About Us

We are a married couple who retired and moved to Thailand in 2014. You are welcome to join us and our travel monkeys Sun Wukong and Malcolm Jr. on our adventures! We hope you enjoy the trip as much as we do.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting Our Thai Drivers Licenses

Let's get this out of the way first. Most of you know we have no plans or desires to drive in Thailand. That remains the same. So why should we get a Thai Drivers License?

Number one is that some places (emphasize the word “some”) who have dual pricing for Thai's and foreigners will accept a Thai Drivers License as showing you are not a tourist, but live here and will then give you the Thai price for entry. We will see how this works, and where it works and keep you posted.

Secondly, it sometimes (emphasize the word “sometimes”) gives you more credibility if you are needing assistance or are stopped for some reason by the authorities. Mostly we have been told that they will accept it as identification and not require your original passport to be carried on your person, although it is suggested to carry photocopies of all your relevant passport pages. Hopefully, we will never have the need to find out in a stressful situation. Hopefully, it will work for when you are asked for your passport information to arrange delivery of something to your home or sign up for one of the multitude of store cards that every store seems to have. Just show them the license instead.

Thirdly, if for some reason (some emergency) we needed to drive then we would at least be legal even though there are a lot of people who drive without a license and just pay the non-receipted on the spot fee when they are stopped.

Since we both have valid drivers licenses from Oregon and we both have a valid International Drivers Permit the rules for getting a Thai Drivers License are supposed to be easy. We should only have to provide the necessary documents to the Department Of Land Transportation, possibly take 3 tests at the DLT (color blindness, depth perception, and peripheral vision), pay the 205 Baht license fee and be on our way. No written or practical driving test is necessary. We'll see.

There are several things that are required.
  1. Fill out the application form for a drivers license. (the form is in Thai)
  2. Photocopy of passport pages showing identity and visa/visa extension stamps.
  3. Original medical certificate (less than 30 days old)
  4. Original Certificate of Residence from Thai Immigration or your Embassy.
  5. Photocopy of unexpired Driving License from home country and the original to show the DLT staff.
  6. Photocopy of International Driving Permit from your home country.
  7. Fee for Car License of 205 Baht and/or Fee for Motorcycle License of 155 Baht.

We started by applying for our Certificate of Residence from Thai Immigration on September 8. In Chiang Mai these are issued at the Immigration Department located across from Promenada Mall, not from the main Chiang Mai Immigration Office near the airport. We took the Promenada free shuttle from the Holiday Inn (near our condo) to the mall. From there we hired a songtheaw to take us to the Immigration office since you would have to walk across a 6 lane racetrack to get there otherwise.

There is no fee for the Certificate of Residence from Thai Immigration if you play their game. From the US Consulate the Certificate of Residence is $50 USD.

The Game 

If you want your Residency Letter the next day they charge you 500 Baht. If you want it next week they charge you 100 Baht. If you want the one that is FREE you pick it up about 2 or 3 weeks later.

We aren't in a hurry and don't want to support the “tea money” system if we can help it so we chose to pick it up in a couple of weeks after applying. They weren't really happy about that but gave us a small piece of paper with the date (September 26) to pick up our letter. Now, the question is “Are the fees they are charging legitimate or are they one of the many purported "tea money" scams that take place in Thailand?” 

I generally feel the fees are legitimate IF you are given a receipt for the fee, especially from government entities. For both the 500 Baht fee or the 100 Baht fee there are NO receipts given. To me this means there is no auditing of the “donation for services” and it probably does not reach the government's coffers as you would expect. You can decide for yourself if this is a legitimate government fee or not.

To file for the letter we had to provide them with a copy of all of our relevant passport information, show them our original passport, fill out the Application Form For Residence Certificate In Thailand, provide them with 2 passport size color photos, a copy of our TM6 departure card, and the rental contract for our residence.

On September 26 we went back to get our letters. We arrived at 12:50 (they are closed for lunch from 12:00 until 1:00). The gentleman saw us come into the waiting area and waved us up to his window (#2). We gave him our pieces of paper with the date on them, he had us sign a book next to our names and sign a paper showing we picked up the letter and we were done. In and out in less than 5 minutes and no charge for anything. 

On Sunday afternoon I sent an email to Rajavej Hospital and asked if they perform the examination for the Medical Certificate for a Drivers License, how much that would cost, and if we needed an appointment or just needed to stop in?  The normal office hours are 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday so I was expecting to get a return email sometime this week. At 8:03 AM Monday morning I received an email that said we could come by between 9 and 5 Monday through Friday, an appointment is not necessary and the cost would be between 100 and 150 baht each.

We walked over to the hospital at 10:15 AM and Lin filled out new patient registration paperwork for herself (I had already been seen there so I didn't need to). It took her about 3 or 4 minutes to fill out the paperwork and we were immediately taken to have our blood pressure and weight taken. That took about 2 minutes each and then the nurse escorted us over to the Doctor's room and neither of us spent more than a minute with the Doctor. He asked if we drank, what color the number was on his calendar, if we take drugs, asked if our eyes are good, and listened to our heartbeat.

Then we were asked to sit and wait, which took about 3 minutes, before we were called over to the cashier to pay 100 baht each for our Medical Certificate to drive. This actually took longer than any of the other steps partially because all the receipts are printed out on an old dot matrix printer. We were home by 10:45 AM.

Today we took a songtheaw to the Department of Land Transportation on Hang Dong Road to apply for our licenses. We got there about 10 minutes before they opened. We went to the Information Booth on the second floor and showed her our paperwork. We had prepared the Thai application in advance knowing that they have been known to not accept anything but their form that you get there. Since the form was in Thai we thought that if they refused our filled out copy at least we would have something to copy onto their official form. Luckily she looked at our forms and said to go to window 28 to turn in the paperwork and get a number.

They started calling numbers at around 8:15 but first we were called into the testing room. This was for the color blindness test. Twenty or so of us stood in a line and took turns to take the test, one at a time. The officer pointed to the colors on the chart hanging on the wall and asked what color he was pointing to. You had to tell him the correct answer for 4 dots. Red, Red, Yellow, Green. You passed.

Then, because we didn't have to take the practical test we were excused from the other tests they give to applicants. We picked up our paperwork on a table and were told to go back to the Information Desk to get a number. I got number 014 and Lin got number 015.

We were told to take a seat and wait for our number to be called. About 5 minutes later we were called to a window, handed the officer all the paperwork again, waited while they looked it over and then gave them 205 baht. The officer handed back the paperwork along with 100 baht and told us to go to the waiting area to have our photo taken.

There was no waiting here. I walked into the area and nobody was waiting. The officer there told me to take a number. When I took the number from the pin it was sitting on she immediately waved me over to her desk. I gave her all the paperwork and the 100 baht, she took my photo and printed out my license. Done! What time is it? 9:05 AM.

That was easy. Our total cost to get our Thai Drivers License (for autos) was 205 baht for the license and 100 baht for the Medical Certificate. That works out to $9.47 USD at the last exchange rate we received when getting funds from the ATM.

If you need to be there longer, either because of crowds or having to take the practical driving test, they have a snack bar area on the same floor adjacent to the Information Desk.

Lin had a question and went to the Drivers License Foreign Service Center located to the left of all the windows to ask.  The women spoke perfect English and told her "I don't speak English, you need to go to Window 21."

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