How to get a driving licence in Phuket

You won't get to drive one of these

You won't get to drive one of these

It’s hard to believe that anyone in Phuket actually has a driving licence, or at least has passed a test, but getting a valid Thai licence is possible for all nationalities. Either you can produce an existing foreign drivers licence or take the test. Having taken the test you’ll soon discover why so many drivers in this town are so oblivious to the simplest of road safety rules. Provided you can remember your highway code enough to pass the theory test and prove you can operate a vehicle inside the Traffic Department’s compound, you’ll be issued a nice, shiny Thai Licence; voila! Oh, we forget to mention, there is a little red tape, too.

For starters, you will need the following:

1. Residency Certificate from the Immigration Office, or a copy of your work permit or yellow residency book (take the original too).
2. A copy of your Non-Immigrant Visa, Passport details, last entry stamp/extension stamp, OR your tourist visa (note, it may be possible to get a residency certificate from immigration by presenting a tourist visa or non imm. visa).
3. A basic medical certificate - which you can obtain effortlessly from any doctor.
4. Two photos (1 inch × 1 inch), matt finish, not more than 6 months old.
5. A valid drivers’ licence, or International drivers licence from your own country (if you have one), which should be translated into English from your embassy, if it is issued in any other language.
6. A fee of 105 baht (for a car) or 55 baht (for a motorbike).

With this in hand you can then present yourself at the small ‘help desk’ (basic English is spoken) on the second floor of the Traffic Department building. 42/4 Rattanakosin Song-Roy-Pee Road, Taladneua.

Issuing a Thai drivers’ licence to previous licence holders

With all of the above documentation in hand, you should be able to obtain a licence within one hour. The process is straight forward, but we recommend you arrive between 09:00 and 10:00 or 13:00 and 14:00 to avoid the theory test crowds.

Taking a driving test for a Thai licence

It’s equally easy to obtain a Thai drivers’ licence, either for car or motorbike. Since the same documentation is needed, you should consider ‘killing two birds with one stone’, taking the motorbike test if your current licence is only valid for cars.

The theory test is a simple 20 question multiple choice test that is offered twice a day at 11:00 and 15:00. The results are issued within 20 minutes and if you have passed (75% and above) you can immediately arrange a test.

If you have forgotten your ‘highway code’, we recommend you download a copy of the UK Highway Code which is very similar. However, you also have the benefit of attending a 30-minute video (in English) between 09:00 and 11:00 or 13:00 and 15:00. Since English viewers have the advantage of a private video on computers, they can show up late. Tip! Take along a note pad to note down some of the critical distances and limits mentioned in the video so you can quickly ‘cram’ them before the test.

Now for the astonishing part. To test your worthiness to drive among traffic, you will be asked to complete a simple ‘obstacle’ test in/on your own vehicle. This occurs in their compound and is more of a test to see if you can operate your vehicle, with a short test that’s usually over in a few minutes and tests your ability to reverse park, turn etc.

Having passed this you will then be sent back to the main building and receive your licence after a short wait. Usually the testing officers are quite fair.

Thai driving licence renewal

New Thai driving licences are only valid for one year (for both Thais and foreigners) and will need to be renewed AFTER expiry. You do this at the same building and will need to complete basic reaction and colour blindness tests, before paying a fee and collecting your new licence, which is valid for five years. Prices are 205 baht for a motorbike licence and 505 baht for a car licence. New, so-called Smart Card licences are also available and cost an extra 100 baht each. 

Note!
By law you are expected to carry a Thai drivers’ licence when driving on public roads and a foreigner drivers’ licence should, in theory, only be used for the first 60 days of your stay in Thailand. Drivers are seldom penalised for this, but having a Thai licence is handy and avoids ‘situations’ that might cost you a ‘spot fine'!

Updated and correct: January 2011

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