When you come to Thailand, you are allowed to drive with an international driving licence for about three months. Then you have to apply for a Thai driving licence. Although some say foreigners are rarely controlled by police officers, I recommend to get the paperwork done. A driving licence also counts as ID, and you need to show your ID in Thailand quite a lot. So better carry a small piece of plastic rather than your valuable passport with you. Thsi article focu on how to get the plastic card in Bangkok.
Although most of the signs and the documents are written in Thai, it is possible to survive without an interpreter. Just ask people to assist you. Some officers do speak basic English enough to help you out.
What documents you need to apply for a driving licence in Thailand? (Note that if you want a car and a motobike license you need two copies of each document)
1. An international driving licence and copies of it
It must have some English written information about your name and what kind of vehicles you are allowed to drive. If you don't have a international driving licence issued by your home country, you may apply back home for it. I did this for my German license, but no idea if it works for other countries as well. Also, I don't know if a driving licence from a neighboring country works. You may call the Department of Transportation.
Department of Land Transportation
1032 Phaholyothin Road
Lardyao, Chatuchak district.
Phone 02-272-5322, 02-272-5493.
2. Copies of your passport and your visa and the original passport. No tourist visa accepted.
3. If you have one, the work permit and copies of the relevant pages
4. Documents that proofs your residence. Your embassy can issue this or the office in your village. You can also ask the landlord to get you a copy of the housebook, if he has registered you. Embassies usually want to see a rental contract, so make sure all people in the house/condo are mentioned in the contract.
5. A medical exam that you are fit for driving
You can get this in any hospital for small fee. Takes a few minutes for the doctor to examine you. Please note that it is only valid for 30 days.
You don't need to bring photos anymore.
Please sign ALL copies.
Where to apply?
Responsible is the Department of Land Transportation at Chatuchak. Good news is they have branches all over the town (and the city). a list of all branches is here. I went to Bang Chak, and the service was outstanding.
Bangkok Area 3:
opposite Soi Sukhumvit 62/1,
tel: 02-332-9688 to 96
From the BTS Bang Chak take Exit 3 and walk down Sukhumvit road. Right before DKSH you see a small alley and the gate. Enter there.
Come early, about 8am.
What to do?
This is a description from my experience at Bang Chak, but it should be pretty much the same everywhere. First, go to the reception and ask for the counter for driving licence. There you have to provide all documents and originals and they will to a check if everything is in order. They will give you back passport and international licence. Then you will get a number and have to wait to get called. (They may just call the color of the number tag)
You will then go to a room for a test. This includes a traffic light where you have to say what color is on, a reaction test where you have to hit the brake, a sight test for colors and a test for three dimensional view. The equipment is pretty ancient, and you don't have to worry much - it is quite hard to fail.
Get it signed by the officer and proceed to the next counter (just follow the people or ask someone, its easy to find). In Ban Chak go to the counters 5-9, someone will ask you to hand over the documents for another check. You will get another waiting number. Watch the display and if called go to the related counter. There you have to pay 155 Baht for a car licence and 105 Baht for a motobike license. The office will ask you to double check all of your data. Take this seriuos and read very line (at least the English words. Check the right spelling of your name, birthdate and passport number).
Now the office will take a photo and a few minutes later you are a proud holder of a Thai driving licence.
If you did it for the first time the licence is temporary for one year. after this period you can extend it for 5 years (and have to bring all the documents mentioned above again).
If you don't have any driving licence, the process is more complicated. You have to do attend a three hour training, do a written test (in English, you have to get 27 of 30 questions right) and a driving test (on a parcours on the premises).
It should be noon by now and you may be hungry. If you are at Bang Chak, walk back to the BTS. A few meters before the entrance is a new restaurant called Mouth. They serve excellent Thai food in a nicely designed environment.