Many Expats do drive in Thailand and do so without incident, but they recognize the need to be careful and alert when operating a motor vehicle in Thailand. The following provides some general information that you may find useful in the event you decide you want to drive in Thailand.


Be Alert & Cautious

Motorbikes are the main form of motorized transportation throughout Thailand - They are everywhere.

Thais on motorcycles generally do not follow any rules of the road. Unfortunately, you will also see some foreigner mimicking this behavior.

Many Thai operators do not have driving licenses. It is very common to see young children operating motorbikes, completely ignored by the traffic police even though it is obvious they are underage for operating any motor vehicles in Thailand.

Most traffic accidents and fatalities involve motorcycles. The British foreign office also notes that motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of fatalities for British citizens visiting Thailand.

They will often ride in lanes opposing traffic, zip out of side roads onto the main streets without looking, jump or ignore traffic signals, and even be driven on the sidewalks.

Before turning or changing lanes, always look in your side rear view mirrors as motorcycles will often be within your turning radius when making a turn or approaching fast with the intent of passing you - on the right or left as you are about to make a turn.


Thailand's legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers is 0.5 grams per liter of blood, and if on less than a five year license, the limit is 0.2 grams per liter of blood. 

Under Thai law, drunk drivers can face fines of up to 200,000 baht and/or 10 years in jail plus suspension or revocation of their driving licenses.

In Pattaya, the Police will set up checkpoints with breathalyzer equipment. If you are driving and test over the limit, you will be jailed until you can be taken for a court appearance, which will be on the next weekday unless it is a holiday.

Rules of the Road or Lack Thereof

Many Expats say there are no rules of the road and that Thai drivers do as they please. Although there are drivers here, as in other countries, that ignore traffic laws, there are also many that obey them - otherwise, you would have total gridlock, especially in the larger cities.

Although Thailand has many traffic laws, they are either seldom enforced or are selectively enforced, which is probably the reason so many ignore them.

But just so you are aware of them, here we provide information on some of the traffic laws and some driving customs you really need to be aware of if you plan to drive in Thailand.

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Traffic Laws & Driving Habits

Traffic Police, Accidents, & Breakdowns

When driving in Thailand, you will most likely encounter:

  • Traffic police checkpoints, which are very common on streets and highways.
  •  Accidents which can occur despite being alert and aware of Thai driving habits.
  • A breakdowns can occur as well as running out of petrol or having a flat tire.
The following information is provided to help deal with these type of situations.

Roads, Traffic Signs, & Signals

Major roads and highways are such that driving them is not a problem and can get you to most places you would wish to go. The majority of roads are paved, most of which are in good condition - but always be alert for potholes - especially during and just after the rainy season (mainly June through September). 

Traffic signs on major roads and highways follow the International convention and on major roads and highways are in both Thai & English. Speed limit signs on other than the motorways are few and far between.

Traffic signals will be  the same or very similar to those used in your own country. But, traffic lights are not always to be found at the same place - Some are just where you stop, others can be across the intersection or maybe hanging over it.

Also, traffic lights do not always have a yellow light. In those cases, a flashing green light means it is about to change to red. Also, if the traffic signal has green arrows for turning, then no turn can be made unless a green arrow (Right or Left) is showing. 

Road Maps, Directions, & GPS

Most highways are numbered and have signs along the highway. However, on some rural roads, the signs may be few and far between.

Road maps are readily available showing the major roads. When mapping out your route, remember that the shortest distance may not represent the shortest time.

Often you can reach your destination faster if you plan your route to avoid two lane roads. Also, although the distance may be further, taking motorways/toll roads a faster trip as well as being safer. 

If you should get lost, asking a local Thai person for directions more often than not will get you directions, but they may not be accurate. It seems that most Thais want to be helpful, so rather than tell you they don’t know the directions to where you want to go, they will give you their best guess.

So, if you plan to do much traveling by car around Thailand, you may want to invest in a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. Although In many countries entering an address into a GPS device is sufficient, that feature does not work in Thailand because Thai addresses do not follow a logical sequence that will equate to a specific location - consequently, most will use a nearby landmark that is in the system or the longitude/latitude if known.

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