For years, many of my family friends have driven north to Thailand. I always marvelled at their stamina – looking at the map, it doesn’t seem like such a long road ahead, but I am sure there are many challenges one would face, particularly after crossing into Thailand.
Not too long ago, a friend told me about planning a road trip to Thailand, and I said, “Be careful.” He asked, “Of what?” Apart from telling him to avoid getting into an accident, I too had no clue what he should or shouldn’t do while driving in Thailand.
Well, this briefing by Police Attache of The Royal Thai Embassy, Lt. Col. Amornpong Sommanawan during a specially arranged “Amazing Self Drive To Thailand Briefing” in Kuala Lumpur on 12th August, 2017, was timely.
I believe that with the changes to some policies by the Thai government with respect to foreign drivers in their country, this is vital information that should be disseminated to all travellers who are planning to drive in Thailand.
Do you know that last year alone, 3.6 million Malaysians visited Thailand? At the immigration check point of Bukit Kayu Hitam/Ban Dan Nok (Sadao District), a daily average of 1000 Malaysian-registered vehicles cross the border. Apart from Bukit Kayu Hitam in Kedah, there are six other entry points into Thailand from Malaysia.
That is a huge number, and the Thai authorities are trying to make driving in Thailand safer for both visitors and local road users.
By the way, is the Malaysian driving licence valid in Thailand? Do we need to apply for the International Driving Licence? Yes, for the first question, no for the second. In fact, driving licences from ASEAN countries are all valid in Thailand.
Of course, the first document required is the passport, with at least six months validity at the point of leaving Thailand. Next, foreign drivers in Thailand are advised to purchase Comprehensive Third-Party Liability Insurance, commonly known as voluntary insurance, that covers up to THB600,000. This can be purchased at the border, but do bring along your original car registration card (car ownership certificate) if you are driving your own car. If it is a loaned vehicle, you need to show an authorisation letter from the owner.
Renting a vehicle has its own procedure; make sure to check that everything is in order before signing the documents.
The roads of Thailand are some of the most dangerous in the world. In addition, car thefts are high. Therefore, take close-up photos of your vehicle, especially of identification marks or features. Keep these shots as well as photos of your documents in your email account, which allows you to retrieve them wherever there is internet connection. These photographs will be useful to the police to trace your vehicle in the event of a theft.
If you were involved in an accident, do not drive away as that is considered as “hit and run” and you would be put on “Wanted List”. This is why comprehensive insurance is so important. Thai police number is 191.
Communication devices using Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and Very High Frequency (VHF) radio are prohibited. Leave them behind before crossing the border IF an approval for use has not been obtained beforehand.
Where in some cases walkie-talkies are used, such as when travelling in a convoy, a list of devices have to be stated, including frequency, model, colour and serial number, to be forwarded to Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) who will get the required approval from the military.
Travelling into Thailand with a prohibited telecommunication device and without prior approval will land you into court with a hefty fine of THB50,000.
At the same time, all fashion of vape or e-cigarette are disallowed to be brought into Thailand, even if the owner claims that these devices are not being used. As long as you are caught with one, you will land into trouble, taken to court and fined up to THB50,000 and maximum jail term of five years.
It is worse if you are moving in a convoy. Any one person who commits a crime will cause the entire group to be hauled to the police station.
Do not be alarmed if you were stopped and asked to step out from your vehicle to be checked or searched. This is not uncommon. Also, some policemen, especially those from rural areas, may insist on seeing a valid International Driving Licence. They may not be aware of the arrangement among ASEAN countries. You’d have to lodge a police report then.
Drive at an appropriate speed, faster in freeways and slow in “jalan kampung” which may have animals and pets sharing the road with you. Observe common road courtesy such as giving way, signalling and refrain from honking (Thailand is not India). Practise the usual driving SOP such as putting on a seat belt for both driver and front passenger, as well as no drinking and driving.
And when you leave the country, make sure to take your vehicle along. Leaving it in Thailand would mean that you are overstaying in the country, even if you have already left! You will be fined THB10,000 per day for overstaying, until your vehicle is removed from the country.
By the way, for “kaki shopping”, do take note of the purchase limits of duty-free cigarettes and liquor at Bukit Kayu Hitam. Only shop within the permissible quantity or risk getting them forfeited when taken into Thailand.
Last but not least, remember to keep the contact numbers of the Malaysian embassy with you. This should be the case when visiting a foreign country, and yes, Thailand, although is just Malaysia’s neighbour, is also “overseas”.
So, there you have it! A long list of Dos and Don’ts when driving or biking in Thailand to make your trip to the Land of Smiles safe and all the more enjoyable.