Tips and advice for safe travel
in the Land of Smiles
Driving in Thailand is not for the faint-hearted unless you’re exceptionally familiar with the rules of the road or you’re a long-term resident. Road hazards in Thailand come in many different forms, namely potholes, confusing intersections, misplaced road signs as well as lots of poorly maintained vehicles coupled with potentially dangerous drivers, whether they’re Thai’s or tourists.
For many of you wishing to explore the superb scenic beauty of the countryside, it’s wise to hire a car with an experienced driver who is more than capable of using the roads in a proper manner. It is my preferred method of choice. Though local and international car rental firms operate from all major cities, there’s enough public transport to take you wherever you want to go.
There are a number of Rental Companies at all the popular resorts in the form of a moped, motorcycle, quad bike, bicycle, and jeep rental agencies who are more than willing to assist you in renting one or more of their vehicles. Just be aware that the standard local rental companies vary enormously from city to city.
Driving in Thailand – Road Rules
The most important rule for you to remember about driving in Thailand is to keep to the left-hand-side of the road. The speed limit within city limits is 60 kilometres (35 miles) unless otherwise indicated and 80 kilometres (50 miles) on open roads.
Though standard international road rules apply, this is of little or no interest to Thai drivers who constantly ignore many of them. They say it’s The Thai Way so that they can get their passengers to their destinations as quickly as possible.
Somehow Thai drivers know exactly how to use this to their advantage and therefore avoid precarious situations. However, I strongly advise you not to follow their examples. The only consistent rule is that size definitely, does count.
The unconventional way many Thai’s utilizes their indicators and headlights can be a little unnerving at times. For instance, a left signal may indicate to another driver that it’s perfectly okay to pass, while a right signal indicates oncoming traffic. Headlight flashing could mean a driver is on his way through the traffic.
Driving in Thailand – Traffic Fines
The constant use of horns, warning drivers of a presence are more of a hindrance than an obvious sign of danger, but it can at times, drive you crazy. Some drivers think nothing of straddling lanes, mounting kerbs, passing on curves or taking unnecessary or even necessary U-Turns anywhere they can. Try to relax as best you can if that’s at all possible.
Although this is especially true in Bangkok, you shouldn’t overly concern yourself too much. After all, as I said before, it’s just the Thai way of driving. Besides, most roads are far too congested in the bigger cities for any major headaches.
If this makes any sense while driving in Thailand and you are perhaps in the left lane approaching a red traffic light, it is legal to proceed with your left turn so long as you are aware of a blue sign with a white left arrow indicating a turn.
The issuing of traffic fines is often imposed for offenses including that of illegal traffic turns. Should you receive such a ticket for an illegal traffic offense, your license may be temporarily confiscated. The traffic officer who issues you with the fine will write the address on the ticket of the nearest police station you’d need to go to in order to pay a fine. Thereafter, your license will be returned.
Driving in Thailand – Service Stations
There’s absolutely no problem whatsoever in obtaining all manner of gas at just about every service stations around the country including the unleaded variety. While most gas stations are similar in characteristics to those found in the west, you’ll find gas itself, is surprisingly cheaper in Thailand than it is in the west. You’ll find gas stations located on main roads in all cities, towns and resorts.
Most stations are modern and extremely well maintained with many open 24 hours. There are however some only open until around 8:00 pm which I would imagine, is quite normal in small towns.
Attached or adjacent to many of the 24-hour gas stations, you’ll come across general shops selling cool drinks ice-cream and various snacks. Some even have small restaurants and fast food outlets such as KFC to cater for your needs. And all of them have toilet facilities, even if they are only the Asian variety.
While some service stations have resident mechanics on hand for repairs to any potentially risky situation or unfortunate dilemma you may have, petrol attendants will fill your tank, wash your windows and pump up your tires with a big smile.