the certificate proving you hold Compulsory Motor Insurance.  

Speed Limits

The speed limits for Thailand are as follows:
 
Open roads:   90 km/h
In Town:        50 km/h  
Motorways  120 km/h

Minimum Driving Age

You have to be at least 18 to be able to drive in Thailand. If you’re intending to hire a car the minimum age is 21 with some companies but 23 with others. Even so, some companies will charge you an excess if you’re under 25 years old.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

Safety camera warning devices are not illegal in Thailand but, despite the amount of technology on sale there, you’ll find very few are used. Thai roads are notorious for accidents where speed is a contributory factor so it’s better to stick to the speed limit.

On the Spot Fines

If you are stopped by the police in Thailand for a motoring offence you will be issued with a ticket detailing the offence, the penalty and where you must pay it – the local police station. More serious offences result in a court appearance. You can lose your licence for up to 60 days.

Child Safety Rules

In Thailand the law states that children should be restrained in an age appropriate system. Children under 12 years old should not sit in the front of a vehicle. If you are travelling with children and hiring a car, let us know the ages when you book and we’ll make sure an age appropriate restraint system is fitted ready for your arrival.

Insurance

You must have the Compulsory Motor Insurance which can only be purchased in Thailand. You must have the certificate with you.

Rules of the Road

Standard international driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
 
You must leave at least 50m distance between you and an emergency vehicle
You must not sound your horn except in an emergency
You may find branches placed across the road to indicate an emergency ahead of you
In Thailand, you drive on the left

Towing Regulations

There are no specific regulations for towing a vehicle in Thailand. Simply make sure that the vehicle is securely attached and that you have good visibility.

Speed Cameras

There are few fixed speed cameras in Thailand, the police generally rely on mobile speed traps. If you are caught by a mobile unit, you will be given a ticket on the spot. If you are caught by one of the few fixed cameras, you’ll get a ticket to the registered address of the vehicle. Car hire companies will forward on the ticket.

Using Mobile Phones when driving

It’s illegal to talk or text on a mobile phone in Thailand whilst driving unless you have a hands free kit.

Parking

Parking regulations
 
The big cities, especially Bangkok are a nightmare for parking so it’s best to use the public transport system, parking your car on the outskirts before travelling in.  
 
Paid parking
 
Where you find paid parking it can be in metered bays by the side of the road. Signs will tell of any restrictions in place. In the major cities you’ll find underground parking garages which are a safe and convenient place to park.
 
Enforcement
 
Police can be hot on parking infringements so try not to outstay your time in a metered bay. Free on street parking won’t raise any difficulties unless you have parked inconsiderately.
 
Disabled Drivers
 
There are few, if any, concessions for disabled drivers but by using a parking garage or lot which is attended, you will usually get some assistance if you ask.

Motor Way Signs

Signs in Thailand are green with white writing for roads to destinations which don’t incur tolls whilst ones for toll roads are blue with white writing

Phrases

I have broken down - C̄hạn dị̂ h̄ạk lng
Where is the police station? - thī̀ s̄t̄hānī tảrwc khụ̄x xarị?
I have a flat tyre - C̄hạn mī yāng bæn
I have been in an accident - c̄hạn dị̂ rạb nı kār keid xubạtih̄etu
Where is? - xyū̀ thī̀h̄ịn?
Where can I buy petrol? - C̄hạn s̄āmārt̄h sụ̄̂x n̂ảmạn thī̀h̄ịn?

Traffic Lights

Thai traffic lights follow the Vienna Convention on sequencing and so should be familiar to most drivers. You’ll find timers on most lights in the cities so you know when the lights will change.

Toll Roads

Some of the expressways in Thailand charge tolls. The tolls are not expensive and the roads give you the chance to quickly cover deceptively long distances between the different parts of Thailand.

Emergency

The emergency number in Thailand is the UK standard 999 for all emergency services you can use 191 for the police but the accepted number is 999 for emergency calls. The tourist police can be called on 1155.

What to do in an emergency

If you have a problem with a hire car, call the number given to you by the rental company. If it’s your own car, use the local assistance company. 
 
In the event of an accident you must stop. The police must be called and they will adjudge responsibility. Do not move the car unless it is a danger to other traffic. The police will issue a report for your insurers or the car hire company.

Fuel Costs

As of October 2014, the average price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in Thailand is 74p whilst diesel is 68p. Prices can vary between the towns and the smaller villages.
 

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Hiring a Car

With our Drive Smart guide you're fully prepared to hire a car in Thailand and stay safe on unfamiliar roads.