Rent and drive in Thailand
Renting a car is one of the best and most convenient ways to get around the Kingdom of Thailand and will give you the freedom to really explore this amazing country. Although driving in any foreign country always causes bit of uneasiness in the early days, once you get out of chaotic Bangkok, Thailand is actually a really pleasant place to explore by car. Thai's road network is generally in good condition, large well-maintained highways cross most of the country connecting all major cities, seaside resorts and attractions, and traffic rules are not too difficult to understand. Thailand follows the left-hand traffic rule and the driver's side is on the right. So, if you're coming from a country that follows the right-hand traffic rule, initially this may seem really uncomfortable, contrariwise if you're coming from the UK you won't have any trouble acclimating.
Rent a car
Renting a car in Thailand is not too different from renting anywhere else. You must be in possession of either a Thai driving licence or an International Driving Permit. Almost all of the prestigious international car rental brands have offices inside or directly outside the Thai International Airports such as Avis, Budget, Hertz and Europcar. Most of them also have offices in the major cities and in the most common tourist areas. In addition to these, there are a few reputable Thai car rental companies set in and around the terminals, like Thai Rent A car, Sixt and National. All these reliable companies offer a good range of vehicles and full insurance with the convenient opportunity to return the car in a city different than delivery. Whether you book online or rent directly at the airport, for the delivery of car you must present your passport, a valid driving license and a credit card for both payment and warranty. Note that car hire companies in Thailand do not yet accept debit cards. Some companies will require that you must have had the driving licence for at least a year; some also stipulate a minimum age for renting a car, usually 21 or 23 years old. If you want to have more than one driver while the car is in your possession, you do not have to pay more if the rental company is aware of this advance, but you should ensure that the additional driver meets the company’s regulations on driver’s licences and age. Most car hire companies will insist on you having the optional cover "Loss Damage Waiver", though it may be automatically provided at certain rates. LDW is not the standard rental insurance, but a combination of Damage and Theft cover that exempts the customer from any responsibility for theft or damage to the leased vehicle, provided that the car is used in compliance with conditions laid down in the rental contract. Rental rates in Thailand are rather cheap and vary according the season, the company and car model you choose. By booking online in advance, you will pay from a minimum of 900 Baht to a maximum of 1,200 Baht per day for a small compact car such as a Toyota Yaris, 1,000 to 1,400 Baht for a slightly larger Toyota Vios, 1,400 to 2,000 Baht for a sedan like a Toyota Altis, and 2,400 to 3,400 Baht for a large SUV. All cars are equipped with air conditioning and automatic transmission.
Alternatively, if you choose to hire a car from a small local private company, only use reputable companies that boast offices avoiding the roadside renters as scams are not unusual. You will find these improvised renters parked along the busiest streets in the most popular tourist destinations offering mostly fun jeeps, but also compact cars and sedans, with inviting "CAR FOR RENT" signals. Unfortunately, most of them do not have rental licenses, they claim to include full insurance, but in reality they have the bare minimum government insurance. Another problem with roadside renters is they want to keep your passport as a guarantee for the vehicle. Often they claim non-existent damage to the vehicle by your fault, so they will hold the passport until you pay extra for repairs. Reliable local rental companies offer a good range of vehicles and often the full insurance. Prices vary by season and location, roughly you will pay from 1,000 to 1,400 Baht per day for a small Toyota Vios and from 2,200 to 3,400 Baht for a large SUV. Usually they ask for your passport as a guarantee, but not always, you try to give them a photocopy instead, plus a cash deposit eventually, as you should never give up your passport under any circumstances.Read More
Fuel - The main vehicle fuels in Thailand are benzine 95, which is unleaded fuel, gasohol 95 and 91, and diesel. The old benzine 91 octanes has been phased out, as Thailand aims to get more vehicles running on gasohol, which is 80% gasoline and 20% ethanol. The numbers 91 and 95 refer to the octane output of the fuel. Vehicles sold in Thailand since 2006 have been designed to use benzine 95 or gasohol 95, both cost about 34-35 per litre from petrol stations, but you can also use gasohol 91 although the engine delivers less power. Designed to use benzine 95, older vehicles can use gasohol 95, but sustained use can lead to the premature deterioration of rubber parts in the engine. If you notice that the engine is not running smoothly, it may also be a good idea to try a different fuel station, as the quality is not the same everywhere.
Rent a motorbike
Tourists visiting Thailand like to be independent in their movements, especially those staying in seaside resorts. Renting a motorbike is a great way to get around Phuket, Samui, Krabi and Pattaya as well as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. These small colourful scooters are extremely easy to drive and are also definitely the cheapest transport option to choose from. Motorbike rental shops are scattered practically everywhere around the most popular tourist destinations. They are set at every corner of the busiest streets and offers small 105-135 cc motorbikes at prices ranging from 150 to 200 THB per day, although during the high season many of the shops increase their prices up to 250-300 baht per day. Discounts are available for weekly or monthly rentals, roughly 1,000-1,500 baht per week and 3,500-4,500 baht per month depending on season and location. More powerful and big bikes are available from some specialized stores at prices ranging from 400 to 500 baht per day. Hiring a motorbike, you will have to pay in advance and also leave a cash deposit that will be returned if you do not damage the scooter, though some rental shops also ask for your passport as a guarantee. Between two options you choose the first one, eventually offering them a photocopy, as you should never give up your passport under any circumstances. During the hiring process, the renter should inspect the vehicle and document pre-existing damage as well as how much fuel is in the tank, as the scooter must be returned with the usual amount of fuel. Be sure to ask about motorbike insurance, though normally the only insurance you will get is the bare minimum government insurance known as Por Ror Bor, which only covers third party personal injury costs up to 50,000 baht. This means that any damages to all involved vehicles, including your own vehicle, your medical expenses, and third party injury costs beyond the insured amount will have to be paid by you. Bigger and more reputable rental shops may have more comprehensive coverage, but the cost per daily rental will also be higher. The shop should provide you with at least one helmet.
Tips - Driving a motorbike in Thailand is no longer dangerous than driving anywhere else in the world. However, driving in any foreign country always causes bit of uneasiness in the early days, especially if you're coming from a country that follows the right-hand traffic rule. Thai's road network is generally in good condition with road signs in Thai and English, but often the roads are very winding especially along the coasts of the islands. Some of the inclines over the hilly terrain are steep and you should take more care, especially in the wet. When it starts to rain, moderate the speed even further, the sand and the dust makes the road surface slippery as ice. However, it is not road conditions that cause problems but road users. Thais are unpredictable drivers, while many have good driving skills and are accurate drivers many others aren't and do not respect the basic road rules. There will be drivers who drive on the wrong side of the road, overtake on the inside or make inversions without indicating. Some Thais, as well as a few tourists themselves, drive at speeds most suitable for racing drivers while others drive too slowly hindering traffic. To avoid problems, you just follow two simple rules: drive slowly and carefully.
To drive cars and motorbikes in Thailand, foreigners must hold a valid driving license. That means: a Thai driving license, a license from a neighbouring country like Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia, or an International Driving Permit, IDP, released according to the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic with a validity of three months. Note that: 1 - IDP according to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic valid for one year is tolerated but, in the event of an accident, you may have some problems with the Thai Police. 2 - Western driving licenses are no longer tolerated by the Thai Police. You can easily obtain a valid IDP in your home country, while Thai driving licenses are only available to foreigners if they have a Non-immigrant Visa, i.e. business or long term visa. Driving a car without a valid license in Thailand is a traffic violation that involves a fine of 400 baht and will also invalidate the vehicle insurance.
Traffic rules & fines
In Thailand driving is on the left, overtaking is on the right and precedence, unless otherwise indicated, must be given to the right. Speed limits by law throughout Thailand are: 60 km/h within towns, 80 km/h within municipal areas, unless otherwise notified, 90 km/h on Highways and 120 km/h on Motorways. Seatbelts are mandatory in front seats only, child car seats are optional. Motorbike drivers and their passengers are required by law to wear helmets. The fine in this case depends on the authorized officer issuing the fine, but is usually 400 baht for foreigners and 200 baht for Thais. Paying the fine in Thailand usually involves leaving your vehicle, driving license or passport with the police while you go to the nearest Police Station to make the payment. You can then return with the receipt of payment and continue your journey. Thai Police conduct random road checkpoints and if it is found to be committing a road violation will be subject to a fine that in this case you can pay at the checkpoint. The fines range from 200 to 2000 baht, depending on the offense. Normally, police officers control license plate, owner’s registration, vehicle insurance, broken lights and above all your passport and driving license, and if you do not produce it, they can stop you until one is produced. BAC Limit- Drivers should also be aware that much harsher penalties for drunk driving were introduced last year. Under the new laws, the BAC limit for professional and drivers under 24 years old is zero, and the legal BAC limit for all other drivers is 0.05%. The new penalties for drunk driving are as follows: 1 - Drunk driving: Up to one year imprisonment or a fine of 5,000 to 20,000 baht or both, and driver’s license suspended for six months. 2 - Drunk driving causing bodily or mental harm to others: One to five years imprisonment or a fine of 20,000 to 100,000 baht or both, and driver’s license suspended for up to one year. 3 - Drunk driving causing serious injury to others: Two to six years imprisonment or a fine of 40,000 to 120,000 baht or both, and driver’s license suspended for up to two years. 4 - Drunk driving causing death: Three to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 60,000 to 200,000 baht and your driver’s license will be cancelled. Whether you will be allowed to apply for a driver’s license again during your lifetime is up to the court.
Roads in Thailand
The Thai road network is generally in good condition and spans over 70,000 kilometers across all regions of Thailand. The network is the twin responsibility of the Department of Highways, DOH, and the Department of Rural Roads, DORR, under the oversight of the Transportation Ministry of Thailand. Most rural roads are single carriageways, while almost all inter-city highways are dual carriageways and have frequent U-turn lanes for change direction in total security. Thai traffic signs use Thai, while English is used for important public places such as tourist attractions, airports, railway stations, and immigration checkpoints. Both Thai and English are used on directional signage. Few highways provide for a toll payment, among them the elevated Motorways extending into the metropolitan area of Bangkok and Motorway that leads to Suvarnabhumi Airport and then Pattaya. The large highways that join all the provinces throughout Thailand are usually well-constructed, well-maintained and easy to follow, though a good GPS navigator can be useful. The main Thain highways are: Route 1, Phahonyothin Road, connecting Bangkok to Chiang Rai and continuing till Tachilek, Burma, also reported as AH1 and AH2; Route 2 or AH12, Mittraphap Road, connecting Saraburi to Nong Khai near Laos border; Route 3, Sukhumvit Road, connecting Bangkok to Trat near Cambodia border; Route 4, Phet Kasem Road, linking Bangkok to Sadao near Malaysia border via Hat Yai. There are several large petrol stations along the road network. Most of them host eateries, usually small Thai restaurants to enjoy a fast lunch, as well as Seven Eleven or Family Mart where you will find everything you may need. The only defect is the toilets, certainly not to the level of Western standards.
Foreigners who stay in Thailand, for pleasure or business, and are in possession of a International Driving Permit, IDP, can get license Thai. The foreigners who are in possession of an Non-immigrant Visa, can convert their IDP in Thai drivig license, with no theoretical or practical examination; those in possession of a Tourist Visa may also convert their driver's license, but in this case will have to support the theory test and practical driving. Who does not possess a IDP, regardless of type of Visa that has, will have to make the theoretical and practical tests in order to obtain a Thai driving license. The request must be made to Motorization Office in place of residence, and must be accompanied by certain documents: one copy of passport, including Visa stamp page, the original certificate issued by Immigration Office, attesting residence, a medical certificate attesting to absence of specific diseases, you can get to each hospital, at a cost of about 500 THB, the original IDP and a photocopy. Once presented the documents you have to do a simple aptitude test, which is to measure the response time and the daltonia. Afterwards it is given to you a few moments to browse a manual guide in English, to refresh your memory and learn different rules of driving. The theoretical examination to be completed consists of 30 questions; you must correctly answer at least 26 of them. The test is performed on the computer, as long as the candidate does not pass it may be repeated, there are no maximum number of repetitions, there is no maximum time limit. Once you past theoretical test, the candidate will carry out test driving on scooter or car, or both if required the two licenses. For scooter license you have to make the rounds in front of the examiner, for car the test consists in a bit of driving and two parking, the second of which in reverse. Candidate completed the theoretical and practical exams, successfully, is positioned in front of the computer to make a picture and within a few minutes you are in possession of the Thai driver's license, no more than 250 THB, 500 THB for both. Driver's license at the time of the first issue is valid for one year, the subsequent renewal is valid for two years. In some office of the operator, such as Phuket, holders of an international license and Visa Immigrants O, in place of the practical examinations, is required only watching a video, about half an hour, which explains the different rules or traffic signs.
Foreigners can buy a car, motorbike or boat in Thailand, and they do it in their own name. Foreigners that working in Thailand have to show their passports with the Visa No Immigrant B and the work permit. Tourists with a Non-immigrant Visa have to show a passport, the certification of immigration officer that indicating the place of residence, two photographs and payment of a fee of 500 THB. In Thailand it is preferable to choose vehicle of Asian production, those imported have high costs, about twice the Western price, both for purchase and for maintenance. A scooter manufactured in Thailand has a cost from 40,000 THB, 1,100 €, to 80,000 THB, 2,200 €, depending on the model. Thai scooter are excellent, easy to use and with low fuel consumption. A car, Thai production, such as the Toyota Vios, a sedan with automatic transmission, costs about 600,000 TBH, 16,000 €, a western production car like the Mini One coast 1,950,000 THB, 50,000 €. The price of the pick-up, or SUV, changes depending on the model, accessories, doors, type of transmission, 4WD or 2WD, though, there is something for all tastes and budgets from 700,000 THB, 19,000 €, such as pickup Toyota Vigo 2WD, to 1,450,000 THB, 37,000 €, for a SUV Toyota Fortuner 4WD Full Options. When you buy a new car it is delivered with red license plate, front and rear, to be used until the complete definition of the practice of registration, one or two months. During this transition period, by law you can not drive at night or outside the province in which they were issued temporary plates, but insisting and pressing the dealer, always with respect and education, the license plate magically appear along with the vehicle registration. The vehicle tax in Thailand is calculated on the number of ports, the age of the vehicle, car or truck, but it is always very low. For scooters it is really negligible, of the order of 500 THB. Insurers have slight variations from one company or another, imperceptible to equal coverage. Even in Thailand you pay according to the category of the vehicle, who buy a new car or a certain value, you can opt for the first class, one that is fully inclusive, third-party liability, theft, fire and damage, in short, the most expensive but also the best. Who older vehicles may choose a lower category, saving a lot, well, there's something for every budget.
Foreigns can import a personal vehicles for a short visit in Thailand, such as motor vehicle, motorcycle, yacht, sports boat, or fishing vessel, without paying customs duties, provided that they must be re-exported within 1-2 months, and never more than six months. Any persons intending to temporarily import personal vehicles have to closely observe Thai Customs regulations and conditions. The minimum documents required for a temporary import of personal vehicles consist of: a Special Goods Declaration and 5 duplicates; the Vehicle Registration Certificate; Passport of the master of the vehicle, including an International Driving Permit; a Letter of Attorney, in case where the master of the vehicle does not own the vehicle; the Application Form for the temporary import of personal vehicles; Evidence of purchase e.g. a proforma invoice, invoice, etc; Certificate of Legal Entity; A Re-Export Contract.
Clearance Procedures for a Temporary Import of Personal Vehicles: an importer/agent submits the Declaration Form and all supporting documents to the Customs office/house at the port of entry. It is also required that all fittings and accessories of the vehicle as well as passengers and accompanying luggage are declared to Customs at the time of entry. Customs verifies the Declaration Form and all supporting documents, allocates the Declaration number, and then set up a cash deposit or bank guarantee covering the full amount of liable taxes and duties. The importer/agent places the cash deposit or bank guarantee at a Cashier Office.