There are many advantages to having a Thailand drivers license while living in Thailand besides the obvious not wanting a ticket or to be thrown in jail. Many of the attractions and things to do in this amazing country have a dual admission price system. Tourist prices, and local prices. Most places will give you the locals price (sometimes as much as 75% less) if you are the bearer of a Thai drivers license, the rest are still going to charge you tourist prices, because they believe that if you are a foreigner than you will always be a tourist here. But that is a story for another post.
In this post, I have decided to share with you what I did to get my licenses, the parts that will be most helpful to you I have highlighted in orange so you can use them if you need to get your Thai license. Otherwise you can just read through and laugh (or cry in empathy) about what I had to do to get them.
- This is the MOST IMPORTANT step in this whole process. I went to AAA and paid for an international license before I started traveling. If I could suggest just three things to anyone starting to travel, this would be one of them (the other would be travelers insurance, and have fun!). You can transfer over an international license and not have to take any tests for driving here. It would be a cinch… ahem, or at least it was supposed to be.
- I found this helpful article that was essential in getting all (I thought) I needed together. I was getting my scooter and auto license so these were what I needed: My passport and 2 copies each of my info page, visa, immigration stamp, and departure card. A health check and a copy of it. Two copies of my international license. And a residency form that the immigration office has to give to you (this is unnecessary if you have a work permit).
- Monday morning after dropping Z off at school, Chad and I went to a nearby doctor that is known for being easy and cheap to get health checks done for this kind of stuff. A 2 minute color blindness check and 100 baht later, we had the health check form we needed.
- We headed to the Phuket Provincial Land Transport Office in Phuket Town. It was about 10 am. We knew there would be a person who would make copies for a price at the site (I think every government building does here). Yep, we were right! We made the copies that we thought we needed and ran into the information area of the large, prison looking building. As we told the lady at the desk that we needed our drivers licenses, she quickly threw a slip of paper at us. We looked it over and told her we had everything we needed. Then she told us to come back the next day… that is when I noticed that the paper said that people wanting licenses have to show up before 9:30 am.
- I realized that we did not have the address registration form that we needed from the immigration office at that point, so we headed there. We recently got a new kind of visa, so we needed to register our address anyways. It would be a dually productive.
- We arrived at the immigration office, told the english speaking volunteer that we needed a form to get our drivers license. He gave us the forms to fill out, we used some of our copies we had made of our passports, passed them to the immigration worker, and got a slip of paper in our passports that said our residence is officially here in Phuket.
- Wednesday morning… We dropped off Z at school again. This time determined to make it on time. We arrived at the Land Transport office with plenty of time. We again made copies to replace the ones we had to use for immigration during our immigration visit. We walked in and were sent right to the window for registration! Huzzah!
- The lackluster lady (seriously, what is it with motor vehicle department workers.. they must be hired for the “helpful and happy” attitudes, I really hope you can read the sarcasm in that statement) looked through our papers and said I needed a different residence form from the immigration office. Ack! Chad went on with his test and I drove to the immigration office again. No drivers license for me that day.
- This time I made sure to get the correct immigration form and affidavit stating that I was a resident of Thailand and could get a driver’s license. After that I went and got more copies for when I went back to the Land Transport office on Friday.
- Chad watched a video and received his auto license before lunchtime that day. Lucky guy!
- Friday morning, I dropped Z off a school again, this had to be the day. My international license was expiring over the weekend and I DID NOT want to go through all the written and practical tests to get my license. I could have, but really didn’t want to. I had everything ready.
- I arrived and saw that the office was much busier today (Try your best not to go on Friday! Crazy busy!), the line was out into the parking lot. I waited for a while, until I was almost to the information desk and then decided to just go to the window that we had on Wednesday. The same lady looked up at me and asked me for my queue number… Uh Oh! My impatience had really screwed me. I had to go back to the end of the line for the information desk and wait for a queue slip. Dammit! As I was standing there kicking myself for being so impatient, I watched as the clock clicked closer and closer to 930 am.
- Just as the clock clicked 9:30 am, the information desk helper went through my paperwork, and sent me into the “testing” room. Whew, I was so thankful that I had made it even with my attempted line-cutting blunder.
- Apparently there is usually a color blindness, depth perception, and reaction test, but because it was so crowded and busy ( I assume) the lady giving the tests just made everyone take the color blindness test. I sat and told her when I saw the lights as yellow, green, or red and was rushed upstairs to classroom 1 for the english driving instruction video. The video starts at 10 am and is an hour-long. It is Thai with English subtitles and is often hilarious in its mediocre translation. Most of the video was painfully boring, although I did learn that you may ONLY LEGALLY operate a car on the Thai roadways if it has an engine. Interesting fact, I know!!
- Because the day was so busy (apparently everyone took the whole week to get the correct papers like me), I was told that I had to return at 1:00pm to get my picture taken and get my actual license.
- Z got out of school at 12:30pm.So I drove, picked up Z at her school 45 minutes away and turned around and went back to get the rest of the license process completed. I am pretty sure I broke some of the rules that I learned about in that drivers training video, but don’t worry… I did have an engine, so at least I adhered to that law.
- Z and I made it to the Land Transport office at 12:58 pm… Perfect timing!
- We waited in line again to get a queue ticket and then went and sat down while we waited for my number to pop up. Z was excellent and was very popular with the people waiting. I think everyone was happier because of her cute face, but I am a wee bit biased…
- My number finally came up, I paid 150 baht (100 for the auto, and 50 for the scooter) for the licenses and was sent to go wait to get my picture taken. I was in the home stretch! Woo Hoo!
- My name was called and I took my picture, well the first one she said I was showing too many teeth in my picture, so I had to take it again. What can I say, I was smiling from ear to ear because I was finally done with the process of getting my Thai license. I was then charged 200 baht for the two cards showing that I was a properly licensed Thai scooter and auto driver now… Thailand look out! I am legally on the Thai roads!!!
Just a couple of notes if you are going to try to get your license: 1) Make sure to dress conservatively, your shoulders should be covered, or they will cover them for you with a big ugly coat in the pictures, and 2) Bring your own snacks and drinks, the process can end up being really long. If you would like more information about my experience, feel free to comment below or use the Contact Us page.
Now it’s your turn! have you ever gotten a driver’s license in a country outside your own? What was the worst experience you have ever had getting your driver’s license? Or if you want to be more positive you can tell us your best experience instead. Leave a comment and join in the conversation!