I’ve been getting a lot of questions as to how you go about getting your driver’s license here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. What do you do if you don’t have an International Drivers Permit that covers motorcycles or scooters from your home country? What if you don’t intend to return home or your IDP has expired? Getting a local Thai license is much easier than you expect once you know the proper procedure.
I obtained my Thailand drivers licenses on a 30 day tourist visa exemption stamp, and you can too. I highly recommend that you do, the feeling of not having to worry about license checkpoints is a huge relief. Don’t forget to always wear a helmet, because if not you’ll still get fined.
It takes about 2-3 days of running around and gathering paperwork, going to the Department of Land Transportation Office (DLT), Immigration Office, Tian Services, Hospital, and taking the written and practical driving tests. After successfully passing the tests your license is printed and issued immediately.
How it Worked for Me
I have a car driving license from the United States, and a motorcycle license in Indonesia from my time on Bali. I thought it was going to be as easy as just showing my Indonesian license and them issuing me a Thai motorcycle license. Since I didn’t have an Indonesian IDP — they said I had to take the Thai written and driving test for my motorcycle license.
If you already have a motorcycle license in your country with a valid IDP — then they MAY just issue you a Thai license without a test, but it is completely up to the mood of the clerk that is helping you so no matter what, always remain friendly with them. I recommend always speaking with a soft tone even if it’s not what you want to hear.
Curiously, they just went ahead and issued me a car driving license based on my US license without an IDP. No tests involved. I don’t intend to drive a car in Thailand but thought while I am here I might as well get it as well since it’s no extra hassle.
Department of Land Transportation Office
You can show up on a scooter or a GRAB car. When you arrive go to the second floor information booth with all your paperwork. They speak good English and are accustomed to helping foreigners. They even have a dedicated Foreigner desk, but we didn’t use that when I was there.
Here is the Google Maps Location.
The lady that helped me was very nice and said I had to go schedule a written test and driving test with her for the next day and to go home and study the test from ThaiDriving.info and come back the next morning for the written test and a few hours later, the driving test. Don’t worry, it’s very relaxed and around a track only. Feel free to bring a rental as they don’t ask how you got it there. They only test at certain times. I was tested at about 3 PM, so I recommend getting to the DLT with all your paperwork in hand by 8:30 AM by the latest so they can process you, and hopefully schedule your tests all for the same day.
Collect the Required Paperwork
- A Lease — Your name needs to be on a lease. It doesn’t matter if it’s month to month or one year. You simply need a signed lease of where you are staying in Thailand. If you are here with a spouse ensure both of your names are on it.
- Obtain Medical Certificate — You need a medical certificate from a hospital — usually 150 THB. They ask for your passport, take your blood pressure and ask for your relevant medical history. I recommend getting two medical certificates just incase the DLT clerk wants one for each license. Go to a local hospital and not a foreigner hospital. Bring cash and your passport. Use the Google Translate app to tell them you are there for your drivers license health certificate.
- Obtain Residence Certificate — 1000 THB for (usually) next day service from Tian Visa Services. You need 30+ days in your passport so if you are under that you need to go to immigration for a stamp extension for 1900 THB. They will offer to “help you” extend your stamp or visa but it’s another 1000 THB just for that service plus the 1900 THB for the extension. I don’t recommend using them for a stamp extension when you can simply walk across the street to the immigration office and do it yourself in about an hour. You need to learn how to do this yourself anyways. Just fill out the paperwork properly (they sometimes verify your address against Google so make sure it’s actually correct).
- Obtain TM30 at Immigration — This is usually free and is available on the 3rd floor of the immigration building. Just walk up the steps to the right side of the building. Before you do this ensure your landlord or condo management has pre-reported your residence to immigration. Simply ask if they have filed a TM30 for your passport, if not they are legally required to do so before you can go to immigration for your TM30 receipt to be stapled into your passport. Don’t just show up without confirming with your landlord as they may get fined. Immigration will issue you a piece of paper that proves they have a TM30 (reported residence) on file for you and staple it into your passport.
- Two photo copies of everything — Passport ID page, stamp or visa page, TM30 page, current driver’s license (if any), residence certificate, and lease paperwork. Ask Tian services to make these TWO photocopies of everything for you and tell them it is for a drivers license — they’ll know which ones you need. If they miss any or the DLT wants more you can also get photocopies at the DLT office for about 5 THB per page.
- Study Material — You need to study this YouTube video over and over; it has most all questions on the test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF2AjZk3F0I and also ThaiDriving.info (the PDF pages are the most useful and are available from the top right). Pay close attention to the signage, right of way, and no parking sign questions. You need to memorize what they mean.
1000 THB – Residence Certificate
150 THB – Medical Certificate
TM30 – Currently Free
Car License Fee – 205 THB for two years
Motorcycle License Fee – 105 THB for two years
Total: About 1460 THB (as of January 2019)
The Written Test
Don’t worry, the written test is in English, is computerized, and is 50 questions. Make sure you study diligently as you can only miss 5 questions total. There was another foreigner there from the United States and it was his third try and the written test wasn’t that hard. Some people online say if you can pass a western driving test — you don’t need to study. I disagree, make sure you study the night before and the morning of. I used the YouTube video I linked to in this post as a flash card system as I was waiting for the written test to start on my mobile phone. I suggest you do the same to improve your chances of passing the written test the first time.
The Driving Test
I only took the driving test for the motorcycle license and it was simply around a track, ensuring you stop at the stop sign completely and then across a board. Make sure you are proficient on a scooter before you attempt this. It was not hard, but for some people it could be if this is the first time you’ve ever driven one. It was really laid back. Make sure you get your paperwork signed off before you head back to the main DLT building. The driving test area is in front of the DLT building and to the left. About a 5 minute walk from the front door of the main building. It is NOT behind it, so don’t make that mistake.
Since I didn’t have a scooter rental, I simply offered a local Thai also taking the test a small fee to use their scooter for the test — ask around if you don’t have a scooter. Somebody will loan you one for a very small amount of money. Make sure this isn’t your first time driving a scooter.
Congratulations You Passed
Once you pass the written test and practical driving test around the track you will be issued your driving license the same day.
Travel Insurance Policy Considerations
A Thai driving license will keep you out of trouble locally but most likely will NOT be acceptable to travel insurance policies written in your home country in the event you have an accident. The reason for this is most travel insurers require you to hold a valid motorcycle license in your home country AND a legitimate International Driver’s Permit from your home country licensing authority, not off some internet website.
If you get into an accident with only a Thai license, don’t count on your $37 a month travel insurer paying the $25,000+ USD emergency medical bills that you can easily incur here. A broken femur is no joke, and you cannot just quickly fly home to fix that.
Luma Expat Health Insurance
If you are planning to remain in Thailand for an extended period of time, I don’t recommend remaining on a travel insurer policy as they usually have severe limitations and lots of fine print to prevent paying otherwise legitimate claims. I recommend looking into obtaining local Thai expat health insurance though Luma Healthcare, CLICK HERE to find out more.