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Tourists driving in Phuket: get legal, or get fined - or worse

Tourists from all over the world come to Phuket and rent a car or motorbike during their holiday, but are they allowed to use their license from their home country to drive a rental vehicle on the island?

tourism, transport, crime, accidents,

The Phuket News

Sunday 18 December 2016, 10:00AM

No matter which country you hail from, police say that you must have a Thai license or an International Driving Permit in order to drive legally in Phuket. Photo: Tony Webster
No matter which country you hail from, police say that you must have a Thai license or an International Driving Permit in order to drive legally in Phuket. Photo: Tony Webster


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.”

British International School, Phuket

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.



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Vasiliy | 13 January 2018 - 21:38:18

What do you mean about IDP? In my country creating IDP in ukrainian and english languages. My driving license is plastic card. Is it sufficient for your policeman?

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Kurt | 03 January 2017 - 16:45:52

.."The fine is usualy between 200 and 500 thb"..  yes, yes.
So, what is now? 200thb or 500 thb?
Is it up to the police officer? Or is it sett thai law wise?
Why always this tea money doings/talk/mediation by the boys in brown?
Makes so tired.

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marcher | 03 January 2017 - 12:43:06

Kurt. I don't know what the hell buying land has to do with driving. Keep to the subject

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Joe12 | 21 December 2016 - 20:04:01

la0wei...You are reading the wrong Treaty. The article states, "...Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (1968), which replaced the Convention on Road Traffic (1949)." See article 48 of the 1968 Treaty. The Treaty was actually signed by Thailand on 8 November 1968. 

The article further states, "...countries that signed the Convention recognise “any domestic driver’s licence dr...

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Kurt | 19 December 2016 - 10:09:50

@ Marcher:  A british person can privately not own land in Thailand. But a thai can own land in UK.

@ Ia0wei: Thailand forget conveniently that ratified international laws are above thai national laws.
I bed that most of the RTP officers not even know about that 1949 Convention on Road Traffic.

@ topstipster: I hope for you that this RTP officer invites you to show him that 1000 thb fine ti...

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la0wei | 18 December 2016 - 21:37:46

Dear Mr. Jindachuea, dear Mr. Phuhgrom

I am rather surprised by your comments because Thailand ratified the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic on 15th August 1962 and as such Thailand agreed to recognize local driving permits of other member states as long as they fulfill the requirements stated in Annex 9 of that convention.

To my understanding it would therefore be perfectly legal to d...

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toptipster | 18 December 2016 - 17:11:14

This is directed Lt Surapong Phuhgrom. I was stopped last week, left my IDP at home by mistake , so got fined. Why 1000Baht. You mention 200-500 baht. Be interesting to see your reply.

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marcher | 18 December 2016 - 16:44:48

All well and good for the Transport office to state these rules, but who is going to enforce the law? Obviously not the police, apart from picking up their tea money And what is the point of a rather measly fine for no licence and then letting them drive away. The vehicle should be impounded until they produce a legal licence
Unfortunately many people do not have a licence at all, particularly fo...

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LivinLOS | 18 December 2016 - 12:54:11

And yet this totally fails to answer the question if someone DOES have an english language home country license.. 

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