What you need to know about driving in Thailand

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Thailand is one of the most popular holiday destinations for Australians – and who could blame them? This exotic country has everything from delicious food to gorgeous beaches and wild nightlife. It’s certainly a country that has something for everyone, with tonnes of incredible places to explore.

But how do you get from one amazing destination to the next? Today we break down everything you need to know about navigating Thailand.

Do I need a licence to drive in Thailand?

To drive in Thailand, you need to have a current Australian licence. There are some rental car agencies that will require an International Driving Permit (IDP) to sign with the agreement, according to the Australian Embassy, Thailand. Though it is not a licence itself, this will act as proof of validation of your Australian drivers’ licence.

If you are staying in Thailand for a while, and wish to get a Thai driving licence, contact the Depart of Land Transport to confirm your eligibility and the necessary documentation. You can reach them at 1032 Phahonyothin Road, Chatujak District, Bangkok (Mo Chit BTS station), phone: 02 271 8888 extensions 4201, 4202 or 4203.

Driving laws in Thailand

Now let’s get driving – here are some laws and rules you need to be aware of when driving in Thailand:

  • You must be 18 or older to drive
  • You drive on the left side of the road
  • The legal BAC limit is 0.5 mg per one litre of alcohol
  • Seat belts are mandatory in the front seat
  • Motorcyclists must wear a helmet

Traffic can be quite busy in the cities and popular tourist areas like Phuket. Drivers are typically polite and don’t show much road rage, so be sure to act courteously on the road as well. If you are in someone’s way, other drivers will indicate this by flashing their headlights so act accordingly.

Because Thailand is such a motorbike-friendly place, you need to be cautious of where they are at all times. When you are exiting a car, make sure you look before opening the door as motorcyclists often use the shoulder of the road to get around still traffic.

Driving scams to be aware of in Thailand

If you’re planning on hiring a motorbike (or Jet Ski) when in Thailand, be cautious of who you are renting from. According to Smartraveller, some Australians have reported harassment and threats of violence from owners and area gangs. When returning the motorbike, tourists are approached by gangs claiming that the bike is damaged, demanding money and threatening violence if they do not pay. This scam is particularly popular on touristy beaches in Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

Should you plan on hiring a motorbike Smartraveller suggests you follow these steps for a safe deal:

  • Ask for evidence of the operator’s insurance policy in case of damage, and see what you are liable for
  • Before driving, make sure you ask and check for existing damage to the vehicle
  • Before leaving the dealership, take photographs of the vehicle (even underneath) to keep for your records
  • Never use your passport as a deposit or guarantee as this is the sign of a scam

This is best practice for any vehicle hire you’re planning in Thailand. However, if you think you’ve been scammed, call the Tourist Police on 1155.


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.


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