THIS POST COVERS:
- Where to go in Samui for your license
- What to bring
- How to get those documents
- What to expect
To make the painful process of uniting you with your new license a little easier, here is a step-by-step guide on the process. (Note: This guide focuses on getting the motorcycle license in Samui, but will help with your car license and if you apply in another area as well!
First off, I’m going to be honest here: Getting a drivers license in Thailand is a pain in the ass. Like, for real. Sooo annoying. Instead of chilling on the porch of your beach bungalow or sipping an ice cold coke at the terrasse of your jungle hut, you’ll get up at the crack of dawn – twice, probably -, you’ll walk dusty streets and haggle with Songthaew-drivers (or try your best to rent a motorbike without leaving your passport because, yep, you’ll kinda need that thing). You’ll wait in lines and sweat your ass off in the “proper clothing” you have to wear for Thai authorities. You’ll try to memorize weird answers to even weirder questions for the theory exam and to balance your bike over narrow beams for the practical one. And it does not cost 155 Baht, as claimed. No, you’ll also have to pay for all those other documents you need, and for transportation, and oh, getting your licence laminated costs extra too, btw..
But if you go through with all that, you’ll be rewarded with a shiny new license, cheaper entrance fees to national parks and the knowledge that you’ll have one big one hassle less in the case of an accident. Oh, and you get a mental fist bump from me for doing the right thing!
Step 1 – Immigration office for Certificate of Residence
Your first stop will probably be the Immigration Office. There you’ll get your Certificate of Residence. It costs 500 Baht and is ready in 40 minutes. Bring your passport, a recent passport picture and your current address (if you have a lease contract, bring it. If not, your !exact! current address should do it.) Time spent: 40 minutes + waiting time
Step 2 – Hospital for Medical Certificate
Next off, get the medical certificate, which should come from a clinic, i.e. Thai International Hospital. Nothing to worry about here, there will just be some basic testing, measuring your pulse, checking your eyesight and some questions to answer. Prices for the certificate vary; at Thai International Hospital it is 250 Baht. You can try to get if for less in smaller clinics. If you are based on Koh Phangan, you can go to First Western Hospital, but I am not sure about the price there. Time spent: 10-15 Minutes for the certificate + waiting time (almost none at Thai International. Private Clinics are generally faster but more expensive.
Note: The medical certificate and Certificate of Residence cannot be older than 30 days for the driver’s license.
Step 3 - Studying
As you’ll probably already be late for the Transportation Office (you have to be there before 9.30is) after hitting the immigration office and a hospital, now is a good time to get acquainted with the test questions. Feel free to download the questions here and test your knowledge here. Some questions don’t make a whole lot of sense, so it’s best to just mesmerize them (absolutely doable!). I went over everything twice and tested my knowledge twice as well and passed the exam at the first attempt. Note that there will be some other questions in the exam too (those are not available online).
Time needed: 3 hours
Step 4 – Copyshop in front of Transportation office
If you haven’t done it before, now is a good time to copy your passport (photo and visa page), since you’ll need those copies for the application. If you apply for the car license too, get one more set of passport photocopies as well as copies of your medical certificate and the certificate of residence.
Time spent: 5 minutes
Step 5 – Transport office – application and physical tests
Here comes the scary part! (At least for me that was pretty intimidating, especially since I came all the way from Koh Phangan to get the license and couldn’t quickly drive home in case I forget an important document!)
Be at the office around 8, walk straight in and take a number token next to counter 1. (The office’s doors seem to be open 24/7 – I guess there are not too many valuables here…) Then sit around, look bored, read that book you wisely brought or get a coffee before all the hot water is gone around 8.30. Or come by around 9 and hope there are not too many people queuing that day – riskier as you might be sent away but saves you a lot of waiting around.
Hand in your documents when your number is called. You’ll need:
– Copy of Passport (photo page and visa page)
– Residency Certificate (I think a work permit works as well, but not 100% sure)
– Medical certificate
– Valid international driver’s license plus signed photocopy or translated regular driving license from your home country, certified by Embassy or consulate, if available (Skip steps 3, 6 & 7 if you have that, no need to take exams)
(Note: recently a “Foreign National Information Form” has come into existence – while I didn’t need one in Jan 2017, it might be required soon. You might want to bring that just in case)
Go upstairs as soon as the clerk tells you to. Sit around some more, see if the WIFI cares to work today and wait for the physical tests to start around 10ish. There are three of them:
1.) Colorblindness: Red, green and yellow flash on a traffic light in no particular order – tell the actual color (Wasn’t that already tested at the medical examination?)
2.) Reaction time: You sit on a chair, right foot on a faux gas pedal. Hit gas, and when the red light in front of you flashes, hit the brake pedal with your right foot (if you are too slow, you probably shouldn’t be on the road anyway)
3.) Depth Perception: (pictured) You see two sticks; arrange the one on the left so it is the same height as the one on the right. To do so, use two strings to move the left stick back or forth (Sounds tricky, but is absolutely manageable if your eyesight is fine. Again, if not, you probably should get glasses or not be on the road anyway). Time spent: 15 minutes + 2.5 h waiting time
Step 6 - Theory exam
Once you’ve passed your physical tests (and you will, because you’re absolutely capable of being on the road, right?!), you might or might not get shown a video on how to behave on the road. I was simply told to come back at 2 pm – no idea if it was because there was no English video available or because they couldn’t be bothered playing it just for me as I was the only farang there.
If you get this slip, congratulations are in order; you passed the theory exam! It says: Test time is at 2 pm every working day. Don’t be more than 10 minutes late. The test has to be attended within 90 days of your application.
After 2 pm, people are called into the exam room to do the written – or rather computer – test (Only one or two at a time are called in, so prepare for a lot more waiting. In my case, it was another 45 minutes). If you don’t speak Thai, the exam can be taken in English. There will be 50 questions, out of which 45 have to be answered correctly in less than 60 Minutes. There is only one right answer to each question. You can go back and forth and change your answers. Don’t be nervous, answer according to what you’ve studied, and if you can’t recognize anything in those incredibly tiny, blurry pictures, don’t hesitate to ask the examiner. She might even tell you the correct answer! And remember: yes, you are allowed to drive a tank on Thailands streets!
Once you’re done, press Finish and wait a couple of seconds to learn if you passed or failed. If you failed, you’ll have to try again the next working day, and if you’ve passed, you’ll get a slip of paper and are told to come back the next working day at 2 pm as well. Time spent: 40 min + 45 min waiting time
Step 7 – Practical Exam
So far you have fought every obstacle the Thai Authorities threw at you, and your shiny new license is finally almost within reach. But you’ll have to master one last challenge: The practical exam (imagine sinister laugh here). Shouldn’t be a problem, looking at how most Thais drive, right?
Show up no later than 2 pm with a motorbike (you can’t borrow one there) and a helmet. Hand in the paper you got at window 2 and then go straight to the test driving area behind the building. If you’re smart, you’re there early to ride through the parkour a couple of times. You’ll feel much better prepared afterward, believe me!
To pass the exam, you’ll have to
- Put on a helmet. Make sure it is not obviously too big – sometimes they check
- Drive slalom around 5 traffic cones, turn around and drive the slalom back (should be easy if you have been on a bike before, although I’m not sure if you’re supposed to turn around without putting your foot down). The cones are on the right of the test driving area
- Drive over a narrow concrete bar (Can be tricky if you’re not familiar with the bike you’re driving. Go faster for better balance) The bar is right before the start of the training parkour (I overlooked it when I practiced riding through the parkour because I was looking for something made out of wood )
- Go through the training parkour right after driving over the balance bar (piece of cake) and stop at the end (next to the stop sign)
- Repeat the last two steps once more and don’t crash into stray dogs playing on the parkour (no kidding, welcome to Thailand) and the instructor will tell you if you’ve passed (yes you will have!). Time spent: 15 minutes
Step 8 – Fun part: Having your picture taken and paying the fee
If you’ve gotten this far, you should already know what to expect: Go into the office, hand in your papers, pay more than expected (215 Baht instead of 155 in my case, but I got a receipt, so I guess it’s legit!), wait around, have your picture taken, wait around and finally get your shiny new licence (and you’ll see, it really is shiny!)
- If you’re based on Koh Phangan and have a motorbike, take the Raja ferry to Samui (arrives close to Transportation office and is only 200 Baht for one driver and one motorbike
- If you want to spend the night in a very nice hotel very close to the Transportation office so you can be there really early the next day, I can only recommend @Samui Haus. They also have a good restaurant right on the beach (not only for guests)
- If you go to the Transportation office with a Taxi (Songthaews don’t go there), make sure you have the name in Thai or the address ready and maybe also marked on a map, because a lot of drivers ironically don’t know it
- Certificate of residence=500 Baht
- Medical certificate=250 Baht
- Copies=20 Baht
- License=215 Baht
- Getting around the authorities & borrowing a bike=at least 500 Baht
= Total: 1485 Baht
Update: I recieved info that the initial license it can only be done on Monday/Wednesday/Fridays in Koh Samui. Renewals however are possible at any day of the week (Mon to Friday)!