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Friday, November 11, 2011

Thai Driving License

A previous post outlined the steps for getting a Thai driver license. Initially it is good for one year. technically it is good for 1 year and 6 months. The best way to understand it is that the first license is only a temporary license. It must expire and then you apply for your 5 year license. You have 6 months from expiry date to renew for the 5 year license. If you fail to do so, then you have to undergo the whole first year license process again. The strange part of the 5 year license is that you have to renew BEFORE it expires. Or you go back to step one again. The good news is that it expires on your birthday, so in effect because my one year expired, and I waited past my birthday, my new license is actually good for 5 years and 8 months!

I thought it worth explaining the process, and you should understand this is my personal experience here in Phuket, and may not apply everywhere. The rules also change, so it is best to do a bit of checking first.

You need a medical certificate. Unfortunately in the usual doctor office we went to they were out of forms, due to no supplies able to get here from Bangkok due to the flooding, apparently. So off to another clinic, which had the steel doors rolled down, so I assumed it was closed. The third clinic we found, the doctor was in!! A basic review of the conditions, an eye test and out I went, all for the price of 100 baht. The price apparently ranges from some clinics asking that you make a donation to the children's hospital donation box in the office, to some people paying 500 baht. So I think 100 Baht was okay, it works out to about $3CDN for a doctor office visit.

Next to the Immigration department for a Certificate of residency. Previously the friendly Immigration guy, looked at the passport, my rental agreement and wrote out a certificate. I paid him 300 Baht, which is not receipted.  One year after that experience it is changed. Now I needed photocopies of my passport photo page, visa page, departure card and last entrance stamp, copy of my rental agreement, plus an application form, and 2 passport photos. So back I came home to get that stuff done.  And it was another day before it was all together. Back to immigration and pass in the paperwork, which was all reviewed and cross checked. I was told that the cost was 300 Baht per certificate. Because you need to have 2 licenses (one each for car and motorcycle), you need 2 certificates. In the past i had simply photocopied the certificate. But the new process has a formal looking document, with your photo attached and a seal/stamp on the photo to prevent swapping photo's. So I had to pay for 2 certificates. The total was 600 baht, which was also not receipted, and added to a collection of cash in the desk drawer.

The motor department is notorious for the time it takes to get things done. Normally you line up prior to 830AM and get a cue number. And the line-up begins to form at 730Am. If you are too far back, you have to come back tomorrow and try again. These are usually people getting scheduled for testing or exams. So we decided to go and get the application forms, at least as we were in the area, having just finished at Immigration. When we arrived we saw the miniature street scene had cars lined up and people were taking their "road tests", not on the streets, but a closed circuit track. The reception area was empty of people, and we were helped out by the woman on the desk, who was very helpful and accommodating. We were short a few copies of some documents and had not expected to be able to get processed right away, but they were able to accommodate. So Clive had to hurry off to find and ATM, while I handled the paperwork. Everything was checked and initialed. You have to sign every page of copies you present, which again includes your passport paperwork (again 2 copies of each), plus your old licenses, the medical certificates, the Immigration Residency Certificate and a cover page which you sign. Of with your deli style paper cue number for a seat, until you are called to the counter, where they look over everything again, and then do some data input to the computer. Hand over the 860 Baht total fee for both licenses, and go sit outside booth #5. You pass your paperwork into an in-box. This took a while to figure out, as people kept coming behind us and dropping the paperwork in the basket and getting called into the booth, and we sat there wondering what was happening. Once deposited, your name is called and you sit in a chair and get your photo taken. They encourage you to smile. You pass the woman 2220 Baht and go back outside and sit. In a few minutes she calls you and passes you both brand new licenses. I looked at the receipt (they do issue you a receipt every time you hand over money there), and I saw the receipt total was 200 Baht. But perhaps the pretty pink and blue envelope sleeve they give you is the extra 20 baht fee.

So the whole thing took less than 15 minutes from in the door to out. The prep time took 3 days.
I am now actively looking for a roadblock, so I can proudly show them my shiny new drivers license!


  1. Hi Bruce,

    My Canadian driving license expired! What's your advice for getting a Thai drivers license?


  2. Passing driving test was quite easy for me as had taken professional lessons. Joined best Port Macquarie Driving School and instructor was very helping and had a lot of experience. It helped me to pass my test in first attempt.