How to Get a Thai Driving License: Documents, Test and Renewal

Expats planning to drive a car in Thailand should apply for a Thai driving license. This is the only way to ensure that you can drive legally in the country and are fully covered by a car insurance policy. It can also serve as an ID card issued by the government. In addition, a Thai driving license can be done in a single day, costs a few hundred baht, and is valid in 10 ASEAN countries.
How to get a thai driving license

Expats planning to drive a car in Thailand should apply for a Thai driving license. This is the only way to ensure that you can drive legally in the country and are fully covered by a car insurance policy. It can also serve as an ID card issued by the government. In addition, a Thai driving license can be done in a single day, costs a few hundred baht, and is valid in 10 ASEAN countries.

In order to qualify for a Thai driving license, applicants must be at least 18 years old, in good physical and mental health and hold a valid non-immigration visa. Although applicants must show that they are either living and working in the country or are living in Thailand on a retirement visa, some people reported that they can make a Thai driving license with a tourist visa.

The driving license can be issued at any Department of Land Transport offices in Thailand. Details of the major test centers in Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and other prominent areas of the country can be found here. I recommend applying for your motorcycle and driver’s licenses at the same time. If not, you’ll have to take the tests again if you decide to upgrade to either one later on.

The information in this guide is sourced from credible news sources, Thai agency websites, forums, Facebook groups, interviews from visa experts, fellow expats’ experiences, and my personal experience as a tourist, then as an expat.

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department of land transport
Department of Land Transport in Bangkok Area 3

Required Documents

Although the forms that applicants need to fill out and process are mainly in Thai, officers of the Department of Land Transport are able to communicate in basic English and explain the necessary steps for making a driving license. If you do not understand Thai at all, it is still possible to go there alone and make the license. Otherwise, bringing a translator with you is also an option.

Since the required documents are subject to change from time to time, it is best to check with the Department of Land Transport again before going to apply for the license. The documents you need for a driving license are:

  • a passport along and non-immigrant visa
  • copies of the first page of the passport
  • copies of the page containing the valid non-immigrant visa
  • copies of the page containing the last entry stamp for Thailand
  • your TM.6 departure card
  • a letter of address certified from the Immigration Bureau or from the applicant’s embassy, dated within thirty days of application or a work permit with a signed copy
  • a health certificate, issued at any clinic or hospital, dated within thirty days of the application
  • optional: a valid international driver’s license with a signed copy, or regular driver’s license from the applicant’s home country translated into English and certified by the embassy or consulate

You need to have these documents signed. If you don’t have a copy yet, there’s usually a copy machine inside the Department of Land Transport for a few baht per page. My recommendation is to copy and sign everything beforehand. If you have copied too much they’ll give it back to you as it’s not needed. Better to be safe than sorry.

Applying for a Thai Driving License

The Thai driving license is issued by the Department of Land Transport, which can be found throughout Thailand, with at least one in each major town and several in big cities.

You need to take the completed application form to the testing center and tell them that you’re applying for a one-year Thai driving license.

Since the Department of Land Transport is a government organization, applicants must dress politely: shirts must have sleeves and shorts/skirts must be below the knees.

The operating hours of the Department of Land Transport are 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Even though it is possible to handle the entire process yourself, there are agencies that can help you get a Thai driving license.

They take care of everything from helping you prepare for the test to filling out paperwork.

If you need help with getting your Thai driving license, reach out to us. We’ll put you in touch with an agency we feel comfortable recommending.

Driving License Procedure and Tests

Submit your documents. Once the documents have been approved and stamped, applicants will need to complete and pass all the tests. It should be noted that applicants who already hold a driver’s license for their own country or an international driver’s license do not need to take the theory and practical driving test in order to receive their Thai driving license.

license procedure

If you do not have a driving license from your home country, it is recommended to go to the Department of Land Transport early in the morning (before 8 a.m.). Most processes will be done on that day. Then, you need to, hopefully, go back again on a next day for the driving test.

In case you already have a driving license from your home country, it is still important to go to the Department of Land Transport early in the morning to make sure that everything can be finished within a single day.

Acquiring a Thai driving license without the theory and practical driving test can be seen in this video published by Jonny, from minute 1:00 – 5:30.

Color Blindness

One of the officials at the testing station will point to different colored dots on a poster. Applicants need to state the name of each color that they see, usually in Thai, although the staff at testing stations understand and accept answers in English. It is also common that some test stations just completely skip the color blindness test.

Peripheral Test

Applicants need to put their head on a test station, pointing their eyes ahead to an official. Then, they are required tell the exact traffic color shown on their left and right side for a few times without moving the eyes. If answer incorrectly, a tester still give a chance to retest again for one or two more times.

Reflex Test

Applicants take a seat behind a simulated brake pedal and gas pedal and push the accelerator until the green led lights on the panel in front of them start to light up. It is essential to make sure that you hit the brake pedal before the led lights enter the red zone. Similar to the peripheral test, a test still give one or two more chances to applicants who fail the reflex test.

Depth Perception Test

This test can be rather tricky and requires a steady hand as applicants must use special forward and back buttons in order to align a moving pin with one that is fixed in a small box that is set around ten meters away. If applicants fail the test, they can still try it for a few more times.

Theory Test

Applicants must take the time to study the rules of the road in Thailand, as they can be quite different from those in their home countries. Before taking a theory test, applicants need to take a five-hour theoretical class, which is normally a video with English subtitles teaching traffic rules and regulations in Thailand.

Applicants who are unable to read and write in Thai can apply to take the English version of the written part of the test online and submit their test by email. The test consists of a total of fifty questions and applicants must answer at least 45 questions correctly in order to pass the test.

Those who fail the theory test can make an appointment to retest again on the next day without having to retake a theoretical class.

The Thai driver’s test can be read in advance in English online at http://thaidriving.info/ and it is presented as a multiple choice test. The great thing about this practice test is that the correct answers are supplied instantly, which allows users to practice and, if possible, memorize the answers to dramatically increase their chances of passing the test.

Practical Driving Test

Motorists will be asked to drive a vehicle around a small track outside the test center. A tester will be watching at a distance to make sure that the motorist completes the track correctly. This is an easy practical test, as the motorist is alone in the vehicle and there are no tricky maneuvers to perform such as hill starts or parallel parking. However, the motorist will be expected to demonstrate their depth perception skills be reversing between a set of poles and pulling up as close to the curb as possible.

The practical driving test is easy compared to other countries. The testers are mainly watching drivers to make sure that they are able to drive, reverse, and park close to the curb and stay within sets of traffic cones. Although motorists are not permitted to knock over traffic cones during their test, they might still pass the test based on a tester decision.

A car is available for rent at the Department of Transportation for the purpose of a driving test, 100 THB per time. It might not come in good condition. Some cars are even missing rear-view mirrors, making it more difficult to pass the test.

In case applicants fail the practical driving test, they can retake it again after three business days and redo only the test that they fail. Applicants need to pass all practical driving tests within 90 days. Otherwise, they need to redo the whole process again.

Motorcycle License Procedure and Tests

The procedure of getting motorcycle driving license is almost exactly the same as making a car driving license. It shares the same required documents, physical tests from color blindness, peripheral, and reflex. It uses the same theoretical course and test. The only two things that are different are driving test and the cost of making license.

Driving Test

You can use your own bike, rent one there for 50 baht, or the officer could even borrow one from another person taking the test. The test involves taking a short circuit. You need to stop at stop signs and drive over a narrow path. In the waiting room there’s a video showing exactly what you’ll do. But if you fail, you might be able to try it again a few times on that day based on an examiner’s decision. Otherwise, similar to getting a car driving license, you need to come again next day and do the driving test again.

Test Timeline

There’s bit of luck involved in terms of time. Depending on how many people are in line to get their license there may not be room for you on the same day to go through the course, the test, and the driving test. Best case scenario, you can do it on the same day. But if you have bad luck you might not get scheduled until several days or weeks later. The longest I’ve seen was one month.

You should plan for getting it all done in one day by going to the Department of Land Transport since an early morning. But you may want to prepare yourself for a few trips. The only way to know is when you get there. Then they’ll tell you which days you can do each test.

Because of the similarity between making a motorcycle driving license and car driving license, you need to only pass the physical test, theory course, and theory test once if you make both licenses at the same time.

Getting Your License

Although the process may seem complicated for non-Thai people, the good news is that the cost of obtaining a Thai driving license is extremely low. Applicants who have passed all of the tests will have their documents signed and returned to them. The documents will be checked one last time by another officer, who will then grant them a two-year temporary Thai driving license.

After two years, you can get a five-year driving license which can be renewed every five years. The temporary license need to be extended before it expires. Failing to do so, an applicant is required to redo the whole procedure to make a driving license again.

For the five-year license, it can be renewed three months prior to the expiry date with a color blindness, peripheral, reflex, and depth perception test. If the license is expired for more than a year, the theory test is required. If more than 3 years, an applicant need to provide a medical certificate and do the practical driving test. Necessary documents and procedure can be read at the Department of Land Transport website.

The expiry date of the Thai driving license is always the applicant’s birthday, no matter what the issued date is.

Costs

Although the process may seem complicated for non-Thai people, the good news is that the cost of obtaining a Thai driving license is extremely low. Applicants who have passed all of the tests will have their documents signed and returned to them. The documents will be checked one last time by another officer, who will then grant them a two-year temporary Thai driving license.

Driving License

The entire fee for taking the test and receiving a Thai driving license is just 305 THB for a two-year temporary license and 605 THB for a five-year license. Embassies usually charge a fee of between 300 and 500 THB for certifying the applicant’s letter of address in Thailand. The standard fee for the doctor’s certificate from a clinic confirming that the applicant is in good physical and mental health is 50-200 THB.

There is also a service like Chiangmai Buddy helping expats to get a driver’s license by paying an additional fee of around 300 THB to have all of the details taken care of. If applicants do not know how to drive yet, taking a driving course from any driving school in Thailand can be a good option. It usually costs  3,500 – 4,000 THB per 10 hours. At the end of the course, the school will help prepare all necessary documents and take applicants to the Department of Land Transport to apply for the Thai driving license.

Keep in mind that if you already have your motorcycle license, and you want to apply for your driver’s license, you still have to take the physical and theoretical tests again unless it is done at the same time.

Motorcycle License

The motorcycle license costs 105 baht, and the upgrade is 55 baht. But printing the license costs more. And there are more fees, so I’d recommend bringing at least 500 baht.

After doing all tests, it’s finally time to get your license. Head back to the booth area and wait for them to call your name. They’ll take your photo, make your card, and take your payment. Make sure you check the details printed on the license.

Now, on to You

The info in this article is valid as of July 2017. Some details might change over time. The only way to know the exact rules is to ask the Department of Land Transportation.

For non-Thais, getting a Thai driving license can be complicated, which is why some people opt to hire companies to help them get their Thai driving license.

If you need help finding an company to help you get your Thai driving license, we can put you in touch with an agency we would use in your situation.

14 comments
  1. At Mo Chit area: you forgot the peripheral vision test. You also need to sit through 5 hours instead of 2 hours.

    Since January 2017 the temporary license was increased to 2 year instead of one. And if you do not renew your licence before the expiry date you need to start over from the beginning. So if you have temp but fail to renew it, you will need to make a new temp again, instead of bumping it up to the 5 year one.

    I recently went through there and made a write-up. You will find some updated information in the comments. https://www.reddit.com/r/Thailand/comments/5vpzbv/thai_motorbike_drivers_license_2_years_later/

    Another note is that you mention it is not possible to get a license on a e.g. tourist visa – this seems like a gray zone since loads of people mention that you can do it.

      1. Glad to help. I noticed you missed to add in the peripheral vision test.

        Basically it is the last of the tests (color > depth > reaction > peripheral) you do. You put your head at a station and look straight ahead. They will then turn on a colored light either on your left or right side and your goal is to tell them which color it is a few times.

  2. Great article and website overall! Is there a similar company as Chiang Mai Buddy based in Bangkok? Just looking at getting the Thai license with my Canadian one + Intl License. thanks!

    1. Not sure to be honest – however, if you like I can put you in touch with a former staff member of mine who might be able to help. Send me a message via the contact form and I’ll be sure to forward it to her.

    2. There is one called Fatboys thai drivers licence service. they are around phrakhanong/bangchak area. But they are quite pricey, i paid around 1900baht, but they will pay for all the payments for me, such as the 205 baht for the card itself and the medical cert.

  3. A very good article.
    Chiang Mai Buddy wants 3,000 baht to provide the basic service for acquiring a Thai drivers license if you ALREADY have a valid international licence.
    It’ll be much more expensive if you don’t have already.
    Finally, a Residency Certificate from immigration office suffices and cuts out the need for an Embassy visit.

  4. if you have a disability (as I do and a 40 year driving history) it can STILL be a problem for you to do this. Firstly, the medical – finding a doctor who will not take disabled people at face value is difficult. I had help from my friend with this but there was doubt right up to the signing. Then, the DMV may decline the application, although I had a good experience in Khon Kaen. In the end they asked me to drive around the block with an examiner in the car. It wasn’t the regular test, just literally left, left, park, left and back to office. The clause is “in good physical and mental health”.

  5. One of the required documents listed is the arrival card. Since this is taken from me before I get to the baggage claim, how will I ever be able to include it?

    1. Hi Dustin. Thanks for picking up on that. It should be the TM.6 departure card. I’ve made the changes.

  6. My 10 year Thai driving license will expire in March of 2019, How difficult is there to renew? If difficult, is there a service I can use to go through the hassles? I appreciate your advice. Thanks.

  7. The US embassy Thailand website states that you need 2 1×1 photos to take to Thai DMV. I have not seen or heard of that from any blogs or any Thai friends. Can you clarify if this is true? Thank You

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