So, you want to drive in Thailand?

Well, if you want to drive here the first thing you should do is see you analyst, you need your head examining :-)

If you are still determined to risk all, read on.

Please Note:- The following is a “reference” to Thai road rules. Much of the material has been gathered from various web resources and enhanced with my own experiences of piloting a motor vehicle in the Land of Smiles. While it has its fun side I am sure that most long term residents will have experienced or at least witnessed most of its content.


Your Vehicle

Obviously, in order to drive you will need a vehicle, this must comply with certain constraints.




Now you know where baby Tuk-tuks come from :)


Don't have a truck?

No problem just load up the bike.

Optional Extras

Additional passenger seating can take many forms.


Rules of the road

In order to successfully drive a motor vehicle in Thailand you must understand the transportation gestalt in an entirely different way. Definitions which you once thought were above definition will be immediately re-defined.

Please note the following:-


The road includes not only the paved portion of the highway, but also what we might call the verge, the curb, the sidewalk, the front yard, the roadside food stalls and the Wat. The paved portion of the roadway is generally one lane wide. Not one lane wide in each direction – just one lane.


These colourful white and yellow lines mark the centre of the lanes and are especially useful on dark and rainy nights.


Lane discipline is most important in Thailand. Under no circumstances should you remain in a lane for more than 7.5 seconds, any longer than this and you will be gently reminded by other road users to change lanes immediately.


Road safety signs show the correct way to navigate on the highway.

This one demonstrates the correct way to perform the "Overundertaking"  Manoeuvre



Passing or overtaking is the national pastime in Thailand. Observant motorists among you may have encountered the following:


Tailgating is what you do when not overtaking.


The act of being overtaken is an insult not to be endured. The greater the differential between the vehicle being passed (BMW) and the passing vehicle (pickup or a low ranking saloon) the greater the potential loss of prestige and face. The owner of the more expensive vehicle must always do everything possible to thwart the attempt of the less expensive vehicle attempting to overtake.


Pig-up Truck??



Rapidly flashing headlights can mean anything including but not limited to the following:-

It takes years or sometimes an entire lifetime to learn this subtle, intriguing, non-verbal communication skill. Generally however, you have three seconds.


Accidents are rare in Thailand and are usually the result of a malfunctioning horn. Be aware that most heavy vehicle drivers if involved in a serious accident will immediately leave their vehicle and run to the nearest police station to inform them of the accident. This age old practice is commonly known as “fleeing the scene”.


As a foreigner, if involved in an accident you must immediately take all blame and offer to pay for all damage and hospital treatment. If you do not do this your remains will be collected by the police and sent to your embassy in a small cardboard box.


It is recommended that others purchase insurance. This will ensure that any foreigner involved in an accident will be in a position to take the blame and let the insurance company pay for any damage to both vehicles as well as all hospital bills.


Traffic signals and signs

Good advice "Watch out for nuts on the road".



Thai road signs approximate to international standards:-



Give way (yield)

Some are a little more ... er ... creative:-

Do not stack motorcycles.


No tractors driven by very thin people.


Beware of bullshit.


No jumping over red lines.

As to this one, your guess is as good as mine :-)

Actually, this one means "no hooting". Apparently Thai horns are a different shape to the ones we are used to.



Traffic lights are as you would expect, red, amber and green. This is where all similarity with The West ends.

The sequence is nominally mainland European:-

U.K. drivers will note that there is no "Red and Amber" state between Red and Green, this results in a delay of several seconds between the lights going Green and the traffic actually starting. In cities, many sets of lights have timer displays indicating the time until the next change, this is great for people waiting on Red enabling a quick (or early) getaway. However it also encourages "Amber Gamblers" squeezing through on the last second of a green light.

Some junctions have a sign indicating that you can filter left even when the light is Red. This filter is usually assumed, even when there is no sign!

Now, I said that the sequence is NOMINALLY mainland European, fine for simple junctions but add a couple of filter arrows and the sequence is anybodies guess. Light sequences at more complex junctions seem to be left entirely to the imagination of (inebriated) "traffic planners".

The graphic below demonstrates the sequence at a relatively simple junction near our house.




Loading your vehicle

Correct load distribution is essential to the safety of your vehicle.




 Your vehicle will operate at best efficiency when fully loaded, a full load is indicated by the special "load indicator" (suspension) reaching the end of its travel....

....of course, bulky items (people) will fill the available space before maximum load is reached.









"The larger vehicle always has right of way"