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Important rules and behaviours for driving in Thailand




Stock photo via Piqsels

Many expats who stay in Thailand, or even tourists, may wonder what rules and behaviours are needed in order to traverse the roads safely. As Thailand’s road rules are similar to other countries in Southeast Asia, one thing that sets Thailand apart, is that their roads are quite good. Driving down a road in Thailand can actually make one forget that they are in a developing country. However, there are still rules, laws and behaviours that need to be followed. Here, we have a list of such things that can help drivers stay safe when cruising around the Kingdom.

The legal driving age

The legal age limit in Thailand in which to drive is 18 years old. And, in order to obtain a driving license in Thailand, potential drivers must take courses in a driving school before gaining a driving license.

Speed limits

On urban roads, the speed limit has been set at 50 kms/hour. For rural roads, it is set at 90 kms/hour. And, for motorbike users, the speed limit is set at 120 kms/hour unless. As traffic laws can change at anytime, it is important to keep up to date with the speed limits set on the different types of roads in Thailand. Although going over these speeds is illegal, going under these speeds is recommended when encountering heavy traffic, rain, sand and other dangerous road conditions.

Traffic road signs to know

Thailand has 5 different road signs. And, it should not be hard to read them as they all feature English language in addition to Thai language. One traffic sign is the roundabout sign. This sign is circular in shape and features an arrow in a clockwise direction. This means it is illegal to change lanes. Drivers must also yield when necessary. The Warning Signs in Thailand notify drivers of potential hazards in the area. Mandatory Signs mean you should adhere immediately to the posted rules. Information signs are most used by citizens, with many of them only being written in Thai language. Prohibitory Signs ban certain actions on the road. Priority Road Signs give the right away on specific sections of a highway.

File:Highway Road signs in Thailand.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

Thailand road signs

Right of Way

Speaking of right of way, Thai Traffic Laws state that when 2 moving vehicles reach a junction spot head on, the car in the left lane is given the right of way. Unless there is a designation of a principle roadway mark, the vehicle on that mark has the right of way.

Overtaking law

Attempting to move ahead of another vehicle without a warning signal comes with fines of up to 1,000 baht. So, it is wise to avoid overtaking without having a valid reason. If you do decide to overtake, use a signal. And, remember, that the driving side is on the left in Thailand.

Honking is not for those experiencing road rage

Although it may seem that locals honk in certain situations, it is actually considered very rude to honk out of frustration. And, any honking you may hear is likely due to cultural behaviours. A mere beeping sound is a way for locals to notify other drivers that they should give way for them to go ahead first. It is a form of asking for permission from other drivers when you slightly beep your horn. When approaching blind curves and narrow streets, drivers often honk just to notify other drivers that, they too, are on the road. Many drivers that aren’t used to the customs in Thailand will notice many cars honking their horns for no apparent reason. But, if you take a quick look around, you will see that horns are being pushed when driving near a temple. This is done to signify respect to the inhabitants of the temples, not to just make noise.

aerial, road, assorted, cars, traffic, rush hour, rush, hour, urban, city

Thailand traffic

Switching lanes requires a turn or hand signal

In the event that you need to move over on a narrow road or actually switch lanes on a highway, using a turn signal or waving your hand is vital in preventing an accident. As Thailand is full of motorbikes, making a sudden lane switch could cause an accident if you aren’t aware of your surroundings.

Crosswalks should be recognised

Thailand has designated lanes for every type of vehicle. And, as the outdoor culture features many pedestrians, it is important to recognise the crosswalks. If you encounter a pedestrian lane in front of your car, stop first and allow any pedestrians to cross the road before moving forward. Although crosswalks are commonly featured in major cities, many people make their own, resulting in jaywalking. Regardless if this is the correct way in which to cross a road, it is your responsibility as a driver to yield to pedestrians. Those with an international driving permit should always keep it with you in the event of someone failing to observe a crosswalk, resulting in an accident.

The rules of parking

When parking, make sure you park in a designated parking area. And, make sure your car is in a safe place with security officers around. Also, there are additional rules that dictate when you can park. Such rules as not parking on even or odd days and no parking from 7-9am do exist. If the curbs are marked with red and white paint, you cannot park in that spot.

File:Colt03.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Driving in Thailand

Seatbelt laws

Front seat passengers are required to wear their seatbelts at all times. Kids under 12 years old are legally required to use a car seat, while only being allowed to sit in the back seats of a car.


Thailand’s general, legal blood-alcohol limit is .5 grams per litre of blood. For those drivers who have had a driving license for 5 years, their limit is set at .2 grams unless they are okay with getting their permit seized by the officers who may cite them.

As with anywhere you go, it is important to keep a calm attitude and expression upon getting pulled over in Thailand. As the Land of Smiles is known for its people having a subdued attitude, getting upset and arguing will only cause you further problems. Safety is the number 1 reason to adhere to the rules and behaviours above, as it is important to observe the rules when driving in a foreign country.


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Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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