Getting an International Driving Permit in Thailand

Are you an expat in Thailand looking to drive abroad? Whether you’re planning a road trip through Europe or need to rent a car for a business trip to the United States, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is your ticket to legally operating a vehicle in over 150 countries worldwide. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of obtaining an IDP in Thailand as a foreigner with a Thai driving license.

Important note: do not get an IDP from a third-party service! They do not work. Go through the official channels.

First of All Are You Even Eligible?

To be eligible for an IDP in Thailand, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a valid Thai driving license
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a valid long-term visa or work permit
  • Provide proof of residency in Thailand
  • Have a permanent driving license (not a 2 year temporary one)

To get a permanent driving license here in Thailand, you need to have to own a driving license for 1 year and 1 month. After this you are able to go back to the Department Land of Transport and renew your license to a permanent 5-year license.

Types of IDPs Available in Thailand

Thailand issues two types of International Driving Permits, based on different international conventions:

TypeBased OnValidityCountries Recognized
1949 Convention IDPGeneva Convention on Road Traffic, 19491 yearApproximately 90 countries
1968 Convention IDPVienna Convention on Road Traffic, 19683 yearsApproximately 80 countries

It’s crucial to check which type of IDP is accepted in your destination country before applying. Some countries, like Japan and the United States, only accept the 1949 Convention IDP, while others, such as most European countries, recognize both types.

Additionally the 1968 IDP lasts 3 years, which is far better if you’re on a longer journey.

Where to Apply for an IDP in Thailand

In Thailand, International Driving Permits are issued by the Department of Land Transport (DLT). You go there, with the required documents and run through the process. After this process is finished you pay 505 baht ($14 USD). The driving permit lasts 1 year from the issue date, after which you will have to get another one at DLT, you cannot get one abroad at an embassy.

The entire process can take up to 2 hours.

You can apply at any DLT office throughout the country, but the most convenient locations for expats are typically:

  • Bangkok Area:
    • DLT Head Office, Chatuchak
    • DLT Phaholyothin Branch Office, Bang Khen
    • DLT Thanyaburi Branch Office, Pathum Thani
  • Chiang Mai: DLT Chiang Mai Office
  • Phuket: DLT Phuket Office
  • Pattaya: DLT Chonburi Office

Required Documents For IDP Application

Before heading to the DLT office, make sure you have all the necessary documents. Here’s a checklist of what you’ll need:

Valid Thai driving licenseMust be a full license, not a temporary one (5 year license)
Residency certificateResidency Certificate from your embassy or local Immigration office
PassportOriginal and photocopy of the main page and current visa page
Passport-sized photos2 recent photos, size 2 inches, taken within the last 6 months
Completed application formAvailable at the DLT office or downloadable from their website

Pro Tip: Always bring both the original documents and photocopies. While most DLT offices have photocopying services, bringing your own copies can save time.

Step-by-Step Application Process

Obtaining an IDP in Thailand is a straightforward process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate it smoothly:

  1. Prepare Your Documents: Gather all the required documents listed above.
  2. Visit the DLT Office: Go to your nearest Department of Land Transport office during working hours (typically 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday to Friday).
  3. Get a Queue Number: Upon arrival, inform the staff that you’re there for an IDP application. You’ll receive a queue number.
  4. Submit Your Application: When your number is called, submit your documents to the officer. They will verify your eligibility and documents.
  5. Pay the Fee: If everything is in order, you’ll be directed to pay the application fee at the cashier 505 baht.
  6. Photo and Signature: You may be asked to have your photo taken and provide a signature for the IDP.
  7. Receive Your IDP: Wait for your IDP to be processed and printed. This usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour.
  8. Verify the Information: Before leaving, carefully check all the details on your new IDP to ensure they’re correct.

You should receive your IDP there and then.

To make the process smoother, you should avoid peak hours at DLT. Usually loads of people turn up in the morning to get their driving tests done in 1 day. If you go a little after 8:30am or 9am, you have a much shorter wait time in the queue.

You should also make sure that you dress properly. Some DLT offices have a dress code. Avoid sleeveless shirts, shorts, and open-toed shoes (sometimes they send you home but I arrived in shorts and was fine).

And finally, apply for your IDP well in advance of your travel dates to account for any unforeseen delays.

Using Your IDP Abroad

Once you have your International Driving Permit, it’s important to understand how to use it effectively:

  • Your IDP must be accompanied by your valid Thai driving license at all times.
  • Research the driving laws of your destination country before your trip.
  • Remember that your IDP is only valid for the specified period (1 or 3 years).
  • Ensure your travel or car rental insurance covers driving abroad.
  • Your IDP is only valid for the vehicle types specified on your Thai license.

Countries Where Your Thai IDP is Valid

Your Thai-issued IDP is recognized in numerous countries worldwide. Here’s a sample of popular destinations where you can use it:

EuropeFrance, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland
North AmericaUSA, Canada
AsiaJapan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia
OceaniaAustralia, New Zealand
Middle EastUAE, Qatar, Oman

Renting a Car Abroad with Your IDP

Your IDP can be particularly useful when renting a car in a foreign country. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth rental process:

  1. Many rental companies prefer or require advance bookings for IDP holders.
  2. Double-check that the rental company accepts IDPs from Thailand.
  3. Be aware that some countries have minimum age requirements for car rentals, often 21 or 25.
  4. Consider purchasing additional insurance for international driving.
  5. Keep copies of all your driving documents separate from the originals.

What to Do If Your IDP is Lost or Stolen Abroad

In the unfortunate event that your IDP is lost or stolen while you’re traveling:

  1. File a police report in the country where the loss or theft occurred.
  2. Contact the nearest Thai embassy or consulate for assistance.
  3. Inform your car rental company if you’re using a rental vehicle.
  4. Unfortunately, you cannot get a replacement IDP outside of Thailand. You may need to adjust your travel plans accordingly.

What Countries Can I Drive in Without an IDP?

Thailand’s 2-year temporary driving license will allow you to drive in all ASEAN countries. Some people’s experience varies from country to country with this, and you may have some issues in Vietnam specifically. However, other travellers report that as long as you have a license, are properly geared up etc. most Police often just wave you by and don’t fine you.

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