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Getting a Driver's License in Thailand

Paul first visited Thailand in 1996 and has been retired in Siam since 2007. He has a beautiful and loving Thai wife and can speak Thai.

A Licensed Tuk-Tuk in Thailand


Getting a Thai Driver's License

Getting a driver's license is indeed a necessity for almost everyone. Since a car is, in fact, an extension of one's two legs, it is necessary to have and be able to drive to all places where you can not conveniently walk. A driver's license makes this all possible.

After retiring and living in Thailand, I needed to get a Thai driver's license. This was made more difficult because I let my U.S. license expire before applying for a license to drive in Thailand.

Lately, my wife, too, has realized the importance of being able to drive and getting a license. She learned to drive in the middle of December and got her Thai driver's license on Tuesday, December 23, 2014.

In this article, I first relate my experience of getting a driver's license in Thailand. I then describe my wife Suai's ordeal in learning to drive and securing a permit.

My Experience in Getting a Thai Driver's License

My experience in getting a Thai driver's license was truly an unbelievable ordeal. It all came about due to my negligence in not converting my United States license to a Thai driver's license before it expired in 2007.

As a result of this negligence on my part, I had to take and successfully pass some tests before getting a license. Unfortunately, I had to spend four days at the Land Transport Office in Bangkok because I failed some tests and had to retake them.

On my first day, Monday, after filling out a driver's license application, I had to take three tests which included: color vision; measured reaction time; and a depth perception test. I easily passed the color vision and measured reaction time in stepping on a simulated brake when seeing a warning light but failed the depth perception test. In this test, there was a 3-D model of two bars moving toward each other, and the task was to stop them when they were in line. The result was that I had to return the next day to retake this depth perception test.

The following day, Tuesday, I took the written test on driving laws and signs after finally passing the depth perception test. I had not studied for the written test, and it turned out to be harder than I thought. My score of 70 was not good enough to pass because a score of 80 was necessary. As a result, I was told to study for the test and repeat it the next morning.

On Wednesday morning, I retook the written test after studying for a couple of hours. The good news of getting a pass now enabled me to take the driving test at 1:00 in the afternoon. The driving test was conducted on a small man-made course which required the driver to accomplish tasks such as stopping at lights and stop signs, making turns, parking, and backing up for 50 meters without stopping. I accomplished all of the tasks except the backing because I stopped my car once or twice while I was going in reverse. You can imagine how I felt when I found out that I had to return on Thursday to retake the test!

Finally, on Thursday afternoon, I retook the driving test and successfully passed it. I was now able to secure my coveted Thai driver's license which I received within one hour after passing the test and paying my licensing fee.

Thailand Traffic Signs


Driving License Test in Chiang Rai, Thailand

My Wife's Experience in Getting a Driver's License

Since 2009, my wife had been interested in learning how to drive and getting a license. After moving to Udorn in northeastern Thailand in March 2014, my wife, Suai, finally found a driving school that would teach her how to drive and also assist in getting a driver's license without having to go through testing at the Land Transport Office in Udorn.

On Monday, December 15, 2014, I took my wife to the Smart Drive School located about 25 minutes from our home on the outskirts of Udorn. For a fee of less than $200 U.S. dollars, the school guaranteed to teach my wife how to drive, and then give her a certificate to take to the government Land Transport Office for the issuance of a driver's license. The school would issue the certificate upon the completion of my wife passing a driving test with her instructor and also passing a computer-written test on Thai traffic signs and laws.

For five consecutive days, my wife practiced two hours a day learning how to drive a small compact automatic transmission car. The first day was spent driving on the school's small man-made course which had traffic lights and stops, turns, roundabouts, parking spaces, and a bridge. On the second day, I was very surprised to hear that the instructor took Suai out on the roads outside of the school for driving practice.

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Suai made very good progress during the remainder of the week, and by Saturday morning she passed the behind-the-wheel driving. Now, what remained was to pass the computer-written test on Saturday afternoon.

The written test on traffic laws, signs, and other situations involved when driving had 50 questions of which 80 percent or 40 out of the 50 questions had to be answered correctly to pass. My wife took the test twice before finally passing. She was also testing for at least four hours.

Finally, on Tuesday morning, December 23, Suai's driving instructor took her to the Land Transport Office to get her license. After my wife presented her certificate for passing the school's behind-the-wheel driving test and written test, she was immediately presented with her driver's license. You can't imagine how proud Suai was when she showed it to me!

Anyone who has the desire and perseverance can get a driver's license in Thailand. It just takes a lot of patience and practice.

Smart Driving Where My Wife Learned to Drive


My Wife's Driving Practice Car


Smart School Driving Man-Made Course


Learning How to Drive

Getting a Driver's License in Thailand

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 25, 2014:

Thank you very much for reading and your best wishes. My wife is driving as much as she can now with her license.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 25, 2014:

&Rota, Thank you very much for your comments! Now that I think about, it probably would have been easier for me to get the license by going to the Smart School. But I really didn't want to pay the learning fee.

Rota on December 25, 2014:

wow, thanks for this interesting practical look at this process in Thailand. Would I be right in saying that it might be easier to engage a driving school as your wife did? I may need to get my license over in Thailand next year

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on December 25, 2014:

So glad that you both got your licences in the end. May you drive safely and have lots of adventures together.

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