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North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

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Paris, France
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North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

I wanted to rent a car to go from Phuket to Krabi. I'll be driving alone.

I'm a little concerned because they drive on the opposite side of the road

What was your experience with driving on the opposite side of the road? Did you end up making a lot of mistakes?

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1. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

I hate driving in Thailand. Not only do they drive on the left side of the road which turns all my reflexes upside down - I look the wrong way in crossings and so on (the worst of this fades away after a week or so), but very many people drive like madmen. Their concept of security, safety margins and similar is ... different to say the least. Last time I met a moped carrying four teenage boys who were driving WITH A KAYAK OVER THEIR HEADS! However, I do still rent cars and drive but ridiculously carefully. My guess is that you’ll be fine – just pay extra attention and take it easy

Edited: 27 March 2010, 17:10
Hell, Norway
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2. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

As a Thai who has driven in the US, I would say - don't even think about it. For a small extra cost you can get a driver as well as the car. Driving in Thailand is risky even for those used to driving on the left.

Kamphaeng Phet...
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3. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

Take your pick to go with the naysayers or not. I have rented and driven a car all over Thailand. From Chiang Mai all the way down to Hat Yai. Basically from north to south and east to west, on paved and unpaved roads, in Bangkok and out in the middle of nowhere, where I was probably the first farang to ever visit there. It is fun and an adventure. Isn't that what life is???? and one of the reasons to travel????? Be aggressive as well as defensive and always pay attention. Or as I like to call it Aggressive/.Defensive driving.

Don't let yourself "relax" always stay alert and you will do fine.

If you go with one of the bigger name companies they have GPS you can rent as well.

Make sure you have an international drivers license.


Get the extra insurance as it is not that much more and try to get an automatic if possible.

As you drive you will see people driving in front of you putting their turn signals on. Either putting on the left or the right turn signal for no reason at all. There is a reason for that.....If they believe you are going to pass them (when traveling on a one lane road both ways) they will put their turn signal on to let you know if THEY believe it is safe or not for you to do so. If its the left turn signal they are saying they see no oncoming traffic and you should pass. If its the right turn signal then there is traffic coming and you shouldnt pass. If you rely on their judgment then that is on you....

Hell, Norway
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4. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

Thailand has a very high accident rate. There is no public ambulance service, rather a series of poorly trained volunteers. If you are involved in an accident where anyone is injured, you'll be detained by the police until the matter is resolved, whether its an hour or two, or a week or two.

Motorcycles, and sometimes cars and trucks, will drive against the traffic flow on the wrong side. Its common to turn onto a main road without looking.

Charlotte, North...
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5. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

Hiring a driver is an option, but you have no control over how he drives. Driving in Thailand can be a challenge, but it is doable. I see no point in having a car in Bangkok as a tourist, but the rest of the country it can be handy. Read the previous post, it has alot of good information. I always go back to the BKK airport to pick up the car, because I am already out of town and near the major highways. I crashed a car several years ago, purely my fault, and the police were very profesional. Definitely get the insurance.

Poulton Le Fylde...
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6. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

Whilst disaagreeing with general "don't drive anywhere in Thailand unless you are Thai" statements, I would agree that it isn't worth it for a first-timer, driving on the opposite side of the road from their norm, to do it for just one trip, albeit the road from Phuket, once away from Patong or Phuket Town, to Krabi, is very straightforward and a scenic delight - all the more reason to hire a car and driver so that you can enjoy it.

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7. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

Despite the prophets of doom....provided you are careful and accept that many Thais are very poor drivers, you can drive without too much difficulty. You need to be very vigilant for motorcycles and you definitely need to have an International Driving Permit as well as making sure the car you hire has full comprehensive insurance. Driving is not as bad as some of these posters make out and gives you a lot of flexibility.

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8. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand


I'll say that it's not the system here that makes driving hard(er) for a person used to North American driving-- once you get the hang of 'right drive' and program your brain to things like 'right turns are harder, left turns easy' and 'it's left on red not right on red'.. you'll be ok..

What I do find more challenging here is the other drivers.. As Dragon points out, overall compliance with traffic laws isn't as high as you might suspect and you really do have to be prepared for anything-- be that wrong way driving, unmarked slow moving vehicles, vehicles with no lights operating at night, etc.. You really do have to drive defensively.. Compared to your 'typical' North American driving situation, you'll likely encounter a much wider range of traffic, congestion, road hazards and the like..

Do I personally recommend it? In your urban areas like Bangkok, no.. Parking issues aside, I feel that driving (a car) is a bigger liability to you than it is an asset.. If you're out of town, that's a different story- and more 'do-able'.. but don't let the fact that it's more rural lull you into letting your defensive guard down..

As Dragon points out, road crashes are sadly frequent and unlike North America, there isn't as well of a defined system here to respond to these crashes and attend to the injured. I don't see this as being a prophesier of "doom", but a realists look at some of the issue you *may* face if the worse was to happen.

Travel Safe,

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9. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

If it is only the "problem" of driving on the opposite side of the road than you are used to, well millions of us brits do it every year and tend to manage it without any great problem!

if it is the difficulties you may face when driving in a country that has a very different attitude to fate, then that is something else.

personally, if i were you, i wouldn't take the risk of driving myself.

Santa Cruz, Cal
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10. Re: North Americans Who've Driven in Thailand

I have rented a car and driven around thailand a couple times first get the additional insurance as it will save you on any damages done to the vehicle the gas pedal and brake are the same but you;ll shift gears wrong handed but thats doable you;ll probably be accidentally hitting the wipers when you are trying to use the turn signal (its on the opposite side) I found drining in inner Bangkok and Chaing Mai was hectic but getting out of town and driving cross country was easy and enjoyable with lots of signage in english and good maps available