Although it is widely called an international drivers licence it is in fact an International Driving Permit (IDP), but the former is the way that many many people refer to it.
International Driving Permits (IDPs) are an internationally recognized document to allow individuals to drive in countries where they do not have a local driver's license.
An International Driving Permit is simply a translation of your driver's licence and it is not a substitute for an actual driver's licence and you should carry both when driving in Thailand.
IDPs are issued by authorized organizations in a person's home country and are typically valid for one year.
In fact there is no such thing as an international drivers licence and the websites that sell them are scamming you, as you can only obtain this permit from the Motoring Organisation in your country.
The IDP is valid for 12-months (steer clear of websites that offer and IDP with a longer duration).
The IDP is a necessary and useful document to have, if you are planning to drive in Thailand and is not difficult or expensive to obtain.
It is a useful document for travellers, in the sense that without one you may not be able to rent a vehicle and may not be covered by your travel insurance.
Also handy to have, if asked for one when stopped by the Police for a traffic related matter.
If you would like to drive, either vehicle or motorcycle, while visiting Thailand, you are required by law to hold an international driving license.
When asked for, you need to show your International Driving License along with your passport and national driving license.
Visitors or tourists driving in Thailand are expected to be able to show the home country driver's licence and the IDP as evidence that they have the necessary skills to drive a vehicle.
Here are some reasons why you should have an IDP:
In the case that you visit a gated community, then the normal practice is that visitors have to leave their driver's licence with the security at the gate.
You will be able to give them the International Driving Licence instead and gain entry.
I was stopped at a security gate once and didn't know what the guard was asking for until I twigged that he wanted some form of identification and so my IDP came in very useful, as he was not going to let me in.
An International Driving Licence has to be applied for in the country for which you hold a driving licence.
It cannot be applied for once in Thailand, so a little bit of forward planning may be necessary before you commence travelling, as you need to get it before arriving in Thailand.
Are you wondering, "How do I get an international drivers licence"?
Well, I obtained an international drivers licence through my motoring organisation by taking a passport sized photograph, my current drivers licence and filling out a simple form.
The cost was AUD $25 for members and AUD $50 for non-members and it lasts a year.
Update 2023: The cost for an international driver's licence is now $42 for members and $75 for non-members.
It took about 30 minutes to glue the photograph and put all the red stamps all over it and I was away.
If you are licenced to drive in NSW Australia then you can use this online link to Service NSW to get an International Driving Permit issued or visit the local NRMA office or your State Motoring Organisation.
The IDP can be obtained from the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), the sole provider in Australia or it can be obtained from the local branch of your motoring organisation.
This is what the IDP looks like and I carry it with me, when driving in Thailand, in case of an accident or getting stopped by the police.
Applying for your IDP can be done online or at an AA Centre or AA Licensing Agent.
Online applications require:
Applications at AA Centres and AA Licensing Agents require:
Your application will be processed at the counter and your IDP will be given to you.
The application form is available online or at AA Centres and AA Licensing Agents.
In the United States, you can only obtain an IDP through the Automobile Association of America (AAA) and an IDP accompaning a US driver’s license can only be issued in the USA.
The American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) is no longer issuing these documents and recommends that drivers contact the AAA.
The link to the AAA explains how to apply for the IDP in person or by mail, although in both cases you will need:
If you are currently overseas you can mail your completed application to the following office and address:
1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32746
Attn: Mail Stop #28
The issued IDP is valid for one year from the date of issue.
All U.S. residents with a U.S. driver's license can apply for an IDP, even if they are not a citizen.
In Canada an IDP can only be obtained from the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). The application process differs between members and non-members, so visit the link to find the corrrect process.
The link to the CAA explains how to apply for the IDP in person or by mail, although in both cases you will need:
In the UK an IDP can be obtained from the Post Office.
The UK have different types of IDP available. To drive in Thailand an International Driving Permit 1949, valid for 12 months is the correct one to obtain.
The link above explains how to apply for the IDP in person and you will need:
If you aleady have a Thai Driver's licence, then an International Driving Licence can be obtained from the Department of Land Transport (DLT).
This lets you drive overseas on your Thai licence.
The link explains how to apply for the IDP in person and you will need:
If you do not already have a Thai Drivers Licence then you will need to convert your existing licence first at the local office of the DLT.
So far we have discussed obtaining an IDP before leaving your home country and visiting Thailand as a tourist. Usually a tourist is someone on a tourist visa or visiting a country for up to three months.
But what happens if you wish to stay in Thailand longer?
For people that don't want to be classified as tourists, but want to make Thailand a home base for longer periods, then they should really be looking to get a Thai driving licence.
According to 2016 figures from WHO, Thailand has a road fatality rate of about 32 deaths per 100,000 population and this is about 10 times more than countries like Switzerland, Norway, Singapore and Sweden.
This is a record that the goverment is tackling head-on and you will see changes in enforcement, compared to your last Thailand trip.
Over the past three years some significant changes have been made to the transport laws to improve road safety and reduce the death toll from vehicular accidents.
These are some of the changes:
Thailand is making a serious effort to reduce its road toll and some of the activities that made Thailand fun in the past, have been curtailed.
In Thailand, vehicles drive to the left hand side of the road and speed limits are expressed in kilometres per hour.
If you are only staying in Bangkok for a few days, then don't even think of driving yourself.
The traffic is hectic and there are many motorbikes that you have to avoid hitting.
But, if you are planning to stay in Thailand a little longer, or go to some of the beach resorts where it is quieter, you may be tempted to hire a motorcycle, quad bike or even a car, to get around.
Remember, you can only legally drive a vehicle that you hold a license for, the same as in your own country.
I have driven many times in Bangkok and the first few times were pretty scary.
As a young man I rode a motorcycle and learned to become a defensive driver and this helped me a lot when navigating the Bangkok traffic.
It is absolutely essential that you drive defensively in Thailand, as you cannot assume the other driver has any knowledge or skill whatsoever.
Drivers in Thailand, drive on the left hand side of the road, but don't be surprised to see vehicles using both sides of the road and oncoming vehicles passing you on your left.
There are many divided roads in Thailand, so it is much quicker to drive on the wrong side than to drive on the correct side and have to do a U-turn.
Traffic lights are another wonder.
In a three-lane road the left most lane can have a green light and the centre and right lanes can have a red light and must stop.
If this is the case you will see traffic entering from the right side and joining your road, even though you have a green light.
If you are stopped at an intersection with a red traffic light then vehicles may proceed to make a left hand turn against the red light; sometimes.
However there is no green arrow to tell you that you can go.
So how do you know?
Can make a left hand turn at this set of lights?
It seems that you just follow the other vehicles; if they go, then you go.
If your vehicle is first, then you should stop at the red light and if the driver behind you honks the horn, then off you go.
Be aware that you have to give way to vehicles already crossing the intersection from your right.
If you hit one, or one hits you, it will be your fault.
If you ever approach a set of traffic lights that have just changed to amber or red then you must STOP.
Not because it is the law, but because you will hit someone.
Motorcycles will always jump the green light and will collide with you as you pass through the intersection.
In the rush hour many of the big roads like Petchaburi Road run a contra-flow traffic system.
Depending upon the time of day the lanes in the middle of the road will either have a green arrow above them or a red cross.
Sometimes there is a hiccup with the electronics and lanes that should have a green arrow have a red cross.
Don't worry, that doesn't stop the drivers using the lane.
Thailand does not have many roundabouts and in fact the only one I can recall is located outside the Dusit Thani Hotel as you enter Pattaya.
My friend who had been driving for about a year had never seen a roundabout before and it obviously was not a part of the driving test as she had no idea of how to negotiate it.
Anyway with a quick bit of on the fly tuition we crossed the roundabout safely.
So if after reading this account you still wish to do some driving in Thailand, then do go and get your international drivers licence, or should I say, international drivers permit.
Generally, Thais do not sound the horn, the reason being is you never know if the other driver has a gun.
Thailand is not India, where sounding the horn is almost mandatory.
In most cases you can push your way into traffic or edge your way across a four-lane highway without being smashed into.
Drivers will give way to you and without making a fuss over it.
Try doing that in Australia and you will get T-boned.
The hazard warning lights should be activated in two situations.
This is a warning to vehicles wanting turn across your path, that you are coming and intend to accelerate, so they should not take the chance to pull in front of you, or they risk a collision.
Here are answers to some questions you may have about the IDP or the Thai Driving Licence and when you need them.
Many websites and forums claim that tourists or visitors can drive in Thailand as long as holding a valid driver's license in English from their country of origin and that they don't need a valid International driver's permit.
They may legally be correct, but information on the Thai Embassy website and Police expectations indicate that it is a necessary document.
Consider this rhyme about William Jay.
“Here lies the body of William Jay,
Who died maintaining his right of way
He was right, dead right, as he sped along,
But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.”
You can argue this one all day long, but if you get pulled over by the Police and he is looking for the IDP before he let's you go on your way, what are you going to do?
If you have an accident and the insurance company deny your claim because you don't have an IDP, what are you going to do?
Don't be William Jay!
The strict rule is that as a tourist you need to have an IDP with you.
This gives you the best protection from Police and ensures your insurance cover is valid.
Whether you refer to it as an IDP or an international driver's licence does not really matter, the important message is that you should obtain one before travelling to Thailand, if you intend on driving a motor vehicle.
This page offers information about the importance of having an international driver's license in Thailand and serves as a guide for individuals who wish to drive in Bangkok with an international driver's license.
The article begins by explaining the purpose of an international driver's license and its validity in Bangkok.
It highlights that individuals from certain countries may need an international driver's license to legally drive in Thailand, even if they possess a valid driver's license from their home country.
The article provides step-by-step instructions on how to obtain an international driver's license before arriving in Thailand and explains the application process, including the required documents and fees and also mentions that the application can be submitted online or in person at designated locations.
Furthermore, the page offers guidance on driving regulations and road conditions in Bangkok to prepare yourself for the local driving conditions.
It highlights the importance of familiarizing oneself with Thai traffic laws and road signs to ensure a safe and trouble-free driving experience.
The website also provides information on the availability of car rental services in Bangkok for individuals who do not own a vehicle and highlights the convenience and benefits of having an international driver's license while driving in Bangkok or for the purposes of renting a vehicle.
It provides reassurance to travellers that they can navigate the invirons of Bangkok with confidence and enjoy the freedom of exploring various attractions and destinations at their own pace, whilst highlighting that signage may not always be in English.
In conclusion, this page about international drivers licence acts as a helpful resource for individuals seeking information about international driver's licenses in Bangkok.
It provides a comprehensive guide to obtaining the license, driving regulations, and the convenience it offers to travelers.
By following the provided information, individuals can ensure compliance with local laws and enjoy the flexibility of driving in Bangkok or other parts of Thailand.
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