Tired of being stopped and fined at police check points on your motorbike? Planning to stay in Thailand long term? Then it would behoove you to get your Thai motorbike license. Unless you already have a motorcycle endorsement on an international driver’s license issued by your home country, you aren’t legally permitted to drive a motorbike in Thailand. Yes, rental companies will still rent a motorbike to you, but you run the risk of being stopped and fined every time you drive. The fines are usually 500 baht ($16), which in US dollars may not seem like much, but if you’ve been in Thailand for awhile, you know that 500 baht can easily buy 2- or 3-days’ worth of meals. So being fined 500 baht every time you drive is a decent amount of money when compared with the cost of living in Thailand.
I had been in Chiang Mai for 3 months when my luck ran out with the traffic police. I was usually successful in avoiding the check points because they were generally set up in the same locations. There were also a few times when I was caught driving without a license, but I’d usually give a smile and a wink and get off with a warning. The last time however, I actually had to pay the 500 baht fine, and on top of that I didn’t have enough cash on me so I had to leave my passport with the officer while I went to an ATM, where I had to pay two fees, the local bank’s ATM fee, and an international fee to my US bank, which added about an extra 400 baht on top of the fine. If I hadn’t been able to withdraw the money immediately, the only other option would have been for them keep my identification and then I’d have go to the police station later in the day and pay. I know quite a few people who have lived in Thailand for quite a while, some for years, and for whatever reason they still have an aversion to acquiring their Thai motorbike license, they’d just rather pay the fines I suppose. Well, I only needed to pay the fine once before I started taking the steps towards getting my motorbike license here. There were plenty of other things I’d rather do with my money than waste it on fines.
When I found out the requirements and steps that I had to take to get my license, honestly, it seemed a bit daunting and I felt overwhelmed. I even questioned if I should bother with it at all, but then I thought about the possibility of being fined every time I drove or having to take side streets and alleyways to avoid a check point. So, I carried on with the process.
Required documentation to apply for a Thai motorbike license:
Residency certificate: In order to receive a residency certificate, you’ll need a copy of your lease or proof of where you reside. You can also use a work visa in lieu of an apartment lease if you have one. Take that along with a copy of your passport to the immigration office. It can take up to a month to receive, or you can pay an agency anywhere from 1,000-1,600 baht ($32-$50) and they’ll go to immigration for you. You will have your certificate within 48 hours, and most places will even drop the it off at your home. That’s what I did. This document is valid for 30 days.
Medical certificate: You can go to any clinic and tell them you need a medical certificate for a driver’s license, then they will basically ask you a few questions about your medical history, give you the form and you’re on your way. This document is valid for 30 days.
Passport: Make a copy of your passport, 2 copies if you want to receive your private car driver’s license as well. You must also make a copy of the most recent entry stamp in your passport. You need to have at least 30 days remaining on this stamp. Also, don’t forget to bring your passport along with the copies. They’ll want to see it.
Valid driver’s license from your home country: Bring a copy and the original. If your current driver’s license has a motorcycle endorsement on it, you should have an international driver’s license with the motorbike endorsement as well. If you do, you’re going to have a fairly quick trip to the Land and Transport Office, maybe only a couple of hours. If you don’t have the endorsement… well, we’ll discuss that in a bit.
International driver’s license: If applicable, bring a copy and the original with you. Receiving a Thai motorbike license is a two-day process, but you can receive both your motorbike and private car DL same day if you have an IDL. If your IDL does not have a motorbike endorsement, plan on being there for most of the day, from 8:30am until about 4:00pm.
Now that you have all of the required documentation, you’re well on your way to driving legally and stress-free!
You should arrive to the Land and Transport Office by 8:30am for a reaction test, and after that, (this is where the international driver’s license is beneficial) if you have an IDL, you have the option to watch an hour-long video to receive your Thai private car license. You can’t take the written test for your motorbike license until 10:00am anyway, so you may as well get it. Having an IDL gives you the benefit of receiving both licenses same day, by allowing you to skip the 5-hour motorbike training course, which would make it a two-day process.
If you have an international driver’s license: Everything will be completed same day. You will take a computerized test at about 10:00am. Even though it only takes about 15 minutes to complete, they’ll still have you come back around 3:00pm for the road test with everyone else that passed their written test that morning. The road test is taken in a separate area about 2 min away on another part of the property. At about 3:30pm, you will take the road test as a group, following each other like baby ducks. The road test is like a mini obstacle course. It takes about 3 minutes to complete.
If you don’t have an international driver’s license: It will be a 2-day process. On the first day, you will take the reaction test, and then you must take a 5-hour training course from 10:00am-12:00pm and then 1:00pm-4:00pm. The following day you take the written test at 10:00am and return for the road test at 3:00pm.
I know it seems like a long and arduous day, but after successfully completing those steps, you’re finally able to enjoy driving legally!
The entire process could take about 2 hours for the one-day option, but they have everything scheduled several hours apart, so it takes all day. I happened to live close enough to the facility that I just went home and returned in the afternoon for the road test. On that drive home, I almost got stopped at a check point AGAIN, further cementing in my mind that my one day of inconvenience at the Land and Transport Office was totally worth it. I’ve also gotten a few perks from having a license and establishing residence in Thailand. I’ve gotten the ‘local’ price at a few museums and attractions, and I was able to open a Thai bank account. I use my that account to wire money to myself from my American account with no fees. I use my Thai debit card for local purchases and have no ATM fees, which is pretty sweet.
Be sure to bring snacks, water, your phone charger, a book, or download a movie. You’re going to be there all day. But again, it completely worth it and you only have to do it once.
As soon as I got my license my first order of business was to drive through a popular check point I always tried to avoid. I of course was stopped; it was the first time I had ever been looking forward to it. He asked for my license and I proudly flashed my Thai motorbike license, along with what I felt was a manic joker-like smile. He smiled and waved me through. Ahhh the freedom of driving legally. There’s nothing like it.
Review the practice test: http://thaidriving.info/
The fee for the driver’s license was 205 baht ($6.60) and the motorbike license was 105 baht ($3.40)
If you would like an international driver’s license and are still in the States, you can go to any AAA office to get one. If you are already living abroad, AAA now offers an online option as well. There are also other agencies that process IDLs online.
Your initial license is temporary, and valid for two years. Upon renewal, all you have to do is present the same paperwork, there are no tests, and you will receive a 5 year license.