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Thailand - Driving

When you are in Thailand you must drive on the left hand side of the road and the minimum legal age for driving is 18, although you are able to ride a motorbike from the age of 15 if it is no more than 110cc although the age is 18 for any motorbike larger than that. It is compulsory to carry with you at all times while you are driving your driver’s licence and the registration document for the vehicle.

Each vehicle needs to have a tax sticker and these are renewed each year at the Department of Land Transport, which has offices in each region. All drivers must have the Compulsory Motor Insurance (CMI) which is a third party insurance policy. When driving you must wear a seat belt if you are in either of the front seats of the vehicle. You can be fined if you do not. There is currently no legal requirement for the use of child seats in cars. Fines are also payable for speeding and all fines should be paid at the local police station.

Drink driving is illegal in Thailand and the blood alcohol limit is 0.5 mg. Those who have not yet had their licence for five years have a lower limit of 0.2 mg. Those who are caught drink driving can be fined or banned from driving. In severe cases you may be required to do community service or serve time in prison. If you have a mobile phone you are only permitted to use it while driving if you have a hands free system. Traffic police carry out regular spot checks on drivers.

Cars with a red licence plate are not allowed to drive at night. Drivers should also be aware that another driver flashing their lights at you means that they want you to get out of their way and if you meet a larger vehicle they may automatically assume that you are going to give way to them. You should also be aware that if other drivers want to warn you of a hazard ahead such as a breakdown they will place tree branches in the road as it is not common for cars to be equipped with warning triangles and other equipment. There is no legal requirement for certain equipment to be carried.

All traffic signs are in Thai. In some areas you may find that there are English translations on the sign as well but this is not always the case.

In Thailand roads vary from tiny tracks to four lane freeways. The busiest roads are around the cities and the road infrastructure is currently the subject of much investment and upgrading. Road works are seen frequently, particularly in areas that are worst affected by heavy rains as deterioration of the road condition tends to be rapid. It should also be noted that road works are often not clearly marked and may not be lit at night.

The main motorways tend to be in the Bangkok area and this is also the worst affected area for traffic congestion. Rush hour in the morning tends to run from 7 am to 10 am and in the evening from 4 pm to 7 pm. Motorways are toll roads and charges are different at each toll (one for each section of the motorway) according to the distance that you have travelled. Tolls are generally paid with cash, although there are electronic systems in place on some tolls. Motorways have speed limit signs clearly posted and the speed is generally 120 km/h for cars, but this limit can be dropped in some areas to around 90 km/h.

Highways can be found in all provinces and the road quality is generally very good. The speed limit is usually 90 km/h. On suburban streets, most of which are of reasonable quality, the speed limit can be anything from 50 km/h to 60 km/h but this will be clearly sign posted. If you are driving on a smaller lane then you will find that there are frequently speed bumps in the road to make the area safer. Speed limits can often be around 60 km/h but speeds may be lower. Changes are always sign posted.

When driving a motorbike you are also required to have a tax sticker and the minimum 3rd party insurance. All motorbike users must have a valid licence and wear a helmet at all times. Motorbike riders do tend to ignore some of the rules of the road so car drivers should watch out for them not stopping at stop signs, driving on the wrong side of the road, cutting up car drivers and trying to get through traffic lights when they have already changed.

Even in the event of a minor road traffic accident it is better to wait for the police in Thailand. Moving the cars beforehand can cause problems with the insurance company later. An incident report will need to be completed and this is usually done at the police station. You should ensure that you get the details of the other drive including the details of their vehicle registration book. You should call your insurance company immediately as in Thailand they will often attend the scene of the accident at the same time as the police. Each company will have a different time limit for the submitting of an accident report form.

Despite the unorthodox driving habits of some drivers in Thailand, the number of accidents is only around the same as in the UK and the US, although there may be higher instances of minor bumps.

Fuel prices in Thailand are lower than they are in the UK but the prices there do fluctuate. There is currently no official website that gives up to date traffic information but problems with traffic are often reported on local news and radio.

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