There is a caveat, this only applies if the writing on your current overseas license is in English. As it’s assumed by the authorities in Trat that anyone from England / US / Canada -not the French bit / Oz / New Zealand etc is a far better driver than ‘the continentals’ . I like their way of thinking, although Johnny Foreigner may disagree.
I don’t really bother with boring / practical posts about how to do stuff in Thailand because if you are living here as there are already dozens of sites with this info on them already and no doubt a bloke in a bar will also weigh in with some expert knowledge too. However, when it comes to getting a Thai driving license then Trat seems to be different from elsewhere in the country. So here’s something that may be of use.
A decade or so ago I had a Thai license, bought and paid for over the counter at a licensing place in Banpong ( Town motto ‘ City of Nice People’ – yes, really), east of Bangkok. That was in the good old days when nothing was computerised and for 500 Baht you could have a license to drive a 36 tonne HGV in around 30 minutes without ever having climbed inside the cab of one. A few years ago I lost it and since then have relied on a my trusty 1986 UK licence, a flimsy piece of pink paper, with no photo ID on it which is now held together with tape. It used to keep traffic cops busy trying to figure out just what the hell it was. I also had a newer plastic UK license, with photo ID which I kept in reserve and never bothered showing the police as the old pink one plus a couple of red banknotes always did the trick when I got pulled over. However, it was always at the back of my mind to get a new license. Unfortunately, the good officials of Banpong didn’t feel obliged to replace it unless I took a full day of of tests in order to prove that after about 13 years driving a car in Thailand that I could drive to strict Thai standards. And I wasn’t prepared to lower my standards. :-)
Times have changed, there are now obligatory classroom lessons, computerised multiple choice tests and the old printed colour blind test – red and green dots – “What number can you see?” has been replaced with a variety of electronic eyesight tests. Most using the machine pictured at the top of this page – the bastard son of a photocopier and a retarded Transformer. Everything you see written about getting a Thai license now says that you will have to do all these tests in addition to the practical driving test. This takes a day out of your life. A day that could be spent doing something infinitely more interesting that learning about road safety.
So, onto the good news. The nice people at the Trat licensing centre only require expats with English language driving licenses to hand over a few documents and take the eyesight tests and you are out of there in under 45 minutes with your shiny, new Thai license. ( However, If you have a foreign language license then you’ll have to spend a full day being tested whether you like it or not. )
Documents you need:
1 – Confirmation of Address. Get this from the Immigration Dept in Laem Ngop. The fee is 500 Baht. ( You could also get it from your embassy in Bangkok but it would cost a lot more.) Make a copy of it.
2 – Passport with Non Immigrant Visa. ( Can’t be a Tourist Visa ) Make copies of main passport page & page your visa is on.
3 – A valid driving license in English language. Make a copy of the front & back of it.
4 – Health certificate. 100 Baht. A standard form any doctor will produce for you saying you don’t have Elephantiasis or are a druggie etc. I got mine from the clinic opposite the entrance to the Amari Emerald Cove. Took 2 minutes. Make a copy of it.
No passport photos are required.
With all the above in hand, go along to the Trat vehicle licensing office about 10am on a weekday. The reason being, people who are taking the classroom courses etc will all be in class by then and so the staff have more time. Go into the building and up the stairs on the left to get to the licensing office. Note the signs on the wall banning anyone wearing shorts, tank tops or miniskirts from taking a driving test. So make an effort and dress a bit smarter than normal. (I wore my best town shorts and smartest sandals coupled with real, not fake, Ralph Lauren t-shirt. Pretty damn stylish if I say so myself.)
You just have to tell them what you want to do, hand over documents, wait a while. Do the eyesight tests. These include colour blind test where you shout out the colours that you see ( * Amber is amber in Thailand too, don’t say Yellow ) , a depth of vision test, a peripheral sight test and a fun reaction test which measures how fast you can hit the brakes when you see a red light.
You’ll then get your photo taken and a machine produces a shiny new plastic temporary Thai driving license with a picture of the silhouette of Koh Chang on it plus the mainland naval memorial and some warships. This license is valid for a year. The following year you go back and then are automatically given a 5 year license.
Total cost is 205 Baht and you get a computerised receipt.
Location: Heading into Trat from Laem Ngop, take the right turn after the Shell station, follow this about 1Km , straight past the junction with turn off to the left and the licensing office is on the left.
A couple of photos. Don’t think you’re supposed to be taking them inside the building so just snapped a couple with my phone.