Sometimes it can be difficult to sugar-coat hardcore reality. And although being brutally honest is not always the best way to deal with things, sometimes you have to tell the truth in order to move forward. Driving in Thailand can be a very dangerous affair if you are inexperienced. From entire helmetless families perched on motorbikes, mini-buses reversing the wrong way down a motorway, to pick-up trucks with 20 people crammed in the back. The things we see on a daily basis on Thai roads make you question reality and the theory of evolution.
Although it is very easy to bash the sub-standard driving practices in Thailand, sometimes things are not so black and white. Understanding the mentality of Thai drivers, and local driving laws (rolls around the floor laughing) is essential to limiting your driving mishaps in Thailand. It is said that prevention is better than a cure. We all know there is no cure for being an idiot. So here are some top tips for safer driving in Thailand or to understand the rules so you can avoid problems.
Living Life in the Fastlane… or Not!
It only makes sense that the outside lane on motorways or dual-carriageways is the fast lanes, right? Wrong! There is no such thing as a ‘fast-lane’ in Thailand. All lanes are fast-lanes if you are driving fast here. It is quite routine for motorways to have U-turns where you enter the motorway directly into the fast-lane.
Just remember that fast-lanes do not exist as such in Thailand. So don’t get stressed about it. This is why it is very common to see drivers swerving from lane to lane undertaking and overtaking with the same aplomb. At times like this, we can take comfort from the words of the legendary rap-trio, Run DMC, who once said, “It’s like that and that’s the way it is.”
There are Only Two Speeds Driving in Thailand
Have you noticed on any road in the world that someone who is driving slower than you is an idiot and those driving faster than you are maniacs? This is just the same when driving in Thailand. There are only two speeds on Thai roads – stupidly fast or dangerously slow.
From motorbikes with sidecars that boast mobile restaurants driving at a snail’s crawl. To almost derelict pick-up trucks that would fall apart if you sneezed too hard while driving at 20kmph. To crazed mini-buses driving at speeds that could break the sound barrier. You need to find the middle ground between the two to effectively drive in Thailand.
I’m Flashing…. Move Out Of The Way!
Not that kind of ‘flashing’. You have a filthy mind and that’s why we like you in the first place. This is a real serious thing you have to remember when driving on Thai roads. In the Western world, we use the flashing of our lights to inform other drivers they can have the right of way. This is a sensible and cooperative way to co-exist with other drivers. In Thailand, flashing your lights means the exact opposite.
If you are driving in Thailand and a large lorry flashes you, please do not naturally assume he is letting you have the right of way.As it could end with catastrophic results for you. Being flashed on Thai roads basically means, ‘get out of the way Jack because I am smashing through whether you like it or not. And this flashing exercise is my legal disclaimer if anything untoward should happen to your mortal soul.’ Such a polite lorry driver!
There’s No Indication – Driving in Thailand Tips
Those little yellow things on either side of your motorbike or car are called indicators. They are a great way to inform other road users around you of your intentions to turn left or right. This helps the flow of traffic and cuts down on miscommunications that can result in accidents.
In Thailand, indicators are seen more akin to a fashion accessory that is perched on your vehicles for aesthetic and fashion reasons. Never assume that someone is not going to make a turn in front of you solely based on them not turning on their indicators. Thai people very rarely use them. Unless they are touching up their make-up, so be warned.
Keeping it in Front
People say you need eyes in the back of your head to drive in Thailand. And although that is a fair statement, you can’t look everywhere at the same time. The best course of action for driving in Thailand is to keep your eyes on what is happening in front of you. That might seem like an over-simplified statement but it’s the only way to drive here. Keep your eyes to the front because everything else behind you will sort itself out.
Renting Bikes and Cars – Driving in Thailand
We hope you take our article about driving tips in Thailand in good jest because we are not trying to scare you away from renting a car or a motorbike. The most important thing to remember when renting a vehicle in Thailand is that you really do need an international driving license. Some people will tell you that a local license from your home country should suffice, but that is not really true.
If you are stopped at a police roadblock or checkpoint and you do not have an adequate Thai or international driving license, you will most probably get a fine of between 300 to 500 THB. But the best part is that after you have ‘paid the fine on the spot’ or at the police station, the police will simply let you get back behind the wheel to drive away as nothing happened!
Know Your Rental prices
If you want to rent a motorbike/moped/scooter in Thailand, the price usually costs in the region of 200 to 300 THB per day. Big superbikes can cost upwards of 1,000 THB per day. But we would strongly recommend that you do not rent them because the roads here are not meant for such beasts. Alternatively, you can rent a car with prices ranging from 900 THB to over 2,000 THB per day. Basically, the price depends on the car you want. And who you are renting it from. How long is a piece of string? From the middle to the end x2.
We would suggest that if you want to get around in one of Thailand’s major tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and so-on, just use a local tuk-tuk or taxi to get in and around the city. If you find one that is friendly, courteous and fairly priced, make sure you grab his/her contact details, so you can call him/her as and when needed.
Driving in Thailand can be a complicated thing. But as long as you take heed of our tips, you should be able to limit your problem and accidents to zero. Just like the Thai authority’s projected accident figures over the Songkran period!
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