Driving in Thailand with a UK license

Preamble

What sort of documents (in particular, driver’s license) do you need, to drive legally in Thailand, if you are from the UK?

Links

From Thailand-UK, UK Driving Licence in Thailand.

To obtain a UK Photo license, if you still only have a paper license, then you need to Exchange your paper driving licence for a photocard licence

Some useful tips on Tripadvisor, Thailand: Driving – License Requirements.

From the AA website, see International Driving Permit.

No such thing as a IDL

According to Using a Foreign Driving Licence in Thailand

There is no such thing as a International Driver’s License (IDL), it is called a International Driver’s Permit (IDP).

Many IDP/IDL websites that offer permits are fraudulent.

According to the AA,

An International Driving Licence is not a legally recognised document and will not enable you to meet national requirements to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP).

No IDP required?

According to Using a Foreign Driving Licence in Thailand

To drive or lease a car in Thailand as a tourist or visitor it is necessary to have either a Thai driving licence or a valid foreign driving licence with a photograph. The foreign licence must either be in English, or be accompanied by an official translation into English or Thai. The licence needs to have been issued by a country that has a treaty with the Thai government allowing the mutual acceptance of driving licences.  Most countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA have this agreement with Thailand under the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic or the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.  Those in doubt should contact their embassy for advice: Click here

So this implies that for UK drivers, a IDP is not required. However, according to the AA and the UK government website, Foreign travel advice – Thailand, see section on Road Travel:

You can drive in Thailand using an International Driving Permit or Thai driving licence.

Tourists can drive for six months on a UK license (in conjunction with a IDP), after that a Thai Driving license is required (no test necessary, just fill in a form and show your work/residence permit), see Getting a Thai Driving Licence, on Using a Foreign Driving Licence in Thailand:

  • Passport with valid non-immigrant visa (a tourist visa is not accepted)
  • Work Permit: if no work permit is held then a Certificate of Residence issued by the Thai Immigration Bureau or a Letter of Residence issued by the appropriate embassy will usually be sufficient, but telephone to confirm. The work permit must be valid and the letter or certificate no more than 30 days old
  • Medical certificate from a hospital or health clinic which must be no more than 30 days old
  • Two photographs, 1×1 inch, no more than six months old. In some offices photos are not required as they will be taken with DLT cameras as part of the process
  • Valid international or foreign driving licence. A foreign driving licence must have a certified translation issued by the Embassy. Foreign driving licenses in the English language will sometimes be accepted with no translation necessary
  • Fee

Comprehensive (Thai?) insurance only valid for the first three months of a tourist stay, when using a foreign license, after that Thai license is required.

Owning a bike in Thailand

From tripadvisor

  • You must carry your National Licence, in case of an accident, or interaction with the Thai Police.
  • You can not drive intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
  • Helmets are mandatory. You must wear one, and so must a pillion passenger.
  • Helmets are usually provided as part of the rental, if so, make sure it fits properly or ask for another.
  • Failure to wear a helmet will bring you to the attention of Police – you will be fined at best.
  • Wear protective footwear and clothing to give you some protection should the worst happen.
  • The motorcycle MUST have a tax sticker, registration plates, vehicle registration book, and third party insurance.
  • Motorcycle hire services are available almost everywhere, with rates starting at about 150฿ per day.
  • A cash security deposit of around 1000฿ (ensure you get a receipt) is often required.
  • Only use reputable hire companies, and check that they are licenced to hire bikes to tourists.
  • Before accepting your rental, do an extensive walk-around visual inspection of the vehicle.
  • Note ALL defects or pre-existing damage with the vendor, BEFORE you accept the contract, and leave the premises.
  • Take photos from all angles of the rental before you leave, to protect yourself should there be any dispute about damage later on.
  • It is NOT ADVISABLE to surrender your PASSPORT to the rental agency as rental return security.
  • Have a passport photocopy on hand instead, to satisfy the hire company.
  • If a hire company insists on having your original passport, hire from someone else.
  • Obey all Thai traffic rules and signs, remain vigilant and always drive defensively.
  • Driving at night is considered to be particularly dangerous.
  • Motorcycles in Thailand are routinely operated by children as young as 12, so you must remain vigilant and always drive defensively.
  • If you don’t ride a motorcycle in your own country, Thailand is NOT the place to learn.
  • Vendors will happily hire you a motorcycle whether you have the appropriate permit and licence or not.
  • Rarely will the bike you have hired be covered for damage, you are usually liable for all damage and more than likely to other vehicles involved, although some personal injury insurance to the other party is mandatory in the annual tax paid by the hire company for each bike.  It is worth repeating that if you are involved in an accident, with property damage or personal injury to any party, be aware that if the Thai Police and/or Insurance Company discover that licencing and permit documents are not in order, you may feel the full force of the law, and may have any insurance cover invalidated (if there is any). You may also be required by the Thai authorities, to post a LARGE cash bail amount to cover any liability you may incur.  If the other party was at fault but does not have insurance, you are still liable for the repair costs to the hired machine.
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