According to Thai law, you should have a driving license if you want to drive a vehicle in Thailand. Even if you have an international driving license from your home country, but living in Thailand for more than 3 months, you should have a local driving license as well. it’s valid for 10 ASEAN countries.
Most people say that is a painful process to get a driving license in Thailand, but I seriously think it’s more painful to get it in our home countries (just had an experience of both). Anyway, now I would like to share my experience how to obtain a motorbike driving license in Koh Samui.
For those who have had an international driving license already, the procedure is similar, except not taking theory and driving tests.
1. Medical certificate
You can get a medical certificate at any international hospital. Since I’m living in Ko Phangan, I applied to First Western hospital and it took 20-30 min to get it with a cost for residents of 200 Bht. Who are the residents? Anyone who has any kind of longterm visa rather than a tourist one. For those with the tourist visa, the medical certificate cost can be up to 500 Bht. This differentiation applies to any medical services. Any foreigners with a longterm visa can get a “Thai price” for treatments in the hospital.
2. Residency certificate
This paper can be obtained at Immigration Office and anyone with any kind of visas, even with a tourist one, can apply for it. It costs 500 Bht and it takes 1-2 hours to get it. Both certificates have a validity of 30 days, make sure to use them before they expire.
3. Transport office
Yes, it will take 2 days if you have to go through the full procedure and 1 day for those, who have an international driving license from home country. The first visit to Transport office should be on Monday, Wednesday or Friday only. I came on Tuesday at the first time and was not accepted. It’s located relatively convenient click here for map, just 3min drive from Lipa Noi, Raja ferry pier. This is good, especially for us, Ko Phangan habitats, as we need to get to Koh Samui with our own motorbikes for the driving test.
I would like to emphasize the way of dressing up you appear at Transport office. It’s not enough just to cover the shoulders and the knees. I came up with the long sleeve shirt and the pants covered my knees. On the physical test, I was asked to come back for the theory one in the trousers covered my entire legs.
The Transport office opening hour is 8:30 am, but If you have a chance, it’s better to be there by 8 am. When you arrive, walk straight into the building and grab the number token next to counter 1. The doors of the building seem open 24 hours a day, so there is no problem to get there and wait for the officers. You can arrive later as well, but people say that the officer accepts the documents until 9:15 – 9:30 am only.
What you need to bring:
- copy of passport (front page and visa page)
- residency certificate
- medical certificate
- international driving license or regular one from your home country translated into English and certified by your Embassy or Consulate (if you have any)
After submitting the papers to the counter, you will be asked to go upstairs and wait for a physical test, which usually starts after 10 am. The physical test includes three parts:
- Colour blindness test. Blinking with no particular order green, yellow and red colors, you should name them in English which color is lighted at this moment.
- Coordination test. Sitting on the chair, we had to align two rods using a remote control that moved one of the rods backward and forward in a small box at approximately 10 meters distance. It’s allowed to repeat it twice if you don’t manage to do it from the first time.
- Reflex test. Be seated on the same chair, put the foot on the brake pedal. When the green light in front starts to light up, we had to hit a brake pedal in less than 3/4 seconds before it reaches the red zone. In case of failure, this one is allowed to repeat second time as well.
Once you’ve done it successfully, you will be asked to come back for the theory test at 2 pm. I used this break between the tests for practicing my riding skills on the driving area behind the building. Theory test has only 50 questions with multiple choice answers check out here and you are allowed to make 5 mistakes out of 50. To be honest, I found it to be an easy one. It took only a couple of hours for me to study and to get ready for the test. The test is held in English in the computer room and should be done within 60 minutes ( I did it for half an hour). I was laughing at some answers, the funniest one was that you are allowed to drive a tank on the Thai streets 🙂 Once it’s done, you press the button Finish and get your results within few seconds. If it’s passed, you’ll get a slip of paper and is asked to come back for a driving test in one of the following days at 2 pm (for a driving test, it can be any day of the week).
I would suggest to come for a driving test before 2 pm and practice a bit, just to feel more confident. You should come with your motorbike and helmet. There is no any option to borrow it in Transport office. Steps for practical test:
- Get your paper at the counter 2 in the main building and go the driving area behind
- Put the helmet on and tighten the strap
- Drive the narrow concrete plank at approximately 30 cm width
- Drive slalom around 5 traffic cones twice, forward and back
- Then going through training parkour which is just a matter of a few turns where you have to use your indicators and stop before the stop sign. When you stop, make sure you have both feet on the ground. I stopped without and nearly fail the test.
Once you’re finished they’ll sign your papers again, marking you’ve passed. After that, go back to the office building and pay 230 baht. You’ll be asked to have your picture taken and a few minutes later you’ll get a brand new motorcycle license! You get a temporary one with a validity of 2 years, which you can exchange for a 5 years permanent license later.
In Thai driving license, there is no division between motorcycles powered by a motor, it’s valid for riding any kind of motorbikes. Although, the government is going to implement the new rules for the big bikes drivers requiring a special driving license read here.
So that’s it, you are now the proud owner of a Thai driver’s license.