Thai driving licences recognized within ASEAN
As the move towards the economic integration of the ASEAN region continues inexorably towards its delayed official introduction at the end of 2015, it is now possible for Thai nationals and others with a valid Thai driving licence to be able to use this licence in all 10 ASEAN member nations.
The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) might not have a huge bearing on the activities and lifestyles of the foreign communities within Thailand, but for those expats and others who have managed to obtain a valid and up-to-date Thai driving licence, they are now in a position to utilize this throughout the region.
So, should a non-Thai with a valid Thai licence wish to hire a car in any one of the other nine member countries of ASEAN (that is: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, or Vietnam) they should be able to do so by simply proffering their Thai driving licence rather than needing to obtain an International driving licence.
With the modern style of Thai driving licence -a photo along with script written in both Thai and English and including a passport number where applicable in relation to non-Thai nationals- the need to have an International licence for the Southeast Asian region is rendered practically unnecessary.
Naturally, the Thai licence should be up-to-date and foreigners and Thais alike will only be able to hire a vehicle for which they are qualified under the terms of the Thai licence. For example, hiring an 18-wheel truck on your Thai motorbike licence would not be possible.
According to Thai transport officials, once the AEC comes into being on 31 December 2015, it will also be possible for those carrying a valid Thai driving licence to hire vehicles in China, Japan, and South Korea.
The biggest problem for those who are used to driving on the left-hand side of the road as they do in Thailand, would be adjusting to the right-hand side driving in countries like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The other ASEAN member states, namely, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore all drive on the left.
Both South Korea and China drive on the right, except in Hong Kong and Macau. Japan is also a left-hand drive country.
At present, while it is technically quite legal for a foreigner to use his Thai driving licence in neighbouring ASEAN countries, you can still be subjected to rejection at the whim of a local official, especially in countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Of course, when even thinking about wanting to drive within the aforementioned countries it is very important to make sure you have the kind of travel insurance which will cover you in case of an accident.