When you start visiting the world around us and have your backpack filled with all the necessities, you may want to start driving in new locations. However, when you visit other countries like Thailand, there are changes to the road laws you must adhere to, and your license is part of this.
You cannot drive in Thailand with just your U.S. license; you will need to apply for an international license in the U.S. or at the U.S. embassy. Once you have the international license, you can drive around as normal, presenting both licenses to any officials that may ask you for a license.
The requirement of having an international license is quite normal, and most countries worldwide may even require you to retake your license. Usually, this is because the traffic laws in the U.S. are significantly different than the rest of the world, with some countries driving on the opposite side.
Do You Need An International License To Drive In Thailand?
You need an international license to drive in Thailand, and you should only drive once the permit has been issued. There is no way to drive in Thailand with a foreign license without first having an international license, which usually does not take long to get.
Depending on the length of your stay, the international license may only be a piece of paper that has been officially stamped. However, if you are going to stay longer, the government of Thailand can issue you an official license based on your U.S. license, depending on the limitations that apply.
If you cannot drive a bike or a manual-gear vehicle, the chances are much lower than you would be given a license in Thailand. However, even if you can only drive automatic cars with your U.S. license, you may be given an international permit, limiting you to only driving automatic cars.
Can A Foreigner Drive A Car In Thailand?
Foreigners can easily drive in Thailand and will be allowed to apply for a local license if they will be traveling far or staying for a longer time. The local licenses may simply be issued if you can prove that your license is still valid or only after you have been given a new license entirely.
It is important to remember that you cannot simply get in a car and start driving; you are more likely to be pulled over as a foreigner. This means that you need to be ready to prove that your license is valid and that you can easily and comfortably control the vehicle you are driving.
People often underestimate the punishment that can be handed out if you drive with the wrong license type. Usually, the punishment may only be a high fee, but you can be arrested and forced to go to prison for a few years, no matter who you are, if driving dangerously and without a license.
Can U.S. Tourists Drive In Thailand?
Tourists are one of the main ways that Thailand makes money, so they welcome tourists, and getting an international license is not that hard. As a tourist with the right license, you can easily rent cars from companies or buy your car for cheap use while you explore.
Many backpackers have several international licenses to buy a car at one end of a country and then drive it to the other. This helps save on the overall costs of public transport and helps them see the country at their own pace without stress about bus schedules.
We always recommend having a car or vehicle you can use when traveling through a country for multiple weeks. Thailand has a lower cost for cars, especially bikes, which can be small for most American tourists as the bikes cost a pittance.
How To Get An International License?
There are two ways you can get your international license, and both require you to work to get everything settled properly. We recommend getting the permit before you leave for Thailand, but getting it in the rush of everything can be difficult.
The second way is to get the license once you arrive in Thailand, but you may have to make a special request to get the permit. However, we always recommend that you talk to your travel advisor or the embassies to ensure the best course to take regarding the license.
Apply Before Leaving
To apply for your international license before you leave for Thailand, you need to contact their embassy in the U.S. They will send you documentation to fill in. They may take a few weeks to reply with your international license ready to be used as soon as you land in Thailand.
You can also apply for an international license through homeland affairs, but this might be more difficult as it will be subject to U.S. laws and not just Thailand’s. This is why talking to someone from the Thailand embassy will be the best way to ensure that your license is valid.
Apply in Thailand
If you are already on holiday in Thailand and plan on getting a car or bike, you can contact the U.S. embassy, which will assist you in getting an international license. However, this license will be minimal and provide you either leave the country soon or obtain a permit in Thailand.
This is often only done in emergencies or if your short trip to Thailand is a several-month stay due to unfortunate international circumstances. Getting a license in Thailand is relatively easy, and many people do it when staying for a longer time simply because it is easier to have two licenses at once.
Your U.S. license may be valid in a few countries, but the further you move from the U.S., the less likely you will drive without a special permit. If you plan to go to Thailand and drive around, you must get an international license, as the base U.S. license is invalid.
Whatever you do, please don’t think that your license means you are the best driver in the world!
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