Driving a car in Thailand

February 10, 2013

When you live in Bangkok transportation is rather easy because no matter where you are, you can always find a taxi which can bring you almost everywhere. Taxis are cheap in Thailand, but if you want to save some more money you can always take the skytrain, underground, or bus (and no, I did not forgot the tuktuk in this list since this will be 95% of the times more expensive than a taxi).

The options in Nakhon Ratchasima are a bit more limited. There are some taxis in the city, but they mostly queue up at the bus station instead of driving around looking for a customer. There are some busses driving around but not many, and there is no skytrain or underground. That leaves about 3 options when you live here: you walk, you drive a motorbike, or you drive a car. The first option goes too slow, the second is too dangerous, so I choose the third option.

The car that I have available here in Nakhon Ratchasima

The car that I have available here in Nakhon Ratchasima

Luckily my driving license is valid in Thailand, as long as I also carry my “international driving license” with me. Picking up an international driving license was rather easy, I just went to a local “Touring Club” (ANWB), paid 16 euros, showed my driving license, handed over a passport picture, and 5 minutes later I had my international license.

My Dutch driving license and my international driving license.

My Dutch driving license and my international driving license.

A few days ago I started driving here in Thailand and it is in no way comparable with driving in Holland. The good news is that almost everybody has automatic gears here in Thailand (in the more luxury cars at least) which makes driving a lot easier. No more hassle with the clutch. But besides that, everything else is a lot harder here than driving in Holland.

The view on the speedometer is limited, luckily the monk in the small plastic house on the dashboard will keep an eye on the traffic

The view on the speedometer is limited, luckily the monk in the small plastic house on the dashboard will keep an eye on the traffic

First of all everybody drives  on the wrong side of the road. Where normal people drive on the right side, in Thailand they drive on the left side. Good for when you grew up in the UK, for those who didn’t it will give some trouble in the beginning. I am not sure I am already totally used to it already since it still feels strange sometimes to drive on the left side of the road.

Some nice parking done by me. I hope that the people whose cars I block don't need to go somewhere soon.

Some nice parking done by me. I hope that the people whose cars I block don’t need to go somewhere soon.

Secondly, there is a lot less order in traffic then I am used to. In Holland they teach drivers to spend about half your time looking in your mirrors while you drive, and the other half of the time you look straight ahead. This is not advisable in Thailand as I noted, since there will never be more than 5 meters of empty space in front of you. And the person driving in front of you might break all of a sudden because someone on a motorbike just drove straight across the road, or a soi dog decided to cross the road.

Finally I noticed the roads are a lot wider here, which would make driving more comfortable. But parts of the road are also used to park cars, park motorbikes, or open restaurants so you end up with a very narrow piece of road left to drive on. And it becomes even harder when people on motorbikes throw themselves in every possible space available at high speeds without looking around.

Why rent space in a building when you can also just park your car someone on the road and conduct your business from the back of the trunk?

Why rent space in a building when you can also just park your car someone on the road and conduct your business from the back of the trunk?

So far no big accidents yet though (only hit someone’s mirror once – no damage on either car so it was all “mai pen rai”), let’s hope it stays that way!

For questions/remarks you can contact me at: eric@stuckinthailand.com

 

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