Driving in Thailand and driving Pattaya can be something of a hair-raising experience especially if you have never driven in Asia before.
The rules of the road appear to have been forgotten or perhaps never known in the first place with only one rule seeing to matter – every man for themselves!
Alarmingly, the standard HAS improved in recent years and the fact that drivers now need to take a driving test has probably been a big factor in this, however, they are still in the top 5 countries in the world for road deaths.
As if the standard of driving wasn’t bad enough, the quality of many of the roads is equally as bad in many parts. Whilst this can’t be used as an excuse, it certainly doesn’t help the situation. Second Road, although again has improved, is still something of an accident waiting to happen especially at the southern end. The less said about the sub-sois the better! Losing a front wheel down a pothole is a very real possibility and has caused numerous accidents over the years.
The usual reserved Thai mentality goes completely out of the window as soon as they get behind the wheel of a car or on a motorbike. Aggression is the order of the day as to is a ‘me first’ attitude. Signalling is often a con, and stopping three deep outside the 7 Eleven is seen as the norm. Expect the unexpected is the best rule that you can adopt and you certainly need eyes in your proverbial to keep yourself safe!
The Legal Bit
Although we have had a little bit of a light-hearted look at the driving that you should expect in Thailand there are lots of rules that you do actually need to adhere to. Having a valid driving license is now a must and this means a Thai driving license for residents or a valid international license for tourists. A license from your home country is not sufficient.
Driving license can be obtained from the test centre which is located next to Regents School, just off the Highways 36. All drivers will need to take a colour blindness test, a tunnel vision test, a distance perception test, and a reflex test. You won’t need to take the theory or the practical test if you produce a valid license from your home country. The theory test is done on a touchscreen whilst the practical test is done on a course at the test centre.
Initially, you now receive a two-year license that can then be extended to a 5-year license. You will need a residency certificate or work permit, a medical certificate, and your passport. It costs 300 Thai Baht for a car license and 200 Thai Baht for a motorbike license.
The police are also cracking down on driving violation too. Drink driving is a quite rightly a big no-no these days as to is having no helmet when on a motorbike. Here is a breakdown of the fines (prices in Thai Baht:
- Driving without license plate – 400 ฿
- Going through a red light – 300 ฿
- Reckless driving – 400 ฿
- A turn in the wrong place – 400 ฿
- Parking in the wrong place – 200 ฿
- Driving without insurance – 600 ฿
- Traffic on the wrong side of the road– 200 ฿
- Driving vehicle without driving license of the corresponding category – 400 ฿
- Driving vehicle without registration – 400 ฿
- The blocking of the fare is 200 ฿
- Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is 200 ฿
- Drink Driving – up to one year in prison or a fine of 5,000 to 20,000 Thai Baht, disqualification from driving for 6 months
- Driving the vehicle in a drunken state, if it resulted in infliction of injury to others from one to five years in prison or fine of 20,000 to 100,000 Thai Baht, disqualification from driving for 1 year
- Control the vehicle in a drunken state, if it led to the infliction of grievous bodily harm to others from two to six years in prison or a fine of 40,000 to 120,000 Thai Baht, disqualification from driving for 1 year
- Control the vehicle in a drunken state, if it resulted in infliction of death to other persons – from three to ten years in prison and a fine of 60,000 to 200,000 Thai Baht, the cancellation of driver’s license