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.
Obviously, in order to drive you will need a vehicle, this must comply with certain constraints.
It needs two or more wheels. These should be roughly circular in shape and loosely connected to one another to allow directional control. Tyre tread should be avoided as it decreases the amount of rubber in contact with the road reducing potential grip.
An engine. This needs to drive at least one wheel in order for the vehicle to move. Exhaust silencers (mufflers) reduce performance and should be completely removed or replaced with straight lengths of scaffolding tube. Diesel engines must be tuned to create maximum amounts of black smoke, this will assist other motorists to see your vehicle and avoid collisions.
A load carrying area. The format of the load carrier depends upon the goods to be transported. For example, to carry gas cylinders a rack with a single bungee strap is required, whereas, if transporting large sacks of rice you should use a rack with a single bungee strap.
A working horn. When sounded loudly and frequently, the horn sets up an invisible energy barrier protecting the vehicle and its passengers from all harm. The faster the vehicle is travelling, the better the horn works.
Now you know where baby Tuk-tuks come from :)
Don't have a truck?
No problem just load up the bike.
Brakes. Although these are known to reduce speed of your vehicle they can be used to avoid danger in the event that the horn fails.
Lights. Lights on vehicles are not needed especially at night as they are a drain on the battery. The larger the vehicle (10 wheeled truck, bus, etc.) the less need for illuminating it and therefore the lights should have the smallest bulbs possible. Any glass in front of the bulb will reduce the efficiency of the light and should be removed with a small hammer. If lights are used however, at least one headlight must be pointing in the air. This will ensure that low flying aircraft are detected and will have the added advantage of blinding on-coming drivers.
Seatbelts. Not only are seatbelts not worn, seatbelts are absolutely unnecessary. Driver and passengers are protected by the horn.
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
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
Passing or overtaking is the national pastime in Thailand. Observant motorists among you may have encountered the following:
The Vertical Triple Manoeuvre - The act of passing three vehicles in one accelerated movement.
The Horizontal Triple Manoeuvre - The act of passing a vehicle that in itself is in the act of passing another vehicle.
The Double, Double Manoeuvre - The act of passing a vehicle at precisely the same time that another vehicle, coming from the opposite direction, is also engaged in the act of passing.
The Undertaking Manoeuvre - The act of passing a vehicle on the left, usually when it is being passed on the right by another vehicle.
The Overundertaking Manoeuvre - This involves passing one vehicle on the right and then zipping across in front of this vehicle (leaving at most 6 inches clearance) and then passing the vehicle in front on the left.
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.
Rapidly flashing headlights can mean anything including but not limited to the following:-
OK to pass now.
Do not pass now.
Get out of my way.
Help, I am in trouble.
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 FINAL OVERRIDING RULE
"The larger vehicle always has right of way"