Ultimate Guide to Getting a Thai Driving Licence in Chiang Mai with Printable Cheat Sheet

13:23 Amy 17 Comments

True in 2016:  How to get a Thai driving licence in Chiang Mai

Andy now has a motorbike licence... woop!  Well done Andy.  He has created this ultimate guide to getting a Thai driving licence in Chiang Mai - with very detailed instructions on how he did it, because the internet is a little lacking.  Sure, there are some good guides, but we had burning unanswered questions.

"What do I have to do, exactly, to pass the practical test?  How to pass the theory test?  Really, there isn't a revision book?  Is the balance beam raised or flat?"

In this post find essential information and a step by step guide of how to pass your Thai driving test in Chiang Mai and get your own Thai driving licence.

I would highly recommend reading the whole guide for a thorough walk-through of the process.  For a super-condensed one-page printable cheat sheet to take with you, view the original size of the image below (right click and open link in new tab).

UPDATE: Here is a translation of some Thai driving laws. You can use this to revise if you want to.

Essential Info

What to have with you:
Completed Driving Licence Application Form. The staff will help you do this.
Signed copy of your passport front page, departure card and latest visa stamp.
Certificate of Residence (less than one month old).
Medical Certificate (less than one month old).
Proof of address if not on Certificate of Residence.  Mine wasn't. My work permit did the job.
265 baht plus money for coffee and chocolate
Lunch. You get half an hour break, so no time to find anything other than the pot noodles in the snack shop on the 2nd floor
Something to do during the Thai only training.  A book, the English Highway Code, scrabble (if you have a friend)
Toilet roll.  There isn't any there.
Some knowledge of the Thai highway code. I really recommend you revise beforehand because the training won’t help you unless you speak Thai.

How to get there:

View map here.
Take the Hang Dong road south from Central Airport Plaza. Go Past Tesco on your left. You’ll see purple railings on your left (before Big C). Turn left into the main entrance. Follow the road round and park next to the big white building on your right.

Opening hours:

Monday - Friday excluding national holidays.  Doors open at 7.45am.  I got there at 7.30 and had to wait, along with two other foreigners. You won't get any benefit from going too early because foreigners and Thais have to go to a different window later on.


The staff are friendly and helpful and most of them speak English pretty well.

So, what happens inside?

Inside, there is a big sign for the driving licence division. Go up the stairs on your left to the 2nd floor.
Go to the Information Desk (right in front of you after the stairs). They speak good English. They will check your paperwork and tell you which window to go to. It was window 21 for me. You have to wait for the officer to start work (about 8 am). When they arrive, give them your paperwork. They will check it again, give you an English Language Highway Code translation and tell you to go to another window (28 for me). Don’t sit down and wait – just go to the window or join the queue. You have to give your paperwork in before 8.50 to join the morning group. The officer will check your paperwork and give you a card with a number on – this is for the theory test – don’t lose it!

Next is the colour blindness test. You stand about 10 metres from a big circle full of coloured dots. The instructor points at three of them and you shout out the colours. You can speak English, but just in case you need to learn:

  • red (si daeng)
  • green (si kheow)
  • yellow (si luang)
  • blue (si fah).
After that is the reaction test. You sit down with an accelerator and brake pedal in front of you and a machine that shows coloured lights about 5 metres away from you. Avoid the machine on the left hand side (nearest the window) – it’s broken. When it’s your turn, press the accelerator to turn on the green light. When it goes red, hit the brake. A little indicator shows if you were quick enough to pass. I went last and only saw 2 people fail. They were ushered to the side and presumably dropped into a shark tank.

The Art of Driving: Road Signs, Motorbikes, Cars, Rocky and The Smashing Pumpkins

When you've passed, you are deemed fit to enjoy four hours of Thai-language-only instruction in the art of driving. The classroom is opposite window 21. Nothing really happens until 9am, but you can go and watch the one video that has English subtitles until the class starts until then if you really want to. Unfortunately the subtitles were obscured by the Wireless Network Connection notification, so I recommend you get an ice coffee (only 30 THB) and then grab a seat at the back, so you can read your book / play Angry Birds unnoticed by the instructor once you've finished the highway code.

The training consists of a lot of videos and powerpoint presentations, all of which are in Thai.  I'm guessing that it consisted of information about the test process; road signs, road signs and more road signs; some instructions about which vehicle takes priority in particular situation; and a horrific compilation of high speed smashes between cars and bikes, bikes and bikes, bikes and central reservations etc.

The only thing I gleaned from it was from a particularly strange slide telling me (I think) that 1 motorbike = 1 Rocky standing on the steps (yes, the famous boxer), 1 car = The Smashing Pumpkins (yes, the grunge band) and a HGV or sports car = 2 Rockys (... Rockies?  Rock-ii?  What's the plural of Rocky!?).... Thoroughly odd.

It’s a pretty dull four hours without something else to do but luckily you don't have to pretend to pay attention. The Thais were going in and out during the sessions for coffee and toilet breaks, so I guess you could just slip out and come back later for the theory test. Just make sure you stick around until the instructor hands out the form to put your name and telephone number on. At the end of the training (about 1.40 for me), the instructor also gives you a card with something in Thai on it. You need this for the theory test, so if you are going to give the training a miss, make sure you go back in after the lunch break (12-12.30 for me, although officially it’s 12.30 -1.00).  Receive another plastic card.

Time for your theory test.

After you've endured the training session (or more naughtily spent the time elsewhere), turn left out of the classroom and head to the theory test room. Sit down and listen to some Thai instructions (there aren't any in English). They will call the card numbers in groups of ten (1-10, 11-20 etc). Again, in Thai. Luckily a Thai with amazing English saw my confusion and told me when to go up.

You have three options.
1.  Learn to count to 90 in Thai.
2.  Befriend a Thai with good English.
3.  Work out which group you’re going to be in – if you have no.26 like me, you’ll be in group 3.

When your group is called, go up to the desk and give them your two plastic cards. They’ll give you a card (like a credit card) to operate the test computer. Go to the computer indicated by the instructor. Put the card in. Press start twice and begin the test...

The 30 questions are all multiple choice (4 options), and you choose an answer with the four coloured buttons. If you want to review your answers, you can cycle through the questions using the back and forward keys and you can check / change your answers. I definitely recommend doing this. You have to get 23 out of 30 to pass.

Warning Number One:

Not all of the questions will make sense.
Questions will be repeated, sometimes with the same answers, sometimes with different answers. Sometimes they will refer to pictures that aren't shown. Sometimes they just won’t make any grammatical sense at all. You might fail... I did the first time – I got 21 out of 30.  No worries though, as you can try again. Just take the card from the machine and hand it in – they get an automatic printout of your result, which they staple to your paperwork, then they either sign something on the form, hand it back and send you off to the practical test, or, as in my case, ask you to sit down and wait to take the test again. Second time lucky, I scraped through with 25. If you fail again though, you have to go back the next day at 10 am (unless you know someone who knows someone, then you might be lucky enough to just keep trying again until you pass!).

Warning Number Two:

Road signs and parking rules aside, the translated book they give you will not help you very much in the test. I recommend you find a copy of the English Highway Code and practice with that. I’d like to suggest you get a version of the Thai Highway Code in English, but I couldn't find one (if you know where to get one, let me know in the comments). From my experience, you need to know:

Road signs  (and what you actually have to do when you see them)
Where you can / cannot park (including distances)
Which cars have priority in a number of situations (harder than you might think)
What makes a vehicle un-roadworthy
Where you can / cannot u-turn
Where you can / cannot overtake

Practical test

After you've finished the theory nightmare, head downstairs and get your vehicle – you’re off to the practical test. Just follow the (massive) signs to the test area and park up. It’ll now be baking hot (probably) so quickly seek shelter under the roof of the testing station and hand in your paperwork again. The officer will check it and give it to someone else, who will tell you to watch a demonstration of the course, then send you on your way. You have to:

1. Make a right turn at the blue right turn sign
2. Stop at the stop sign. Wait for 3 seconds, then go again.
3. Turn left.
4. Stop on a hill, between two white lines.
5. Stop, then turn left at a T-junction.
6. Zigzag through about 10 cones. It’s pretty easy – they’re quite far apart. Just take it slow and don’t kill any of them or put your foot down. Another farang going ahead of me managed it on a big 1000cc bike, so for those of us on 125 scooters, it’s not too bad.
7. Stop, then drive along an elevated beam for about 10 metres without falling off. It’s a couple of inches off the ground, and 3-4 times the size of the wheel on my Honda 125. There are ramps at both ends. Again, take it slow and look straight ahead, not at the beam. Get any wobbling out of the way when you pull away from the first stop before you get on the beam.
8. Stop again.
9. Return to the parking bay

I didn't see any instructors watching us do the course, and loads of other drivers ignored the stops or stopped in the wrong place. Maybe I was just lucky, but I passed first time. I think that you can just take it again if you fail though.

Almost done... smile!

After parking, go and retrieve your paperwork from the man who did the practical demonstration, then head back to the main building. Go upstairs and hand it in to the Information Desk. Ignore any cheek from the staff about having failed the theory test, and go pay for your licence at Window 21 – 155 baht plus 100 baht for the photographer. When you've paid, wander over to the photography area – you’ll see it. Take a ticket and wait to see your number flash up on the screen. Get your picture taken, hand over another 10 baht for reasons unknown, and receive your shiny new bike licence.

Related posts I think you'll love:

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  1. I had a great experience with them! I already knew how to drive, but needed lessons with a manual transmission, or stick shift because of the car I was purchasing.

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  2. Did mine last week. This page was extremely helpful. Thanks. I failed the test the first time too haha. Those questions are poorly translated. All in all, a great 8 hour adventure

    1. The 30 questions are all multiple choice (4 options
      many time fail so can't get lincence
      english n not very well
      so u help me for ans

  3. oh god... im gonna take mine on monday. i just hope i'll pass cuz on the 1st of june their changing the rules... you gotta get 90% on the test. and there will be 50 questions and ofcourse they are gonna make it more difficult. -sigh-

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