Friday, 26 March 2010

Driving in Thailand

Driving in Thailand

It can be a real challenge, especially if you're not used to Thai rules and more importantly, the unofficial rules that you just need to pick up on. A lot of these unofficial rules can come in very handy and there's a website where I found a lot of good info, so sit down and kick back and have a good read with sometimes a possible smile on your face but keep in mind, this is how it is out there;

Rules & Regulations

  • Drive on the left side of the road
  • The legal age for driving cars is 18
  • The legal age for riding a motorcycle up to 110cc is 15; 18 is the legal age for riding a motorcycle over 110cc
  • It is compulsory for a driver to have their driving licence and a copy of the vehicle registration document (Blue Book, Lem Tabian)
  • Valid Thai or International Driving Licences are accepted
  • Every vehicle must have a tax sticker, which has to be renewed annually at the local Department of Land Transport Office(DLT)
  • Every vehicle must have at least third party compulsory motor insurance, which has to be renewed annually at the local Department of Land Transport Office (DLT)
  • It is compulsory to wear a seat belt in the front seats of a carFines for not wearing a seatbelt can be paid at the local police station
  • Blood-alcohol limit is 0.5 mg
  • Speeding fines must be paid at the local police station
  • Vehicles with red registration plates are not permitted to drive at night
  • From 7 May 2008 a driver may only use a mobile cellular telephone with a handsfree system

Other things to take into account when driving in Thailand:
  • Flashing of headlights by other vehicles is a warning signal meaning "get out of my way" and does not indicate "you may make your manoeuvre", as it does in some Western countries
  • Drivers of larger vehicles may assume that smaller vehicles will give way
  • Always check for motorbikes when opening car doors on the side of the road as they frequently travel up the inside space between the road and the pavement
  • It is not obligatory for children's car seats to be used
  • Anyone wishing to change the colour of their car must inform the DLT who will change the details in the registration book
  • A frequently used method of warning road users of a breakdown in the road ahead is to cover the road with tree branches

Traffic signs

Traffic signs - warning and regulatory - are in Thai. They may have English translations below the Thai names.

Roads in Thailand range from multi-lane freeways around Bangkok to tiny lanes (soi's). Frequently-used roads in the provinces are often four lanes. 
There is continual investment in upgrading or building new roads throughout Thailand making road works commonplace although frequent heavy rains means they can deteriorate quickly. Road works are not always clearly marked or lit at night. Some road markings can be worn badly and care has to be taken.
Road signs may have English translations below the Thai names.

There are more motorcycles than any other vehicle type on Thai roads. Only a very basic test is required before a motorbike licence is issued and there are many accidents involving motorbikes; the figures for motorcycle deaths in Thailand are extremely high.
  • Motorcycles are required to have a tax sticker and 3rd party insurance
  • It is compulsory for the rider to wear a helmet and have a motorbike licence
Car drivers in Thailand should be prepared for some or all of the following to occur when driving near motorbikes.
  • Riding on the wrong side of the road
  • Ignoring stop signs
  • Riding with many passengers
  • Cutting across the front of a car without looking
  • Not indicating direction of turning
  • Quickly riding across the front of oncoming traffic at lights
Drink Driving (DWI/DUI)
The legal blood-alcohol limit in Thailand is 0.5 grams of alcohol per litre of blood. However, for drivers that have held their licence for less than five years the limit is 0.2 grams per litre of blood. Drivers caught over the legal limit are heavily fined and may be imprisoned or required to do community service. The government is trying to reduce drink driving and breath testing stops are becoming more common.
On average 7.5 people are killed for every 10,000 vehicles on Thailand's roads, amounting to around 14,000 deaths annually in a typical year. National holidays are when drink driving is at its highest, with as many as 600 deaths during the three-day "Songkran" festival. Drivers should take extra care at these times.

Hope this was some useful information, be careful out there!



Mike said...

Camille, the photo made me smile.

I don't mind driving here, but I tend to drive slowly on all but the Highways.

For me motorbikes are a problem. IF they were properly licenced this would make a huge difference along with a bit of driver training.

How many deaths during Songkran this year I wonder?

Camille Lemmens said...

Hi Mike,

I don't mind driving here neither but I'm a very different driver compared to 10 years ago! A lot more defensive and expecting the unexpected at any given moment!

The picture is indeed a classis TIT sample!

Songkran and deaths, it will be too many, that's for sure!

martyn said...

Camille you have put together a well constructed post full of solid information on driving in Thailand.

I didn't know about the ban on mobiles or the lower alcohol limit for those with newer licences. The branches on the roads is also very handy to know.

Like Mike, I love the photo. It's so very Thai like, where else in the world could it have been taken.

Camille Lemmens said...

Hi Martyn,

The picture is a typical TIT one ;-)

Most of the rules I knew so I thought it a good thing to share since too many are not aware of these rules at all.

Good to see you like it.