Getting a Thai Driving License

Get your Driving License in Chiang Mai in 3 Easy Steps

This article deals specifically with the process of getting a driving license in Chiang Mai, however the same procedures and forms will be more or less the same throughout Thailand. Getting your driving license in Thailand is a several-day process in which you can expect to spend most of that time waiting. There are now English speaking staff at the Chiang Mai Land Transport Offices – (once you HAD to take a Thai speaking person) – but the confusion about the process remains the same.

By law, you are required to have a Thai driving license if you have stayed in the country 60 days.

You cannot get a Driving License on a Tourist Visa.  If you see anywhere online that you can – check the date of the article. It is old…

This is, of course, one of the non-logical aspects of living in Thailand. It is assumed if you have a Tourist Visa you are here for 60 days and therefore do not require a license. Extending your Visa 30 days puts you in the illegal category.

If the driver is not a tourist nor visitor but is a resident with a non-immigrant visa, then it is necessary to have a Thai driving license. However, those with a foreign license as described above or an International Driving Permit are excused from doing the practical driving test when applying for a Thai driving license.

Note: Although International Driving Permits are valid for up to one year after arrival in Thailand, after three months many comprehensive insurance policies are made void if still driving on a foreign license.

If you already have a valid car or motorbike driving license from your own country the process is relatively simple. If you are required to sit for the written and practical exams for either of these – be prepared for a longer and more confusing process.

One of the services we offer at Chiang Mai Buddy to prevent the stress, anxiety and confusion of visiting any government department is to hire a Buddy by the hour.


Requirements to Apply for a Thai Driving License

1) Medical Certificate (50-100 Baht)
Easily obtained from a local Doctor or Hospital. Must not be more than 30 days old.

2) Residency Certificate (500 Baht)
Proof of Address provided by the Immigration Bureau (Resident Certificate) or foreign embassy as provided.  Download Form

3) Copy of Passport and non-immigrant visa (original and photocopy)
(Face page; VISA page; current TM6 card; latest entry stamp page); bring your original Passport also.
N.B. You cannot get a Thai Driving license on a Tourist Visa

4) Valid License or International Driving Permit
Your current country’s Motorbike or Car License or an International Driving Permit. Applicants without these will have to complete the road code and practical exams. Holders of driver licenses in a language not in English must have their embassy translate it and take that translation with them.

5) Application for Driving License
Application For Driving License
To see how to fill this page in go here

 


Step by Step… How to Apply for a Thai Driving License in Chiang Mai

Step One: Obtaining a Medical Certificate

This is the easiest and quickest part of obtaining a driving license in Thailand. You can usually walk into any Doctor’s Clinic or Hospital and request from the counter a Medical Certificate for an application for a Driving License. This test will involve checking your height and weight, blood pressure and a color blindness exam. The whole process takes just 10-15 minutes – minus the waiting time. This is an income-earner for the local hospitals and this service is streamlined without much waiting. Cost at a doctor’s clinic can sometimes be just 50 baht, at the hospital it is 100 baht.

Step Two: Obtaining your Residency Certificate

A residency certificate is a document issued by immigration to certify where a foreigner lives. You can obtain this from your Embassy (if located in Chiang Mai) but the cost is much higher (1700 baht). The immigration satellite office is supposed to issue these for free (and will do but it can take 2-8 weeks) or for a gift donation of 500 baht it will be available the next day.

The Immigration Satellite office is located off the Super Highway across from the Promenada Mall. Do NOT go to the Immigration office near the airport – they no longer process residency certificates. As of this time, the Immigration Department have not advised Google Maps of their location. The exact location is listed on the map as the ‘Namber One Garage’.

Location of the Chiang Mai Immigration Department: Residency Certificates

The building looks like this:
Chiang Mai Residency Certificate Immigration

You will need to take:

1. Two (2) Color Photos 1.5 in x 2.36 in (4 cm x 6 cm)
2. Copy of Passport (1st Page; VISA Page; TM6). Bring your original Passport also.
3. Proof of Residence (Rental Contract or Yellow Residency Book or Letter from your Landlord)

Photocopies and Photographs can be obtained at the office, as can the Thai Residency Certificate Form. But it is better to be prepared and have these done.

Once you arrive you will take your completed documents to room 4, and will usually be asked if you want this the next day which will require a ‘gift fee’ of 500 baht. While requesting this fee is totally illegal – just smile and hand over the money. You will be told to come back the next day after 1:00 p.m. The next day you want to go to the window at room 2.

[notify_box font_size=”13px” style=”red”]Do not lean over the window or enter the room unless you are invited to do so. If you see your photograph on the file and the immigration staff have gone past it – DO NOT put your hand in and point. Thai manners are essential here, you will always smile and laugh and everything is your fault – even if they cannot find what is plainly obvious to you[/notify_box]

Collecting your residency certificate is a relativity easy process (the 2nd or 3rd time you do it). The first time (like any Thai government procedure) can be confusing. If you do not speak Thai, try and take a Thai friend along with you to translate.

Step Three: Obtaining your Driving License

The Land Transport Offices are located on Hang Dong Road, about 3 KM south of Airport Plaza on the left-hand side of the road just past Tesco Lotus and before the Big C. Hours are Monday to Friday  8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Location of the Chiang Mai Land Transport Offices: Driving License

The building looks like this:
Chiang Mai Traffic Department

 

If you have an International Permit or your Country’s valid driving license:

A complete set of above documents mentioned at the top of this article is required for each license application (motorbike & car). You can use copies of your residency certificate and a medical certificate if you are applying for both licenses at the same time.

1) Go to the 2nd floor of the Traffic department to window 21.  They will check your details and issue you with a number to wait to go at window 27.

2) At window 27 you will do 3 quick tests:

Color Blindness Test:
One of the officials will point to colored dots on a poster and you should respond by stating the dot’s color. You can answer in English but Thai is better:

  • red (si daeng)
  • green (si kheow)
  • yellow (si luang)
  • blue (si fah).

Reflex Test:
Be seated behind an alternative gas and brake pedal and push the accelerator until the green LEDs start to light up. Hit the brake pedal before the LEDs reach the red zone. You will have to repeat this test twice.

Depth Perception Test:
Use forward and back buttons to align a moving pin with a fixed one, in a small box at approx. 10 meters distance.

3) Go to the main Information counter as you enter the second floor. You will have your documents checked again and be given another number.

4) When your number is called you will go to another window and pay the fees (usually window 21 but depends on the day): 205 baht for a car license and 155 baht for a motorbike. After this, you will be given another number and you sit and wait.

5) When your number is called, go to the back of the window area for your photograph to be taken. Here you will pick a number from a roll-a-dial and sit and wait. You will get your photograph taken and be issued with your license. They will put the license in a plastic protective cover and ask for 10 baht. If you are going to put the license in your wallet say “Mai Ow” or tell them you don’t want the protective sheet. You may get looked at like you’re an idiot but you really do not need this.

N.B. The 1st license is a temporary license issued for 1 year (Green color). After 1 year a renewal is available for 5 years (Pink color). If you are a Tourist with a Thai Driving License you can only get a 1-year renewal.

This whole process seems over the top, each window will recheck the previous checks of your documentation, and, seems like a lot of wasted time. The best option is to know before you go that this is not going to be an experience like back home. If you make comparisons to what you have done in your own country it will be easy for you to feel confused and frustrated. You will spend most of your time sitting and waiting. If you are not used to the way Thailand works, taking a Thai speaking person along with you will give you peace of mind (and some conversation) as you wait while the process is working. For those new arrivals or people without Thai friends, remember Chiang Mai Buddy offers the service of hiring your own local to assist you with the process.


If you need to sit the exam to get your driving license:

A complete set of above documents mentioned at the top of this article is required for each license application (motorbike & car). You can use copies of your residency certificate and medical certificate if you are applying for both licenses at the same time.

1) Go to the 2nd floor of the Traffic department to window 21.  They will check your details and instruct you to go and take your written exam after you do the 3 basic tests.

2) At window 27 you will do 3 quick tests:

Color Blindness Test:
One of the officials will point to colored dots on a poster and you should respond by stating the dot’s color. You can answer in English but Thai is better:

  • red (si daeng)
  • green (si kheow)
  • yellow (si luang)
  • blue (si fah).

Reflex Test:
Be seated behind an alternative gas and brake pedal and push the accelerator until the green LEDs start to light up. Hit the brake pedal before the LEDs reach the red zone. You will have to repeat this test twice.

Depth Perception Test:
Use forward and back buttons to align a moving pin with a fixed one, in a small box at approx. 10 meters distance.

3) The theory test is located at the far end of the 2nd floor of the traffic department building. It is a simple 30-question multiple-choice test that is offered twice a day at 11.00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. You will be able to sit the exam twice at each sitting and it requires a 75% pass rate. The results are issued within 20 minutes and if you have passed you can immediately arrange a practical test.

PLEASE NOTE: The offices do NOT supply You with a vehicle for Your tests. If You ask, prepare to be chuckled at…

4) Go to the practical driving test area located outside of the building, in the same compound, heading back towards the city. You will have your forms checked and be seated to wait until you are called. Luckily, for some reason, some Westerners get called up first and have a priority over the locals.

5) The motorbike practical test is explained to you and is a simple course (that they hardly ever actually watch you do). You will be required to stop at a few intersections, use your turn signals and drive within the speed limit. For motorbike test at 2 points you are required to stop and put your feet on the ground (complete stop) and drive over a wooden plank without falling off. The plank is a slab of wood about an inch above the ground and about 8 inches thick. The trick here is to not ride too slowly and wobble and fall off.

The car test is more complicated, now involving electronic documentation of the procedure. Pay attention and You should be OK (if you already know how to drive…).

6) After you complete your practical you are given a pass stamp on your forms which you then return back to the 2nd floor of the main building.

7) Return to window 21 with your exam and practical test results. You will have your documents checked and be given a number to sit and wait for window 27.

8) At window 27 you will do 2 quick tests:

a) Short eyesight test (color perception, peripheral vision, depth perception)
b) Reflex examination

9) Go to the main Information counter as you enter the second floor. You will have your documents checked again and be given another number.

10) When your number is called you will go to another window and pay the fees (usually window 21 but depends on the day) 205 baht for a car license and 155 baht for a motorbike. After this, you will be given another number and you sit and wait.

11) When your number is called, go to the back of the window area for your photograph to be taken. Here you will pick a number from a roll-a-dial and sit and wait. You will get your photograph taken and be issued with your license. They will put the license in a plastic protective cover and ask for 10 baht. If you are going to put the license in your wallet say “Mai Ow” or tell them you don’t want the protective sheet. You may get looked at like you’re an idiot but you really do not need this.

N.B. The 1st license is a temporary license issued for 1 year (Green color), after 1 year, a renewal is available for 5 years (Pink color). If you are a Tourist with a Thai Driving License, you can only get a 1-year renewal.

This can be a 2-day process on top of the 2-day process to get the required documentation (Residency Certificate and Medical). At various points during the procedure you are likely to come across a window or in the case of the practical test, people who do not speak English very well. You will manage to survive! It might be a stressful and anxiety producing experience but after it is all done you can drive home and wonder at the marvels of it only taking almost 5 days to get a driving license.

If you do not speak Thai, the whole experience will go smoother if you can take a Thai friend along with you. The both of you will be bored for most of the time, but in those moments of confusion (and there will be many during the long periods you wait) it is nice to have someone reassure you this is normal, do not worry.


The Driving License Exam: Test Questions

Thai Drivers license exam

The exam takes place in the end room of the Traffic Department Building in Chiang Mai on the second floor.  Here you will sit in front of a large screen and be shown a selection of  30 multiple-choice questions. On the screen will appear questions and you select from the answers provided. Sounds simple right?

The images used in the exam are very low quality and difficult to see. If you require glasses at all, you had better take them with you. In addition, the English translation is very confusing, so it pays to read the questions a couple of times AND look at any pictures the question is meant to explain.  Some questions are surprisingly easy. For example …

When are you not allowed to operate a motor vehicle?
A) After you wake up;
B) When it is raining;
C) Immediately after consuming alcohol or drugs;
D) On a weekend.

Some drivers license test questions will require you to have more specific knowledge of the Thai Road Code. In New Zealand and Australia the correct answer is C, in Thailand and America it is B…

When an emergency vehicle approaches you from behind with lights flashing, you should:
A) Speed up;
B) Pull over, stop and wait for the vehicle to pass;
C) Move to the left and continue driving;
D) Pull over, stop, and immediately pull out behind the vehicle.

A score of 23/30 is needed to pass.  You are provided with the correct answers at the end of your test and can take it twice a day until you pass.

On the right-hand side of the entrance to the computer test are posters that show what various road signs mean in Thailand. Spend 10 minutes or so looking at these. Behind counter 21 (where you first go with your paperwork) they (usually) have a copy of the Thai Road code in English which you can ask to borrow and read.

Chiang Mai Buddy has provided a selection of the Thai Driving License Exam Questions for you to look at and learn.

You may also be interested in an English version of the Thai Traffic Laws (provided at www.thailaws.com)


How to Apply for a 5 year Thai Driving License

People with a Tourist Visa are no longer able to get a Driving License. A Non-Immigrant Visa is required to apply for the 5-year driving license which can be done one month before your current license expires. You will only be required to redo the following exams and tests:

1.  Eyesight (color perception, peripheral vision, depth perception)
2.  Reflex Test

No practical test driving or re-sitting of your exam questions is required. Fee is 550 baht for the 5-year driving license.

Documents Required

1) Original 1-Year Driving License

2) Copy of Passport and non-immigrant visa (original and photocopy)
(Face page; VISA page; current TM6 card; latest entry stamp page); Bring your original Passport also.
N.B. You can not get a Thai Driving license on a Tourist Visa

3) New Medical Certificate (50-100 Baht)
Easily obtained from a local Doctor or Hospital. Must not be more than 30 days old.

4) New Residency Certificate (500 Baht)
Proof of Address provided by the Immigration Bureau (Residency Certificate) or foreign embassy as provided.  Download Form


Final Thoughts

The process of obtaining a Thai Driving License when you need to sit the exam and take the practical is at least a 3-4 day event. Most of this time is spent waiting, and while you wait you might be tempted to begin to question the process. Have they forgotten me? Why did that person not have to go to the same window? How much longer? Why is that person being processed quickly and the other one took forever? And, again, Have they forgotten me?

At the Chiang Mai Traffic Department some of the volunteer staff (University students) will speak English and you can ask them for an explanation of what you need to do next. Some of the staff: not so much. If you do not speak Thai, you can (and many have) managed to get their driving license in Thailand having a Thai speaking person assist them. It is a great idea. Contact us at Chiang Mai Buddy. We are here to help!