Owning a Car in Thailand

Owning a car

A foreigner, who wants to buy a car and register it in his/her name, must hold a non-immigrant visa and either a work permits or a proof-of-address document from the Immigration Office. If you don't work in Thailand, just get proof that you live here by getting the document from the Immigration Office. The fee is 500 baht.

Private Cars
To start with, cars are expensive in Thailand - in spite of the fact that the Thai government has considerably lowered import taxes for most categories of cars in mid-1991. Japanese models dominate the market.

Most available cars (and motorcycles) are made in Thailand - or rather assembled, as most parts are still imported. Typically, the Thai assembled cars turn out to be more expensive than those made in the home countries of the mother companies of the Thai assembly firms. This didn't (and to a certain extent still doesn't) matter because of high protective import duties for ready assembled cars.

As labor is cheap in Thailand, those who can afford a car usually also have the money to employ a driver.

In Bangkok, cars are registered at the Police Registration Division, Phahonyothin Road (Tel 513-0051 to 5) Mon-Fri 8:00-16:30. The clerks there don't speak English and the registration is quite some work. Car dealers usually offer registration as a service, for which most of the time a separate fee is charged. Registration costs depend on engine size.

Third party liability insurance is not obligatory in Thailand. Traffic laws are pretty much the same as in the West though damages awarded to injured parties are ridiculously low by Western standards. Escaping the scene of an accident is construed as admitting that one was at fault.

Gasoline prices are fairly low in Thailand, less than half a US Dollar per liter (around 2 US Dollars per gallon). According to Asiaweek of March 1, 1991, gasoline costs in Indonesia around half of what it costs in Thailand. The price is minimally lower in Malaysia but higher in all other neighboring countries - by around 50% in the Philippines and in Singapore, and by around 100% in Hong Kong, Korea and Japan.

Caltex, Esso and Shell have wide networks of gasoline stations covering the whole country. Gasoline stations along main roads in Bangkok as well as cross-country highways operate 24 hours a day. Day-time stations usually open very early (around 5:00) but do not stay open long in the evenings (until about 20:00). Gasoline stations only seldom have full repair shops but are equipped to vulcanise tyres or change oil. Most car assemblers also operate their own large servicing workshops.

:: Driver's Licence

Unlike what is the case in most countries of the West as well as several neighboring countries (for example the Philippines), foreign drivers' licenses are not recognised in Thailand. Foreigners staying in the country as tourists or non-immigrants can drive with a valid international drivers' license. Foreign residents have to apply for a Thai drivers' licence at the Police Registration Division, either at Phahonyothin Road (Tel 02 513-0051 to 5) Mon-Fri 8:00-16:30 or a suburban or provincial branch office.

For foreigners, to get a Thai drivers' licence is more than just a formality, even if they are in possession of a valid licence from their home country. Among the papers required is a medical certificate as well as a letter from one's employer. Though the requirements seem somehow unclear, the Thai authorities may require that a foreigner passes either a full test or at least a written test.


Procedures of applying for a diver's licence

• Fill in the application form (issued in Thai language only) and attach the required documentary evidence as indicated above.
• Join a class for instruction on the laws related to driving and how to drive safely in Thailand. The class is for two hours (two classes are held daily, Monday to Friday, at 09:00 and 13:30) at the Department of Land Transport in Bangkok or at the provincial Transport Office. Foreigners unable to speak Thai should arrange for a Thai friend to accompany them to provide interpretation. Outside Bangkok, details of classes should be requested from the Transport Office of the province where the applicant is residing.
• Take a test for colour blindness.
• Take a written test (in Thai language only) on the rules of driving.
• Take the driving test.
• Pay the licence fee and wait for the licence