My Story as an Expat acquiring a Thailand Driver's License in Buriram Province
One important step in the process of living in Thailand for "long term" is obtaining your Thailand Driver's License. Although an International Driver's license is recognized and accepted in Thailand it is only allowed to be used for 90 days. After the 90 day period you could face serious problems in regard to Insurance should you get in a vehicle accident. Insurance companies can refuse your coverage if you have exceeded this 90 day period without obtaining a Thailand Driver's License. You could also be questioned by Thai Police at one of the many checkpoints along Thailand's highways.
In order to obtain a Thailand Driver's License as a foreigner you must have a visa in a class other than a "Tourist Visa". In my case I have a Non-Immigrant O Retirement visa which easily qualifies you to apply for a Thai Driver's License. Just as a note I did attempt to get a license when I only had a Tourist Visa and was not successful. I have since received reports from individuals here on tourist Visa's that have been successful in obtaining a license.
Documents that I had to present
- Proof of residency/address: Obtained at the Buriram Immigration office (Can also be obtained through your Embassy)
- Copy of my USA Passport showing my "Non-Immigrant O Retirement Visa" as well as the last Thailand Entry stamp and of course the page with my photo and Passport information.
- Copies of both my USA Driver's License and my International Driver's License. (must be in English or they require you to get a certified translation completed for them)
- Medical Certificate which I obtained at our local hospital. This is a certificate stating that the named person is of good overall health and free of any physical or mental disease. This can also be obtained from a private physician or clinic.
- 500 Baht for proof of residency from Thai Immigration
- 100 Baht for the Medical Certificate
- 205 Baht for the two year driver's license
Total amount of fees = 705 Baht which is about $21.00 USD
Note: When applying for a Thailand Driver's License you do not have to complete a written or driving test as long as you have a current valid International Driver's License and a License from your country (must be in English Language or you need a certified translated copy of your license). You do have to take a test for color blindness, reaction test and peripheral vision test!
I received my license at the Nang Rong DLT (Department of Land Transportation) Office. I arrived there at about 11:20 am and was out the door with license in hand at 12:40.
My experience at the Nang Rong, Buriram Province Department of Land Transportation
We arrived at the DLT (Department of Land Transportation) at about 11:20 am and approached a lady at the counter under a sign in Thai that basically said "Start Here". We (my Thai wife translating for me) told her why we were there and presented her with the documents that I outlined above. She reviewed the documents and asked to see my USA Driver's License, International Driver's License and Passport for verification purpose. She compared them with the copied documents and then promptly returned them to me. Once she verified that all the documents were in order she asked us to take a seat and wait to be called back. I have read many forum posts where they stated that they had to complete a license application form that was in Thai. I did not encounter that here and I believe that the lady that helped me simply entered the information from my documents into her computer and I never saw any type of physical license application form. The process was very fast and efficient. I had also read that you had to bring a photo with you but this was not necessary. They take a digital photo of you and print your license for you while you wait. Again, very efficient.
We waited about 15 to 20 minutes and I was called back to the counter and she had me pay the fee for the license (205 Thai Baht) then had me return to my seat. Five minutes later I was directed to where I took the only necessary tests (no written or driving test).
The first being to call out the color names of colored circles on a color wheel proving that I could distinguish between Red, Green and Yellow and properly identify each color that she pointed at. This took about 1 minute.
The second test was a reaction test where I sat in a chair in front of a pad with an accelerator pedal and a brake pedal. I pressed the accelerator pedal which illuminated a green light. To the left side of the Green light there was another light and after a few moments it turned Red. I had to move my right foot from the accelerator to the brake as quickly as I could react to simulate braking. The amount of time it took to react was recorded by a vertical red light bar. It took me "3 lights" time to hit the brake. There were a total of 12 lights and I could only assume that if you didn't engage the brake by the time all 12 lights were lit up you would fail the test. This took about 1 minute to complete
The third test involved moving a joystick forward and back to align two pegs so that they were in a side by side position. This was a depth perception test and again took only about a minute.
For the final test I had to place my head in a stationary device while the examiner illuminated colored lights either in front of, to the right of or to the left of me. I had to identify the location that the light illuminated from as well as the color of the light. She cycled through a random pattern for about 2 minutes paying attention to my speed and accuracy of identifying direction and color of the lights. After this was completed she had me return to the lobby to wait for the next step.
I then waited in the lobby for about 10 to 15 minutes and then was asked to move to another waiting area close by where I waited to have my photograph taken I waited there about 15 minutes, my name was called and a man took my photo. He then had me take a seat and about 15 minutes later he called me back and my license was complete.
Overall I was impressed with the efficiency at the Nang Rong DLT office which is not always the case when dealing with Government offices. I also want to mention that the Buriram Immigration Office has a very efficient operation as well. They have always been very helpful to me and the agent that I deal with speaks good English. I highly advise all foreigner's in the Buriram Province that need assistance to go to the Buriram Immigration office rather than trying the very daunting task of dealing with Thai Immigration in Bangkok.
Living in Thailand is a privilege "not a right" and it should be treated as such. We are welcome guests in this beautiful country and I am proud and excited to call this my home.
The information that I have provided here is a very accurate and complete accounting of my personal experience on the date of October 31, 2017. There are a lot of inconsistencies in procedures from region to region in Thailand Government and your experience at your regional DLT may be different than mine. The process that I went through worked very well for me and from what I have been reading from other foreigner's obtaining their license's in other regions the experience is very similar. Policies and Procedures change quite arbitrarily and frequently !