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Obtaining a Thai Driver's Licence

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One of the best things you can do for yourself if you live in Thailand is get the full 5 year Thai driver's licence. It's a widely recognised form of identification and can often be used in place of your passport. It will often get you reduced entrance fees to national parks and museums (i.e. not the 'tourist' rate) and psychologically it will make you feel much more like Thailand is your home.

An International Driving license is only valid for a relatively short time, so the longer validity of a Thai drivers permit will be a great advantage if you want to hire a vehicle for example. A driving license from your home country is not officially recognised in Thailand.

If you are issued with a Thai drivers license, you can use it as an official form of identification. You can also use it in place of your passport for hotel stays etc.

To obtain one, you must apply in the province you currently live in. For example, if you live in Surin, that is where you should apply.

One Year Temporary Licence

To apply, you will need the following:

  1. Your valid passport, containing a Non-Immigrant visa (visa on arrival or tourist visas are not good enough).
  2. Signed copies of the main photo page of your passport, of the current visa and the latest entry stamp.
  3. A certified letter from your embassy stating your address, or a letter from the immigration department (Note: If you have a work permit, this will serve as verification of your address).
  4. The fee of 100 Baht for the licence and 505 Baht for the administration costs (Updated April 2014).
  5. Certification from a doctor that you are in good health and fit to drive.
  6. 2 Passport sized photographs. Photographs no longer required. As of 2008, your picture is taken when the license is issued.
  7. A valid International Driving Permit and a signed copy of the driving license issued in your home country, certified by your embassy.

If you do not have good Thai language skills, you should take a Thai speaking friends along with you to help fill out the forms and do the talking when necessary. During the application, you will probably have to take a colour blindness test, amongst a few other things, such as reflexes etc.

After a series of administration shuffling around between different windows and testing station staff, you will be asked to pay the fee and assuming all is in order, you will be issued with a 1 year temporary Thai drivers license. After one year, go back to the land transport office again with the one you were just issued and apply for a 5 Year Licence.

5 Year Licence

You cannot get the 5 year version until you have first obtained the 1 year temporary licence and that has expired. After the temporary licence has expired, you have one year in which to apply for the five year version, or you will have to start over.

To apply, you will need everything as listed above for the one year licence, except for the International Driving Permit. Instead, you will hand over your expired Thai licence.

All issuing offices now have digital imaging equipment and your picture will be taken on site, so there is no need to take your own photographs along.

You will be required to watch a safety video and take some reaction and colour blindness tests. The application should take no more than a couple of hours and your licence will be issued while you wait. As of 2008, the new ASEAN treaty design licence is being issued and it is valid for use in all ASEAN Treaty countries, a very useful thing to have.

See also: The Reality of Road Accidents in Thailand

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