From the Blog

May 7, 2015

Driving in Thailand

Driving in Thailand can be like a Game of Chance

Driving in Thailand isn’t quite as bad as its reputation would have you believe, but it still is not to be undertaken by the faint of heart. The rules of the road are pretty straight forward but there are a few things you really do need to know.


Driving in ThailandThe Rules

Rule one: Don’t have an accident…
Rule two: Always be courteous…
Rule three: See rule one…



Lane position:

We drive on the left here, (unless you choose otherwise). On dual carriageways use the outside lane is for overtaking only, (but do look out for those using the inside lanes to zig zag through the traffic), do note the traffic police will stop you if you hog the outside lane.
Most roads have a hard shoulder that may be used to stop if you have a problem they are not for parking. (But will also be used as a shortcut by motorcyclists travelling in the opposite direction)
A motorcycle travelling the wrong way has the right of way, or so they believe! This goes double for coaches who believe they own the roads.

Oncoming vehicles attempting to overtake will force you to use the hard shoulder, and it is in your interest to give them room. If there is no hard shoulder move as far to the left as you safely can keeping an eye open for vehicles also using the same bit of road to travel the wrong way.


Driving in Thailand.Lane markings:

 A single solid white line on single carriageways denotes the center of the road.

Single or double yellow lines means do not cross the lanes.
Short broken white lines means you can overtake

Yellow thatched means no stopping or waiting.
Lanes at junctions are marked on the ground to show which lane goes where.
Do not change lanes when coming to road tolls the police will fine you especially if you are a Farang.



Traffic lights are set at RedAmberGreen.

Sometimes there is a counter attached to the traffic lights, which displays how many seconds to the next light change. Do not go before the clock gets to zero. If the light is on green do not take it for granted other vehicles will have stopped at their corresponding Red lights.  (oh yea don’t expect other road users to pull away until they have finished their telephone conversation)


Be aware motor bikes will be cutting in and out of the lanes trying to get to the front of the queue, eventually swamp you if you are already there, always give them enough time to pull away. (most will still be looking for somewhere to eat).

It is also worth noting that vehicles pull away very slowly in Thailand this is in part due to the mass of motor bikes and the uncertainty of who will have jumped the lights.
Driving in Thailand..


Turning left: If the light is on red or green you may turn left, but you must give way to traffic from your right.

Do take care of motor bikes who will still try to pass you on the inside while you attempt to turn left. This rule has now changed and you have to look for road signs that prohibit you from turning left at a red stop light. A orange turn left arrow on a green background means you can turn left on a red stop light, a red turn left arrow on a white back ground and you cannot. Simple right?

When oncoming vehicles are both turning right they pass in front of each other. (Or not!)

Flashing red & amber lights:

If the light is flashing red you must use the crossing as an uncontrolled junction. You must stop and give way. If the light is flashing amber you have the right of way but must slow down and look both ways. (Do not expect others to do the same)
Roundabouts: At roundabouts give way to the right. There are very few of these in Thailand and so Thai people at times have no knowledge on what to do.


Rural Roads:

On quiet rural roads take extra care at night especially during national holidays as a good number of motor bikes will be driven by very young children with their driving skills hampered by their inability to reach the floor.

Also be aware over the many holidays booze plays a big part in the festivities. If that were not enough, you have to be prepared of agricultural equipment being driven at a very leisurely rate, along with farm animals being moved to new pasture or simply left to wander along the roads. (Of course there are also the many pack Soi dogs that also add to the mayhem).





Motorcyclists must wear a crash helmet and must have lights on at all times. While motorists sitting in the front seats of vehicles must wear a seat belt. (Since 2017 all passengers must ware seat belts).


While there is a minimum age to drive a motor vehicle, (18 years old and 15 years old for a motorcycle), you will see very young children driving  motor bikes to school, who uncaringly pass by within feet of  police officers who conduct traffic control out-side of most schools, without the officer flinching or taking any action in stopping them. ” Som Narm Naa ”


The speed limit is 80 kph in Bangkok and Pattaya, (the likelihood of ever getting above 30 in these two cities is as remote as politicians telling the truth), its 90 kph in some other cities, 90 kph on intercity highways and 120 kph on motorways. Unless the police can see you are a Farang and then it’s……?


Driving while using a telephone is illegal and carries an automatic fine. (Supposedly)




Parking Restrictions:

Kerb stones painted alternate black and white means no parking. Red and white means parking restrictions apply. These markings may also be on lampposts or other posts on the side of the road to which they apply. This will not stop motor bikes parking on the pavements instead



The Legal Stuff

Driving in Thailand..,,Hire insurance is normally third party and if involved in an accident you are responsible for damages.
Thailand requires an International Driving Permit or a Thai driving licence.

Unlike most countries, there is no provisional or learner’s licence in Thailand. Not having a driving license carries a whopping 200 baht fine


There are ten types of driving licence issued in Thailand. Seven main types are listed and explained here


You must wear a shirt while driving a car. According to the Criminal Code BE 2499 (1956) Section 388, anyone “exhibiting his undressed person shall be liable to a fine not exceeding 500 baht”. (No Really)


One thing is for sure you will get stopped by the police for doing what everybody else is doing. Pay up and live with it.




Driving in Thailand1

The Thai Driving Test

Those looking to get a Thai car license are advised to set aside TWO full days for training and testing, at a Department of Transport Office. (That’s it…. 2 days from first getting in a car, to legally driving with a license. Prior to 2015 the law only required 4 hours tuition, to learn all the relevant traffic laws, driving etiquette and how to drive safely.

Day 1
Candidates are required to make an appointment for visual and response performance tests (this involves string and blocks of wood) and sit a four-hour legal road code and a defensive driving session. After which, candidates will be required to sit a written examination, one resit is allowed on the same day.

Upon successful completion, candidates move onto the practical examination.

Day 2
Candidates are taken around the examination venue where the procedure is  explained. The driving test covers:

  • Driving straight forward and backward
  • Two different types of parking

Candidates can have a friend walk by the side of the test vehicle and give verbal instruction to the candidate. The instructors do not sit in the vehicle ….wisely choosing to judge the driving performance from a safe distance.



The Thai Way of driving

Driving in Thailand 2The most incredible thing about driving in Thailand is that a people who are normally so mild mannered, friendly and forgiving turn into raving lunatics when driving a car and complete idiots when sitting on a motorbike.


Parking almost on top of junctions, double and triple parking, driving the wrong way and driving on the pavements are all illegal, but happen all around you.

You can expect drivers to slow down without notice if they spot a street vendor selling something that they ‘must eat’. The biggest issue for me is the use of indicator lights which is uniformly non-existent with the result that you have little to no time to take action.

When you travel on the roads in the Kingdom of Thailand and witness the quality of the average driver, it is no wonder Thailand has the second-highest fatality rate in the world, only just pipped by Namibia and ahead of Iran according to researchers.

If you want or need to drive on the roads, (or pavements) in Thailand, do not expect “Jai Dee” (good heart) as most of the people of this wonderful country, seem to leave their heart at home…. along with their brain when they get behind the wheel or handlebars of a motorised contraption

“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are GREAT drivers”.

Driving in Thailand Driving in Thailand 5 Driving in Thailand 6Driving in Thailand 7Driving in Thailand 7Driving in Thailand 8

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  1. Anna - June 12, 2017 11:21 am

    Loved you comment Chris I thought the post was fun filled and to read the comment by Shane you appreciate why some old farts should not still be on the roads.

  2. Glyn - June 12, 2017 10:50 am

    Good tips for driving.
    Dont forget to not cross at pedestrian crossings, unless the traffic actually stops fierst.
    Just a clarification.
    You say “dual carriageways use the outside lane is for overtaking only”.
    I think you mean the right lane, (inside lane).
    Overtaking on the left is illegal but common as most drivers and trucks keep to the right, or inside lane.

  3. Steve jax - June 9, 2016 6:02 pm

    Also don’t forget if you flash your headlights you have absolute right of way.
    Any indication of lane change or turning is concidered a loss of face
    Using a mobile phone or watching a vidio is obligitry
    Driving whilst under the influence of yar-bar is required if driving a bus long distances
    Stoping distance decreases in the wet
    Tailgating is obligatory so you can watch the video of the vehicle in front
    The list is almost endless BUT they still drive more defensively than in the west as most older vehicles to don’t have insurance.

  4. David - May 29, 2015 9:38 pm

    I am afraid that your remarks about Thai people turning into monsters when on the road are simply untrue. Thai drivers are far more sensitive, gracious and forgiving than westerners. The rest of the article is simply generic sets of facts. Try harder when exploring Thai culture as it seems as if you have never driven in Thailand.

    • Chris Tuffey - May 20, 2016 11:46 am

      The post was written tongue in cheek and after living in this great country for almost 18 years I have nothing but love for its people and its way of life, sorry you found it offensive but do try to get a life

      • Shane - June 11, 2017 5:21 pm

        after living and DRIVING in this country for almost 25 yrs I agree with David, the Thai sense of good nature certainly extends to the roads, how often do you hear a horn in anger? How often do you have a driver calmly wave you through when they dont have to? How often do you see the respectful nods and calm smiles when westerners would be beating each other with baseball bats, I suggest you need to either chill to the local vibe, learn more about what you consider yourself and expert in and cease telling people to get a life when you are wrong, its the cowards way out and thats not tongue in cheek.

        • Chris Tuffey - June 12, 2017 11:07 am

          I am sorry to hear that you live in a different world to the rest of us. To state you have never seen road rage in 25 years of driving can only make me think it is because you are either intoxicated on a dream of what you want this country to be or the other stuff you buy a 7/11. Road rage exists in every country on the planet to suggest the people of Thailand are above this sort of behaviour is like your suggestion (never ours) that the author is pertaining to be an expert, laughable. Maybe you should take a reality pill and see the hundreds of road rage clips in Thailand as shown on you tube.

          Or read our post on Retorts to retards so many of its comments obviously relate to you.
          Have a nice day


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