How To Get A Driving License As A Foreigner in Thailand (I Did it From Scratch)

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So you want to get a driving license from scratch in Thailand as a foreigner? I was the same. I had never received my license in the UK for a motorcycle, so I decided I’d take the plunge in Thailand and get my ASEAN license. In this article, I’ll share exactly how I did that, showing you the entire process that I went through, and how you can do it too. This is for the motorcycle license, but the car license is exactly the same, minus the driving test.

The entire process took me about a week from start to finish. However, if you have all documents ready, you can easily do it in 2 days.

Here’s a video I made for anyone who doesn’t want to read:

First Off – Do You Even Qualify For A License? (Quick Checklist)

thai driving license foreigner
My driving license with the details removed for obvious reasons

Before anything, you need to have these things to get a Thai Driver’s License:

  1. A condo in Thailand and contract or long-term rental contract/hotel stay
  2. Residency certificate (TM30 will not do), you need to get this from immigration and they post it to your residence
  3. A non-immigrant visa, (or tourist) with over 30 days left, (ED Visa, Digital Nomad etc.)
  4. Health certificate (1 month validity from the date of your test, 200-500 baht, $5-14 USD)
Residency certificate

If you are not staying in Thailand long-term and do not have a license from your home country, you can’t get an official driving license on a tourist visa if you want to follow the process from scratch, start to finish. You can however get a copy of your home country’s license at Department Land Transport (we’ll cover this in another article).

Do you qualify? Great! If so, move on. If not, you’re going to need those things listed above.

The Process Explained

To get a driver’s license as an expat/immigrant in Thailand from scratch, you will have to follow a certain process, which I detail below:

  1. Report to Department Land of Transport with the documents listed above (arrive as early as possible 7am)
  2. Once through paperwork, take the physical test (colour blindness, reaction times, depth perception etc.)
  3. Take the 5-hour video training (not joking)
  4. Take the 50 question theory test
  5. If you have passed, return the next day at 8am to take the driving test
  6. If you do not have a motorcycle, you can rent one for 50 baht
  7. When passed, head to floor 2, to get your pictures taken
  8. Pay 105 baht ($2-4 USD)
  9. They will print your license there
  10. You can now legally drive

If you are in Bangkok, you will report to the Department Land of Transport just outside Mo Chit BTS Station. You need to go to building 4. All buildings are written in Thai language, so you need to look for the building that says this: “อาคาร 4”.

The next part of this article will assume you have already reported to Department Land of Transport with your documents.

The Physical Health Test

You take the physical health test before anything. If you don’t pass this, you are not fit to drive in Thailand. It’s extremely simple and I managed to do it with great anxiety and a slight bit of shake in my leg, so I’m sure you’ll be just fine (even if you do get anxious too).

The Physical Health Test for driving in Thailand consists of:

  1. Colour blindness test
  2. Depth perception test
  3. Reaction time test
  4. Peripheral vision test

Colour Blindness Test

You will be asked to stand behind a line, look at the traffic lights ahead, and call out the colours that are shown on each light. You can do this in English, but, if you know how to speak Thai, it might be better to do it in the native language. I personally did it in English and passed first time.

Depth Perception Test

Here, you will be given 3 attempts to line up two sticks that are on parallel lines to each other, inside a small box, that is placed about 10 metres away from you. You can move only one of the sticks (the one of the left) forwards or backwards, using a controller that they will give you. You need to line them up until the sticks both light up a clear light colour.

You have 3 attempts to get this right, or you fail.

Reaction Time Test

You will be required to sit in a mock driving seat with pedals for both the accelerator, and brake. You must only use your right foot for this test, and press the brakes as soon as you see the light change colour. To pass this test, your reaction time must be under 0.75s. For this test, you cannot slam the brakes on, you must do it in a smooth way. You have 3 attempts to get this under the 0.75s reaction time.

This was the test where my leg was shaking a little (I had too much coffee and I get fairly anxious), and I still passed, with a 0.5s reaction time, so I’m sure you’ll be fine.

Peripheral Vision Test

You will be required to sit in a seat, and place your head in between a machine that will display colours to your right and left. You need to call out which side the colours are shown on, not the colour of the light. You can conduct this test in English. I’m not sure how many attempts you have because I passed first time.

After you have completed this, you will be instructed to take yourself to floor 4, where you have to sit through a 5-hour video training.

Yes you really have to watch 5-hours of this

The Theory Test (How To Prepare & What it Entails)

The theory test is a 50-question test. It’s much like the UK test (if you’ve ever taken that). You have 50 minutes to answer all of the questions, and you will need a 90% score to pass. That means you need 45/50 questions right. I wouldn’t recommend just showing up on the day with no prior training, because the test is poorly translated to English. This is not a complaint, we are more than lucky for Thailand to do this for us, because in the UK we would never do the same. It’s more of a pre-warning for you to practice before, because some of the questions and answers literally don’t make any sense.

On the day you will have to sit through a compulsory 5-hour video training. This is supposed to get you ready for the theory test, but in my experience, it doesn’t give you enough time to properly learn the rules, and in my class, the people who didn’t prepare beforehand failed the theory test. It is also done in a sitcom format, which is engaging and fun, but personally, I didn’t really learn anything from it.

However, no one moderates the class, so in theory, you could just do practice questions/mock tests for those 5-hours.

If you do this I’d say that, if you were lucky, and got the right questions, you might just pass on the day. I was passing around 3 out of every 5 tests, after taking mock theory tests all day.

To practice the theory test I’d only recommend 1 website:

Using this you can take the 50-question mock test, and you can also take mini 10-question tests. I’d personally recommend taking the 50-question test.

As a pre-warning, this app tends to display the same questions more frequently than they’ll show up in the test, and despite covering all materials, the questions on the official test may be worded slightly differently and you might be thrown off by some of them on the day. However, it’s the best resource I could find, and it’s completely free. I prepared about 4 days before the test, and got a score of 47/50, which is 2 more than a pass.

Video about taking the test
Example of poorly translated question
Example of extremely poorly translated question

The Practical Driving Test

After you have passed the theory test, it’s likely you’ll be instructed to return the next day to take your practical.

For this test, you need to arrive at 8am, and line up outside the driving training course. You provide your passport and the paper you were given to prove you have passed the physical, and theory tests. You can rent a motorcycle here for 50 baht (they only take cash). After this, you are instructed to sit in the video training room where you’ll watch a short video of the course and what you need to do.

There’s also a small model at the back of the room that gives you a top-down view of what the course is like.

You should be given an automatic bike for this course, but if you are given a Honda Wave (and are not acquainted with using semi-auto bikes), put the bike in gear 3 and leave it there.

For the practical motorbike driving test in Thailand it is split into 2 parts:

  1. Controlling the bike
    • Ride and balance on a small beam
    • Drive around a, tight S-shape curved course after the small beam
    • Then ride and balance on the small beam after completing that S-shape course
  2. Road signs & safety course
    • Follow the road signs
    • Stop at stop signs (waiting 3s), follow direction signs, indicate for every turn etc.

If you complete both without failing, you have passed. If you do not pass on the day, if they have time, they will let you complete the course again. If not, you will have to wait 2-days to return and retake the practical test.

Important note: for the “Controlling the bike” section, you must not put your feet on the ground, lose balance or crash the bike/let it tip over.

DLT Opening Times For The Driving Test

It’s important to note that DLT is only open 8:30am – 3pm, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is for the document submission, video-training and theory test only. For the driving test, you can turn up on any day.

Although these are the opening times, it’s recommended that you arrive at 7am to get a number in the queue early. You are able to do this at the offices in Bangkok.

For the driving test, just arrive a little before 8am so you can line up outside.

What Can I Drive After I’ve Passed?

After you have your Thai Motorbike license, you can drive automatic, semi-auto and full manual bikes up to 400cc. If you want to drive larger-engine bikes, you must complete extra training to get an additional license that allows for bikes greater than 400cc.

So, even if you only pass on an automatic bike, you are allowed to drive full manual on the road legally. While I would never recommend you go out and drive full manual straight away, it’s possible.

If you want manual training, there are many schools that offer lessons in Thailand for foreigners. You will pay a premium for these schools and they can cost as much as lessons do back home. I paid 1500 baht ($40.80) to take an hour course for full manual lessons. Did I need it? No. But did I trust myself riding full manual on the busy roads of Bangkok just yet? Also no.

You can get these lessons cheaper if you’re willing to wait to go on a course provided by Honda. These are around 600-900 baht ($16-24 USD)for a full-manual course. I was strapped for time, so I paid the extra.

I would highly recommend Fatboys Bangkok for lessons, they were fantastic.

How To Transfer Your Home License To A Thai License

For expats living in Thailand, converting your home country’s driver’s license to a Thai license is a straightforward process. This part of guide will walk you through the steps to transfer your license at the Department of Land Transport (DLT).

Required Documents

Before visiting the DLT, ensure you have the following documents:

PassportOriginal and photocopies of information page and current visa
Home Country LicenseOriginal and photocopy, with official English translation if not in English
Residence CertificateObtained from Immigration or your embassy (issued within 30 days)
Medical CertificateIssued within the last 30 days
Passport Photos2-3 recent 1-inch photos

Step-by-Step Process

  1. Visit the DLT: Arrive early at your local DLT office, ideally before 8:30 AM.
  2. Submit Documents: Present your documents at the information counter for initial processing.
  3. Physical Tests: Complete a series of quick tests:
    • Color blindness test
    • Reaction time test
    • Depth perception test
  4. Photo and Signature: Have your photo taken and provide your signature for the license.
  5. Pay Fees: The fee for a 5-year license is typically around 605 baht.
  6. Receive License: Collect your temporary license, valid for 1 year.

Important Notes

  • Your home country license must be valid and not expired.
  • If your license is not in English, you need an official translation.
  • The initial Thai license is temporary and valid for 1 year.
  • After 1 year, you can renew for a 5-year license without retaking tests.

DLT Office Hours and Tips

Monday – Friday8:30 AM – 4:30 PMArrive early to avoid long queuesBring all required documents. Dress appropriately (no shorts or sleeveless shirts)

By following these steps and preparing your documents in advance, you can efficiently transfer your home country’s driver’s license to a Thai license. Remember that regulations may change, so it’s always best to check with your local DLT office for the most up-to-date information.

Renewals, Replacements, and More

Renewing Your Thai Driving License

Renewing your Thai driving license is a straightforward process. Here’s what you need to know:

License TypeValidityRenewal Period
Temporary2 yearsWithin 3 months before expiry
Standard5 yearsWithin 1 year before or after expiry

Renewal Process:

  1. Gather required documents:
    • Current license
    • Passport with valid visa
    • Residence certificate or work permit
    • Medical certificate (issued within 30 days)
  2. Visit your local Department of Land Transport (DLT) office
  3. Complete physical tests (color blindness, reaction time, depth perception)
  4. Pay the renewal fee (approximately 605 baht for 5 years)
  5. Receive your new license

Lost or Stolen Licenses

If your Thai driving license is lost or stolen, follow these steps:

  1. File a police report at the nearest police station
  2. Gather the following documents:
    • Police report
    • Passport with valid visa
    • Residence certificate or work permit
    • Medical certificate (issued within 30 days)
    • 2 recent passport-sized photos
  3. Visit your local DLT office
  4. Complete an application form for a replacement license
  5. Pay the replacement fee (approximately 100 baht)
  6. Receive your new license

Driving Lessons in Thailand

Taking driving lessons in Thailand can be beneficial, especially if you’re new to Thai road conditions. Here’s what you should know:

LanguageMost schools offer lessons in Thai, but some provide English-speaking instructors
DurationTypically 15-20 hours of instruction
CostRanges from 3,000 to 10,000 baht, depending on the package
ContentThai traffic laws. Road signs and signals. Practical driving skills. Test preparation

Many driving schools also offer packages that include assistance with the license application process at the DLT.

Temporary Driving License in Thailand

The temporary driving license is the first license issued to new drivers in Thailand, including foreigners converting their home country license.

  • Valid for 2 years
  • Cannot be used to obtain an International Driving Permit
  • Some car rental companies may have restrictions for temporary license holders
  • Can be renewed for a 5-year license after expiry

Obtaining a Temporary License:

  1. Gather required documents (as mentioned in the renewal section)
  2. Visit your local DLT office
  3. Complete physical tests
  4. Pass the written exam on Thai traffic laws (available in multiple languages)
  5. Pass the practical driving test
  6. Pay the fee (approximately 205 baht)
  7. Receive your temporary license

Remember that rules and procedures may vary slightly between different DLT offices. It’s always a good idea to check with your local office for the most up-to-date information and requirements.

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