Officials explain quirky driving requirements

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Due to many letters, often contradictory, about what form of license is required to drive here legally, our intrepid staff contacted a number of agencies and the police to try and determine what is needed. A few of them did their best to answer.

First, Miss Benyapa Prempol, who works in the driver’s license department at the Department of Land Transport in Banglamung, said that driving in Thailand with a British driver’s license alone is illegal. The visitor must have an IDP (International Driver’s Permit) or a temporary 1 year (Thai) driving license, which can be applied for if the person contacts their embassy and gets an approval letter, accompanied with their passport and original driving license, which can be handed into Department of Land Transport Banglamung (or other offices). The license can be acquired within the same day.

Meanwhile, according to the Royal Thai Consulate, visitors/tourists must have a International Driver’s Permit accompanied with their original driver’s license issued to them in their country of nationality or residence, in order to drive ‘legally’ in Thailand. A foreigner is allowed to drive in Thailand for up to 6 months on an IDP, and they must after obtain a Thai driving license.

Finally, Pol. Col. Sukthat Pumpunmuang, superintendent of the Pattaya police station, talked with Pattaya Mail about the common problems of foreign visitors driving in Pattaya and other places in Thailand, holding international driver’s licenses, but still getting arrested by the police.

“It indeed has a major impact regarding the image of Thai police officers,” Sukthat said. “Many people, mostly foreigners, are often arrested for driving cars and motorbikes in Thailand, but the driving license is not the only issue. Traffic laws are enforced to make sure people are using proper vehicles, obeying the traffic rules, parking in designated areas, wearing helmets and holding a proper driving license in Thailand. Sometimes people think they are pulled over for no reason, as they are wearing a helmet, have a proper driver’s license and are driving on the right side of the road, but sometimes they do not realize that it is against the law if the person behind them is not wearing a helmet. This is enforced for safety reasons. Motorbikes are often pulled over for various reasons, like not having a mirror, drinking and driving and many more.

“Police officers will write a note to the driver to pay a fee at the police station. The police will also keep their driving license, which they will return after the fee is paid.”

Sukthat continues, “If the foreign visitor has a valid international driver’s license and thinks they are getting pulled over for nothing, they can always contact the police station or the Department of Land Transportation for clarification.

“An International Driver’s License can be used in all ASEAN countries, although it is recommended for foreign visitors to apply for a Thai driver’s license. This can be obtained at the Thailand Transportation Department in Bangkok if they possess a valid International Driving License issued in their country of nationality. If the visitor does not have an international driving license, they must contact their embassy to apply for one, because, for example, a UK driving license alone does not work in Thailand and an international driving license is only used for cars, not for motorbikes, as Thai nationals hold two different driver’s licenses.”