Cars, motobikes in Pattaya. Drivers Licence in Pattaya

Hiring a Motorbike around Pattaya

Many people who come to Thailand, and particularly Pattaya, for a holiday see all the local people going around on motorbikes, many without helmets, the ladies balancing gracefully sideways on the back. They see whole families of four or even five all on the same bike.

Many people visiting Pattaya and seeing these sights think it would be a good idea to rent a motorbike for a day or week. They are jolly cheap to hire. You can get one for 150/180 baht (from $4 or £2) a day or less, and discounts are given for weekly or longer rental.

This saves you having to get a baht taxi (10 baht) or motorbike taxi (30/60 baht depending upon distance), and gives you a certain independence even though taxis and motorbike taxis are everywhere.

One of the many motorbikes for rent in Pattaya

However, before you take this course you may want to bear a couple of things in mind. The traffic in Pattaya can be lethal, and indeed the number of fatalities not only in the city itself but especially on Sukhumvit (the 4 carriageway each way main road) are frightening.

Small accidents are commonplace and can, due to the very heavy traffic at times, not only spoil your holiday but put you in intensive care in one of the local hospitals.

The quality of medical care in Pattaya is very high, fortunately, but if you are not insured for medical expenses this could cost you an arm and a leg, literally. The top hospitals are of international standard, but so are their charges.

The local hospitals are very good and cheaper, but many westerners are not keen on staying in a place where most people don’t speak their language and the food is very local.

Motorbike insurance is often not part of the hiring package, or if it is it is not exactly fully comprehensive. If you do hire a bike (the same applies for cars too) please do spend some time looking at the insurance aspect of what you are getting for your money.

Also have a good look at your own personal holiday accident cover. You could discover that it does not include riding a motorbike or that these machines are classed as “dangerous sports”. Sounds stupid doesn’t it but many people have ignored these clauses at their peril and ended up having to foot the bills for their own stays in hospital.

Another important thing to remember is that most Thais who you are likely to ‘run into’ or indeed ‘run into you’ probably have not got a lot of money and are frequently uninsured themselves, whether they are driving a car, truck or motorbike. It’s no good proving an accident is their fault if you are not going to receive medical fees for your injuries, let alone compensation.

Taking all the above into consideration, if you are already proficient on a motorbike in your own country and want to have a go it can be quite fun as long as you don’t try to ride like the locals do. They have been riding these things almost since birth and they understand the way the local traffic works. You don’t!

Apart from driving on the left hand side of the road, which is OK if you come from Britain or one of the other few countries who do this, road etiquette in general is completely different from at ‘home’. You will be undertaken and overtaken, squeezed past in the tiniest gap, be forced to wait for pedestrians, cars, local bikes and trucks, taxis and motorbike taxis who know what they are doing.

Before renting a motorbike it’s quite a good idea to get a motorbike taxi around a couple of places at busy times so that you can get the hang of the traffic. This could save you an awful lot of aggravation later.

Oh, and do wear a helmet. Pattaya police often have spot checks on helmets for you and your passenger. Fine 200baht each (cash), a lot of hassle, your bike will be inspected and the least infringement will ensure further fines, particularly if you are a ‘rich foreigner’.

By law you are expected to carry a Thai drivers’ licence when driving on public roads and foreigner drivers’ licence should, in theory, only be used for the first 60 days of your stay in Thailand. Drivers are seldom penalised for this, but having a Thai licence is handy and avoids ‘situations’ that might cost you a ‘spot fine’.

How to get a Thai Drivers Licence in Pattaya – driving licence test

It may appear that no one in Thailand has a proper driving licence but it is possible for foreigners to take the test and if you are resident here more than 2 months you are expected to get a Thai licence issued from your foreign copy.

Either you can produce an existing foreign drivers’ licence or take the test. Having taken the test you’ll soon discover why so many drivers in this town are so oblivious to the simplist of road safety rules. Provided you can remember your highway code enough to pass the theory test and prove you can operate a vehicle inside the Traffic Department’s compound you’ll be issued a nice shiny Thai Licence – voila! Oh, we forget to mention, there is a little red tape too.

For starters, you will need the following:

  • Residency Certificate from the Immigration Office, or a copy of your work permit or yellow residency book (take the original too).
  • A copy of your Non-Immigrant Visa, Passport details, last entry stamp/extension stamp, OR your tourist visa (note, it may be possible to get a residency certificate from immigration by presenting a tourist visa or non imm. visa).
  • A basic medical certificate - which you can obtain effortlessly from any doctor.
  • Two photos (1 inch x 1 inch), matt finish, not more than 6 months old.
  • A valid drivers’ licence, or International drivers’ licence from your own country (if you have one), which should be translated into English from your embassy, if it is issued in any other language.
  • A fee of 105 baht (for a car) or 55 baht (for a motorbike).
With this in hand you can then present yourself at the small ‘help desk’ (basic English is spoken) on the second floor of the Traffic Department building which is located at;

The office is about 19kms from Big C (Sukhumvit Road / South Pattaya Road).


Travel north on route 3 (Sukhumvit Road to Bangkok) about 10kms. Observe an 'overpass' bridge on your right, you need to pass under the bridge (turn right) signed 'route 36 to Rayong'. After about 9 kms you will see the 'School of the Regents' on your right hand side, the road you need is just before the school, but it's not easy to do a 'U-turn' here. A short way past the school is a place where you can safely u-turn.

Now drive just past the school again, and turn sharp left at a narrow road poorly signed in Thai. Follow this road a short way - on your left is a number of shops offering photo-copying, food, insurance, etc - on your right is a big building with two grand entrances (use the second). This is the 'Eastern Verification Center' office.
Issuing a Thai drivers’ licence to previous licence holders

With all of the above documentation in hand you should be able to obtain a licence within one hour, the process is straight forward, but we recommend you arrive between 09.00 and 10.00 or 13.00 and 14.00 to avoid the theory test crowds.

Taking a driving test for a Thai licence

It’s equally easy to obtain a Thai drivers’ licence, either for car or motorbike. Since the same documentation is needed you should consider ‘killing two birds with one stone’, taking the motorbike test if your current licence is only valid for cars.

The theory test is a simple 20 question multiple choice test that is offered twice a day at 11.00 and 15.00. The results are issued within 20 minutes and if you have passed (75% and above) you can immediately arrange a test.

If you have forgotten your ‘highway code’ we recommend you download a copy of the UK Highway Code which is very similar. However you also have the benefit of attending a 30 minute video (in English) between 09.00 and 11.00 or 13.00 and 15.00. Since English viewers have the advantage of a private video on computers, they can show up late. Tip! Take along a notepad to note down some of the critical distances and limits mentioned in the video so you can quickly ‘cram’ them before the test.

Now for the astonishing part. To test your worthiness to drive among traffic, you will be asked to complete a simple ‘obstacle’ test in/on your own vehicle. This occurs in their compound and is more of a test to see if you can operate your vehicle, with a short test that’s usually over in a few minutes and tests your ability to reverse park, turn etc.

Having passed this you will then be sent back to the main building and receive your licence after a short wait. Usually the testing officers are quite fair.


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