Whether you’re already living in thailand or moving here, obtaining a Thai driving license is a significant advantage. It not only facilitates easier travel across the country but also serves as a valid form of identification. This guide provides detailed information for foreigners who need to apply for a new license or convert an existing international or foreign license into a Thai one.

Understanding the driving licenses in Thailand

Types of Licenses

  • Temporary License: Valid for 2 years, for first-time holders.
  • Permanent License: Valid for 5 years, can be obtained after holding a temporary license.

Eligibility Criteria

To apply, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Hold a valid non-tourist visa.
  • Be physically and mentally fit (You will need to obtain a medical certificate).

For First-Time License Holders

Required Documents

  • Passport with valid visa.
  • Residence certificate or a work permit.
  • Medical certificate (issued within the last month).
  • Passport-sized photographs.

Application Process

  1. Document Preparation: Gather all necessary documents.
  2. DLT Office Visit: Go to the nearest Department of Land Transport office. ( In Chiang Mai, The Land Transport Offices are on Hang Dong Road, about 3 km south of Airport Plaza, between Tesco Lotus and Big C. Open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  3. Medical Certificate: Obtain a certificate from a local clinic.

Theory Test

  • Content: Road signs, traffic laws, and driver etiquette.
  • Preparation: Study materials provided by the DLT.
  • Test Format: Multiple-choice questions.

Practical Driving Test

  • Preparation: Practice with a driving school if inexperienced.
  • Test Components: Vehicle control, parking, and navigating traffic.
  • Scheduling: Book your test date in advance at the DLT.

For Current License Holders

Converting a Foreign License

If you already hold a valid driver’s license from your home country, you can convert it into a Thai driving license. Depending on reciprocity agreements between Thailand and your country, this may exempt you from having to take the written and practical exams.


  • Must have a valid foreign license.

Required Documents

  • Passport with valid visa.
  • Residence certificate or work permit.
  • Medical certificate (issued within the last month).
  • Passport-sized photographs.
  • Original foreign driving license.
  • Certified translation of your foreign license: If your license is not in English or Thai, it must be translated and the translation certified by your embassy or an authorized translation service in Thailand.

Required Tests for Foreign Driving License Holders:

Even if you have a valid foreign driver’s license you will still be required to pass the following tests

  • Color Blindness Test:

An official will point to colored dots on a poster, and you should identify each color. Responding in Thai is preferable, but English is acceptable. The colors include red (“si daeng”), green (“si kheow”), yellow (“si luang”), and blue (“si fah”).

  • Reflex Test:

You’ll operate a simulated gas and brake pedal. Press the accelerator until green LEDs illuminate, then hit the brake before the lights reach the red zone. This test is repeated twice to evaluate your reaction times.

  • Depth Perception Test:

Align a moving pin with a stationary one in a box approximately 10 meters away using forward and back controls. This tests your ability to judge distances.

Conversion Process

  1. Visit the Department of Land Transport (DLT): Bring all the necessary documents.
  2. Document Submission: Present your translated and certified foreign license along with other required documentation.
  3. Exemption Tests: Depending on your nationality and the existing agreements, you may be exempt from some tests.

After Obtaining Your License

Legal Responsibilities

Be aware of renewal dates and keep your license valid to avoid legal penalties, as your first license will be a two-year license. Also, make sure your vehicle is properly insured.


Can I use my Thai driving license abroad?

Yes, in ASEAN countries directly; elsewhere, an International Driving Permit is required.

What if I lose my Thai driving license?

Report the loss at the nearest DLT office and apply for a replacement.

How can I upgrade from a temporary to a permanent license?

After two years with a temporary license, apply for a permanent one with updated documents and possibly another driving test.

Is a Thai driving license written in English or Thai? 

Thai driving licenses are issued primarily in Thai. However, they also include key information in English, making them somewhat useful as ID internationally.

What are the consequences of driving without a valid driving license in Thailand?

Driving without a valid license in Thailand can result in hefty fines, potential jail time, and vehicle impoundment. It is crucial to ensure your driving credentials are always in order.

Do I need a separate license to drive a motorcycle in Thailand?

Yes, Thailand requires a separate license, even if you already have a car driving license. The process for obtaining that license is similar to that of a car license but involves tests specific to motorcycle operation.

Can I drive in Thailand with an international driving license instead of converting to a Thai license?

Yes, you can use an International Driving Permit (IDP) in conjunction with your valid foreign license for a limited time (typically up to one year) while you are a tourist in Thailand. If you become a resident or stay longer, you will need to obtain a local driving license.

How about renewing a thai driving license?

To renew your Thai license, follow these steps:

  1. Check Expiry: Be aware of your license’s expiration date to ensure you renew it on time.
  2. Required Documents: Prepare your current driving license, a medical certificate issued within the last month, a passport-sized photo, and your passport or Thai ID card for identification.
  3. Visit DLT Office: Go to the nearest Department of Land Transport office. It’s advisable to check if an appointment is needed beforehand.
  4. Take a Vision Test: You’ll be required to undergo a simple color blindness and vision test at the DLT office.
  5. Fee Payment: Pay the renewal fee, which varies depending on whether you are renewing a temporary or a permanent license.
  6. Receive New License: Once your documents are approved and the tests are completed, you will receive your renewed driving license. A temporary license is typically renewed for another two years, while a permanent license is renewed for five years.

Remember, if your license has been expired for more than one year, you may be required to retake the driving tests. Always try to renew your license before it expires to avoid any unnecessary complications.

How do I handle traffic violations or tickets while driving in Thailand?

If you receive a traffic ticket, the process for paying fines is usually outlined on the ticket itself. Payments can typically be made at local police stations or specified banks.

I don’t have a license; where should I learn to drive in Thailand?

In Thailand, the Department of Land Transport (DLT) does not typically provide full driving courses. They primarily conduct the written and practical exams required for obtaining a driving license. However, they may offer some introductory information or briefings on driving regulations as part of the licensing process, particularly before the written test.

For comprehensive driving courses, you would need to attend a private driving school. Here are the options for learning to drive in Thailand:

Private Driving Schools

  • Full Courses: Driving school approved by the DLT offer full driving courses that include both theoretical classroom instruction on road rules and practical driving lessons. Completing a course at a recognized driving school makes the process of obtaining your license smoother, as certain schools are certified by the DLT and will facilitate the testing process.
  • Practical Experience: Driving schools provide hands-on training with professional instructors, which is especially beneficial for new drivers or those unfamiliar with driving in Thailand.

How do the tests for obtaining a license to drive a car differ from those for getting a motorbike license in Thailand?

The process for obtaining a car driving license and a motorcycle license share some similarities, but there are distinct differences mainly due to the vehicle type and the associated skills required. Here’s a breakdown of the differences in testing for each:

Common Requirements

Both types of licenses require the applicant to:

  • Pass a physical health check and a color vision test.
  • Complete a written theory test on road safety, rules, and regulations.
  • Be at least 18 years old (for a car) and 15 years old (for a motorcycle).

Written Theory Test

  • Car: The theory test to be allowed to drive a car involves a more comprehensive set of questions that cover a wide range of driving situations, including rules for car driving, understanding road signs, and reacting in diverse traffic conditions.
  • Motorcycle: While the motorcycle theory test also covers general road rules and signs, it focuses more on issues specific to motorbike safety, handling, and laws.

Practical Driving Test

  • Car: The car driving test usually includes several components:
    • Parking Test: Demonstrating ability to park in a confined space.
    • On-Road Test: Driving on public roads while obeying traffic signs and signals, and demonstrating proper use of the vehicle under various conditions.
    • Control Test: Sometimes includes an obstacle course to test control of the vehicle, including reversing and turning.
  • Motorcycle: The practical test for motorcycles focuses on:
    • Basic Handling Skills: Includes an obstacle course that tests balance, the ability to navigate through tight spaces, and control of the bike at low speeds.
    • Road Test: Similar to the car test but adjusted for motorcycle dynamics, focusing on how the rider handles the motorcycle in traffic, obeys road rules, and performs tasks such as signaling and safe lane changes.

Test Difficulty and Preparation

  • Car License: Generally, This test is considered more complex due to the broader range of skills and knowledge needed to safely operate a car.
  • Motorcycle License: Although potentially simpler, the test still requires good physical coordination and understanding of specific risks associated with motorcycles.

Test Facilities

  • The tests are conducted at Department of Land Transport (DLT) offices, which have designated areas for the practical tests of both types of vehicles. Motorcycle tests often require less space and can sometimes be more readily available in terms of scheduling compared to car tests.

For foreigners and locals alike, preparation for these tests typically involves enrolling in driving schools, which provide tailored courses for cars and motorcycles, respectively. These schools not only prepare applicants for the practical aspects of the test but also help with mastering the theoretical knowledge required by the DLT.

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