Driving Do’s and Don’ts of Driving in Thailand
You might by now be getting the idea of how I feel about the driving in Thailand!
My fist “Don’t” is don’t drive unless you really need to, it really is more dangerous than I can explain here.
However, if you do decide to drive please take close heed of the following advice, I’m giving it on the back of having driven for over ten years in Thailand, it is my best advice.
Do hire from a reputable car hire company (AVIS, BUDGET or HERTZ), OK you might get a cheaper deal with a local hire company - But would you get a valid insurance policy or are they keeping your passport to ensure they themselves are 'insured'?
Do get an international driver's licence before you leave for Thailand. (You must have this) you might be advised that you don not need one, the hire company may not ask for an international driver’s license but if you have an accident and you only have your national license you will be charged with not having a license.
Do take, install and use child safety seats. You should take and use these for all car journeys, regardless of who is driving.
Do use safety belts ALWAYS - Front and Back.
Do absolutely follow the safety advice you were given for driving at home, never mind “When in Rome” driving “Thai Style” is far too often fatal.
Do not ever speed in Thailand, you need as much time and distance on your side to avoid accidents.
Do not drive outside of town at night unless absolutely necessary, again even if you are hiring a car and driver, avoid out of town driving during the hours of darkness, this is when most fatal accidents happen.
Do check the tools and spare wheel in your hire car, check the tools are all there and that the wrench fits the wheel nuts. check the spare wheel is there, is in good condition, inflated and fits the car. I have been caught out with a spare wheel that was for a completely different car.
Do not ever use your horn or be aggressive to other road users, you could very easily get shot - I have seen guys with guns stuck in their ears for nothing more than sounding their car horn. (All that stuff you hear about Thais being gentle people goes out of the window when they get behind the wheel of a car).
Do expect to pay for any damage at all to the car at a special price just for you
Do check oil, water, and battery before hiring and every day.
Do check fuel before hiring - the Fuel gauge will be on zero.
Do be aware that flashing lights does not mean (please go. you first) it means 'get out of the way I'm coming through’.
Do give way to bigger vehicles, they have right of way
Do always look both ways and on your side of the road as you come out of a junction (Cars and motorbikes coming down the wrong side of the road is a common occurrence).
Do expect cars, lorries and motorbikes to pass and come at you from all angles. (It’s the laws of physics that govern which lane, direction, speed and parking Not the laws of the road).
Do be aware that speed differentials on highways can be huge Where you expect vehicles to be travelling at more or less the same speed you will come across vehicles travelling at all speeds between 20kms/hr and 220kms/hr.
Do not even dream of drinking or taking drugs and driving.
Do expect that the other driver will never indicate
Do always check the tires, breaks and clutch, daily, again even if you have hired a driver and vehicle.
Do take regular breaks, change drivers or rest every two hours
Do realize that “fully comprehensive/first class insurance” does not mean “fully comprehensive/first class insurance”.
Do realize that the Thai that just rammed into you is probably not insured.
DO CHECK THAT YOUR HOLIDAY INSURANCE ALLOWS YOU TO DRIVE. This is not your driving insurance, this is your holiday insurance that will pay for your hospital if you are hurt and cover you for legal costs. Most do not and as I say above, if you get caught up in an accident it can get very expensive.
Getting this last point wrong could cost you everything you have
If you are going to drive make sure you have the contact phone number of the Insurance Company and Hire Company. Make sure you keep a copy of the hire agreement in the car.
If you involved in an accident you must not under any circumstances leave the scene, doing so will place you at risk of being arrested. The only exception to that rule is if you are taken to hospital for emergency treatment. Note here that it is very likely that if the accident is serious and someone is killed or seriously injured Thais involved with the accident might very well flee the scene They are undoubtedly going to get someone to ‘negotiate’ on their behalf. You yourself must stay at the accident.
Do not move your vehicle, even if it is blocking traffic, wait for the police to come to the accident, they will mark the road with the vehicle’s position and direction before either moving the car or asking you to move the car. You must insist that the road is marked by the police before moving your vehicle.
Assuming nobody in your party is hurt, get out of the vehicle and off the road Safest place is off the road 20 or 30 meters up stream from the accident.
Now wait for the police to turn up and follow their instructions. Give the attending officer your hire agreement and both your national and international driver’s licences. Do not admit any responsibility.
In a short period of time an agent for your insurance company will come to the scene, he will deal with the police and recording the accident.
If someone in your group is hurt bring this to the attention of a Thai person at the scene, they will call for emergency services. The attending ‘ambulance’ will almost always be a pick-up truck fitted with rescue and medical equipment run by a ‘rescue foundation’. The problem here is they may not be fully trained in road side accident procedures The big risk is moving anyone with spine injuries.
My advice is, if someone is hurt make sure they have feeling in and can move their hands feet If they can there is not much likelihood of spine injury. If they cannot you are going to have to insist on getting an ambulance out from a hospital.
Before you set off for Thailand read “If Things Go Wrong” as this will give you pointers on dealing with Thais during this kind of ‘High Stress’ situation.