I have been staying in Phuket a while but I am still not clear about whether or not foreigners can drive in Phuket using a driver’s license issued in their home country. Everyone knows at least one foreigner who has been caught out with this, regardless whether the foreigner has moved here or is just a tourist.
So, can foreigners use their license from home here in Phuket? Also, what if my license is already issued in English?
And to be clear, exactly what are the penalties if I am caught driving without a Thai license, and what happens if I am in an accident?
– Tilde Chimbote, Chalong
Foreigners wanting to drive in Thailand – but do not yet have a Thai driver’s license – must hold an “International Driving Permit” (IDP) issued in their home country.
Please note that the IDP is technically not a license, it is a translated version of a license issued by a country that signed the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (!968), which replaced the Convention on Road Traffic (1949).
Under the Convention notes that countries that signed the Convention recognise “any domestic driver’s licence drawn up in their national language or in one of their national languages, or, if not drawn up in such a language, accompanied by a certified translation.”
That means any person wanting to drive in Thailand by using a driver’s license not issued in Thailand – and especially those not issued in English -- must have BOTH a valid license issued in their home country AND an IDP in order to legally drive in Thailand.
This applies to foreigners staying in the country long-term and to tourists driving motorbikes or cars rented for their short holiday here.
Having a valid license is critical, not just to avoid being fined by police for breaking the law, but especially in case you are involved in an accident.
If you do not have a valid license and an IDP, you can be held fully responsible for any accident you are involved in and any insurance coverage may automatically become void as you were driving illegally.
– Chutinan Jindachuea, Chief, License Division, Phuket Provincial Transport Office.
If you are stopped by the police and you cannot present a valid license issued in your home country and an IDP so we can check it in English, you will be fined.
The fine is usually between B200 and B500. You can pay the fine on the spot or police can seize your license until you come to the police station and pay the fine, and then get your license back.
If you refuse to pay the fine, then we will have to proceed with legal action, which being presenting your case in court.
In short, if you don’t want to be fined for driving illegally while on holiday here, get an IDP from your home country before getting on the plane.
– Lt Surapong Phuhgrom, Inspector, Kathu Traffic Police.